The History Of Yarn And Its Impact On Fashion Knitting

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From cosy sweaters to trendy scarves, knitwear has become a staple in the fashion world. But what makes knitwear so unique? It all starts with the yarn. The history of yarn and its impact on fashion knitting is fascinating, with roots dating back to ancient times. 

Knitting has evolved from a practical necessity to a decorative art form, with different types of yarn and stitching techniques. They create a variety of textures and patterns.

In this article, we will explore the properties of knitwear and the different types of yarn. Also, stitching, and how yarn has impacted the world of fashion knitting.


Early History Of Yarn

Knitting is a textile form that has been around for centuries, with roots dating back to the 5th century in the Middle East. While the exact origin of knitting is still unknown, it was initially used to create practical items such as socks, hats, and mittens for warmth. 

As the craft spread to Europe, wool became the dominant fibre used in knitting. Interestingly, some of the earliest examples of knitting in Egypt were from cotton fibres, not wool.

In the 14th century, knitting became a local industry in Scotland’s Highlands. Men in Scotland worked in factories to produce stockings exported to other parts of Europe.

With the invention of knitting machines in the 16th century, hosiery production boomed, and woollen mills were set up to create more expensive garments. 

By the 1800s, knitwear had become a fashion staple for both men and women, with fashion labels introducing jersey dresses, cardigans, and jumpers made from various types of yarn. The knitting world has expanded beyond practical items and is now a thriving decorative and fashionable knitwear industry. 

With technological advancements and the development of new fibres and blends, the possibilities for fashion knitting are endless. The history of yarn and its impact on knitting is fascinating, and it continues to evolve with each passing year.

How Is Knitting Done?

The creation of fabric happens through by interlocking the loops of yarn with needles or a knitting machine. The two main types of knitting are warp & weft knitting. 

So, in warp knitting, the yarn is knit lengthwise, while in weft knitting, the yarn is knit width wise. The basic stitches in knitting include knit and purl, which you can combine to create different textures and patterns.

Texture And Stitch: The Unique Characteristics Of Knitwear

When it comes to knitwear, a variety of properties make it unique compared to other fabrics. From how it’s made to the different types and stitching techniques, knitwear is a versatile textile with much to offer.

Types Of Knitwear

There are two main types of knitwear: weft-knitted and warp-knitted. Weft knitting is the most common type to make most knitwear, including sweaters, scarves, and hats. It involves a single yarn fed through a series of needles to create rows of interlocking loops. 

On the other hand, warp knitting uses multiple yarns fed through the needles in a specific pattern to create a more complex knit. This type of knitting is to create fabrics with a lot of stretch, like athletic wear.

Knitting Stitches

You can use various knitting stitches to create different effects in knitwear. Some common stitches include:

  • Stockinet stitch: This is the most basic stitch, creating a smooth, flat surface on one side and a bumpy texture on the other.
  • Garter stitch: This stitch creates a ridged pattern by knitting every row.
  • Ribbing is a stretchy stitch often used for cuffs, collars, and hems. It is created by alternating knit and purl stitches.
  • Cable stitch: This more complex stitch creates a twisted, rope-like pattern in the knit.

Properties Of Knitwear

Knitwear has several properties that make it unique compared to other fabrics. These properties include:

  • Stretch: The construction of this knitwear allows it to have a natural stretch that allows it to move with the body.
  • Warmth: Knitwear is often made from wool or other warm fibres, which makes it an excellent choice for cold weather.
  • Breathability: Knitwear is also breathable, which means you can wear it in various temperatures without causing the wearer to overheat.
  • Durability: When made with high-quality yarns and proper care, knitwear can last for years and continue to look great.

Yarn And Its Impact On Fashion Knitting

Yarn is a fundamental component of knitting and has a significant impact on the final product. Knitters use different types of yarn from various fibres, including wool, cotton, silk, and synthetic blends, to create knitwear with distinct textures, weights, drapes, and appearances.

Developing new fibres and blends has led to exciting advancements in fashion knitting. For example, introducing synthetic fibres like acrylic and polyester has made knitwear more affordable and accessible to a broader range of consumers. At the same time, natural fibres such as alpaca, mohair, and cashmere are still highly sought for their luxurious feel and warmth.

Yarn also plays a crucial role in the design and construction of knitwear. The thickness or weight of the yarn used will determine the gauge or tension of the knit, affecting the size and fit of the finished garment. 

The texture and stitch pattern created by the yarn can also influence the look and feel of the knitwear, from the smooth and polished appearance of the stockinette stitch to the cosy and textured feel of cables and bobbles.

In fashion, yarn has allowed designers to experiment with unique textures, colours, and patterns to create one-of-a-kind knitwear pieces. 

With many types of yarn, knitters and fashion designers can unleash their creativity and produce functional and fashionable knitwear. Whether you prefer a classic wool sweater or a trendy chunky knit cardigan, the impact of yarn on fashion knitting is undeniable.

Yarn and Fashion: From Functional To Decorative

As fashion evolved, so did the use of yarn in knitting. In the early days of knitting, the focus was on practicality and warmth. But as style became more decorative, so did the use of yarn. 

Today, knitters use a variety of yarns to create intricate designs and textures, from soft, fluffy mohair to shimmering metallic blends. You can combined yarns creatively to achieve unique colourways and patterns.

The Rise Of Hand-Knitting And The DIY Movement

Recently, interest in hand-knitting and the DIY movement has been resurgent. Knitting and crochet enthusiasts of all ages are rediscovering the joy of creating their handmade items, from cosy blankets to trendy sweaters and accessories.

One factor contributing to the popularity of hand-knitting is the rise of social media and online communities dedicated to the craft. These platforms allow knitters to connect, share patterns and ideas, and showcase their finished projects.

Another trend in the hand-knitting world is using arthritis crochet hooks. The designing of these hooks are with ergonomic handles that reduce hand and wrist strain, making it easier for people with arthritis or other hand conditions to enjoy the craft.

With the growing popularity of hand-knitting and crochet, many manufacturers now offer a range of arthritis crochet hooks and other specialized tools to meet the needs of different users.

The DIY movement and hand-knitting culture have also sparked a renewed interest in natural and sustainable fibres. Many knitters use organic cotton, bamboo, and other eco-friendly materials to create their projects. 

It has led to a greater awareness of the environmental impact of textile production and a growing demand for sustainable and ethically sourced yarns.

Overall, the rise of hand-knitting and the DIY movement has given people a new appreciation for the art and craft of knitting. With a wide range of tools, materials, and resources, anyone can learn to knit and create unique pieces.


From its humble origins to its place in mainstream fashion, yarn has played a crucial role in the history of knitting. As new fibres and blends continue to develop, the possibilities for fashion knitting are endless.

The yarn has gone from a practical necessity to a decorative element, and the rise of hand-knitting and the DIY movement has brought knitting back into the spotlight. Whether you’re a seasoned knitter or just starting, the yarn world is waiting for you to explore it.