Friday, October 12, 2007


There were a lot of really good comments and questions about yesterday's post on knitting and migration and trade routes, so I'm gonna just keep on going with the discussion. (Skip down if you're not interested in this, there are some cute photos at the bottom.)

In agreement with the comments in general, I will say that yes - the human race never stayed home. Modern humans like to think that 'primitive' humans stayed home because of a lack of cars and superhighways and airplanes, but it's just not so. We've always been a mobile species. Thanks to new methods that make it possible to trace EXACTLY where stones and woods and even people come from (trace elements unique to each area, to simplify it), we have more and more proof of ancient, wide-spread trade routes. While a lot of you have the right idea, the trade routes you're naming (which did exist), were too early for knitting to travel along. Remember, we're talking 1000 CE and later. Basically, the Middle Ages.

Bog bodies have been found in Europe for hundreds of years, and date from eight thousand BCE on up to modern murder victims. The classic idea of a bog body, though, comes from the bronze or iron age, and was often a human sacrifice. Those date to about two thousand years ago and as such are about a thousand years too early for knitting to be found on them. To my knowledge, knitting has never been found on a bronze/iron age bog body (and I did a quick Google search to check, and that didn't produce anything, either). Most textiles found with bog bodies are leather or woven wool, occasionally woven linen. Of course, this doesn't rule out more modern bodies found in bogs, and those HAVE been found with knitting on them - in particular, guys wearing socks, falling into bogs on their way home from the pub. So I guess the answer to this one is yes and no. If anyone has info on knitting pulled out of a bog, dating to anything earlier than 1200 CE, I'd love to hear about it. I think there was a case in Denmark that involved knitting, dated to about 1300 CE.

Islam's rules on decoration are kind of iffy, depending on how strict people are feeling. The line in the Old Testament (which Muslims also follow to a degree) about having 'no graven images' was originally interpreted to mean no images of Allah or Mohammed. Then it extended to no images of people at all. THEN, depending, it was interpreted to mean no pictures of any living thing, including plants, again depending on who was doing the interpreting and how strict they were feeling. Others argued that it only applied to sacred texts, and anything went in secular decoration and writing. So it's possible to turn up portraits of people, and illustrated texts like 'Thousand and One Nights'. Many people chose to skip the whole damn issue, and went ahead with abstract patterns (like yesterday's Steeked Jacket, and their carpets and tile work), and others did calligraphy. Calligraphy is still a major decorative art in Islamic culture, and outside Asia, the highest form of the art in the world (if you ask me). I love Islamic calligraphy, even if I can't read it. Iznik tiles were (and are, in some circles) world famous ceramics in abstract patterns that have been used by several famous knitters as inspiration (Kaffee Fasset being the best known).

Oh. And early knitting from Egypt has Islamic calligraphy knit into it (mostly 'Allah', occasionally blessings). So those Eurocentric types who claim it was knit by Euros in Egypt, or Egyptian Christians, are full of crap. Most Christians in 1000 CE didn't know how to read or write Arabic any more than we do now. Heck, most of Europe couldn't read or write their OWN languages - that's why when knitting hit western Europe they quit knitting words and started knitting family crests.

I think that hits most of the Q&A from yesterday. If not, drop me a line.

-... -

Otherwise, the husbeast took me out shopping last night, and I bought shoes. There's nothing like retail therapy to make a girl feel better. I'll save the shoe photos for another day, but here was the big prize of the evening:

It's a canvas sleeve full of pockets, that fits over a coffee mug. You can - obviously - fill the mug full of needles and the pockets full of scissors and other stuff. I have always used mugs to hold my knitting stuff, because I can pick them up by the handle and cart them around the house with me.

I had been aware of these for a while. They're made by Bucket Boss, a company that makes all kinds of organizational doohickies to hang on buckets, so you can use them like a tool box, sort of. The plan was, this payday, to order a couple of the mug organizers for Christmas presents, to knitters and other crafters on my list (my sister-in-law sews). On line I had found them for $20 USD, and so was only going to get two. Last night at the outlet mall I SCORED THE SAME EXACT THING FOR $2.50 USD!! That's almost A TENTH of the price I'd planned to pay! EEEEEE!!! I got an armload of them and now eveyrone's getting one.

-... -

The Goober is still cute (and was an angel last night during the shopping):

And Sekhmet is still a freak:


Alwen said...

Yeah, while Gunnister man had knitting (including a fragment of lace knitting), he dates to about 1690's, later than you're discussing.

The Estonian mitten fragment that was discussed on the Historic Knit list a while back dated out at about 1238-1299.

So far I've been favorably impressed with Sheila McGregor's book, probably because she takes the more, er, romantic knitting tales with several grains of salt.

("Romantic" as in "completely made-up stories that certain authors thought sounded good, and now they are written down so they must be true! They are in a book!")

Amy Lane said...

Excellent as always--of course, when I see you do stuff like this, I have to wonder my my brain is like a giant collandar for stuff like this, and only the crap at the bottom of the salad is what's left...

The Goober is getting to that age where people watching is a sport, so she, too, has something to do at the store!

Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy said...

I"m a frequent reader, and despite rarely (never?) commenting I love-Love-LOVE the eclectic nature of your posts. You're so thorough and an excellent writer to boot. Thanks for a fun, educated and educatING blog!

My pedantic nature feels compelled to point out that anyone speaking Arabic spells "God" as A-L-L-A-H (in Arabic writing, of course). I agree with your premise that it was probably the dominant culture, Muslims, who invented knitting; the dominant culture has the leisure to do so. Still, the fact that "God" is written in Arabic doesn't mean the writer was Muslim.
/end pedant :-)

Excellent, excellent discussion. THANK YOU!

Pearls Mother said...

so what did the 'still cute goober' get during this shopping expedition?