Knitting Etymology

The good folks at Merriam Webster are featuring an article on the origin of knitting terms. It’s a really fascinating read. I admit to being just as much of a language geek as I am a yarn geek, so this plays to two big areas of interest. You may know what each of the terms means in knitting, but do you know how long it’s been used in the knitting context? Or what its original meaning was? Take for example:

  • The earliest written use of the term garter stitch comes from the 1840 Scottish book entitled The Lady’s Assistant for executing useful and fancy designs in knitting, netting, and crochet work
  • The word lace has a Latin origin meaning snare. It was in Henry VIII’s time that it came to be known at the ornamental cording and braids on men’s coats. Back then, this ornamentation was made by a technique called cutwork embroidery, where holes were cut into fabric and then embroidered to keep them from fraying or ripping
  • Angora rabbits = angora wool. Angora goats = mohair. The word angora is derived from the place where the angora rabbit breed was thought to have originated – Ankara, Turkey

There’s lots of other fun stuff in the article, and this is Merriam Webster’s second installment of knitting terms. Its first installment, A Ravel of Knitting Words: The whimsical and historical world of knitting termsoffers similar gems.

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