The difference between weaving, knitting and crochet
There are normally 3 kinds of commonly used methods to create textiles that you will come across. While they are all used to make fabrics in one way or another, they vary a lot in many ways. The history, structure and uses of weaving, knitting and crochet are all unique to each individual technique. Here we will be exploring the uses of each of the three forms and what they are inherently good at.
How they are made:
Weaving, knitting and crochet all essentially have different structures because they are all created by tangling yarn in various ways – to a certain degree. The biggest difference between the three forms is due to their structural differences, rendering them good and not so good at certain things. Once you know the difference between them, it should be easy to spot each kind when you come across it.
Woven fabrics are created when two strands of yarn are crossed over each other. These yarns are distinguished as the vertical yarn (warp) and the horizontal yarn (weft). Plain weave or tabby weave are the most basic weaving techniques, whereby the weft goes over on warp and then underneath the next, this is then repeated for the entirety of the weaving. This makes for a simple but reliable way to make fabric.
There are many different forms of weaving, allowing it to take on a wide variety of characteristics that you may need. The kind of yarn chosen and the weaving structure both play a vital role in how the weaving is once it is off the loom. Weaving is mainly done on a loom, of which there are many varieties, each resulting in different behaviours. A plain picture frame loom is the simplest form of loom, with the other kinds becoming more and more complex there. The majority of looms can be placed under four general categories: frame looms, table looms, rigid heddle looms, and floor looms. When determining if a fabric is woven or not, you should look for a distinct grid-like pattern of the weft yarn passing over and under the warp yarn.
Knitted fabrics consist of a series of stitches – which are interlocked loops created from 1 strand of yarn using 2 knitting needles. The knit stitch and the pearl stitch are the two most common stitches you find in knitting and from these two, the majority of other patterns and stitches can be made. To make the knitting with this method, 2 needles are attached by a cord, a loom, or a machine. Their sizes and the material they are made from can vary depending on the nature of what you are creating and your preferences. The double needle method is the most iconic way to knit, and it can be used to create flat pieces that can be attached together later if needed. Circular knitting attached via the cord allows for tubes to be created.
Knitting looms vary from weaving looms in that they resemble a skinny or round pegged frame loom and can essentially make anything that can be created by needles, but it is much less taxing on the hands. Knitting machines are similar to this but they work at a faster rate, and are either fully or semi-automated.
There is a knitting option if you do not have any tools, you can try finger or arm knitting. These two solutions make a simple knit structure that can be attached together to make larger pieces. Knitting can be distinguished by the ribbed texture it creates.
Crochet is created by interlocking a series of loops made from 1 strand of yarn using a crochet hook. Starting from a chain stitch, these fabrics can be created with a combination of many different stitches. Compared to knitting and weaving, crochet tools are much simpler and easier to decide what you require to create a crochet fabric. The hooks used in Crochet come in a variety of different sizes and materials, varying depending on what you are planning to make, but for the most part they are made of aluminium and come in a range of different colours. Despite their differences, most of the hooks are comfortable to hold for longer periods of time. The size of the yarn or fabric being crocheted makes a big difference in how your project turns out. The standard yarn usually found in most crochet stores is acrylic, which doesn’t get as thick as wool. Usually patterns for kits or imported yarns will give you a gauge. Crochet does not have one distinct pattern that distinguishes it. For the most part it looks like intentional knots, which aren’t actually knots, and/or small dense areas next to the holes.
What are they used for?
Weaving is utilised in a variety of ways to create a myriad of different things. Weaving is used in work that is supposed to be used, also known as functional work, likewise it is also used in designs that are meant only to be looked at and appreciated, also known as non-functional work. In your daily life you will encounter many examples of functional weaving, for example the fabric on your furniture, your clothing (for example your jeans are woven), your rug, and many more things. Another clear example of weaving that you are likely to be familiar with is baskets.
Tapestry is a good example of weaving that is mostly (but not always) non-functional. Technically, tapestry is weft-faced weaving which frequently features a discontinuous weft. This use of the weft allows for tapestry to be able to create imagery and it really does excel at this feature. They are usually regarded as artwork and are designed to be used. Non-functional weaving is not limited to tapestry and can really be any form of art you want it to be.
Generally speaking, knitting is the stretchiest of the three forms to create textiles due to the method used to create the loops. This makes it ideal for fitted clothing, and you will often come across knitted socks, sweaters, scarves and hats. T-shirts can also be made of knitted materials, but just on a much smaller scale. If you look closely when stretching it out, you will be able to see the ribs that are created by the knitting. Although created and used in a different way to weaving, knitting can also be used for imagery (non-functional). Both kinds of imagery are created as though they are pixels, however knitted imagery contains a distinct “v” pattern.
Crochet can be often seen in blankets and scarves. It is also frequently used to create intricate lace details that can be attached to other fabrics. Due to the fact that crochet is generally worked one loop at a time, it has the ability to become very intricate. The fact it can make lace is due to the use of the fine thread and small hook. Crochet is used in a variety of other ways too, for example, crochet plush toys.
As the interlocked loops used to make it are like knots, it makes the fabric inherently a lot less stretchy and stiffer than knitting. If you were to use different fibres or an open pattern for your crochet then it might allow for a slightly stretchier or better draping fabric.
What is the history behind these techniques?
Tracing the history of textiles can be very tricky, largely because of a lack of evidence. Unlike rock or bone, textiles have a natural predisposition to deteriorate. The majority of the evidence we have for early textiles is through pictures on pottery or sculptures or as fossils. With this in mind, the history of these three kinds of textiles can be traced back to at least the upper palaeolithic era (20,000 BCE), whereby the oldest form of spun cord was found dating back to this era.
Weaving is known to be the oldest of the three fibre techniques by thousands of years and Is thought to have originated at some point during the Neolithic era. The oldest record of woven textile ever found was from an imprint in clay found in Iraq, and also on a pseudomorph (whereby one substance replaces another) on bone found in Turkey. This was dated from about 7000 BCE, but due to how well made they were, this was probably not the beginning of weaving as we know it.
Most evidence suggests weaving spread from Asia to the western hemisphere around 2000 BCE. There is no evidence of it in the west prior to that, whereas it can be dated to around 5000 BCE in Asia, where it had a heavy presence in China.
The first loom found was believed to be a version of the backstrap loom, from which 2 other kinds of loom are believed to be derived. The warp-weighted loom and the ground loom spread across 2 different areas – Mesopotamia through Egypt and across Europe from Hungary.
An interesting parallel that can be drawn is the development in weaving techniques in correlation with advancements in other areas of human progress. Domestication of animals, widespread agriculture, inventions and many discoveries all played their part in helping to bring the advancement of weaving forward. Until the domestication of sheep in around 4000 BCE, textiles which were woven were made almost exclusively of cellulose fibres like linen, cotton, and hemp. Sheep’s wool is very easy to dye and naturally comes in different shades, and thus woven textiles became bolder and more adventurous, seeing an increase in the complexity of designs. In relatively more recent years, the dawning of large industrial advancements have naturally let to progress in the field of weaving. Machines such as the flying shuttle invented in 1733 by John Kay and the power loom invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1784 allowed for faster and larger weavings to be created. This played a huge role in the industrial revolution which witnessed a large number of people migrate to cities in order to work in factories.
The history of knitting is a unique and interesting one, even so etymologically speaking. The word knitting is thought to derive from the Proto-Germanic word ‘knuttijaną’ meaning to bind or tie into a knot, which then developed into the old English ‘cnyttan’ and then the modern word ‘knitting’. It is believed that knitting originated in Egypt as early as 500 CE, as a much quicker form of nalbinding – a similar fibre art form. The most ancient fragment of knitting ever found was in Egypt, dating around 1000 AD, which featured intricate patterns and design techniques. Because of this intricate pattern used to design it, historians agree that this suggests it was not the first knitted textile to exist as it was already quite advanced in itself.
Knitting spread during the 14th century into Europe and is frequently depicted in paintings. It wasn’t until the 16th century that English knitters invented the famous purl stitch – a backward knit stitch where the knit stitch is made by inserting the needle from the back to the front. It was around this time that Queen Elizabeth I began incorporating knitted sleeves into her gowns. The manufacturing industry became incredibly important to England during this period as did the production of knitted textiles, so much so that a law was enacted which meant citizens were required to wear a knitted cap on Sundays and holidays or they would be fined. This meant there was always steady business for knitwear producers. During this same period, the industrial revolution, the first knitting machine was invented in 1589. This massively increased the potential for the scale and intricacy of knitted goods produced, so much so that the need for hand-knitting was essentially eliminated and it evolved into a hobby for wealthy women.
The word crochet comes from the French word ‘croc’ or ‘croche’ meaning “hook”. Of all the three techniques discussed, crochet is the youngest, but despite this, the origins of crochet are the most mysterious as there is essentially no archaeological evidence of early crochet of the time of its supposed invention. It is believed to have originated in Europe in the 16th century as a different style of technique to embroidery from the Ottoman empire called tambour. As it spread through Europe, crochet became the saving grace for many Irish people as it allowed them to sell their intricate crochet lace as a means to escape the potato famine and emigrate to America. This is subsequently the way in which crochet was introduced to the Americas.