What People Did Before Knitting

The first thing you may be thinking is: There was a time before knitting. How did people survive the late nights? Well, they created stretchable fabrics with a technique know today as sprang. This technique looks like a cross between knitting and braiding. In fact, museums around the world were mislabeling their pieces as knitting for decades until a few important archeological finds. The word ‘sprang’ is in fact a Scandinavian word meaning an open work textile, and has come to be used as a general descriptive term for a specific type of plaiting.

Traditional Sprang TechniqueA long length of yarn is affixed to a loom that consists of set of vertical bars. The threads are then twisted in the center of the warp in a pattern causing a mirror reaction at both top and bottom. The manipulation can take the form of interlinking, interlacing or intertwining of adjacent threads or groups of threads. These warp threads do not require the addition of any other threads like a weft to stabilized them. Rather, the link is held in place at the center of the work with a stick while the process is repeated. Confused? Simply put, sprang is created by the twisting of warp threads.

Historic examples can be found from cultures around the world. Some of the oldest known samples can be found in Northern Europe, Egypt, Central Asia, and South America, some dating as far back as 900 C.E. The most basic of twining created some amazing patterns that can be found in many of these pieces. Over time sprang was replaced with knitting in Europe and Asia.

Although sprang’s popularity died over hundreds of years ago people were still using the technique in South America and parts of Eastern Europe. In fact a revival of the craft in Europe began in the late 19th century. When key archaeological finds brought the technique back to the public eye it found new uses in the production of netted bags, hammocks, and sashes.

So… go look at your hammock and get some inspiration to try sprang.

I’ll be giving it a try, so tune in next week to see the results.
Want to try it with me?