While I was working on my master’s, part of my coursework was to teach something to a classmate using the particular philosophy and methodology the class was discussing. I chose to teach knitting, mostly because it was the only unique skill I could actually get away with claiming mastery in for three lessons in a row without getting food involved (which would have demanded kitchen space no one in the class really had). I love the way the results of the first lesson connect to today’s word.
The idea of critical exploration is to help a student find a way to discover a piece of information for themselves. In knitting, you begin by getting loops onto the needle, which is called “casting on.” There are many ways of doing this so that the loops will stay and many, many more ways of doing it that the loops will fall right off. When I presented this challenge to my student, she landed upon hand-tying individual knots that were unevenly spaced and completely rigid, but definitely and edge you could start from. It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.
“Knit” comes from Middle English knitten, which means “to tie in a knot,” according to the AHCD. This form stems from the Old English cnyttan, presumably meaning the same thing. How long the term and concept has applied to the idea of the yarn craft, I can only guess. (Well, someone might know, but that someone doesn’t edit the AHCD. : ) If I had to guess, I’d imagine that the term came through English’s Germanic origins, possibly borrowing from Scandinavian neighbors.
Wherever it came from originally, the person who named it in English had it right. Knitting is still, essentially, just a fancy way of tying knots.