Working with the Coptic Stitch, I was reminded of how much I like fabrics made with crossed and plaited stitches. It is no wonder that at one time such fabrics were held in very high esteem. Fabrics made with crossed stitches can be very thick to provided padding or cushion, and warmth. However, they tend to be a bit less "weatherproof" than fabrics made with uncrossed stitches. Eastern Crossed stitch has holes in it that allow air to pass freely through the fabric. As a sock, this allows ventilation.
Thus, we have different kinds of knitting for different uses. Thin stretchy, windproof gloves would be swaved with uncrossed stitches. A under garment (Jersey??) might be constructed of twisted garter stitch because of the stitch's thickness and the rapidity with which it can be knitted (read as lower cost). The outer gansey would be knit with uncrossed stitches to make it more weatherproof. Dress socks would be swaved to produce a thin fabric, while an infantryman's socks were constructed of crossed stitch knitting. And, as a heavy duty sock fabric, the Coptic Stitch/Eastern Crossed Knitting has no equal. As a sandal sock in cotton it provides cool, durable protection. As a wool boot sock, it is warm, durable, and offers more padding than any other stitch.
So why don't we see crossed stitch work in modern sock patterns? Why do modern authors suggest fisherman's rib or linen stitch for heels and soles, rather than the much better crossed stitch? Why haven't all the "experienced" knitters pointed out the virtues of Eastern Cross Stitch?
Well because it takes some skill to produce. Neither Rutt or Burnham bothered to understand the virtues of (knit) Eastern Crossed Stitch. In fact, over the last few weeks, a large number of knitters have told me that such fabric cannot be knit. And there is the rub.
Crossed stitch knitting was an early adventure in my discovery of knitting sheaths, and it shaped much of my early knitting sheath and needle designs. Those tools were overkill for knitting uncrossed fabric. And to a certain extent, knitting crossed stitches was an impediment to my development of gansey (long needle) and swaving tools.
How does one knit crossed stitches rapidly? With rather pointy sock needles and a long knitting stick. It is very difficult to pop a swaving prick into a crossed stitch, and thus Swaving and Eastern Crossed Knitting require different tools. I would also choose different knitting sheath designs for uncrossed gansey knitting and crossed stitch knitting. Also, the pointy needles and force required to put the needle into the stitch means that knitting needle will be forced through the back of a leather knitting pouch. Thus, we can be reasonably sure that fabrics with crossed stitches were knit with short, straight, pointy needles, fixed in knitting sheaths.
At this point, we know there there was one kind of knitting sheath for swaving, and another kind of knitting sheath for producing Eastern Crossed Knitting, and that knitting pouches are not suitable for either of these styles of knitting. (However, knitting pouches do work well for both twisted garter stitch and plaited fabrics, which are not as tight as Eastern Crossed Knitting.) Both Rutt and Brear missed these points about the differences in use of different knitting sheath styles as did earlier authors such as Mary Thomass. At one time, knitting sheaths were like hammers, there were different kinds for different jobs.
The $64 question is did master knitters in Europe during the middle ages know swaving, gansey knitting, and crossed stitch or did each specialize to a single knitting technology? When did swaving and gansey knitting become separate industries?