Sunday, July 05, 2015

Eastern Cross stitch

My attention was originally drawn to Eastern Cross Stitch when I read in Mary Thomas's  Knitting Book, that in previous times, it had been a very popular stitch. This raised the question, "What was  Eastern Cross Stitch's particular virtue to make it popular?"

Yes it produces a nice firm fabric, but so does stockinette when knit with fine needles and a knitting sheath.

However, with flat tipped needles (and a knitting sheath), Eastern Cross Stitch turns out to be the fastest stitch to knit. (Or at least the fastest I have found so far.)   The hand movements are few and tiny. They can be done quickly and with minimal effort.   In hand knitting, fast is cheap.  Fabrics knit with Eastern Cross Stitch had the lowest cost to knit.  And, it produces a warmer fabric using larger needles (fewer stitches per inch^2).

I played with ECS on pointy needles a while back, and knitting it was more effort than knitting stockinette so I have bins full of ECS WIP.    Now, I know how to finish them quickly and easily. Knitting ECS with pointy hand held needles is also more effort than stockinette.  I actually expect that at one time ECS knit in the round would have been considered "stockinette".  Consider for example the stitch structure of the Coptic socks.

Eastern Cross Stitch has rather abruptly become my default stitch for firm fabrics. (Pending  full testing of the prototypes.)   It was just a matter of finding the right tools to make the stitch faster and easier.

This of course raises the question as to whether the Channel Island knitters used the ECS as a competitive advantage in knitting seaman's clothing.  In any case, it is easy to see why the stitch was popular.  And, it lends credence to the old stories of very fast knitting. (e.g., even faster than :

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