Most people who loom knit have at some point come across a needle knitter who tells them “that is cheating” or “that’s not real knitting”. It can be very hurtful to be told these things. Especially for those who are first learning.
But… Is it cheating? Questions that I see are When did loom knitting first start? Which came first needles or looms? How can it be cheating when the stitches look exactly the same after it is made?
Personally I love it when someone sees a finished project I have made and then asks me me what size needles I used. That look when I say “I knit this on a loom.” Disbelief every time.
Let’s take a look at the history of loom knitting as well as the pros and cons of looms vs. needles. Watch your toes! Some may get stepped on by accident…
What is the earliest know knitted item?
The oldest known knitted artifact are socks from Egypt in the 11th century AD. These socks had a very fine gauge and included colorwork as well as turned heels. This would indicate that the art of knitting went back a lot further with no way to know where it developed or even what tool was used to knit with.
Is loom knitting new since I am just now seeing more knitting looms in stores?
Not really. Loom knitting dates back centuries. It hasn’t always been known as loom knitting. Some names used were peg frame knitting from the late 14th century, stocking frame knitting for knitting stockings during the time of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century (which upset the needle knitters then too, by the way), as well as terms such as ring, wheel, rake, French, and spool knitting depending on the era and location.
There has just been a resurgence in the popularity of loom knitting in the past 2 decades. More companies are mass producing knitting looms for retail making it easier to buy them. Back in the mid to late 20th century, knitting looms could be bought, but most were by mail order only or in kid’s craft sets. And with the advent of the internet, instructions are much easier to find than when I received my first looms as a child whether it is written instructions or video tutorials. Also the selection of patterns has increased tremendously which is absolutely wonderful!
Which came first needles or looms?
This information is hard to find. Some sources will say that looms predated needles and vice versa. Probably depends on who is writing the information and which tool they prefer using…
Looming and knitting are different, aren’t they?
No. It’s all knitting. Looms are the tool, just as needles are the tool used. No matter what the tool used, it’s still knitting. People who use needles don’t call it needling… Just saying…
But hand knitting is not the same as loom knitting…
If it’s not made with a machine, it is made by hand. Whether it is done on needles or on a loom. Hand knit only means that it was made with hands and not a machine.
Is loom knitting only for children?
No it isn’t. Unless you want to count your inner child… While there have always been a lot of loom knit kits packaged and targeted for children, it is not just a child’s toy. Most kids do find loom knitting easier to grasp than needle knitting. But whatever encourages their creativity to blossom! That is the goal after all.
What are the pros and cons of looms vs. needles?
Each has it’s benefit. Each has it’s deficit.
Let’s begin with the cost of the tools themselves. It’s cheaper to buy needles in all sizes and gauges than it is to buy looms in all sizes and gauges. Plus 1 for needles.
Another pro of needles is portability. Needles take up less room than a loom does. Most times they are more portable than looms depending on the loom.
Some will say that more can be done on needles than on looms. That is not necessarily the case. As far as I know, only large cables are almost impossible on looms and easier on needles due to being able to stretch the stitches across the other stitches to create the cables. Therefore, anything that can be knit on needles can be knit on looms.
But looms have their pros as well that needles do not.
Such as it’s easier on the hands to work with looms than needles. Lots of people with arthritis can loom knit long after needles no long become an option.
Looms are also better than needles since each stitch has it’s own “needle” making it harder to drop stitches. This also makes traveling easier despite the size of the loom. No worries about those stitches sliding off the needles in transit. Not saying it can’t happen with looms. It just doesn’t happen as often.
So… Is loom knitting cheating?
No. It’s just a different tool to achieve the same thing. Each knit or purl stitch looks exactly the same once finished since the yarn itself is worked in exactly the same way to create the stitch. Two different people can take the exact same yarn and create the exact same thing with one using a loom and the other using needles, and they will look exactly the same when finished.
Next time someone tells you that loom knitting is cheating, just smile and say thank you. They will wonder why you thanked them. Most likely it will annoy them as well. There isn’t any need to get upset. It’s all fiber art after all. What a dreary world we would live in if we couldn’t take a “string” and create something amazing. No matter what tool we use to do it.
I do wish we had some sort of national council to established guidelines that define everything loom knit like gauge sizes, terminology, standardize pattern writing, abbreviations, etc., just like with needles knitting and crochet. It would help with the confusion created among the masses since there are people who are doing their own thing and creating their own terminology when writing patterns.
Hope not too many toes are sore after this! While some people won’t agree with all I have said, it really isn’t worth getting upset over something we all enjoy and love. And that something is KNITTING! So grab a ball of yarn and pick up a loom or some needles and CREATE SOMETHING AMAZING!!