Textile Fragment

410-540 AD (made)
Textile Fragment thumbnail 1
Textile Fragment thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Before the technique of knitting with two needles evolved, textiles with a very similar structure and texture were created by a technique known as ‘single-needle knitting’. This sock, made in this method, was excavated from Christian burial grounds of the late Roman period, found in the present-day city of al-Bahnasa in Egypt. It shows that these socks wore out frequently due to friction with the sandals, but were expertly mended using the same single-needle knitting technique.

Single-needle knitting used yarn threaded through the eye of a sewing needle worked in the round through a series of loops. It was much more laborious and slower than knitting with two needles, as the yarn could only be worked in short lengths. Extra pieces of yarn had to be spliced on as the ‘knitting’ progressed.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wool, single-needle knitting
Brief Description
Egyptian, 410-540 AD, single-needle knitting, brown wool, heavily mended
Physical Description
A sock of medium brown wool worked in single-needle knitting with big toe made separately. Shaped at the heel. Much worn and mended in the same technique. Gauge is 10 stitches and 12 rows per inch.
Dimensions
  • Approx. length: 22.5cm
  • Approx. width: 9.3cm
  • Approx. height: 13cm
Style
Credit line
Given by the Egyptian Exploration Fund
Object history
Excavated from Christian burial grounds in the late Roman city of Oxyrynchus (now known as al-Bahnasa) during excavations by the Egypt Exploration Fund during the winter of 1903/4.



Historical significance: This is a rare example of the single-needle knitting technique and in particular illustrates how such socks were mended.
Summary
Before the technique of knitting with two needles evolved, textiles with a very similar structure and texture were created by a technique known as ‘single-needle knitting’. This sock, made in this method, was excavated from Christian burial grounds of the late Roman period, found in the present-day city of al-Bahnasa in Egypt. It shows that these socks wore out frequently due to friction with the sandals, but were expertly mended using the same single-needle knitting technique.



Single-needle knitting used yarn threaded through the eye of a sewing needle worked in the round through a series of loops. It was much more laborious and slower than knitting with two needles, as the yarn could only be worked in short lengths. Extra pieces of yarn had to be spliced on as the ‘knitting’ progressed.
Bibliographic Reference
A F Kendrick, Catalogue of Textiles From Burying-Grounds in Egypt, Vol II, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1920, p.88, catalogue no.594
Collection
Accession Number
1243-1904

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record createdOctober 31, 2006
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