As someone who knows as much about fashion as I do about gravity—I
couldn’t explain either, but I trust that both exist—when I think of a scarf, I imagine
freezing weather, blustery winds, and red noses. So it was a surprise to learn
that the scarf, which I’d assumed had been invented for warmth and then drifted
into the domain of haute couture, had actually started as a figment of fashion
in a country none associate with cold air: it was Egyptian Queen Nefertiti who modeled
the first scarf, in 1350 BCE.

Of course, Egyptian Queens can be quite the trendsetters,
and scarves began to appear as markers of rank—around the neck or waist—in Roman
Emperors, Chinese Warriors and Croatian Mercenaries. Silk scarves were most
prized, though less expensive cloth was also used.

It wasn’t until 1783, however, that anyone had ever worn a
knit scarf, until the Third Duke of Krakow debuted the concept. (It’s a shame
our present-day leaders are not as fashion forward as the history of the scarf
implies dignitaries once were.)  

Knitting has its own history, but is also from Egypt, likely
originating in roughly 1000 CE. “Nalbinder” predated knitting, and its end
product appears almost indistinguishable, though one uses only one needle. Some
hypothesize that someone tried “nalbinder” with two needles and stumbled upon
knitting. (I hypothesize that someone was just very bad at using chopsticks and was standing too close to some string.)

the Middle Ages, one could join a guild of “Master
Knitters.” (Nowadays, perhaps one can join a guild of “Faculty Dean
Knitters.”) An application to the guild could involve knitting garments
for thirteen
straight weeks (and you thought that the Crimson Comp was bad). By the
paintings of Madonna prove that knitting had reached Italy and Germany,
and in
1589, Englishman William Lee created the first knitting machine. Today, a
hand-knit garment is usually sentimental in value, as is the case with
scarf, knit by a friend of mine.

The material, Merino Wool, comes from the appropriately-named
Merino sheep, originally of the Royal Merino flocks of Spain. The sheep were
bred specifically for this unique wool. Further refining the wool leads to a
material that is machine washable, durable, and warm, all things I was looking
for in a scarf. Advertisers note Merino wool is also “exceptionally stylish,”
though I am, of course, the wrong person to ask.

In short, I have
a scarf. It is hand-knit of Merino wool. And as I forge through the
fearsome Boston weather to class with it slung about my neck, I feel as
if I am an Egyptian Queen.


The History of Knitting Pt 1: Mysterious Origins