Knitting uses a pair of needles to transform a long ball of thread into a tightly-looped fabric that is flexible and warm.
Knitting probably originated in the Egyptian region (maybe around the 11th or 12th century) and slowly began to spread across Europe in around the 14th century. It took a lot longer to reach further away places like England and Scandinavia.
Naalbinding could easily be mistaken for knitting if you've never done it - the technique actually uses a needle and short lengths of thread to create the thickly looped fabric. http://www.stringpage.com/old/basicnaal.html
Sprang creates a stretchy netting like texture, which in some circumstaces and weaving patterns could be mistaken for knitting.
Many old books will label naalbinding as knitting, so be very cautious using old books to prove early use of knitting.
For the less authenticity inclined, knitting can be used in substitute for naalbinding for early period personas (eg socks, shoe liners, and mittens for Vikings, hose, stockings and gloves for 12th C Germans).
- A Preliminary Survey of 16th Century English Literary References to Knitting
- Making a monmouth cap - a 16th Century English knitted cap