There are these doohickeys called “Roman dodecahedrons“. They are little bronze (or occasionally stone) widgets, with holes in each of the twelve faces and spheres or pegs at each of the vertices, and the reason they’re called “dodecahedrons” is because no one knows what they’re actually for. There’s all sorts of speculation, from candle-holders to sophisticated sundials, but they aren’t mentioned anywhere in any documents we have.
Recently, someone decided that the dodecahedrons were knitting nancies, used for making gloves; they went so far as to 3D print a replica and film the knitting. (It’s a really boring video because about 3/5 of it is “and now we cast off”.)
Now, I’m not qualified to make judgements about whether these things were used as pipe gauges or sun-angle-measurers, but I can tell you one thing: they weren’t for knitting. Knitting is, you might say, an area of my expertise. I’ve actually typed up a list of reasons why, so that when yet another of my acquaintances posts about it going, “Hmmm, interesting”, I can just copy and paste. Here is that list.
1) The Romans didn’t have knitting. As far as we know, knitting as it’s known today was invented in the Middle East in ~1000 CE.
2) They did, however, have nalbinding, which they used to make socks with separate toes; if they wanted gloves, that’s how they’d have done them.
3) We have no evidence of knitting nancies earlier than the seventeenth century.
4) If you’re going to use something as a knitting nancy, you want pegs with slight swelling at the ends, not inverted cones or spheres, because bulgy pegs make it significantly harder to form the stitches.
5) The dodecahedrons range in diameter from 4 to 11 cm. Four centimeters is about an inch and a half; I don’t know who could wear gloves that size, but it wouldn’t be an adult.
6) Why make a complicated, expensive, heavy metal knitting nancy when a wooden disk with nails pounded around the hole in the middle works better?
7) Stuffing the completed bits into the center of the thing is stupid, because it leads to things being all mashed up and hard to move.
8) Your fingers aren’t all actually set on one line.
9) No glove pattern in the world uses the same number of stitches for all five fingers and..
10) …if one did, it wouldn’t be five, which is not nearly enough in any yarn that’s not so bulky as to be ludicrous. (If you watch the video, look at her fingers when she puts the gloves on. Does that look like something you’d want to depend on for warm hands?)
11) How exactly does one make the “body” of the glove?
12) The primary reason they think it was for gloves is that the holes are different sizes. However, the holes have no effect whatsoever on the size of the stitches; that’s all about the spacing of the pegs, which is the same all around.