The Crochet History

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Exploring the Rich Heritage and Evolution of Crochet through History

Crochet is a craft that has a rich heritage and a fascinating evolution throughout history. It is believed to have originated in the 16th century in Europe, and it quickly spread throughout the world.

Crochet has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history, including creating clothing, household items, and even art.

One of the earliest known uses of crochet was in the creation of lace. In the 1800s, crochet lace was particularly popular in Europe, and many people made intricate designs that were used to adorn clothing and household items.

The popularity of crochet lace eventually spread to other parts of the world, including North America and Asia.

As crochet became more popular, it also evolved. New stitches were developed, and people began using different types of yarns and materials to create a wide range of designs.

In the 1900s, crochet became particularly popular in the United States, and many women used it to create clothing and accessories for themselves and their families.

Tambour gives birth to crochet

Tambour embroidery was a popular needlework technique in 18th-century France. It involved using a hook to create chain stitches on fabric stretched tight on a frame.

This technique was used to embellish clothing and home decor items, but it also gave birth to what we know today as crochet.

Crochet evolved from Tambour embroidery when crafters began to experiment with creating three-dimensional objects using the same hook-and-loop stitch technique.

They would use thicker yarn and create larger stitches to create functional items like hats, shawls, and blankets. Over time, crochet became a distinct craft form with its own set of techniques, stitches, and patterns.

While Tambour embroidery is still practiced today, crochet has become a beloved pastime for millions of people around the world.

Irish famine spawns Irish crochet

The Irish famine of the mid-1800s brought about a devastating period of hunger, disease, and emigration in Ireland.

During this difficult time, many Irish families turned to the craft of crochet as a means of earning money to survive.

Irish women created intricate lace pieces, incorporating traditional Irish motifs such as shamrocks and roses, using a style of crochet that came to be known as Irish crochet.

Irish crochet is unique in that it combines elements of crochet, lace-making, and embroidery. The technique involves using a small hook to create a mesh-like foundation, which is then embellished with raised motifs, delicate flowers, and intricate edging.

The end result is a stunning, three-dimensional lace that is highly prized for its beauty and craftsmanship.

As the demand for Irish crochet grew, it became a vital source of income for many Irish families. Women would gather in small groups, sharing patterns and techniques, and working together to create elaborate pieces of lace.

These works of art were then sold at markets and fairs, or exported to countries such as America and Australia.

Today, Irish crochet remains an important part of Ireland's rich cultural heritage. The intricate lace pieces are still crafted by skilled artisans, using traditional techniques passed down through generations.

Tools - the hooks, the material

Crochet hooks are essential tools for any crocheter. They come in a variety of sizes, materials, and shapes, and each one is designed for specific purposes.

The earliest hooks were made of bone, ivory, or wood and were carved by hand. Later on, they were made of metal, and in modern times, they can be made of plastic, bamboo, and other materials.

The first hooks were simple and basic, and there was no standardized sizing. As crochet became more popular, the demand for more precise and consistent hooks grew.

In the mid-19th century, manufacturers began to produce hooks in standardized sizes, which made it easier for crocheters to follow patterns.

Steel hooks were also introduced during this time, which allowed for more intricate and delicate work. As crochet continued to evolve, so did the hooks, with new designs being introduced, such as ergonomic handles and specialty hooks for specific techniques like Tunisian crochet.

Today, there are many different types of hooks available, including straight, circular, double-ended, and interchangeable hooks.

Each type has its advantages and is suited to different types of projects. Straight hooks are best for simple projects, while circular hooks are ideal for working in the round.

Double-ended hooks are perfect for Tunisian crochet, and interchangeable hooks allow for flexibility and convenience.

What kinds of things were made?

Throughout history, handwork was primarily created for practical purposes by men, such as woven fibers for trapping animals and fishing nets.

Over time, handwork evolved to include personal decoration for special occasions like religious rites and ceremonies. In the 16th century, crochet was developed as an imitation of the lace worn by royalty and the wealthy.

Victorian times saw the emergence of various crochet patterns for a range of items like flowerpot holders, birdcage covers, and even men's caps and waistcoats.

From 1900 to 1930, women crocheted a wide variety of items, including rugs, cushions, and hot-water bottle covers.

In the 1960s and 1970s, crochet became a means of freeform expression that resulted in three-dimensional sculptures, clothing, rugs, and tapestries featuring abstract and realistic designs. Nowadays, anything goes in the world of crochet.

Techniques yesterday and today

Comparing crochet techniques of the past to those of today is an interesting exercise. In the early 19th century, the Dutch magazine Penelope documented that the hook and yarn were held in the right hand, with the yarn passing over the hook from the right forefinger.

By the 1840s, crochet books instructed holding the hook in the right hand and the yarn in the left, as is commonly done by right-handers today.

In a German publication from 1847, it was advised to maintain a consistent tension in order to achieve an evenly textured finished product.

If not working in the round, it was recommended to break off the yarn at the end of each row for a finer finish. Today's patterns typically instruct working both sides of the fabric, which was not always the case until the 20th century.

The advice to maintain consistent tension indicates that crochet hooks were likely of uniform thickness and that crocheters were expected to adjust their tension accordingly.

Instructions from the mid-1800s indicated that the hook was to be inserted into the back half of the stitch only, using a single crochet stitch unless otherwise instructed.

However, in 1847, Jenny Lambert noted that inserting the hook through both loops could be used for thicker items such as soles for shoes, but was not suitable for all patterns.

Today, unless instructed otherwise, crocheters generally go through both loops.

Patterns and book

In the past, crochet patterns were not written down, and instead, people copied others' work by creating samples and sewing them onto pages or fabric or storing them in bags or boxes.

Annie Potter discovered some of these scrapbooks, dating back to the late 1800s, still being used by nuns in Spain. Crochet stitch samples were also collected by creating long, narrow bands, some of which were made by adults and some by school children.

From 1916 to 1926, readers in Europe could purchase small pattern samples along with their yarn.

The earliest known printed crochet patterns date back to 1824 and were for gold and silver silk thread purses in colorwork crochet.

Crochet books were published in many countries and translated into different languages. Mlle. Riego de la Branchardiere was the most notable expert on crochet, having published over a hundred books on the subject.

The mid-1800s crochet books were small, approximately 4 inches by 6 inches, and contained woodcut illustrations. They featured patterns for white lace-like collars, cuffs, lace, insertions, and caps for women and children, along with patterns for purses and men's slippers and caps.

The recommended materials for white crochet were cotton thread, spool yarn, linen, or hemp thread, while silk, wool, and chenille yarns, as well as gold and silver threads, were suggested for colorwork.

Early crochet patterns were not always accurate, and some designs, such as an eight-pointed star, might turn out to have only six points. The pattern reader was expected to use the illustration as a more accurate guide.

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