Lesson 1: Part 1
Learning the history of crochet is an important park of learning how to crochet. When you learn a craft (or anything else), it is always interesting to learn more about its history. Who invented it? When did it come into being? Where did it start? How did it change over time? In this lesson, we will outline what is known about the crocheting in history.
Little is known of crochet’s early history. Unfortunately, the history of crochet is clouded by an absence of conclusive evidence as to whether it is a twentieth century art or if it existed prior to this time period. Some historians, however, suggest that it could have started as early as 1500 BC, even though there is little evidence to support the theory.
The following is an interesting piece on the history of crochet by Elizabeth L. Mathieson in her 1946 book – “The Complete Book of Crochet”:
Today, when crochet is enjoying such unprecedented vogue, it is doubly interesting to delve into its past and discover that what once helped save a nation from starvation became the accomplishment of queens. By curious irony, though its history dates back to the sixteenth century, crochet only came into its own with the birth of the Machine Age and has been growing in popularity ever since.
The word itself is derived from the French ‘croche’, meaning hook. Originally the crochet hook was one of a number of tools used in the intricate process of lace making.
As time went on, a repertoire of stitches and designs evolved, and crocheting graduated into a separate and pleasurable art. In the beginning it was almost entirely a convent art, classified with other types of handiwork under the general heading of nuns’ work.
It took a famine – the Irish Famine of 1846 – to give crochet its greatest impetus. At that time nuns taught it to their pupils and the proceeds derived from the sales of crocheted articles helped alleviate existing miseries. It was then that it became, along with playing the harpsichord, one of the graceful accomplishments of the well-born young lady.
Fascinating and versatile, crochet has become one of our best-loved handcrafts. With hook and thread agile fingers are capable of producing an endless variety of beautiful modern and traditional designs, each with its own special charm. Probably one of the loveliest is that known as Irish Crochet, famous as far back as 1743 when the Royal Dublin Society awarded prizes for outstanding examples of the art.
During the famine it became more generally popular when rare patterns of old lace were so skillfully copied by the Irish girls.
Crochet owes its widespread appeal to the fact that it is easy to do and lends itself to so many delightful interpretations. The simplicity and adaptability of the basic stitches tempt the novice to try her hand and challenge the expert to outdo herself. This art offers a wide latitude of choice: Laces, delicate as cobwebs for tablecloths and doilies, others more suitable for curtains and bedspreads, rugs and afghans in glowing colors in which texture and design are artfully blended, all of which spell beauty and utility for every home.
Crochet knows the fashionable graces too, how a crocheted hat and bag can “dress up” a costume, how a lacy cocktail sweater can “make” an evening. Fashion and crochet have united to design some of the most sought-after accessories, as well as every sort of warm and beguiling beauty for the carriage trade.
Fashions in crochet changed with the end of the Victorian era in the 1890s. Crocheted laces in the new Edwardian era, peaking between 1910 and 1920, became even more elaborate in texture and stitching.
The strong Victorian colours disappeared, though, and new publications called for white or pale threads, except for fancy purses, which were often crocheted of brightly colored silk and elaborately beaded.
After World War I, far fewer crochet patterns were published, and most of them were simplified versions of the early 20th century patterns.
After World War II, from the late 40s until the early 60s, there was a resurgence in interest in home crafts, particularly in the United States, with many new and imaginative crochet designs published for colorful doilies, potholders, and other home items, along with updates of earlier publications. These patterns called for thicker threads and yarns than in earlier patterns and included wonderful variegated colors.
The craft remained primarily a homemaker’s art until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the new generation picked up on crochet and popularized granny squares, a motif worked in the round and incorporating bright colors. Although crochet underwent a subsequent decline in popularity, the early 21st century has seen a revival of interest in handcrafts and do-it-yourself, as well as great strides in improvement of the quality and varieties of yarn. There are many more new pattern books with modern patterns being printed, and most yarn stores now offer crochet lessons in addition to the traditional knitting lessons.
We hope this has given you a better idea of the history of crochet and help you appreciate the craft more. If you want to learn more about the history of crocheting, you will probably enjoy the books below!