Crochet is wonderful. Have you ever thought about how crochet originated? Interested in knowing more about the history of crochet? You’re in the right place.
I updated, fact checked and reviewed this post on April 6, 2023
Table Of Contents
- Where Did The Word Crochet Come From?
- When Did Crochet First Start?
- What Came First, Knitting Or Crochet?
- Who Invented Crochet?
- Irish Crochet And The Great Irish Famine
- The Process Of Making Irish Crochet
- Queen Victoria Gives Crocheting A Boost
- Crochet History – A Timeline
- The Development Of Crochet Stitches
- The Crochet Hook
- What Are Crochet Hooks Made Of?
Where Did The Word Crochet Come From?
The word origin of Crochet came from the Old French word crochet, meaning ‘small hook.’ Which is from croche. Croche comes from the Germanic word croc. Both mean hook. Crochetage means a single stitch used to join separate bits of lace together. People used this term in making French lace in the 1600s. The word crochet describes the hook and the craft.
When Did Crochet First Start? – Crochet Origins
The origins of crochet, evidence shows the starting point was the mid-1800s. As early as late 16th/early 17th century, crocheted braiding was used in clothing, (a man’s cape at the Victoria and Albert Museum.)
The origins of Crochet evolved in the early 1700s when tambouring reached Europe after going through India, Persia, North America, Turkey, North Africa and other places around the world. People removed the background fabric used for tambouring. The French named the technique “crochet in the air.”
In the early 1800s, shepherd’s knitting came about, along with the shepherd’s hook. It’s thicker than a modern crochet hook but still with a hooked end.
By the mid-1800s, it became known as crochet or slip stitch crochet. In the 60s, the granny square and crocheted homeware appeared and became more popular.
Crocheters were everywhere! The earliest known published crochet pattern was in a Dutch magazine called Penélopé, in 1823. It listed instructions and systems for five types of purses.
What Came First, Knitting Or Crochet?
Knitting. Crochet was the last out of Nålebinding, knitting, and crochet. The technique called Nålebinding came long before knitting or crochet. The history of crochet is much shorter than the other two but as fascinating. Nålebinding is Danish, meaning ‘binding with a needle.’
An interesting fact is the women of the Nanti Tribe (indigenous people of Camisea in Peru in South America) still practice it. The technique also remains increasingly popular in Scandinavia and the Balkans.
Nålebinding is mistaken for knitting, but modern knitting started in the early 11th century CE with ancient Egyptian socks. Following knitting, the word crochet for the first time appeared in 1823 in the Dutch magazine Penélopé.
Who Invented Crochet?
It’s hard to narrow down the origins and who invented it. The most reliable link to crochet is through a unique Chinese embroidery technique or the French method’ tambouring.’
Some sources suggest that crochet originated in Arabia, the techinique being passed along the trade routes towards the Mediterranean.
Origins In Europe
A French crocheter born in 1829, Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere, wrote the first crochet pattern. She also wrote and published crochet and knitting books.
Despite Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere being french, she’s credited for the invention of Irish crochet. It became a prevalent method of crochet and still is today. (See below).
A journal entry written by Elizabeth Grant in The Memoirs of a Highland Lady (1797-1830) references shepherd’s knitting. It’s the art of making garments made of cloth by looping string/yarn with tools like a hook. More on shepherd’s knitting further down in the post.
Irish Crochet And The Great Irish Famine
Because of the awful poverty, the Irish needed to make money. Irish crochet lace needlework was a great answer. Introduced to Ireland due to the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849), the Irish used it as famine relief. Ruthie Marks wrote a short piece on this topic.
Developed in the mid-1800s in Ireland, Irish crochet lace imitated expensive Venetian point laces. The new method was cheaper.
Teachers were taught the craft and taught young people how to crochet in schools. People sent them to show their knowledge to others. Around 16,000 women were crocheting lace by 1851.
When Irish people migrated to the US, they introduced their crochet skills to Americans. That might be why it’s so common as a hobby!
Making Irish Crochet
Traditionally made with a thin steel hook and crochet linen thread, it’s produced by crocheting separate lace motifs. When you finish, you assemble them on a cloth. Afterward, you baste it together (sew together with thread for short-term tacking).
Following, you join the motifs together with picots and chain stitches. Remove the basting stitches. The modern version is with mercerized thread instead of a crochet linen thread. Want an example of how it looks? See this photo.
For more, read Crochet: History and Technique by the author Lis Paludan.
Irish lace stitching is thought to be related to crochet. Lady Arabella Denny, an Irish aristocrat, promoted Irish lace with her extensive connections. Thanks to her and other upper-class Irish citizens, Irish lace made sales abroad.
Famous Crocheters – Queen Victoria Gives Crocheting A Boost
Since Irish Crochet was a cheap way of making lace, the higher class society in early Victorian Britain considered it ‘below them.’ To make crochet more fashionable, Queen Victoria bought the lace from the women in Ireland who were trying to make money.
She learned crocheting herself and produced eight crocheted scarves. She gave each one to veterans of the South African war. Her efforts gave crochet a boost in popularity!
Crochet History – A Timeline
1812 – A book is published called The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant. In her writing, she talks about “shepherd’s knitting,” essentially known today as slip stitch crochet. Shepherds knitting was and still is a version of crochet.
1823 – The first crochet pattern is published in a Dutch magazine named Penélopé, with instructions for purses.
1835 – The first patterns for crocheted bags were published in Germany and The Netherlands in magazines. By this time, patterns introduced two more stitches to create a variance in the single and double crochet designs.
1844 – The process of mercerization was invented. This is a process added to cotton manufacturing to strengthen it and more durable. This means it becomes a lot easier to crochet with and becomes a more popular fiber of choice.
1846 – In the UK, magazines published patterns on making Spanish needle lace. The method of making crochet has changed too. Instead of only working through the back loop and the yarn cut off at each row’s end. It shows working both, and the rows worked back and forth and turned. Like crochet today.
The Later 1840s – As discussed in this post, people produced the method of Irish crocheted lace. It becomes a way for impoverished people to make money in The Great Irish Potato Famine.
The 1850s and 1860s – Due to the industrial revolution, things became mass-produced and cheaper to buy.
This includes crochet hooks. It also causes middle-class and upper-class women to have more free time. Crochet became popular as a hobby.
1867 – The popular, and still running to this day, fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar was founded.
1910–1920 – Due to the Edwardian period in the UK, fashion changed and became more detailed. Popular styles of crocheted clothes and pattern books change to reflect this.
The World Wars – The governments encourage women to contribute to the war effort and crochet items for the troops and soldiers in need on the home front.
After World War II – With restrictions on textiles lifted, crochet is rediscovered as a hobby. It became more popular, as did other fiber arts.
The 1960s & 1970s – Crochet items have become fashionable due to the hippie and other alternative subcultures.
1994 – Gwen Blakley Kinsler founded The Crochet Guild of America. She aimed to encourage people to discover the enjoyable hobby of making a crochet item.
2007 – Ravelry, the knitting, crochet, and fiber arts forum, is created. People publish crochet designs there.
Crochet and social media has merged, becoming famous among North Americans and causing the creation of crochet blogs and communities. Previously forgotten crochet techniques get a revival as many more people embrace handmade crafts.
Creators offer online workshops sharing techniques and patterns to crochet. Generous designers supply free crochet patterns as a way to showcase their work and gain exposure within the making community.
The Development Of Crochet Stitches
Here is a list of the most common crochet stitches, from the earliest development to the most recent.
- The slip stitch, first originating from shepherd knitting, is used as a crochet method and joining stitches together to create rings.
- The chain stitch, developed after the slip stitch, is the most basic one. It’s used to begin nearly every project.
- The single crochet stitch is the easiest stitch to learn besides the two first mentioned. (Double crochet stitch in the UK.)
- The double crochet stitch is a more complicated version of single crochet, and it’s versatile. Used in many situations and projects. (Treble stitch in the UK.)
- The half-double crochet stitch was developed as a half stitch or an in-between stitch to single and double crochet. (Half treble stitch in the UK.)
The Crochet Hook
The modern crochet hook is related to a tambour needle and the shepherd’s hook.
When Was The Crochet Hook Invented?
Crochet hooks have survived from the 19th century. In 1917 America, the Boye Needle Co. manufactured the first American crochet hooks. In 1923, the first aluminum hooks appeared.For more, read this article by Nancy Nehring.
What Are Crochet Hooks Made Of?
Past crochet hooks have been made of ivory, bone, and porcupine quills. Modern crochet hooks are made from bamboo, aluminum, and plastic. Artisan-made hooks are made from materials like wood. Some have grips to make it easier to crochet for longer.
FAQs About Crocheting History
Why Is Crochet So Popular?
It’s portable. You need your hook, yarn, and hands. It has mental and physical benefits, such as reducing stress, improving hand-eye agility and coordination, etc.
There are many crochet patterns to make. Using or wearing the result is the best part. Plus, crocheted items make great gifts. Who wouldn’t like a personalized crocheted garment?
When Did Crochet Become Popular?
First, in the late 1800s when Queen Victoria gave Irish crochet a boost during the Great Irish Famine. In the 1920s and 1930s, the public decided crochet was a way to make clothing and accessories.
Crochet boomed in the 1940s when it became a significant part of Britain and the US’s wartime efforts. The granny square and crochet homeware are becoming fashionable today.
Is Crocheting Good For Your Brain?
Yes! Here are the reasons crocheting is good for your brain.
- Research has shown practicing crochet reduces the chance of dementia in old age.
- It improves cognitive ability and neural pathway flexibility.
- It improves your memory.
- Supports hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and fine motor skills
- Reduces stress
- Reduces the decline of mental ability as you age
- The repetitive motions of the craft create a meditative state.
- It creates community and social connection.
- Patterns often involve math, so it keeps your brain sharp
- You’re learning and practicing a new skill.
What Is Crochet Made Of?
Crochet is made of fiber types knotted and stitched in unpredictable ways to create a piece of crocheted fabric. The stitches or knots are done with a single hook. The yarn is made of fibers from acrylic to wool to bamboo.
What Are The Different Types Of Crochet?
Here is a list of the more common ones.
- Tunisian Crochet – One of the most well known and popular subset types of crochet. It uses a long crochet hook called a Tunisian crochet hook. It’s like knitting. You have lots of working loops at a time instead of one. You also work your loops on and off the hook. It produces a result like knitted fabric but is still unique.
- Amigurumi Crochet – Created in Japan, this is an art form of creating stuffed creatures or toys using crocheted or knitted fabric. The word comes from two Japanese words. Ami meaning crochet or knitting, and nuigurumi meaning stuffed doll or toy.
- Micro Crochet – Developed in modern times, it’s true of the name when they say micro! Tiny, intricate designs, often of lace, it uses fine crochet thread, and the hooks used are the thinnest available. It’s delicate, time-consuming, and requires a steady hand and lots of patience, but the results are stunning.
- Finger Crochet -The crocheted form of finger knitting. You crochet, but instead of using a hook, you use your fingers. It boils down to a hand-weaving method, but the weaving is done in the style of stitches from crochet. It’s fun, but not suited to complicated projects or ones needing tight tension.
- Tapestry Crochet – An umbrella term for almost crochet technique of colorwork. Aka intarsia crochet. There are many ways and styles of doing colorwork, and each produces a different look. However, other colorwork methods don’t fall into this category. Tapestry crochet evolved in Northern Europe
- Aran Crochet – Aran in crochet means a method of crocheting and yarn weight. The technique is Celtic and comprises interwoven cables. Aka cabled or ribbed crochet. The resulting project is bulky, so it’s perfect for winter garments and blankets.
- Symbol crochet – Any method of crochet. Instead of a written pattern, it’s presented in a chart using symbols. It’s used for intricate designs, or so you don’t have to understand a certain language to use it. Knowing how to read these is a useful skill.
- Broomstick Crochet – Developed a while ago and popular during it’s time. It’s gained popularity in modern times after having lapsed for decades. It’s a method of lace-making called broomstick lace or jiffy lace. It uses a normal crochet hook, but you hold the stitches on a broom handle.
- Cro-hook Crochet – Using a unique hook called a cro hook, it has a hook on both ends, creating double-sided crochet. Work the stitches with either end, and there’s no right or wrong side to the crocheted piece. It creates a result like knitting and Tunisian crochet.
What Is Tambouring?
Tambouring is French and is related to embroidery. The background fabric is stretched over a wooden frame, and a needle with a hooked end is used to embroider onto the background fabric.
What Is Shepherd’s Knitting?
Shepherd’s knitting or slip stitch crochet came to be in the 1800s. You use a shepherd’s hook with a strong taper and a hook on the thinner side. It looks like a shepherd’s staff.
Shepherd’s knitting calls for rougher and thicker yarn. In the 1800s, shepherd’s knitting was growing popular. The following is a paragraph mentioning Shepherd’s knitting from The Memoirs Of A Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant written in 1812 and published in 1912:
“When he was not well, he wore a plaid cloak and a night cap, red or white, made by his industrious wife in a stitch she called shepherd’s knitting. She did it with a little hook she manufactured for herself out of the tooth of an old tortoiseshell comb.
She used to go on looping her home-spun wool as quickly as fingers could move, making not only caps but drawers and waistcoats for winter wear for the old husband she cared for.”
There’s proof shepherd’s knitting was practiced in Estonia, The Balkans, Sweden, Iceland, Scotland, and Romania.
There’s the history of crochet. Did you discover something interesting? As crochet evolves, the amazing origins never fade from memory. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating topic. Looking for more info on crochet? See here.
Pin For Later
What about latch hook crochet? When did that start? A friend of mine makes beautiful blankets using latch hook crocheting.
That’s a good question Judith. I will reach out to my readers and see if they have any suggestions. Cheers Jodie
When somebody noticed that a “latch hook” is a “hook.” In fact, what we now call “latch hooking” was probably done with an ordinary crochet hook for decades before the latch hook was invented (or stolen from knitting machines). On the one hand, the latch makes it easier to avoid dropping stitches or catching unwanted ones; on the other hand, as far as I know latch hooks only come in one gauge and you’re more limited in what stitches you can do (several stitches require you to “yarn over” loops on the shaft, and a latch hook’s shaft is way too thin to maintain the gauge.)
Thank you for sharing this information! I learned so much. How cool that there is history of women supporting women through the Irish famine.
Hi Megan, glad to hear you enjoyed reading the article. Yes, time and time again, history shows the resilience of women even in the darkest of times. It’s always inspiring and fascinating to learn about.
Thank you for this fascinating history of crochet. Have rediscovered the joy of crochet during covid-19 lockdown at home here in UK. When young, I crocheted shawls, fringed scarves, granny square cushion covers, bags – it was the 1970’s Now I crochet using only wool, cotton & other natural yarns. In ’70’s all yarn was wool … no granny squares this time around. I am learning new stitches !
Hi Dee. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences of crochet. It’s wonderful that you have rediscovered the joy of crochet. There are so many wonderful fibers to use and new stitches to learn. I’ve recently been learning mosaic crochet and thoroughly enjoying it. Happy Crocheting!
That did satisfy my curiosity. I love crochet and it’s amazing to find out where it actually originate from.
Crochet definitely helps in times of need and it is still evolving.
Thank you so much
Hi Carolyn. Thanks so much for your kind words and I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. I whole heartedly agree that Crochet helps us keep grounded and calm. I too am amazed at what crochet designers continue to develop. Cheers Jodie
I taught myself to crochet about 50 years ago, and made many things; Afghans, layette sets, lace table runners, lace collars, wiggly crochet coasters. But I gave it up about 25 years ago after having children in my 40’s (just no time!). I started up again less than 2 years ago and have gotten very busy with it again. I have always loved challenging myself with complex patterns and have discovered wonderful textured patterns using front and back post stitches ( I’m currently working on a cabling pattern). Any idea when/where this technique was developed? I also learned just this week about “planned pooling” with variegated yarns and can’t wait to try that too! There seems to have been an explosion in crochet cleverness!
Hi Lynne. Thanks so much for sharing your crochet journey. The design elements of crochet are varied and wonderful. Indeed the stitches, techniques and patterns are so clever. I would need to research crochet cabling as I am not aware of when or where this technique was developed. Cheers Jodie
Thank you so much for such a interesting article. I had no idea crochet had such a fascinating history. I love doing anything with any type of yarn but always come back to crochet and I have learned so much over the years but this article was a lesson all by itself. Thank u again.
Thanks so much Bessie for your kind words. I am so glad you enjoyed my article and you continue to pursue the joy of making with crochet. Cheers Jodie
Adorei conhecer a historia do croche, na verdade não tinha tido a curiosidade de conhecer quando, como e onde ele começou. Foi muito gratificante agregar mais este conhecimento.
Oi Maria. Estou feliz que você tenha gostado desta informação. Obrigada. Por favor, desculpe meu português. Eu ainda estou aprendendo.
I was not aware of the types of crochet. I was just familiar with the name of amigurumi crochet.
Thanks for all the knowledge.
Thank you for your kind words. Great to hear that you’ve found something new about Crochet.
Amiguri isn’t really a “type” of crochet so much as it’s a style of critter the Japanese came up with. They can be knitted, crocheted, sewed and origamied…
Thank you very much for this detailed and fascinating information! I am really impressed by the various types of crochet! I have never heard of some of them before. Thank you and good luck 😉
Thanks very much for your kind words Natallia. Happy Crocheting! Cheers Jodie
Muy interesante, apasionante y desconocida historia del tejido a crochet. Gracias por compartirla pues permite conocer esta grata forma de ayudar al cerebro, especialmente en este tiempo de pandemia en que la salud mental corre el riesgo de alterarse al igual que nuestro físico.
Hola Teresa. Me alegro de que mi publicación te haya ayudado. Hacer crochet es una fantastica forma de ejercitar la mente y practicar la coordinación ojo-mano. Cuídate. Saludos Jodie.
Now how could you get anywhere in “shepherd knitting” if you didn’t have a chain to work it on?
I also might point out that “Cro-hook” is a new-fangled term for a technique that’s been around; I have double-ended hooks that I’ve purchased (used) since well before the term “cro-hook” started getting thrown around. And one thing that you didn’t mention is that a double-ended hook allows you to work Tunisian in the round, which is impossible with a single-head hook.
Thanks so much Wendy for sharing your knowledge. I will update my post to reflect your valueable information about double ended hooks and their ability to work Tunisian crochet in the round. Cheers Jodie
I just read your article on the history of crochet and learned a lot.
I’ve recently wanted to try to figure out more about the Irish Lace during the famine and wondering if I can see something of what my 2nd great-grand parents might have crocheted to keep body and soul together.
My mom passed away at 100 years old and I learned how to make hairpin lace afghans from her. I wondered where hairpin lace made with a crochet hook and a hairpin shaped loom.
Thank you so much for getting in touch after reading my article on Crochet History. So good to hear you learned some things.
What a wonderful skill to have gained from your Mom, to make hairpin lace afghans. We become deeply connected through our craft. Such an amazing age your Mom reached, I can only imagine how many projects she created during her long life.
And to follow up your own family history, how it might have been for them and the techniques they might have used. So interesting!
I’d love to see pictures if you’d be happy to share your hairpin lace afghans. They must be a true labor of love, so much time and effort.
I still have so much to learn about crochet, I do a little every day, trying out new stitches.
Again thanks so much for sharing this with us. Cheers Jodie 🙂