Crochet is a wonderful hobby. You probably sit down to crochet whenever you have free time but have you ever thought about how crochet originated?
If you’re interested in knowing more about the history of crochet, you’ve come to the right place.
What does crochet mean? Where did crochet come from? Who invented it? Who was the first to create a crochet hook? I answer all these questions and more in this article. I’ll delve deep into the rich history of crochet.
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 Different Crochet Stitches
- The Crochet Hook
- When Was The Crochet Hook Invented?
- What Are Crochet Hooks Made Of?
- Your Questions Answered
Where Did The Word Crochet Come From?
The word crochet came from the Old French word crochet, meaning ‘small hook.’ Which in turn 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 came to describe both the hook and the craft.
When Did Crochet First Start?
Crochet was first called crochet in the mid-1800s.
In the early 1700s, where tambouring reached Europe after spreading through India, Persia, North America, and Turkey, the method changed.
The background fabric used for tambouring was removed. The French named the new 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.
The earliest known published crochet pattern was in a Dutch magazine called Penélopé, in 1823. It listed instructions 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 just as fascinating.
Nålebinding is Danish, meaning ‘binding with a needle’ or ‘needle binding.’ The women of the Nanti Tribe (an indigenous people of the Camisea region of Peru) still practice it.
The technique also remains popular in Scandinavia and the Balkans.
Nålebinding can be 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 someone or people developing crochet is through a unique Chinese embroidery technique or the french method ‘tambouring.’
A French woman born in 1829 named Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere wrote the first crochet pattern. She also wrote and published several crochet and knitting books.
Despite Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere being french, she’s credited for the invention of Irish crochet. It went on to become 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 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 a way to make money. Irish crochet lace was a great answer. Introduced to Ireland due to the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849), the Irish used it as famine relief.
Developed in the mid-1800s in Ireland, Irish crochet or Irish crochet lace imitated Venetian point laces, which were expensive. Irish crochet lace is a style of Irish lace. The new method was a cheaper way of making money.
Teachers were taught the craft and began to teach young people how to crochet in schools. They were sent to show their knowledge to others. Around 16,000 women were crocheting lace by 1851.
The Process Of 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 that’s the design’s shape and outline. Afterward, you baste it all together (sew together with thread for short-term tacking).
Following, you join the motifs together with picots and chain stitches. Then you remove the basting stitches. Modern Irish crochet is with mercerized thread instead of a crochet linen thread.
Irish lace is thought to be related to crochet.
Lady Arabella Denny, an Irish aristocrat, helped to promote Irish lace with her extensive connections. Thanks to her and other upper-class Irish citizens, Irish lace made sales abroad.
Queen Victoria Gives Crocheting A Boost
Since Irish Crochet was a cheap way of making lace, the higher class of society in early Victorian Britain considered it ‘below them.’
To make crochet more fashionable, Queen Victoria bought Irish crochet lace from the women in Ireland who were trying desperately 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 certainly 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 many magazines. By this time, patterns introduced two more stitches to create variance in the designs, single and double crochet.
1844 – The process of mercerization is invented. This is a process added to the manufacturing of cotton to make it stronger 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 begin publishing patterns on how to make 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 then turned. The new method was similar to crochet today.
The Later 1840s – As discussed in this post, the method of Irish crochet lace is produced. 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 many middle-class and upper-class women to have more free time. This means increasingly crochet is becoming popular as a hobby.
1867 – The very popular, and still running to this day, fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar is founded.
1910–1920 – Due to the Edwardian period in the UK, fashion changes and becomes more detailed. Popular styles of crocheted clothes 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.
After The Wars – With restrictions on textiles lifted, crochet is rediscovered as a hobby. It becomes much more popular, as do other fiber arts.
The 1960s & 1970s – Possibly due to the hippie and other alternative subcultures, crochet items become very fashionable, particularly those made with granny squares.
1994 – Gwen Blakley Kinsler founded The Crochet Guild of America. She aimed to encourage people all over the USA to discover the enjoyable hobby of crocheting.
2007 – Ravelry, the knitting, crochet, and fiber arts forum, is created. Crochet and social media merge, becoming very popular and causing the creation of crochet blogs and communities.
The Development Of Different 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 both a crochet method and to join stitches together to create rings.
- The chain stitch, developed shortly 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. (It’s called the double crochet stitch in the UK.)
- The double crochet stitch is a more complicated version of single crochet, and it’s very versatile. It can be used in many different situations and projects. (It’s called the 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. (It’s called the half treble stitch in the UK.)
The Crochet Hook
The modern crochet hook is closely related to a tambour needle and the shepherd’s hook.
When Was The Crochet Hook Invented?
Some crochet hooks have survived from as far back as the 19th century. In 1917 America, the Boye Needle Co. manufactured the first set of American crochet hooks. In 1923, the first aluminum hooks appeared.
What Are Crochet Hooks Made Of?
Past crochet hooks have been made of many materials. Ivory, bone, porcupine quill, and other unique materials.
Modern crochet hooks are made from bamboo, aluminum, plastic, and glass. Also, artisan-made hooks made from materials like particular types of wood.
Some also have grips to make it easier to crochet for longer, and overall for comfort.
Your Questions Answered
Why Is Crochet So Popular?
It’s portable. All you need is your hook, yarn, and hands.
It has mental, psychological, and physical benefits, such as reducing stress, improving hand-eye dexterity and coordination, and many more.
There are many crochet patterns out there to make. Using or wearing the result of it all is the best part. Plus, crocheted items make great gifts. Who wouldn’t like a personalized crocheted garment made just for them?
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 that crochet wasn’t just a way to make pretty decorations, but 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 is becoming increasingly fashionable today.
Is Crocheting Good For Your Brain?
Yes, very much so! Here are just some of the reasons why crocheting is good for your brain.
- Research has shown practicing crochet regularly reduces the chance of dementia in old age.
- It improves cognitive ability and neural pathway flexibility.
- It improves your memory.
- Helps support your 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, and you might learn something.
- You’re learning and practicing a new skill.
What Is Crochet Made Of?
Crochet is made of yarn, which is 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 can be made of all sorts of different fibers, from acrylic to wool to bamboo.
What Are The Different Types Of Crochet?
There are many types of crochet, but here is a list of some of the more common or popular ones.
- Tunisian Crochet – One of the most well known and popular subset types of crochet. It uses a very long crochet hook called a Tunisian crochet hook. It’s very similar to knitting. You have lots of working loops at a time instead of just one. You also work your loops on and off the hook. It produces a result that looks similar to 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 very fine crochet thread, and the hooks used are some of the thinnest available. It’s very 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 that need tight tension.
- Tapestry Crochet – Essentially an umbrella term for almost crochet technique of colorwork. Also known as intarsia crochet, and a variety of other different names. There are many different ways and styles of doing colorwork, and each produces a different look. However, many other different colorwork methods don’t fall into this category.
- Aran Crochet – Aran in crochet means two different things. A method of crocheting and yarn weight. The technique is Celtic in origin and is made up of interwoven cables. Also known as cabled or ribbed crochet. The resulting project is very bulky or chunky, so it’s perfect for winter garments and blankets.
- Symbol crochet – It can be any type or method of crochet. Still, instead of the pattern written out, it’s presented in a chart using symbols. It’s used to communicate intricate or complicated designs, or sometimes 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 quite a long time ago and very popular during it’s time, which has since gained a little popularity in modern times after having lapsed for many decades. It’s a method of lace-making, sometimes called broomstick lace or jiffy lace. It uses a normal crochet hook, but you hold the stitches on something like 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. You can work the stitches with either end, and there’s no right or wrong side to the crocheted piece. It creates a result similar to knitting and Tunisian crochet.
What Is Tambouring?
Tambouring is French and is closely related to embroidery. The background fabric is stretched over, usually 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 early 1800s.
You use a shepherd’s hook, which has a strong taper, and a hook on the thinner side. It looks like a shepherd’s staff.
Shepherd’s knitting usually calls for rougher and thicker yarn. In the 1800s, shepherd’s knitting was growing increasingly 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:
“Sometimes 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.
It was done 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 took such care of.”
There’s proof shepherd’s knitting was practiced in Estonia, The Balkans, Sweden, Iceland, Scotland, and Romania.
There you go, the history of crochet. Hopefully, this post satisfied your curiosity, and you discovered something interesting about this wonderful hobby. As crochet evolves, the amazing origins will never fade from memory.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating topic.
Looking for more info on crochet? See here.