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Detail of a crocheted doily, SwedenCrochet (pronounced /kroʊˈʃeɪ/) is a process of creating fabric from yarn or thread using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word "crochet", meaning hook. Crocheting, similar to knitting, consists of pulling loops of yarn through other loops. Crochet differs from knitting in that only one loop is active at one time (the sole exception being Tunisian crochet), and that a crochet hook is used instead of knitting needles.
Some theorize that crochet evolved from traditional practices in Arabia, South America, or China, but there is no decisive evidence of the craft being performed before its popularity in Europe during the 1800s. The earliest written reference to crochet refers to shepherd's knitting from The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant in 1812. The first published crochet patterns appeared in the Dutch magazine Pénélopé in 1824. Other indicators that crochet was new in the 19th century include the 1847 publication A Winter's Gift, which provides detailed instructions for performing crochet stitches in its instructions although it presumes that readers understand the basics of other needlecrafts. Early references to the craft in Godey's Lady's Book in 1846 and 1847 refer to crotchet before the spelling standardized in 1848. Some[who?] speculate that crochet was in fact used by early cultures but that a bent forefinger was used in place of a fashioned hook; therefore, there were no artifacts left behind to attest to the practice. These writers[who?] point to the "simplicity" of the technique and claim that it "must" have been early.
The corner square shows a common crochet pattern,
the granny square.
An example of a crocheted baby blanket. The corner square shows a common crochet pattern, the granny square.Other writers point out that woven, knit and knotted textiles survive from very early periods, but that there are no surviving samples of crocheted fabric in any ethnological collection, or archeological source prior to 1800. These writers point to the tambour hooks used in tambour embroidery in France in the eighteenth century, and contend that the hooking of loops through fine fabric in tambour work evolved into "crochet in the air." Most samples of early work claimed to be crochet turn out to actually be samples of nålebinding. Donna Kooler identifies a problem with the tambour hypothesis: period tambour hooks that survive in modern collections cannot produce crochet because the integral wing nut necessary for tambour work interferes with attempts at crochet. Kooler proposes that early industrialization is key to the development of crochet. Machine spun cotton thread became widely available and inexpensive in Europe and North America after the invention of the cotton gin and the spinning jenny, displacing hand spun linen for many uses. Crochet technique consumes more thread than comparable textile production methods and cotton is well suited to crochet.
Irish crochet lace, late 19th century. The design of this example is closely based on Flemish needle lace of the 17th century.Beginning in the 1800s in Britain, America and France, crochet began to be used as a less costly substitute for other forms of lace. The price of manufactured cotton thread was dropping, and even though crocheted laces took up more thread than woven bobbin laces, the crocheted laces were faster to make and easier to teach. It's believed that some lace manufacturers paid so little that their workers resorted to prostitution.
Irish crochet lace, late 19th century. The design of this example is closely based on Flemish needle lace of the 17th century.
During the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849) , Ursuline nuns taught local women and children to thread crochet. It was shipped all across Europe and America and purchased for its beauty and also for the charitable help it provided for the Irish population.
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A young girl crocheting, in an 1889 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.Around the world, crochet became a thriving cottage industry, particularly in Ireland and northern France, supporting communities whose traditional livelihoods had been damaged by wars, changes in farming and land use, and crop failures. Women and sometimes even children would stay at home and create things such as clothes and blankets to make money. The finished items were purchased mainly by the emerging middle class. The introduction of crochet as an imitation of a status symbol, rather than a unique craft in its own right, had stigmatized the practice as common. Those who could afford lace made by older and more expensive methods disdained crochet as a cheap copy. This impression was partially mitigated by Queen Victoria, who conspicuously purchased Irish-made crochet lace and even learned to crochet herself. Irish crochet lace was further promoted by Mlle. Riego de la Branchardiere around 1842 who published patterns and instructions for reproducing bobbin lace and needle lace via crochet, along with many publications for making crocheted clothing from wool yarns. The patterns available as early as the 1840s were varied and complex.
A young girl crocheting, in an 1889 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Hooks ranged from primitive bent needles in a cork handle, used by poor Irish lace workers, to expensively crafted silver, brass, steel, ivory and bone hooks set into a variety of handles, some of which were better designed to show off a lady's hands than they were to work with thread. By the early 1840s, instructions for crochet were being published in England, particularly by Eleanor Riego de la Branchardiere and Frances Lambert. These early patterns called for cotton and linen thread for lace, and wool yarn for clothing, often in vivid color combinations.