Crochet Facts and History

The origins of crochet date back to sixteenth century France, where French nuns used hooks for making beautiful lace. In fact, the word "crochet" comes from the French term hook. The art of crochet was carried by the nuns to Ireland. Here it became very refined, Irish girls skillfully copied many rare old patterns and it became an accomplishment required of well-born ladies.

In the past, crochet has been usually worked in cotton threads for purely utilitatian items, such as tablecloths, napkins and bedspreads. Today, crocheting can and does employ many various types of threads for an endless number of attractive garments, as well as other decorative items.

Fascinated by the useful possibilites of fibers, weavers developed many methods of spinning yarn and thread from wool and cotton. First, the weaver learned to spin fibers by hand. As the demand for his products increased, he developed the spinning wheel which was the best method prior to the advent of powered machinery.

Once the weaver had the thread, he would weave it into cloth on a loom. Unfortunately, this method required a good deal of space and confined him in a sitting position day in and day out. Portable looms were invented and are still in use in many areas. However, the solution to this problem came with the idea of looping the yarn through itself with the aid of a stick. Hence, knitting and crochet evolved from this technique.

Although modern crochet dates back to sixteenth century France, various crude forms of the art have been found in many earlier societies (as far back as 2000 B.C.). One of these forms was done with a needle similar to a fisherman's needle. Another form was developed from an early mariner's technique of looping without tying a knot. It is thought that weavers combined these methods in an attempt to find a handier method of weaving. The sticks used in this "hand weaving" became crochet hooks, and then, were eventually smoothed on the ends as knitting needles.

Crochet was refined into a craft during the 16th century in French convents, but it was not intil the 19th century that crochet was recognized as one of the womanly arts on the level of popularity with knitting and embroidery. Women fleeing France brought the techniques and the French word crochet to England around 1820. A quarter of a century later, crochet was introduced in Ireland as a cottage industry with which people could make a meager living. The rose designs of Irish crochet were used in edgings, tablecloths and beautiful delicate blouses sold all over the world. Unfortunately, the modern machine copies have lost much of the delicacy and beauty of the original handmade crochet.

During the Victorian era, many women decorated the interior of their homes with crocheted bedspreads, tablecloths, lampshades and antimacassars (a cover to protect the back or arms of furniture). Crochet was again in danger of being a lost art prior to the sudden revival of handmade clothing and accessaries as part of fashion in the last decade. There are many reasons for the renewed interest in crochet. New yarns, the use of larger needles and the slick designs have given crochet a whole new look. The granny square became part of a new style in skirts, tops and many other items. Afghans have also regained popularity, bringing the granny square back to its original purpose. Designers have applied crochet stitches to a range of items from cardigans and fashionable clothes to rugs and delicate edgings.

Crochet basics are generally simple, but without a solid knowledge of these basics, the intricate designs and patterns are hard to comprehend. Therefore, it is imperative to obtain a thorough understanding of knotting and stitch techniques.

Crochet is a pleasant and rewarding hobby that needs no previous skills of any kind. The desire to learn, a little time and patience is all that is necessary. Once this craft has been mastered, there are no limits to its many uses.

A note to left-handers; As most crochet patterns and instructions are drawn for right-handed people, it was once thought the left-handers had a special problem in learning the art. Experience has taught that this does not always hold true. Left-handed people can learn to crochet from the same instructions as right-handed people. One method is to employ the use of a mirror to reflect the image of the illustration in the opposite way that it is drawn. A help in learning for left-handers is that crochet is an ambidextrous craft in that it utilizes both hands equally, one to hold the hook, the other to to hold the guide yarn. This will make crocheting much easier in the long run. Many of the problems that the left-hander feels are the same felt by right-handers. The lack of dexterity and feeling of tension and awkwardness will ease as you become familiar with crochet hooks. The beginner will feel the tension relax as crochet becomes a habit rather than a conscious thought process.