Crochet Vertical Herringbone Afghan
Crochet Vertical Herringbone Afghan
Crochet Vertical Herringbone Afghan

History of Crochet

Crochet is one of those hobbies where the starting point is unknown. It’s a morphing of hobbies clashing together such as knitting, tapestry, rug hooking and weaving techniques. Croche is the Middle French word hook. While the word most likely originates from the French and English speakers have picked it up to be crochet, where does it really come from?

Knitting is Unrelated to Crochet

Today, retailers and hobbyists, like us, put the two hobbies together in the same bucket. However, they are not the same at all. The only commonality between us is the yarn.

Crochet differs from knitting as knitting can keep a large number of stitches open waiting for the next step, crochet starts a stitch and usually closes a stitch. Tunisian is crochet between knitting of keeping stitches open in forward pass but then closing the stitches in the return pass. So essentially, Tunisian is a cross between the two in the sense of keeping stitches open for a short time and then closing them off.

Rug Hooking
Rug Hooking

Technically speaking, crochet is not a very old technique. Said to have been developed around the 15-17th century. Today’s terminology of crochet may have been known as a different name. This seems to ring true that stitches we name today could have already had a different name in the past.

  • There is early evidence that the Chinese were making dolls using crochet techniques. It’s called Amigurumi. Some English speaking North Americans think the name, Amigurumi, is just a fancy-schmancy name but it’s not. It’s the original name derived by the Japanese and is still used today.
  • Old techniques such as tambouring as you can visualize today as needlepoint where the fabric is stretched so you can insert a needle through the fabric to pull up a loop. It’s said that the chain stitch was achieved which may have been responsible for thinking what can thread do if it’s looped without going through a fabric first.

Crochet at one time was for very intricate pieces. Maybe a collar for a top or even expanding into full-size projects such as table cloths. It was detailed and very intricate. It was a skill learned and trading existed to help families have work. It wasn’t uncommon that men and women were involved in the early stages of crochet.

What is said about today that crochet can be community focused was about community expanding and sharing their skills as people move around and migrate around the globe. As progress and time with automation, knitting leaped forward and the skills were passed to a machine. However, crochet cannot be done by a machine.

Sources

Social Behaviour

In 2019, there are some people who feel knitting is a step above crochet. The act of moving one stick versus two creates a social difference in the hobbies. In reviewing the history, crochet’s history is more likely from a needlepoint perspective than trying to simplify knitting to one tool. From a historical point of view, they really are not related other than the yarn itself, which would have been thread back in the day. 

Crochet projects tend to be thicker and dense. It will use up more yarn than a typical knit product. This is based on the stitches being opened and closed within the motion of forming one stitch. This thickness can limit the ability of the crocheter and the uses of some of their garments. For example, socks will be a bit thicker than knit socks if using the same yarn. Most likely more comfortable wearing knit verses crochet for this application.

From my perspective, knitting looks better for certain things while crochet is king on other elements. They should be different after all, they are not produced the same way.

Roseanne's Crochet Afghan
Roseanne’s Crochet Afghan

Crochet receives an unfair stigma. In television shows, a crochet item is most likely to be depicted in the backdrop in an everyday family plotline, someone struggling such as prison shows. Knitting appears in shows where there is more elegance or higher-end approach. You will most likely see a knitted blanket in a renovation makeover than a crocheted version. This is a generalization but as a crocheter, I tend to see crochet in shows like Orange in the New Black, Wentworth, Amish Based Reality TV, Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun and more. Knitting appears in shows where the family is depicted as middle class or higher. Of course, there are always exceptions. 

Ease of Fixing Issues

Crochet has the ability to fix issues in real-time without a lot of frustrating fuss. You generally can see what is wrong in the moment and correct. The act of closing the stitches just after creating them allows for easier fixing. While some crocheters, myself included, we can make mistakes and not realize for a while, we can pull apart the item back to where the mistake is and correct it. While it can drive people mad to do that, it’s always an option.

For knitting, the fixing can be done but requires more care as the stitches remain open for the entire time.

Crochet Study of Planet Earth Mikey Sample
Crochet Study of Planet Earth Mikey Sample

Crochet Complexity

For many people, they are unaware that crochet has the ability to be highly complex. A crocheter has the ability to think, try and react in real-time. It’s simple instant gratifications stitch by stitch. Crochet has been complex from the beginning and some designers continue onward with expanding the crochet tool-box. To elevate knitting over crochet is somewhat silly as the way stitches are achieved are not the same, nor are they intended to be the same.

Skillwise, a crocheter has a lot of options for forming a stitch, very much like a knitter. Crochet can do skills easier than knitting in some applications but crochet is limited to what knitting is able to achieve too. You see, they are very different.

Financial Budget

It’s true that crochet tends to be a more expensive hobby versus knitting. If you subtract the types of yarns that are available. Crochet will use far more yardage as a result of the stitches being closed. This fact will change crocheters choices when it comes to making an afghan with high-end yarn to being more medium to everyday value yarn.

Crocheters most likely will have more yarns in storage than a knitter. Of course, there’s such thing as a yarn addiction as well. I know that all too well!

Crochet is Handmade

A machine hasn’t been able to duplicate the act of crochet. Most likely, if you have bought a project that involved crochet, you bought something that someone has physically done with a hook in hand. Next time you see that lovely crocheted top on the sales rack for $29.99, it was most likely produced by a human in a land far, far away and that price due to importing.

Knitting can be duplicated by machines, look at your socks.

The Crochet Crowd Yarn Studio
The Crochet Crowd Yarn Studio

Knitters & Crocheters in Same Community

While it’s kinda awful to admit, there is a community difference between a knitter and crocheter. In some retail stores, knitting has the upper-class stigma were crocheters are considered the second tier. Not all stores treat people in this manner but you do hear stories. You know how it is, bad stories travel further than nice feel-good stories.

In doing this research, I had the expectation that it was a knitter that derived crochet. Meaning, they thought let’s use one needle and put a hook onto it. In fact, it’s more from the embroidery, rug hooking type of application that discovered this. In realizing that, I don’t know why crocheters and knitters seem to be at odds with each other. It’s like comparing a professional diver to a farmer. Both need water but what they are doing are two completely different things.

Usually, when I run into a knitter, they tell me they knit. My first instinct is to congratulate them for enjoying the yarn arts. I cannot claim I’m a knitter as there are so many skills I don’t know. But as a crocheter, we have the same interest in loving yarn. Some of us love everyday yarn while others love more medium to high-end yarn. The truth is simple. Use what you love, what you pay for it is no one’s business but you and if it makes you happy, everyone would be excited for you.

So next time you are hooking, think about the origin of where this skill was back in the ages of discovery. Someone did us a favour by trying something new, today and it’s an established global hobby. Whether you crochet or knit, it’s something to celebrate.

20 thoughts on “History of Crochet

  1. Thank you for your article. I crochet, knit, latch hook, embroider (both regular and cross stitch), sew, anything to do with yarn or thread. The one thing I cannot master is tatting, oh how I wish someone could show me what I’m doing wrong there. If anyone knows of any articles about tatting I would be thrilled to see them.

  2. Thanks for a very enlightening article. Associating knitted and crocheted items with socio-economics is an interesting concept. My grandmother’s crocheted and one also tatted and embroidered. My mother knits but crochets rarely and she taught me to embroider but I never saw her make anything with it. I love knitting and crocheting equally but I sometimes need to embroider something. Tunisian crochet, which my grandmother did and called it afghan crochet is my new interest. I taught my 2 boys and daughter to knit. The boys never followed through but my daughter crochets. It’s interesting how the generations have switched back and forth.
    I love fiber arts and am enjoying playing in something other than acrylic yarn as the internet has made other yarns available and affordable.
    I enjoy the interest my take-along projects get in public. Men and women have started conversations both those who participate in that craft or others. It makes me happy to see all the people who are interested in fiber crafts as it nearly disappeared a few decades ago. My son-in-law was horrified because my daughter took her crocheting to the doctor’s office because only old ladies did that.
    Now we know the health benefits of being creative and the internet has connected crafters worldwide. So to whoever created crotcheting you are not the poor relation. You are a star in your own right and sibling rivalry is pretty silly and should be outgrown.

      • Crocheting since 1971! No reason for the snobbery because both crafts are equally valid. Can crochet my way around the world, but knitting still feels like I got two left hands with all thumbs. Thanks crochet for the serenity.

  3. Hi. I learned to knit at a very young age. I have been unwell and had to rest but, was bored with knitting so watched video’s, researched etsy, ebay and similar to find out about learning crochet. That was a year ago and I love crocheting and have made many items.
    I wouldn’t class myself as either a knitter or a crocheter but, a yarn artist. I do not understand the divide and never did.Before I could crochet I used to say ” I can knit but, I cant crochet”

  4. Thank you for this interesting and comprehensive history of a craft I love so much. My father taught me to crochet when I was 12 and Some 60 years later I decided to try it again. Research indicates that it has tremendous cognitive benefits and improves motor function. It’s great to know the history behind it.

  5. I love you Mickey. You’re the best. Your tutorials are fun and easy to follow. Thank you for that. I have been a crocheter since I was 10 years old, I’m know where near your level of. exexpertise or experience.

    • There’s always something to learn. That’s why I love this hobby. I will have never learned everything by the time I die. That’s what keeps me interested.

  6. I love the study of planet earth and it was my first ever tutorial, to do. My daughters kept after me to to join. I was scared i wasn’t good enough even tho I’ve been crocheting for 53 years and i love the people in the group they are loving and understanding and so friendly and i had a school mate that found me after many years and it was so awesome and i got a another friend from my childhood to join. God is using you and your group to reach out to the world by being us all together. You are a beautiful blessing.! I’m thankful sweetie.

  7. I’ve heard that sailors a long time ago used a form of crochet to make chains of ropes. Don’t know if they ever went any further than just making a chain.

    • Yes, you were right. The first Amigurumi doll was found in China as being the oldest. I slipped up on the Japanese connection. I made the correction. Thanks so much.

  8. It would make sense that crochet uses one hook, simpler, etc Thickness is dependent on yarn Guage I have some very comfortable socks, sweaters, etc from lightweight yarn. Go back to the tool fisherman used to make nets in the Bible times, and look at the costumes in Roman movies. Hm.

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