HNW - HNW: More on hooks

Kim Salazar Kim_Salazar at BayNetworks.COM
Tue Oct 7 06:39:03 PDT 1997


I don't mean to reopen the "how far back do crochet hooks go" debate.  I
was waiting for the digest to see if anyone had mentioned this before I
wrote.  I apologize that I don't have line citations here.  I'm writing
from work without my library at hand...

One source of possible confusion for crochet hooks that predate 1800 is the
tool used for tambour embroidery.  In tambour embroidery a ground cloth is
stretched on (usually) a round frame with a cage like underside support
that rested on the lap (the tambour or drum frame).  A hook was used to
form chain stitches.  The embroiderer held one hand on top of the work (the
actual back of the piece) and one on the underside.  The hand on top
manipulated the hook, thrusting it through the cloth, and picking up the
thread fed by the underside hand.  

Tambour embroidery was quick, economical, and easy (designs could be drawn
on the reverse and followed by people with lower levels of skill than other
forms of stitching popular at the time).  This work (in silks) first became
widely popular in Europe around the early 1700s and was practiced both in
ateliers and at home.  It remained popular (done in different materials)
for more than 100 years, with its later expression dovetailing with white
cotton on muslin embroideries of the 1800s.

Although some tambour hooks were a tad pointer on the business end than the
modern crochet hook, many were not, and others have lost their sharpness
over time.  Some hooks were one-piece units, with the hook and shaft being
made at the same time; others were metal hook ends fitted into ornate (or
plain) holders and fastened with a set screw.  Some of the finest hooks had
protective sheaths.  Most were comparable to what we think of as the "steel
needle" crochet sizes - the ones used for crocheted laces in modern size 20
thread and finer.

Does anyone know of actual academic research linking the rise of crochet
(structurally the same as tambour chains without the intervening ground
cloth) to this form of embroidery?  It seems that around the time crochet
has its hazy roots, the tool for tambour and the technique were widely

Kim Salazar
mailto:ksalazar at
salazar at

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