HNW - Crochet History

CarolynKayta Barrows kayta at
Thu Aug 17 03:54:16 PDT 2000

To save bandwidth, this is snips from several different posts:

--If it requires hooked needles, wouldn't it be just as
>accurate to call it crochet!?!  

These stitches can also be done with a short pick-up needle with no hook on
it at all.  It doesn't require hooks.

>Old style Mid-Eastern knitting on hooked
>needles is a wonderful hybrid of what we think  of knitting and crocheting
>and more stitches which we don't even typically use.  It was the earlier
>form, and my belief is that somehow knitting and crochet evolved into 
>separate disciplines in Europe between 1600 and 1850.  The artifact trail is
>very light, but this is a lot more than speculation.

Structurally, knitting and crochet are really dissimilar, therefore I don't
believe one derived from the other.  More likely crochet derived from chain
stitch on cloth, the tambour work of the late 1700's/early 1800's, to which
it is structurally related, and which is known to predate the first crochet
books by only a few decades.

>There's a type of crochet practiced in Europe that involves a long 
>straight crochet hook. You crochet, either chain or single (American 
>terminology) but leave all the made loops on the hook, which is why 
>it's long and straight. When you have the requisite number you work 
>them off. It doesn't look like knitting.

Sometimes called Tunisian crochet, sometimes called Afghan stitch.

>Every piece of so-called crocheting that I've seen from before 1800 
>has turned out to be something else, including the often-cited Coptic 
>piece in Annie Potter's _A Living Mystery: 

Annie Potter will call ANYTHING crochet if it so much as looks like it
might be crochet.  Her text doesn't support the allegations in the picture
captions.  She doesn't discuss the structure of the examples she cites,
only their outward appearance and superficial similarity.  The photos
themselves are gorgeous, but don't believe anything she says without

>"The loops at the top edge occur every 6th stitch, and consist of a single 
>row of chained loops, such as might be made with a crochet hook.  They are 
>worked in with the casting-on.  It looks as if 6 stitches were cast on, and 
>with the same thread a chain of 7 loops made, the last loop being knitted 
>together with the 6th cast-on stitch; this process is then repeated." (39)  
>(The bag was knitted in the round and had 86 stitches cast on at the top).
>Now, this doesn't mean it was necessarily done that way, just that it looked 
>to Miss Henshall (who was a pretty good textile historian and knew the 
>difference between knitting, crochet, and nalebindning) that it was done that 

This is the closest thing to crochet I have ever heard of from before 1800.
 Thank you.  From your description the structure does seem to be a
crochet-type chain stitch.  I don't think the technique requires a hook,
and I remain unconvinced that this example justifies doing Victorian-style
crochet before 1800.  But I am going to try it out.

>I've also read that no knitting needles, hooked or straight, have been found
>pre-1600. It surprises me that no brass or ivory ones made it to modern
>times, that the handmaidens who were buried with all their tools with their
>mistresses and masters in the Egyptian tombs didn't carry a single set of
>knitting needles.   Having been forced to buy a set of bamboo needles
>recently to complete a project, I'm sure the archeological derth of evidence
>is due to the transitory nature of a non-metallic knitting needle.  

There is historical evidence of metal knitting needles and embroidery
needles from the 1500s.  But to my knowledge no metal knitting needles, and
few (if any) metal sewing needles either, seem to have survived from this
period where it is known they had both.

 I frankly suspect there were knitting needles in Egyptian tombs,
>but there were no knitters among the archoeologist to identify what they
>were looking at!  How were they going to knit cotton booties for their
>masters in the afterlife?  

Everything else was found in those tombs including, as I recall, needles
enough to do the naalbinding those sox require.

>How do you define crochet as different from knitting? 

Crochet is loops which can be made without reference to where the last loop
was made.  Knitting is loops made in rows with each new loop coming up thru
the loop directly below it.  (This is why knitted stockings get vertical
runs in them and crochet only unravels in rows.)  Tunisian crochet gets
called crochet because of the structure of the loops, not because the loops
are in rows.  

Sticks and hooks to make a looped fabric, often highly

But just because a fabric belongs to the hooks-and-loops family doesn't
mean it was necessarily done at one particular time or in one particular
place.  If I am doing a historical event which fits inside a pigeonhole
(like an American Civil War event), my needlework ought to fit into that
same pigeonhole.
Go to to perform mailing list tasks.

More information about the H-needlework mailing list