[HNW] Period crochet

Ms Berard msberard at earthlink.net
Sun Sep 22 10:02:37 PDT 2002

This is a little rambling but then I'm no researcher (grin)

A short history of crochet or imitation lace

Crochet seems to have been invented sometime in the early 1800.

While many sources will try to make this much earlier,  they can show no
good proof.  They merely use the 'could have/would have' rule, i.e.: if
they could have they would have.

But hooked knitting needles and tambour hooks don't prove that crochet

Usually if they say that an old textile is crochet, it is actually
naailbinding (sp?). Since this is also a looping technique it can
faintly resemble crochet, but usually it is confused with knitting.

It is often said that it is nun's work. But no church textiles can be
found that are crochet prior to the 1800's. Despite the fact that many
other techniques are found that are centuries older. And church textiles
are the best place to find textiles that are in good shape for the age
of the item.

The thought that it was done by nun's prior to being used by the general
public is probably from the fact that some nun's did devote their life
to making textiles and lace from various techniques. I'm sure that just
as monks were hired out to be scribes that nun's would also have been
hired to do needlework for wealthy families or hired by them to make
something suitable as a gift to the church.

The association of nun's with crochet more than likely comes from the
fact that they ran organizations to help the poor by the selling of hand
made items. Irish crochet being the best known example of this practice.
In fact there was also a brand of thread called "Nun's", I'm not sure
when the brand came out but their book on Irish crochet is copyrighted

While Eleonare Riego De La Branchardiere probably didn't invent crochet,
she was a major figure in popularizing it. Mlle. Riego (as she is
usually referred to) *in 1848 the Leicester Journal recognized her books
"to be among the most useful and cheapest"* -A living Mystery by Annie

Pattern books for crochet explodes in the 1800 (in fact all types of
pattern books exploded - I think that the fact that new technique of
publishing pictures that are very clear helped this explosion. These
engravings(?) are so clear that often you can count the stitches when
you need to.

The following is personal opinion feel free to disagree. I might learn
something useful (grin).

I think the reason that crochet, which can imitate so many other
techniques - if not exactly then in at least an eye pleasing manner -
came so late is that the attitude that it needed to exist wasn't there

The main value of lace in the past was that it was *of value*. It was
expensive to make. If you had money you wore the best (i.e. most
expensive) you could afford so that everyone else would know that you
had money.

But crochet is quicker and cheaper to make and from a distance the
imitation might hold. But as soon as you became close enough the viewer
would see that it wasn't the expensive lace but an imitation.

What does that say about the wearer. That they can't afford the good
stuff. Thus they look poor. Crochet is even some times called "poor
man's lace".

But in the 1800, the attitudes changed somewhat. While wearing the best
you could afford still existed. There was also the attitude that it was
a woman's duty to be beautiful and to make her surrounding beautiful.
Also that needlework of all kinds were suitable for a woman to spend her
spare time at.

Add to this the large number of middle class who could afford at least a
servant or two so the lady of the house now had time to spend making
things that are to beautify her self and home.

This attitude also carried over to families that didn't have the
resources to have servants.

Thus something that was quicker and cheaper than the bobbin/needle laces
of the past would appeal to these groups.

The middle class could make a great deal of items to decorate the home
and themselves.

Poorer families and settlers could have something beautiful and less
cost in money and perhaps a few hours work.

One of the reason you see so many collar/cuff patterns is that with a
wardrobe of collars and or cuffs a plain dress can have many different
looks. Thus widen a woman of limited means wardrobe. Many of these would
not have taken that long to make and the crochet cottons were not that
expensive (far less than any other means of improving her dresses).


Photog wrote:
> Hi Onaree and thank you for writing.  I would be most interested in the
> History, but I would like to know about the patterns to.
> Thanks so much for all your help.
> Sherry D. Wade
> Researcher, CQ Newsletter
> http://home.stny.rr.com/crazyquilting/

Ubi dubium ibi libertas:  Where there is doubt, there is freedom. --
Latin proverb

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