[HNW] Period crochet

Carolyn Kayta Barrows kayta at frys.com
Sun Sep 22 11:44:13 PDT 2002

>They merely use the 'could have/would have' rule, i.e.: if
>they could have they would have.

Case in point, grey bread mold is very period, but penicillin, derived from
that bread mold, is not period till the 20th century.  (You agree with me
on one of my pet peeves.)

>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.

I am under the impression that Potato Famine relief, in the form of
teaching girls to crochet, comes a year or two after the worst of the
Potato Famine itself.  And the Irish already had a bobbin-lace industry at
that time, priced into the bobbin lace market (=not cheap).

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 earlier engravings were done by hand, not by photography.  So whether
or not you can work from the engravings depends on the skill of the
engraver.  Some engravers only showed the general shape of the work, while
others (bless them) showed every little thread crossing.

>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.

Older books call the better bobbin laces 'real lace', and mention crochet
down there with the cheap imitations of the 'real' thing.  Apparently some
kinds of bobbin lace only existed to be cheap imitations of expensive
kinds, and lace-making machines helped extend the low end of the market
further down the economic scale.

>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.

I don't think it's so much to fool anyone, as to look sort-of like the
fashionable stuff without costing like the fashionable stuff.  Similar to
craft project kits made for the low-talent end of the craft market, which
sort-of look like handwork.

>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 it puts what we would call lace into the hands of more people, in a
period when 'real lace' was fashionable.  But some crochet isn't just
imitation 'real lace'.  Older crochet books are full of how to imitate
'real laces', but they have other patterns which are pure crochet, and not
derived from any other form of lace (picture that pineapple pattern, found
nowhere else but in crochet, and 'granny' squares, found in Weldon's in the

>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).

Another reason has to be that the collars and cuffs could be washed more
easily than silk or wool dresses could.  You can get a couple of days
wearing out of a cotton dress (or maybe you only own a few cotton dresses
to start with), and by changing the collar and cuffs you get a
fresh-and-clean look to start every day.  And, since the collars and cuffs
were made to be removable (they lap around the edge of the neckline or
sleeve), you could un-baste them and wash them without having to wash the
whole dress.  Servants would benefit from this, as they were required to
look clean every day on their mini-budgets.


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