[HNW] Crocheted tablecloth photos (but not very historic)
claning at igc.org
Sat Nov 1 10:35:01 PDT 2008
On Oct 30, 2008, at 7:43 PM, Fred Curtis wrote:
> Do the crochet gurus on HN have concrete, earth-shattering evidence
> (or theories) on the origins of crochet that are waiting to explode
> onto CNN?
> I know I should check the HN archives before asking, but HN has
> been quiet lately and there's a chance the question will provoke
> entertaining discussion (or even scandalized outrage).
It's a question that comes up fairly often on many needlework-related
lists, and the consensus among people who have done the research is
that the early 1800s is about the right date.
The leading theory, the last time I checked, is that the most likely
origin of crochet is as a derivative of tambour embroidery. Tambour
embroidery became popular in the late 1700s and may have been
imported into Europe from India. It is basically chain stitch, but
instead of being worked with a threaded needle and cut lengths of
thread, instead the cloth is stretched in a frame (shaped like the
top of a little round drum, which is why it's called a "tambour"
frame) and a small, sharp hook is poked down through the cloth to
bring up a small loop from a continuous thread held underneath. The
hook moves a little way along the line of the pattern, goes down
through the cloth again and pulls up another loop, which is linked
through the first one.
There is a form of embroidery called "reticella", a type of lace made
with a threaded needle and buttonhole stitch, where the first step in
preparing the ground fabric is to baste it to a foundation and then
remove most of the horizontal and vertical threads, leaving just a
"skeleton" of threads which are then covered with stitching. Someone
eventually realized that you could achieve the same effect by merely
stretching a few threads across the foundation, without all the
bother of weaving fabric and then removing most of it. This form of
reticella is called "punto in aria," literally "embroidery in the
air," i.e. without a foundation.
By analogy, someone may have discovered that you could actually work
a sort of "tambour embroidery" in the air, without a foundation --
and presto, you have something that becomes a primitive sort of
crochet, made mostly from chain stitches, which meander about and
sometimes attach to other chains. So you will sometimes hear this
theory of crochet origins summed up as "tambour in aria."
Santina Levey, in "Lace: A History", has a photo of a piece of late
1700s lace that looks very much like the product of this sort of
evolution. It's almost entirely chain stitch, which is worked in
short lengths and attached to other chains at intervals to make a
sort of outline of leafy motifs.
Converging with this are two other techniques that may have
contributed to the evolution of crochet. The creation and attaching
of short lengths of chain stitch also occurs in bobbin lace, where a
few loops drawn up with a tiny hook (called "stitchings) are
sometimes used to attach parts of the lace to each other. There is
also a sort of slip-stitch crochet (sometimes called "pjonting") that
seems to have been used to make mittens in the early 1800s -- this is
also constructed by pulling up a loop with a hook from a previous
stitch or row of stitches. Lis Paludan's book, _Crochet: History &
Technique_ has more about this -- only about a page's worth and a few
pictures, but that's more discussion of it than I've seen anywhere else.
O Chris Laning <claning at igc.org> - Davis, California
+ http://paternoster-row.org - http://paternosters.blogspot.com
More information about the H-needlework