In celebration of National Crochet Month, it’s important to recognize where this amazing craft comes from and how it has evolved.
So where does crochet originate from? Is there one source? Not exactly. After researching the origins of crochet, I’ve found that backtracking the origins of crochet aren’t as simple as you might think.
Ancient Origins of Crochet:
After dipping my toes into the origins of crochet, I've discovered how there isn't a "verified" source of the first time a type of yarn, fiber, hair or grass met a hook-like tool. This is no surprise since human history can be difficult to track! However, researchers have many theories on how crochet came to be.
Some research shows that crochet originated in Arabia, then spread eastward and westward on Arab trade routes to other Mediterranean lands. Other research indicates that crochet comes from indigenous tribes in South America. Another theory pinpoints crochet origins from Chinese needlework, a very ancient form of embroidery known in Turkey, India, Persia and North Africa.
While there is no pure source of the craft, most likely, civilizations from around the world used some form of a hook and material to create something useful for their communities.
Eventually, crochet reached Europe. Now, plenty of documentation shows how crochet was used differently depending on the region.
Crochet as refuge post-Irish Potato Famine
As crochet spread around Europe in the 1800s, the craft was especially helpful in financial relief during the Irish Potato Famine. During this dark time, instead of purely farming, Irish men and women relied on crochet to make a living by selling hand-made items. This sparked a major movement of forming crochet schools and training teachers to spread the craft all over Ireland. When the Irish began to migrate to North America, they brought their crochet skills with them. Irish migrants are a major reason why crochet grew in popularity in the U.S!
Type of crochet: What were the Irish crocheting in their spare time between chores and during the night under candle light? Imagine the most complex lace crochet pattern you could think of (in my opinion). This photo is an example of Irish lace crochet at the time. Specific lace patterns were unique to crocheters. In many cases, women would practice the same stitch, and were known for a specific flower or leaf. These designs were held under a watchful eye for fear of design plagiarism. Crochet was a trade, and it continues to be in modern times!
Bender, Alexa “Irish crochet lace, 19th century” La Couturière Parisienne
1900s in North America:
In the 1900s, crochet evolved into functioning on many levels. In the 20s and 30s, crochet transformed from decorative lace pieces into larger accessories and even full garments like ballroom and wedding gowns. When WWII came around in the 1940s, crochet was dedicated to wartime efforts. Just like knitters during this time, women would crochet hats and mittens for men overseas.
In the post war period starting in the 50s and continuing to the turn of the century, crochet was no longer motivated by patriotism or supporting the war, but it blossomed into personal creative form. Crochet took off in popularity as people crocheted colorful afghans, pillows, and dresses. The famous granny square was born, expanding crochet into new territory!
"1970's Crochet - Stained Glass Shell" The Vintage Pattern Files
Crochet in the 21st Century
Today, crochet has exploded into diverse forms beyond the traditional granny square. After researching the top 20 crochet designs on Ravelry, I found patterns on amigurumi (small crochet animals or toys), color-work afghans, stylish shawls and sweaters, and even jackets. While some knitters prefer knitting since the stitch has more variety in how it can look, crochet has the advantage of variety in form.
Here are some of the “Hot Right Now” crochet patterns on Ravelry that you can try!
Amigurimi class opportunity! 3/21; 10:30-2:30
Want to read more about the history of crochet? Check out these two insightful sources.
Interested in vintage crochet patterns? The Vintage Pattern Files is an amazing website that has patterns from throughout the decades.
Cover photo comes from: