Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The word crochet is derived from the Middle French word croc or croche, meaning hook. It describes the process of creating fabric from a length of cord, yarn, or thread with a hooked tool. The origin of the crochet technique is a subject of considerable controversy. The word is not to be confused with "crotchet", otherwise known as a quarter note.
Crocheted fabric in the modern sense is begun by placing a slip-knot loop on the hook, pulling another loop through the first loop, and so on to create a chain. The chain is either turned and worked in rows, or joined end-to-end and worked in rounds. Rounds can also be created by working many stitches into a single loop. Stitches are made by pulling one or more loops through each loop of the chain. This method distinguishes crochet from other methods of fabric-making as it is composed entirely of loops and is only secured when the free end of the strand is pulled through the final loop.
Some theorize that crochet evolved from traditional practices in Arabia, South America, or China, but there is no decisive evidence of the craft being performed before its popularity in Europe during the 1800s. Many find it likely that crochet was in fact used by early cultures but that a bent forefinger was used in place of a fashioned hook; therefore, there were no artifacts left behind to attest to the practice. These writers point to the "simplicity" of the technique and claim that it "must" have been early.
Other writers point out that woven, knit and knotted textiles survive from very early periods, but that there are no surviving samples of crocheted fabric in any ethnologic collection, or archeological source prior to 1800. These writers point to the tambour hooks used in tambour embroidery in France in the seventeenth century, and contend that the hooking of loops through fine fabric in tambour work evolved into "crochet in the air." Most samples of early work claimed to be crochet turn out to actually be samples of naalebinding.
Beginning in the 1800s in Europe, crochet began to be used as a less costly substitute for other forms of lace. It required minimal equipment and supplies, all easily accessible to persons of all social classes. At this time, thread spun from natural fibers was used without dyeing, and worked with handmade hooks of ivory, brass, or hardwood. Those that survive to this day are often ornately carved or inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Around the world, crochet became a thriving cottage industry, supporting communities whose traditional livelihoods had been displaced by imperialism. The finished items were purchased mainly by the emerging middle class. The introduction of crochet as an imitation of a status symbol, rather than a unique craft in its own right, had stigmatized the practice as common. Those who could afford lace made by older and more expensive methods disdained crochet as a cheap copy. This impression was partially mitigated by Queen Victoria, who conspicuously purchased Irish-made crochet lace and even learned to crochet herself. Irish crochet lace was boosted by Mlle. Riego de la Branchardiere around 1845 who published patterns and instructions for reproducing bobbin lace and needle lace via crochet.
From 1800 to 1950, crochet was done almost exclusively in thread. Crochet in the round or filet crochet, worked in rows of 'open' or 'closed' mesh to create patterns, were most common. Mass-produced steel hooks were used to work the thread beginning in about 1900.
In the 1950s, crocheters began to use thicker yarns to create less delicate clothing and home items, though thread crocheting remained more popular until about 1960. The craft remained primarily a homemaker's art until the late 1960s when the younger generation picked up on crochet. Often using granny squares, a motif worked in the round, and incorporating bright colors, these designs became indicative of the era.
Although crochet underwent a subsequent decline in popularity, it has recently benefited from a revival of interest in handcrafts among the younger generation.
The following types of crochet are derived from the basic method:
- A living mystery : the international art & history of crochet by Annie Louise Potter
- Crochet: History & Technique by Lis Paludan
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