Crochet · Early instructions · Tools

Flat-hook crochet in 1833

The instructions for the three crocheted purses in the 1823 volume of Penélopé provide the first known written description of crochet in its modern form. The 1833 volume of the same periodical includes a section headed Something more about crochet.  This provides a number of instructions that introduce additional techniques, all of which will be considered in detail in later posts. For now, though, I’m going to continue with forms of crochet that are generically associated with the type of hook used to make them.

I started this in the preceding post by leaping forward to the 1858 descriptions of the long hook that is fundamental to Tunisian crochet. Those references were among the first to associate the long hook explicitly with crochet, but the same tool had a prior link with knitting that is described in earlier documents — and was generally termed a ‘tricot hook’ or ‘tricot needle’ in the one context, and a ‘hooked knitting needle’ in the other.

Similarly, one of the details about crochet added to the 1833 Penélopé text was the recommended use of a flat hook for work in heavier yarn, as an alternative to the tambour needle that was preferable for finer silk:

For coarse work in yarn or thick knitting cotton, one uses a copper hook of this formpenelope-flat-hookwhich must be very smooth and, from above, must be very thin.

This tool — which is still used in the illustrated form — was commonly termed a ‘shepherd’s hook’ and had an eponymous association with ‘shepherd’s knitting.’ That genre is now more frequently referred to as slip stitch crochet, with an imprecise range of terms taken from ongoing (or imagined) regional slip-stitch traditions applied to the hook. I’m going stay on the safe side and use the generic designation ‘flat hook,’ as I’m also doing with the long hook.

A significant amount of confusion about shepherd’s knitting has resulted from the plethora of names applied to both slip stitch and Tunisian crochet, and the quite different tools used for them. Since the earliest instructions for any form of crochet illustrate flat hooks, clarifying the distinction between the slip-stitched fabric they were used to produce and the altogether different structures made on long hooks is a matter that will be discussed at length on this blog.

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