Early instructions · Tunisian crochet

Long-hook crochet in 1859

An earlier post on long-hook crochet promised further details about the five-part series on Crochet à la Tricoter published by Cornelia Mee and Mary Austin between 1858 and 1861 (but not yet available online). The first volume does not indicate the date of its publication but it was advertised in the 25 November 1858 edition of The Bath Chronicle:

Just Published, Price 1s.,
CROCHET À LA TRICOTER, by MRS. MEE
Beautifully Illustrated
Containing Numbers of NEW STITCHES for Varieties of
Useful and Ornamental Purposes.

As noted in the previous post, the first issue describes the craft that we now call Tunisian crochet without suggesting that it was new at the time. Each of the described stitches is accompanied by an illustration and instructions for a garment using it, but it is not clear which or how many of them are the advertised NEW STITCHES. What later came to be termed the Tunisian simple stitch (TSS) appears without particular note. However, this is not the stitch Mee and Austin present as the simplest (to be described in a separate post).

In contrast, the two works published by Matilda Pullan in October 1858 make no mention of any stitch other than the TSS, presenting it as a “new stitch in crochet” and naming it the “Princess Frederick William Stitch … in compliment to our English royal bride” — The Princess Royal Victoria — (the eldest child of Queen Victoria) who married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia in January 1858. Despite the considerable sophistication of the stitches and patterns presented by Mee and Austin, numerous additional descriptions of long-hook crochet published by other authors in the following years focus exclusively on the TSS, frequently referring to it as “the NEW STITCH” (my italics, their caps) and assigning additional more or less fanciful aliases to it.

The second volume in the Mee and Austin series was the only publication on long-hook crochet appearing in 1859 but at least three other authors had relevant material at press. Since there is all the more ground to be covered in 1860, I’m going to include what was clearly written during 1859 in the present post.

An anonymous instruction for a “Baby’s Shoe” in ordinary crochet in the January 1860 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine ends with the remark, “The same plan of forming the boot may be adopted either for knitting, tricot, or crochet.” Contrastive reference was regularly made to ‘ordinary crochet’ and ‘tricot crochet’ in the subsequent literature, or as here, simply to crochet and tricot. The latter term became a prevalent English designation for the long-hook craft and for categorizing the various stitches it included. However, the generic reference to tricot so soon after the 1858 texts, in a manner that assumes no need for further explanation, reinforces the inference from Mee and Austin that some form of tricot (other than as the French designation for knitting) was familiar prior to 1858.

If so, it appears safe to credit Mee and Austin with having introduced it into the fancywork literature. Similar credit appears due to Pullan for having singled out the TSS as deserving particular attention, which may well have triggered the flood wave of popularity that work based on it would soon enjoy.

Eléanor Riego de la Branchardière — who was certainly no less of a competitor to Mee and Pullan than they were to each other — included the following announcement in her November 1859 publication, The Book of Greek and Roman Lace:

Mlle. RIEGO DE LA BRANCHARDIÈRE
Respectfully informs her Correspondents that her
NEW BOOK ON TRICOT ECCOSAIS
Will shortly be Published, Price 6D
Combining Patterns for Alhambra Cushions, Couvre Pieds, Plaids, and Table Covers,
as this
NEW STITCH
Is particularly suited for Articles depending on the arrangement of colour.

The Lace book itself was advertised as “in the press” in June 1859. Assuming that the announcement of Tricot Eccosais had been included at that date, Riego would have turned her attention to long-hook crochet immediately after the appearance of the 1858 publications, if not sooner. In any case, the advertised book was published in 1860 (and will be considered in greater detail with other texts from that year) and adhered to what was rapidly to become the tradition of referring to the TSS both as the NEW STITCH and by a more florid alternative. It is not certain that the term Tricot Eccosais was Riego’s own coinage but it ultimately resulted in a significant amount of confusion — something that, again, will be discussed in detail in its own post.

Finally, in the 1860 volume of The Ladies’ Companion and Monthly Magazine, Matilda Pullen (again using the pen name Aiuguilette) published a description of a cushion made with “the new crochet stitch introduced to our readers during the latter part of last year, under the name of the Princess Frederick William stitch.”

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