Early instructions · History · Tunisian crochet

Tunisian crochet in Sweden in the 1860s

In January 1864, a Swedish monthly publication for fashion and fancywork commenced publication with the title Iduna, a Norse goddess associated with femininity and knowledge.

iduna-title.jpg

Iduna,
Journal for the Tasks and Concerns of Women,
with Supplementary Patterns for Counted and Free Embroidery, Crochet, and Knitting,
plus Fashion Plates.

It was the latest in a series of similarly oriented publications that changed titles a few times over the decades. There was often some editorial continuity between the final issues of a series and the first ones of its successor. The incarnation that immediately preceded Iduna was Penelope. It first appeared in 1855 with essentially the same subtitle: Album för qvinliga arbeten och moder, med bilagor af tapisseri- broderi- virk- och stickmönster, samt modeplancher.

The period of their production spans the date when the “Tunisian crochet stitch” is first attested in corresponding publication elsewhere in Europe; the stitch itself in 1858 without a name, and the Tunisian label in 1859. I had previously reported the first appearance of that designation to have been in 1861, with its earlier use being likely, and have now found a prior occurrence. The two Swedish journals were strongly influenced by the venue in which those earlier references appear — the German publication Der Blatt. Full details about this are provided in the following post. The main topic here is a Swedish perspective on long-hook crochet that may predate the published appearance of Tunisian crochet.

The first of many instructions for Tunisian crochet that appear in Iduna is found on page 4 of its inaugural issue. It is for a “crocheted pelerine” (wirkad pelerine) in “the ordinary Tunisian crochet” (den wanliga tunesiska wirkningen). This is what we now call the Tunisian simple stitch and it is clear from the text that readers are expected to be familiar with the technique. I examined all volumes of Penelope from 1856 through 1860 looking for earlier mention of it and found none. It is possible that references remain to be located in the 1861 or 1862 volumes (which I had no access to) but it is uncertain that it was even published in 1863. In any case, the craft was well-established in foreign publication by 1861.

A repeated reminder in the various Iduna instructions about a row of Tunisian crochet being counted as a forward and return pass together, may indicate that its written description was unfamiliar to the Swedish readership. However, there are no remarks about the stitch itself, which also appears in the traditional Swedish craft repertoire as krokning (hooking). The first attested use of that term is presented below. It does not appear to be a coinage, leaving an open and important question about whether it was taken from an older orally transmitted glossary.

The supplementary illustration of the pelerine is missing from the copy of Iduna that I examined but the same issue includes complete instructions for a child’s dress.iduna-dress

Tunisian crochet and krokning are generally regarded as synonymous in present-day Swedish usage. However, a distinction is made between the two terms in a four-part Handbook of Women’s Handcraft (Handbok i fruntimmers-handarbeten) published by Hedvig Berg in 1873-74. This is where krokning is first attested, as a collective designation for all crochet stitch variants that are worked row-by-row on a long hook. The alternative name Tunisian crochet is again restricted to the simple stitch. However, “almost all crochet known under the name krokning is just a variation of it.”

The chapter on crochet has four sections, of which the last is headed “Crochet with wool yarn” (Virkning med ullgarn). The chapter begins:

Since crochet is now so widely known and practiced that there is no need for a fundamental description, instructions are only given here for the lesser-know Irish guipure crochet, for which many instructions are provided, together with some more unusual mignardise lace [ganzspetsar], as well as a few crochet stitches or so-called krokningar [hookings] with wool yarn, the latter also with some patterns.

The section on yarn crochet has six subsections, each for a specific stitch. The first five are labeled as krokning but the sixth is for “axvirking.” An ax is a head of grain and the corresponding German name — Aehren-Häkelstich — as well as a drawing on which the one shown below is clearly based, appear in an 1865 issue of Der Blatt.

The important point is that Berg regards it as a lesser known stitch worth describing in terms of Tunisian crochet, which the German text does not. She doesn’t classify it as krokning because it isn’t worked along the entire length of hook in continuous forward and return passes. However, it does apply the same basic technique repeatedly to a smaller stitch cluster and was apparently presented under the same heading for that reason.

axvirkning

Take up three loops through three of the foundation chains just as with Tunisian crochet, then pull one loop through all three at once forming a small group of stitches, crochet one chain and repeat with three loops again all drawn through together…

This Tunisian component and it being the only one not labeled as such, among what are otherwise all proper Tunisian crochet stitches, may indicate that the latter were generally preferred to ordinary crochet for work in yarn. This is reinforced by a text from 1884 by Mathilda Langlet, titled “The Homemaker in the City and in the Country” (Husmodern i staden och på landet). Her chapter on crochet begins:

This form of handcraft has now become so widespread and developed that commenting on it seems superfluous. However, for the sake of completeness we do not feel that we should exclude it.

Vests, sweaters, and shawls ought these days to be ‘hooked’ (krokas) or knitted (stickas), rather than crocheted (virkas). Crochet with wool yarn is normally restricted to so-called slipper crochet (toffelvirkning), which can be compared approximately with knitting, all plain, or garter stitch (strumpebandstickning) as it is also called. One crochets back and forth but pulls the needle not through the closest loop but the one behind it. This gives the crochet a distinctive striped appearance.

This is followed by instructions for a slipper and a note that “cuffs are also worked in the same manner.” It is not clear if this ribbing is worked with slip stitch or double crochet (UK) and Langlet also describes it being done with “fine thread…for cuffs and collars.” Given the long-standing association between footwear and slip stitch crochet it may be safe to assume she is prescribing that technique. In either case, ‘BLO slip stitch ribbing’ fashioned in the described manner remains a part of the crocheter’s repertoire.

There are also instructions for a “Crocheted child’s shoe…in Tunisian crochet” in the third issue of Iduna (March 1864).

iduna-slipper

The cuff is “pineapple crochet” (ananasvirkning), which had previously been described as a “velour” crochet stitch in Der Blatt. (I’ll be considering its German presentation from another perspective in the post promised above.) One of its repetitive elements is:

* wrap the yarn around the needle four times from back to front and insert the needle into the following stitch, wrap the yarn around the needle as usual and pull it through all the loops at once; make one chain *

In both this stitch and Berg’s axvirkning, the hook is inserted into the chain space between stitch clusters in subsequent rounds. Their primary shared element is the pulling of a single loop through a number of loops that are already on the hook. One of the ways for placing them there can be compared directly with the forward pass in Tunisian crochet. The return loop pulled through the entire sequence on the hook similarly resembles crochet tatting, possibly explaining why Berg includes that craft in her chapter on crochet, in the section immediately preceding the one with the Tunisian and Tunisian-like crochet stitches.

Further variants of this type of hybrid crochet stitch have been found in Swedish mittens and seen as an attempt to mimic the appearance of nalbinding. I’ll take a closer look at them in the next post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.