History · Terminology · Tunisian crochet

Spreading the word about the Tunisian crochet stitch

The 9 January 1858 issue of the German bi-weekly publication Der Bazar; Berliner Illustrirte Damen-Zeitung (The Bazaar; Berlin Illustrated Women’s Magazine) presents instructions for an elaborate “crocheted cape” (gehäkeltes Tuch).

bazar-cape.jpg

The text goes into detail about the unnamed “type of crochet, which in any case will not be familiar to all of our readers.” It describes what is now known as the Tunisian simple stitch, also illustrating it on a hook and noting that the actual tool is at least twice the length of the one shown.

bazar-hook-jan1858

A similar presentation of a variant of this stitch in the 8 June 1859 issue, detailed below, retrospectively identifies the initially described form as the “ordinary Tunisian crochet stitch” (gewöhnliche tunesische Häkelstitch) with “tricot tunisien” as a synonym. The earliest reference that I have been able to locate in a French source uses the term “crochets tunisiens” in an annual trade list of suppliers of various types of needles published in 1861. A monthly French needlework journal includes instructions for “crochet tunisien” starting with the February 1863 issue. The English “Tunisian crochet” is first attested in a US publication from 1862 but there is no reason to hesitate (as I had been doing) before regarding it as a legitimate name for the stitch from the outset of its appearance in the Victorian press.

Der Blatt syndicated the illustrations and descriptive texts published in its crafts section. This material was distributed about two months before the press date to the publishers of a number of magazines produced in other languages. The British recipient was the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, which only included a small amount of that material on its “Work-Table” pages. These were edited by Mathilda Marian Pullan until April or May 1858, when the editorship was taken over by a (possibly pseudonymous) Mademoiselle Roche.

Pullan moved from London to New York City in mid-December 1857. An advertisement she placed in the October 1857 issue of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine states that she had transferred her business in London to another owner but would remain the editor of that publication’s work table. This means that she would have had access to the preceding illustrations with their accompanying texts (which the Magazine did not use) in all likelihood before her departure from England.

Pullan published The Lady’s Manual of Fancy Work in New York City in October 1858. It uses the illustration of stitches on a hook from Der Bazar (which had no US copyright protection) in a section beginning:

“A new stitch in crochet has recently been given to the world, which I call, in compliment to our English royal bride, the Princess Frederick William crochet.”

Its namesake was the eldest child of Queen Victoria, The Princess Royal Victoria, who married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia in January 1858, and whose own name was ultimately used for the stitch. The wedding was of equal interest in Berlin, where Der Bazar was published, running a full-page illustration of the wedding ceremony on 1 April 1858.

Pullan (writing as “Aiguillette”) was also editor of the work table in the English publication The New Monthly Belle Assemblée. She presented instructions for a “Princess Frederick William Opera Mantel” using the new stitch in the October 1858 issue. It is without doubt based on the crocheted cape in Der Bazar but drawn in significantly reduced detail, perhaps indicating deliberate caution about using an illustration licensed to an organization that could invoke national copyright.

pullan-cape

Pullan continued to publish illustrated descriptions of objects made with the new crochet stitch in additional venues (also as Aiguilette) but never claimed its invention. No direct editorial concern is expressed in Der Bazar about her using descriptive material that first appeared in its pages. However, the retrospective dubbing of the stitch as Tunisian crochet is explained in a manner that suggests it may have been a reaction to the British coinage.

In the interim, Cornelia Mee and Mary Austin commenced publication of their series of five booklets on Crochet á Tricoter, appearing between November 1858 and October 1861. They place no emphasis on the simple stitch, which is described without a name amid a number of other unnamed long-hook stitches. Their material cannot have been taken from Der Bazar but Mee and Austin may deliberately have titled their work to avoid any suggestion of German influence. Here are the first three of nine illustrations in their initial booklet.

ill-1-2-3

The 23 December 1858 issue of Der Bazar includes instructions for three additional items using the as yet unnamed simple stitch. The first of them is for a knitted “Woolen Cuff” with a “crocheted extension” and repeats the full instructions for it “in consideration of new readers” to whom it is unfamiliar. This includes the illustration of the fabric on the hook.

The next instructions for the stitch appear in the 8 June 1859 issue now calling it the “Tunisian crochet stitch [tunesische Häkelstich] or tricot tunisien.” The substantive purpose of the naming is to permit the introduction of a variant form as a “New Tunisian crochet stitch.”bazar-full-stitch.jpg

The explanatory text applies the Tunisian crochet label retroactively to the stitch that appeared in the earlier instructions. However, the duration of those previous descriptions is overstated, presumably to highlight priority over the British authors.

“This designation generally applies to work we familiarized our subscribers with years ago which, so to speak, is a hybrid of knitting and crochet…”

After a number of additional patterns using the ordinary Tunisian crochet stitch a second variant, again named only as a “New Tunisian crochet stitch,” appears in the 23 January 1861 issue. (It shows the stitches slanting as they would for a left-handed worker following the instructions and is flipped horizontally here to ease comparison with the stitching direction in the other drawings.)

bazar-swatch-1861-1.jpg

“The Tunisian crochet stitch, widely known as a form of knitting [Strickerei] with a long crochet hook, has already undergone several variations since its inception, the latest of which we are showing our readers here.”

This illustration was clearly the model for another that accompanies instructions for “A New Design for an Affghan” in the July 1861 issue of Peterson’s Magazine (with the working orientation of the stitches shown vertically, turned horizontally here).

petersons-swatch-1861-e1562362499675.jpg

The number of variant Tunisian stitches introduced in Der Bazar — now individually named — took a noticeable upturn in 1861 and the floodgates for their transatlantic expropriation opened soon thereafter. The extent of the German lead is seen in the comparison of this page of new stitches in the 23 November 1861 issue of Der Bazar with this page in the October 1862 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, and several of the plates before the title page of the November issue beginning with this one.

A series of new Tunisian stitches presented in the 15 November 1867 issue of Der Bazar is introduced with an illustration of the simple stitch but now literally adds the Victorian designation to it.

bazar-victoria.jpg

The instructions for it are referenced in a description of a “Small Crocheted Dress” for a child in the 15 January 1868 issue. The parenthetical label may have been added in preparation for the syndicated appearance of illustrations from Der Bazar in the US publication Harper’s Bazar.

This was the first American publication to have an authorized relationship with the German venue. Its inaugural issue appeared on 2 November 1867 with the editorial introduction:

“…we have perfected special arrangements with the leading European fashion journals, especially with the celebrated Bazar of Berlin, which supplies the fashions to the newspapers of Paris, whereby we receive the same fashions in advance, and publish them weekly, simultaneously with their appearance in Paris and Berlin, the great centres of European modes. This advantage is shared by no other newspaper in the country.”

The 25 January 1868 issue of Harper’s Bazar includes a translation of the instructions just cited, for a “Crochet Frock” also using the same engraving.

“…with a Tunisian crochet needle…This little dress is worked in Tunisian (Victoria crochet stitch) and wave crochet stitch.”

harpers-1868

I’ll wrap this discussion up with another of the central figures in the propagation of long-hook crochet in Victorian writing. In November 1859, Eléanor Riego de la Branchardière advertised the impending appearance of a book titled “Tricot Ecossais” — the name she used for the “New Stitch.” (I discuss this at greater length in an earlier post, also linked to above.) The book was published in 1860 and includes a peculiarly rough sketch of that stitch on a hook.

riego-hook-1860

Riego published numerous additional instructions for tricot écossais. The first to include a variant of the simple stitch appeared in 1862 (pp. 7–11), using the one from the 23 January 1861 issue of Der Bazar seen above. However, it wasn’t until 1867 that she presented a fully detailed drawing of the simple stitch on a “tricot needle.” There is little doubt that it was adapted from the one in Der Bazar with the “Victoria” label, also shown above. Other than the omission of one row, the change adds detail rather than reducing it, by illustrating how to increase the number of vertical loops on the hook.

riego-hook-1867

The appearance of identical, or suspiciously similar, drawings of Tunisian crochet stitches in many otherwise unrelated 19th-century publications clearly indicates the shared use of a smaller number of sources. Although I hadn’t identified it until recently — and now need to reword several previous posts on the topic — Der Bazar seems certain to have been a predominant such source and also syndicated its drawings. This includes those for ordinary crochet and other crafts, and the lot of it echoed through to the craft encyclopedias that were produced toward the end of the century. I’ll devote separate posts to a few other crochet stitches and techniques introduced in Der Bazar that deserve further comment.

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