Many of the stitches that crocheters regard as fundamental to their craft were described in non-English publications before the Victorian fancywork press had begun to roll. Naming conventions differed both across and within language boundaries, as is still witnessed by the misalignment of the UK and US glossaries. Diffuse nomenclature also attached to Tunisian crochet when it was added to the documented repertoire in the late 1850s. Stitch clusters didn’t even begin to acquire a differentiated set of labels until the end of that century, in surprising contrast to the structural intricacy of the clusters themselves.
Several aspects of this are seen with instructions for a “Crochet Afghan or Carriage Blanket” in an anonymous booklet titled Knitting and Crocheting, published in Boston in 1884 or 1885. (It is undated but includes an advertisement citing a trademark registered 17 June 1884, and the digitized copy shows the Library of Congress accession stamp, 21 Sept. 1885.)
The following snippet shows the gestational state of the English terminology, despite the ornate design.
“…crochet two rows in the wave stitch (this stitch is made as follows: the hook is to be inserted at the back into the perpendicular bars of each single row in Tunis-stitch in making the next joining row in going backwards), to which follow two plain Tunis rows with very raised round shapes.”
The term “very raised round shapes” falls short of providing a rigorous generic designation. The category of “raised dots” described in the de Dillmont Encyclopedia about a year later isn’t much better. The two terms I’ve thus far encountered in contemporaneous German texts both translate to “shell stitches” and also designate a number of different clustered stitches. One of them — a fanned array of six double crochets (US) — appears elsewhere in the booklet from 1885 as “a shell.” I had therefore felt this to be a satisfactory category heading and used it without comment in previous translations.
One unintended consequence of this became apparent after a recent post describing a child’s cradle cover in alternating bands of shell stitch (“Muschenstreifen”) in ordinary crochet and Tunisian ribbing (“Rippenstreifen”). The instructions for it appear in the 10 February 1896 issue of Der Bazar, but since the post was focused on the double-ended hook, I didn’t include the details about making the shells.
Shortly after the abridged text was placed online, my friend Dora Ohrenstein called my attention to the shells being what are now called Marguerite or Star stitches. She also suggested that a full translation would be a worthwhile contribution to a no less important facet of crochet history. That translation appears below, after a few additional observations about the juxtaposition of cluster and Tunisian stitches, and the double-ended hook. (Dora provides detailed instructions for Marguerites and related forms in her game-changing Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary. There are also numerous tutorial videos.)
Star stitches have an intriguing Tunisian-like aspect but are generally regarded as ordinary crochet. Their production does not require the long hook that is one of the definitive attributes of Tunisian crochet. However, a long double-ended hook is essential to the ribbing in the 1896 cradle cover. That structure went on to acquire a named identity of its own. It appeared in 1907 as the “Double Hook Afghan Stitch” (previously discussed here) and was shortened to the “Double Hook Stitch” in 1912.
In further contrast, the very raised round shape in the 1885 Afghan is worked integrally as an elaborate Tunisian stitch variant. The difference between it and a corresponding cluster worked in ordinary crochet might easily go unnoticed even to a seasoned eye, effectively mooting at least that aspect of the distinction between the two techniques. The instructions also make provision for adding a more immediately recognizable Tunisian component to the fabric.
“…the stripe described may be alternated with a stripe crocheted in plain tricot stitch.”
Here is a full translation of the German instructions for the 1896 cradle cover, with the US names for all stitches. The original text uses the word Masche to designate both a loop and a stitch, and Glied for any element of a stitch. I’ve differentiated the labeling of the indicated structural details without comment but have enclosed other clarifying remarks in square brackets.
Part of a crocheted cover for a child’s cradle
“The pretty cover is made with white and blue woolen yarn singles [Dochtwolle] in a variant of the Tunisian crochet stitch, together with a star stitch pattern, using a heavy wooden needle that has a hook at both ends. It is worked on a white foundation row of appropriate length and an even number of stitches, as follows.
1st pattern row, forward: With a loop of the blue yarn around the hook, skip the first chain and draw one loop through each of the remaining chains [with a total of 18 loops on the hook for the illustrated sample]. Turn the work and return using the other end of the hook with the white yarn to close the stitches one after the other.
2nd pattern row, forward: With the blue yarn (the active yarn is always led through the first loop) skip over a stitch and draw a loop through both the next vertical bar and horizontal chain together. Having worked through each stitch in this manner, return as in the first pattern row.
The following band of star stitches is crocheted into this.
1st pass: For one star stitch, make 3 chains with the blue yarn and draw one loop each through the 2nd and 1st of them, as well as through the vertical bar and horizontal chain of the next two stitches. Draw an approximately 2 cm loop through all of them and secure the cluster [with a chain]. * Draw one new loop through the hole above the secured cluster [the “eye” formed by the closing chain], another loop through the back of the last loop in the cluster, as well as through the bar and chain in each of the following two stitches as done previously. Draw through and secure them, and then repeat continuously from *.
2nd pass, return: With the same yarn, make a slip stitch in the back loop of each chain [at the top of the star stitches]. However, in order to ensure that the SSs form a straight row on the right side, the work needs to be held vertically. Finally, with the white yarn, make two slip stitches in the vertical edge of the first star stitch. Alternate this repeatedly between the two bands, whereby the colors in the pattern rows of both the ribbed bands and the bands of star stitches are switched.
A border is then worked around the outer edge as follows.
1st round: With white yarn, make one double crochet in the nearest stitch, make one chain, skip over the following stitch, and alternate repeatedly. In the corners, however, make two DCs in each stitch, separated by a chain. End with one DC in the first stitch.
2nd round: With the blue yarn, make one SC in the nearest stitch. Make 10 chains for one arch and attach it with an SC to the fourth following stitch. With a new length of the same yarn, make an SC in the second stitch between the nearest two SCs. * Make 10 chains and make 1 SC in the second following free stitch, passing behind the unused strand. Alternate both strands continuously so that the chained arches twist around each other, and repeat from *.
Weave a ribbon through the round of DCs and tie it into bows in the corners.”
* * *
There are eight (four-spiked or four-loop) star stitches in the first band shown in the illustration but the next two are nine stars long. This is neither noted nor called for in the written instructions and the reason for the increase may be nothing more than two loops inadvertently having been added to the hook between the first and second bands (perhaps with the error being caught too close to the publication deadline for remedial action). The proof-of-concept swatch shown below maintains the initial row length.
There is a puzzling instruction for holding the fabric vertically when working the return after a row of star stitches. However, if the prescribed slip stitches are made without deliberately stretching the fabric after the addition of every loop, the row will be shorter than the one it is anchored to, curving the working edge of the fabric. The vertical positioning was presumably intended as a countermeasure, bringing the weight of the cradle cover to bear along the return row and helping to keep it straight.
There is an error in the swatch due to my having overlooked the need to work the “two slip stitches in the vertical edge of the first star stitch” into its back loops. This left three clearly visible blue chains between the first white star stitch and the border, which is also white. The border color camouflages the same error in the rows of blue star stitches.
The hook shown in the original woodcut is implausibly thin. Judging by the greater elongation of the illustrated sample, the hook actually used by the German designer was proportionately heavier than the 10 mm I guesstimated to be appropriate for the yarn selected for this swatch. (Next time I’ll pay closer attention to the manufacturer’s recommendation.)
Wow, what a beautiful knitted sample, the perfect recreation of the original stitch including the ribbon!
Interesting as always. The top (1885) sample is quite different to regular crochet. The puffs/bobbles are in fact very raised on the ‘Tunis’ background; the relief is extreme. I swatched it as best I could with the vague instructions. It’s beautiful made up in fingering-weight wool although I probably should have used a bigger hook. I can imagine baby hands playing with the puff balls. Wave stitch is what is now commonly called Tunisian reverse stitch. Nice. And re the second (1896) sample, it’s interesting to see the German terms in use so far back. The closing pass is return pass, though not returning to the row beginning – rather it follows the forward pass. Perhaps return indicates going back in a direction towards the hook hand rather than away from it. In which case why not use hin and her for the German directions, I wonder. Puzzling. And Glied, or limb, for the stitch components. Better than loop, which is commonly used now, as in back or front loop, top or bottom loop. No bar or chain components specifically used. But horizontal and vertical are used with Glied. Muschen, not Muschel for shell? Your made-up swatch is really interesting.… Read more »
Muschen, not Muschel for shell? Your made-up swatch is really interesting. It’s very different to the 1885 sample. The term Muschenstreifen is quoted directly from the original German. (I suspect that was also the native language of the author of the 1885 instructions — from which you’ve worked beautifully). The post is focused on the present-day English term of art, which also corresponds to the current German Sternmuster. The 1896 instructions are below the usual standard of clarity for Der Bazar and resolving their ambiguity required a test swatch. I normally make such things to see how clearly earlier written directions correspond to an accompanying illustration. This one was more intricate than usual on both the text and image sides, so I added full detail to the proof-of-concept swatch and included a photo to ease the assessment of the reliability of my translation. Perhaps return indicates going back in a direction towards the hook hand rather than away from it. If you’re referring to the row of slip stitches returning along the chain at the top of the Star stitches, the instructions make explicit reference to how that return row will appear on the right side of the fabric. I… Read more »