Early instructions · History · Publication · Tunisian crochet

From grey shawl to pink mantle in 10 months and 14 rows

The first known German instructions for Tunisian crochet are for an ornate shawl, published in the 9 January 1858 issue of the German publication Der Bazar. They are accompanied by four illustrations, of which the third shows the front of the garment and the fourth is a thumbnail representation of its back.

German 1858 cape
Figs. 3 & 4.

The first and second illustrations are ostensibly drawn at full scale to indicate the gauges of the stitching and hook. However, the rows are not the same height in both. They appear together on the same page and the difference is not an artifact of the printing. The original objects from which the two drawings were prepared also appear to have been made by different people, one left-handed and the other right-handed, as indicated by the opposite slant of the vertical loops.

Bazar cape details
Figs. 1 & 2.

The illustration of the hook, from the original woodcut, is found in another publication later in the same year by Matilda Pullan. This cascaded into an English translation of the instructions for the shawl, where the size of the hook is clarified by calling for a “stick gauging not more than 7 of the Bell-gauge.” That converts to 4.5 mm and matches the size of the hook drawn in Der Bazar. The swatch showing the color changes would require a larger hook and is therefore the one that is not at 1:1 scale.

The dimensions of the digitized facsimile of the original document used here were calibrated against a centimeter scale on a fold-out supplement to the 23 December 1857 issue. This is where metric units of measurement are introduced in Der Bazar (fifteen years before official metrication in the German Empire) and is the handicraft issue immediately prior to the one where the shawl appears. The instructions directly thereafter revert to the older German unit of length otherwise used in that publication, the Elle, and the two systems coexist for a while longer on its pages. Full-scale drawings of the tips and cross sections of knitting needles and crochet hooks are preferentially used to indicate their size, supplemented by gauge numbers beginning in the early 1860s.

As with all instructions in Der Bazar, the ones for the shawl were distributed to syndicated recipients in other countries two months prior to the publication date. This permitted the translation of the German text so that all of the international participants wishing to run the instructions — a local decision — could do so simultaneously. The UK member of this network was The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, which did not use them.

Pullan (under the pen name “Aiguillette”) was the worktable editor for that magazine and it is unclear how she advised the publisher with regard to the shawl. In any case, her own The Lady’s Manual of Fancy Work, published in October 1858, includes an article that begins, “A new stitch in crochet has recently been given to the world…especially suited for shawls…” She does not say where it was presented or by whom but goes on to describe the Tunisian simple stitch, which appears in the Der Bazar instructions without a name, and illustrates it with the drawing of the hook that was included in the syndicated distribution of the German material.

The October 1858 issues of two other publications for which Pullan was the worktable editor (among many more), The New Monthly Belle Assemblée and Sharpe’s London Magazine, include identical articles written by her, with an English translation of the German instructions for the shawl that would also have been in the syndicated material. Unless the editors of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine were conversant with German, the translation would have been prepared before their decision about whether to use it.

It is unclear if Pullan was authorized to run it elsewhere. She uses two of the four illustrations provided by Der Bazar but they were redrawn. This suggests that different conditions applied to her own publication than to those where she was a contributor.

Pullan cape“ width=
Pullan hook” width=

The Crocheted Shawl (Gehäkeltes Tuch) in Der Bazar became the “Princess Frederick William Opera Mantle” in Pullan’s instructions. The procedural directives are effectively identical, differing only in writing style and three minor details of execution.

  • The instructions for the shawl prescribe black, white, and grey yarn. Those for the mantle permit the substitution of scarlet, blue, or pink, for the grey.
  • The white stripes in the shawl are five rows wide and bounded by single black rows. Those in the mantle are ten rows wide and bounded by double black rows.
  • The fringes on the shawl are made from “12 to 14 centimeter” lengths of yarn. The yarn is cut to “12 inches” for the fringes on the mantle.

The English text adds useful remarks about the hook and it is worth noting that the German “zephyr wool” is the English “Berlin or Fleecy.” The publisher of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine presumably used the services of professional translators but a few passages in the text at hand could have been worded more clearly. The remarks that do not appear in Der Bazar are Pullan’s, who also edited the translation.

In the following annotated transcription, German text that was omitted from the translation has been restored inside curly brackets. Retranslated passages are additionally marked with ellipses and to be read instead of the adjacent unbracketed snippets. Text originating in the translation is in angle brackets.

Crocheted Shawl (Jan. 1858)
The Princess Frederick William Opera Mantle (Oct. 1858)

Materials: Black, white, and <scarlet, blue, pink, or> grey wool.
All 8-thread Berlin or Fleecy {…Zephyr Wool}

We have great pleasure in presenting our readers with something that will, we are assured, be particularly welcome to them all — a new stitch in crochet; which will be found on trial at once very pretty, and very easy of execution. The hook used for double wool must be large. It should be about a foot long {at least twice the length of the hook in the illustration, which also shows its diameter}, with a nob at one end and a hook at the other. Begin with an ordinary foundation chain, worked loosely. Now work back on it, inserting the hook in each stitch, and bringing the thread through it, but not slipping it off the needle. At the end of this row, therefore, all the stitches will be on the needle.

2nd pattern row {worked backwards}. Put the thread round the hook, and draw it through one stitch, which slip off. After this * put the thread round the hook, and draw through two: repeat from star, until one stitch only is left on, which keep, as it is the first stitch of the next row.

In the next row insert the hook in each perpendicular stitch (see engraving), and bring the thread through; so that at the termination of this row, all the stitches are once more on the needle.

Repeat these two rows, which form the pattern.

{We now move to the description of the shawl. This is started at the edge and we make particular reference to Fig. 2 which provides a full-scale illustration of a black pattern row worked into a white edge and followed by three rows of the main grey section. The full width of the shawl is cast on and it takes its shape by regular decreases at both ends and in the middle.}

{For the lower large panel} With the black wool make a chain of 219 stitches; do the first needle, or row, without diminishing. In beginning the second needle (the back row), instead of pulling the thread through one, pull it through two stitches; so that you diminish one stitch. {Work even until the end of the row.}

Third needle. — White wool; diminish one stitch at the beginning by drawing the first white through the black stitch left on the needle. {Do this regularly at the start of each pattern row. The two yarn ends (black and white) are tied together at the left side and sewn over.} After this reckon the middle stitch, and put a mark in it; then decrease, in every alternate row, on each side of the centre. The decreasing is made by drawing the needle through two, instead of one, of the upright stitches; <you also decrease one at the beginning of every row>. The stitch that was the centre one must always so continue, and is worked in the usual manner. After the two black, come ten white rows; then two black. {The black pattern row, as seen in the illustration, is now followed by 5 white rows, then one black row.} After that begin the pink or scarlet wool {the main grey section}: do with it 72 rows (36 patterns); this makes the entire slope of the fronts up to the neck.

37th pattern. Begin on the 20th stitch, and decrease twice at the beginning of the row. At the other end of the row decrease in the same manner, and the leave the same number of stitches. In the following rows decrease oftener, so that at the 42nd pattern you have only three stitches in the middle. Take these together. To make the work firm round the neck, finish with one row of ordinary single crochet [US]. This must be done from the 36th pattern, where you left off the sloping fronts. In the beginning and end decrease once, and in the middle of the row several times, to make the neck fit well.

Work a narrow trimming up each sloping front, from the foundation black row; one pattern (two rows) black, about 44 stitches; then two white patterns. {These start at the lower point of the shawl. The following black row is continuous to the end of the piece.}

The collar {the small upper panel}. — Begin 101 stitches, and work with the same colors as the mantle, <2 black, 10 white, 2 black: then coloured>; but the decreasing must be oftener, so that the 10th pattern row of the coloured {grey} makes the end. In the first few rows you may increase, ultimately, on[c]e and twice, at the beginning and end; after the eighth pattern row, always twice at each end. The collar and the mantle {the two panels} must be crocheted together with black wool, in ordinary {…single crochet} stitches, the middle of both being taken exactly and together. The edge of the collar must come as far as the black line down the front of the mantle. Do one row round the neck, in single crochet, with white wool, on the black. After this a row of open square crochet, with the white wool, a stitch in every second stitch {…a double crochet stitch in every single-crochet stitch}. Now a row of s c in black, from the point of one front, up it, round the neck, and down the other front.

For the fringe, three threads of the coloured wool, 12 inches {12 to 14 centimeters} in length. Knit in the three thread together, with your crochet needle, at the distance of alternate stitches {…a bundled fringe is looped into every other stitch}.

A {strong grey woolen} cord must be run in and out of the open crochet round the neck; with a tassel of <coloured> {grey} wool at each end.

<It is easy to plait this cord of several threads of the wool: and the tassels may be made by covering wooden balls with wool; and adding, for the fringed part, such a number of threads of the same as may give the ornament a handsome appearance.>

Pullan had relocated to the US before writing these instructions. The book in which she introduced the stitch was published there and the US naming convention in the instructions for the mantle suggests that they may also have appeared in a US venue.

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