One of the nice parts about using a blog to present the results of ongoing historical research, is the ease with which a report of “the earliest evidence [of whatever] that has yet come to light” can be amended when even older evidence is uncovered. Since such work constantly strives to extend the resulting timeline, every new success paradoxically risks invalidating a previous one. The corresponding revision of the broader narrative may entail nothing more than noting that something is a few years older than previously believed. However, things such as the radiocarbon dating of a questioned fragment of fabric can necessitate a fundamental re-contextualization of previous documentation. This in turn can effect a major change in our understanding of, say, the origin of a given mode of looped fabric production.
I tacitly tweak posts on this blog to reflect subsequent insight without calling attention to such revision. However, there have been a few stop-press situations where the retroactive editing has been paired with a new post about the details of the more recently uncovered material. The last such case (reported here) arose from my having overlooked the first attested mention of Tunisian crochet — in a Swedish publication that I had in fact examined. It appeared one year earlier than the German source I had cited.
The present post is about a similar oversight with the first English-language reference to “slipping a stitch” in knitting, both in its ordinary form and in what is now called slip stitch crochet, but was then also regarded as a type of knitting. In this case, the date needs to be pushed back by all of two years and the locus moved across an ocean. However, the newly noted source has significant additional ramifications.
Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880) was a native-born monumental figure in the US American equal rights movements of her day, addressing sensitive core issues in several of her many widely read publications. She also wrote a series on domestic topics, including The Girl’s Own Book, published in New York City in 1833. What is labeled a ninth edition but has the preface of the second edition, was printed in London in 1837, explicitly for simultaneous distribution via all booksellers there and in Glasgow and Dublin. Where the US edition makes reference to “American little girls” the British one does to “all little girls” and it seems clear from the credits on its title page that it was authorized. It is similarly apparent from the US editions of the other works in Child’s domestic series that she paid attention to the British press and credited the references she made to it.
Both editions of The Girl’s Own Book include an identically worded chapter headed “Knitting” that begins by placing it in an unexpectedly marginal context.
This post is an updated replacement for an earlier one titled Scottish and shepherd’s knitting revisited that I took offline before preparing an article on the underlying topic for publication. New questions about shepherd’s knitting and its relationship to crochet have arisen in the interim and a book that was central to the initial post sheds quite a bit of light on them. It was published in Dublin in 1835, with the title page:
SIMPLE DIRECTIONS IN NEEDLE-WORK AND CUTTING OUT INTENDED FOR THE USE OF THE NATIONAL FEMALE SCHOOLS OF IRELAND. TO WHICH ARE ADDED, SPECIMENS OF WORK Executed by the Pupils of THE NATIONAL MODEL FEMALE SCHOOL
The instructions are cross-referenced to a separate section with labeled space for affixing corresponding specimens, the number and design of which varies in surviving copies. The text also describes how to record the names of the students in each annual class and the dates of their participation in the separate facets of tuition. It therefore seems likely that individual copies of the book were seeded with specimens executed by the pupils of the National Model Female School prior to distribution, and additional specimens were then added locally.
I’ve examined the copy held by the Victoria and Albert Museum. It includes two embroidered samplers dated 1847, one also with the names of its maker and the National Model Female School. Regardless of where the other specimens in it were prepared, it can safely be assumed that they were not made prior to that year. The chapter on knitting includes a section on “Scotch knitting.” The corresponding space in the specimen section is headed “Night-Cap” with a well-executed miniature attached.
Scotch Knitting. [See Specimen, No. 29.]
“1. Take one end of the thread in the left hand, and with the right place another part of the thread over it in the form of a loop. 2. Draw the thread through this loop, and make as many of them as you require stitches; they should be drawn pretty closely, and appear like chain-stitch; knit the first and last loops together to join them. 3. This sort of knitting is done with one needle only, which has a hook on the end, and there never should be more than one stitch on the needle at a time. Continue reading “Knitting the slipped crochet stitch”→
The first tutorial text about crochet written entirely in English was published in 1840 by Jane Gaugain, in The Lady’s Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting and Crotchet Work. She uses the French loanword (alternating between the spelling in the title and the native one) to designate the craft but not the individual stitches that it comprises. Each is labeled a “tambour” and the action of their production is “tambouring,” without any reference to crochet in the instructions. She settled on the now standard spelling in subsequent texts but left the substantive presentation of the craft unchanged in the enlarged 1847 edition of The Lady’s Assistant, despite the different nomenclature her colleagues had begun to apply in similar presentations starting in 1842.
This strongly suggests that Gaugain took tambour embroidery to be the sole point of departure for the new craft. Other authors saw tambour embroidery as having contributed elements that were merged with the older Scottish shepherd’s knitting, which they incorporated into the new stitch repertoire as single crochet (later aka slip stitch crochet). Gaugain was also the only one who placed the elemental chain stitch in the ordered sequence that extended to double and treble crochet.
SINGLE TAMBOUR, OR CHAIN STITCH
This is worked by drawing one loop through the other; it is seldom used save for open purses, and sometime for muffattees, shoes, &c. &c.
The etceteras make this somewhat self-contradictory. The narrow focus of the stitch’s application is gainsaid further by its appearance in every subsequent instruction, beginning with a “Long Purse of Open Stitch of Single Tambour” — a classic diamond mesh consisting of nothing other than chains. The next stitch Gaugain describes is what her peers also label plain or double crochet.
PLAIN FRENCH TAMBOUR LONG PURSE (sometimes called Double Tambour)
Cast on 100 loops in single chain stitch, having the last of the cast-on loops on the needle. 2d row, insert the needle in the first loop, and catch the silk from behind; pull it through the loop. You now have 2 loops on the needle, then catch the thread, and pull it through the two loops; this forms one stitch.
There are two well-established glossaries used to describe crochet in the English language. They are referred to as “US” and “UK,” with other anglophone countries using the one or the other. Both include the same terms and present the same stitches, but associate the labels with the structures differently. A “single crochet (US)” is a “double crochet (UK)” and a “double crochet (US)” is a “treble crochet (UK).” A “slip stitch” is now the same in both but was a “single crochet” on, and for a long time after its first appearance in the UK terminology. This was the earlier of the two to develop and is used in the following discussion unless otherwise noted.
Frances Lambert published an ordered set of definitions for crochet stitches in 1844, in My Crochet Sampler. A “plain single crochet” starts a counting sequence that continues with a “plain double crochet.” However, there is a confusingly similar “double stitch crochet” that designates a stitch made by pulling its initial loop under both legs of the loop to which it is anchored.
Plain double crochet — where two loops are kept on the needle, and the wool drawn through both before the stitch is finished. This is the crochet stitch generally practised, and that used for working tablecovers, etc.
Double stitch crochet — in this, both meshes of the chain are taken. It is principally employed for the soles of shoes, and where extra thickness is required, but is not suitable for working patterns.
The latter is now the standard procedure (without a separate name) but did not become so until the 20th century. Authors throughout the 19th century repeat the caveat about its limited utility. The earlier default practice was to insert the hook into the loop through which the new one would be pulled, as what is now termed “back loop only” (BLO). The potential for confusion was compounded further with “double open crochet,” used at the outset to designate a square or rectangular mesh made by alternating two adjacent stitches (of any height) with an open space of the same width. “Treble open crochet” similarly indicated three adjacent stitches.
The first structured glossary to include illustrations appeared in the 1847 and 1848 issues of Eleanore Riego de la Branchardière’s serialized The Crochet Book, discussed in detail in a previous post. In brief review, the sequence of stitches in it is “Single Crochet, or Shepherd’s Knitting,” the “Plain Stitch called French or Double Crochet,” and the “Treble Stitch.” She subsequently dropped the alternative names for the plain stitch and restricted “double crochet” to designating the point of insertion for the hook. Continue reading “The slanted senses of double crochet and other naming slips”→
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.
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. Continue reading “From grey shawl to pink mantle in 10 months and 14 rows”→
The 15 December 1857 issue of the Swedish journal Penelope, includes instructions for a child’s upper-body garment made with a crochet stitch that had been described without a name in instructions for a window shade in the 1 January 1856 issue of that publication. In the 1857 instructions, the same anonymous author retrospectively labels it the Tunisian crochet stitch — the earliest attested use of the term that has yet come to light. The preceding post includes a translation of the instructions for the window shade. The ones for the child’s garment are translated below.
In the 1856 description, the author notes of the stitch:
“Although somewhat awkward to describe…I hope that I have expressed myself tolerably well.”
That goal was reasonably well met in the text it prefaced but the adequacy of the description of the more complex 1857 garment is not as immediately apparent. It omits key procedural details from the text and the accompanying illustration does not accurately reflect the prescribed stitches counts. The need for interpretation and interpolation makes it difficult for a translation both to be faithful to the original and provide a sufficient basis for making the object. The readers of the initial document would, of course, have been addressing the same issues. This raises the equally important matter of the familiarity with crochet techniques that the author can reasonably have expected them to bring to the task. Continue reading “Tunisian crochet in Sweden in the 1850s”→
Several posts during the first months of this blog provide translations of Dutch instructions from 1823 for a number of purses made with different looping techniques. They include three that are crocheted and mark the first use of the word crochet to designate the craft now widely known by that name. That term isn’t attested in English language text until 1840 but its German equivalent — häkeln — began to appear in publication at the end of the first decade of that century. Its literal meaning is “to hook” but early references may designate techniques other than crochet that employ a tambour embroidery needle (shown here in an illustration from 1763).
Despite the uncertain semantics, häkeln had clearly acquired its present sense by the 1820s. The Dutch instructions use the cognate hekelen and the explicitly French crochet synonymously. What may be the first use of crochet (“hook”) in French texts as the name of a craft rather than a tool, denotes loom knitting. It appears in instructions from 1826 by Élisabeth Bayle-Mouillard (writing as Élisabeth Celnart) for another purse discussed and translated here.
It would seem likely that crochet was used in the current sense in French discourse prior to the Dutch publication. However, the first attested occurrence of such usage is in French instructions, yet again for a purse, incongruously embedded in an anonymous compilation of knitting instructions from 1837 that is otherwise entirely in English (seen unaltered in the 2nd ed. from 1838; the 5th ed. from 1840 names the “compiler” as Miss Watts). Continue reading “German crochet instructions from 1828”→
One of the recurring topics in the discussion of Tunisian crochet is whether fabric produced with a double-ended hook should be regarded as a variant form of ordinary Tunisian crochet or as an entity of its own. The earliest instructions calling for that tool that I have been able to locate so far are in the 10 February 1896 issue of the German craft periodical Der Bazar. This is eight years before similar instructions appeared in the US publication Columbia Book of the Use of Yarns, detailed in a previous post.
“Wind the yarn into 2 balls, as 1 ball is used at each end of the work. Make a chain the desired length, take up each stitch as in afghan stitch, retaining the stitches on the needle. Turn the work (fasten the other ball of yarn to the other end of the work), take the stitches off the needle with the other hook.
Third Row—With the same hook take the stitches up again.
Fourth Row—Turn the work, taking them off with the other hook. Repeat 3d and 4th rows alternately for all the work.”
With the exception of the hook and fabric being turned at the end of each forward pass, with a resulting need for a second strand of yarn, this stitch is worked the same way the Tunisian simple stitch (TSS) is. Both strands can also be taken from the opposite ends of a single ball of yarn (as done in twined knitting), just as the two hooks are on opposite ends of the same shaft. Using separate yarn sources additionally enables colorwork but that is also true of single-hook TSS.
The appearance and texture of the ribbed double-hook fabric differ markedly from ordinary TSS. The prominent horizontal chains characteristic of the latter are concealed entirely, although again, the same applies to many single-hook variants. There are additional double-hook variants that relate similarly to other single-hook forms. If a categorical distinction is to be made between them, the double-hook qualifier first noted in the 1907 pattern provides a good basis for it.
The double hook also makes it possible to work TSS in the round. Here, the ends of a foundation chain are joined and a new loop is worked into each of the loops in that chain for as long as the straight hook comfortably permits. The work is then turned and the other end of the hook used to return a chain through all but the last few of the pending stitches, using a separate strand of yarn. The work is turned again and the forward round is resumed.
The enclosed chains are oriented in the opposite direction from those in flatwork TSS but the two forms are structurally identical. The details of the loops in a TSS chain that indicate the direction in which it was worked are often obscured by the vertical loops, with the exposed edges of the chain loops appearing as parallel horizontal lines in both cases. The difference can be seen on closer examination, but whatever significance it may have, it provides little justification for a categorical distinction between chained-toward-the-right and chained-toward-the-left TSS variants. Since Tunisian crochet stitches can only be worked in the round with a double-ended hook, the single/double hook attribute is superfluous in the labeling of such fabric.
There is an intermediate aspect to the instructions for producing the Tunisian stitch variant using two separate hooks that appeared in Der Bazar in 1862 (discussed here). Taken with the earliest mention of any form of Tunisian crochet being from 1858, it seems unlikely that references to the double hook before the final decade or two of the 19th century remain to be discovered in the fancywork literature.
This still leaves a question about when in the 20th century (assuming no surprises) the first instructions for using that tool for work in the round appeared. The Columbia Yarn Company added celluloid to the materials in their listing of hooks and needles in 1908, also offering double-ended crochet hooks under their own heading for the first time.
However, the 1904 instructions linked to above explicitly prescribe a “Wooden Double End Crochet Hook, 20 in., No. 13.” The industrial production of such tools had therefore commenced prior to their availability in celluloid. Nonetheless, as of the 19th ed. from 1918, where the Double Hook Afghan Stitch also appears, the Columbia Book still only uses the requisite hook for flatwork.
Although this suggests a later advent of TSS worked in the round, countless similar publications remain to be examined before any date can safely be placed on its first appearance in print. Present-day Tunisian crocheters are familiar with its comparatively recent proprietary manifestations but the initial use of the double hook is not part of the general craft lore.
The 10 February 1896 issue of Der Bazar includes instructions for a child’s cradle cover made in alternating bands of shell stitch (Muschenstreifen) in ordinary crochet and TSS ribbing (Rippenstreifen). Both are worked with the same double-ended hook, as is the elaborate border. The ribbing has a more complex form than that discussed above, and uses different color yarns to good effect. (Fabric worked entirely with it is also fully reversible.)
The illustration is presented in the immaculate detail that is a hallmark of Der Bazar (where the first explicit reference to the “Tunisian crochet stitch” appeared, as discussed here.) The written instructions, however, are atypically difficult to follow. Those for the ribbing are clear enough and describe a variant that remains in the current repertoire. The instructions for the shell stitching are more opaque and I haven’t quite puzzled out how they lead to the illustrated structure well enough to be able to provide a useful but objective translation. In any case, these shells are not intrinsically dependent on a long hook, much less a double-ended one, and lie outside the scope of the present post anyway. The following text therefore stops at the end of the instructions for the ribbing.
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 shell 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. 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 use of a long double-ended hook both for stitches that require one, and those that could as easily be worked on a conventional short crochet hook, is interesting in itself. There is a surprising amount of additional evidence of the mid-19th-century use of long hooks for ordinary crochet. Such hooks were manufactured with both cylindrical and tapered shafts, so there was more to it than a simple matter of some workers preferring Tunisian hooks where they were not a necessity.
The entire discussion here is restricted to evidence found in the context of fancywork. An earlier post considered the relationship between Tunisian crochet as an urban practice in Sweden and its rural counterpart krokning (hooking). It remains unclear whether this is just a matter of alternate nomenclature or if krokning has roots that predate the emergence of Tunisian crochet in the craft literature. For now, it is sufficient to note that the use of a double-ended hook for TSS in the round is a mainstay of the former craft as it is currently practiced.
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.
Journal for the Tasks and Concerns of Women,
with Supplementary Patterns for Counted-Thread 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 1854 with essentially the same subtitle: Album för qvinliga arbeten och moder, med bilagor af tapisseri- broderi- virk- och stickmönster, samt modeplancher (Album for the tasks and concerns of women, with supplementary patterns for tapestry embroidery, free embroidery, crochet, and knitting, plus fashion plates). Its final volume was published in 1863.
The period spanned by the production of these two publications included the interval during which the “Tunisian crochet stitch” made its meteoric spread through the European fancywork press. This began with a description of the stitch itself in 1856, unnamed, with the Tunisian label retrospectively applied to it in 1857. When writing the initial version of the present post, I was unaware of the earliest attested instances being in Penelope and have provided further details about this in two subsequent posts, describing the first published appearance (as far as I have yet been able to determine) of the unnamed stitch in 1856 here, and the instructions from 1857 that label it the Tunisian crochet stitch here.
The first of many instructions for Tunisian crochet that appear in Iduna are found on page 4 of its inaugural issue. They are 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. A repeated reminder in subsequent 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 a 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.
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 Handicraft (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 that was apparently presented under the same heading for this reason.
“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 handicraft 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).
The cuff is “pineapple crochet” (ananasvirkning), which had previously been described as a “velour” crochet stitch in Der Blatt. 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 a separate post.