The German publication Der Bazar (The Bazaar) figures prominently in a number of posts on this blog. This is due in no small part to the online availability of an almost unbroken series of issues from the outset of its publication through to the end of the 19th century. The inaugural volume appeared in 1855 and is one of the few not to be found in library catalogs but I’ve managed to acquire a printed copy (said with a fair amount bibliophile pride). One of what was to become dozens of competitors, Die Modenwelt (The Fashion World), commenced publication in 1865. As far as I have yet been able to determine, no library has a complete set and relatively few volumes have been digitized.
The business model of Der Bazar included the syndicated parallel appearance of its descriptions and illustrations of fancywork techniques in collaborating publications in several other countries. The same practice was adopted by Die Modenwelt, which listed the international editions on its masthead.
Crochet hooks are used as auxiliary tools in other crafts, either in their original form or adapted to the alternate context. It is, for example, a matter of personal preference whether a knitter uses an ordinary crochet hook to reknit the ladder resulting from a dropped stitch, or a specialized repair hook modified for the purpose. That redesign typically involves shortening the shaft of the hook and shaping its other end either into a second hook or a pointed tip. Another example is the hook used for joining elements in tatting. This will be either a stock crochet hook or one with a shortened shaft with a metal chain and ring attached to the other end so that it can be held ready on a finger. (The truncated shaft and hole for the chain are telltale, even when the chain itself is missing.)
The tatting variant is also marketed as a compact alternative for crochet, illustrating the interesting question of how a multipurpose tool should be categorized and labeled. This becomes even more complex given the potential utility of hooks made to serve some unrelated purpose, for working crocheted fabric. The converse situation is also of historiographic significance. If something that looks like a crochet hook is found in an archaeological context that can in no way be associated with the production of fabric — to say nothing of its crocheted form — the hook does not constitute such evidence without robust external corroboration. (Although not the focus of this post, both perspectives also pertain to eyed needles and nalbinding.) Continue reading “The “ice cream cone” crochet hook”→
The German periodical Der Blatt had a leading role in the publication of variant forms of the “ordinary Tunisian crochet stitch.” The first two appearing there are described in the post before last and depart markedly from what is now known as the Tunisian simple stitch (TSS). A variant presented in the 1 January 1862 issue differs from it so extremely that it would likely not be seen as derived from the TSS if the instructions didn’t say so.
It requires two long cylindrical hook-tipped tools. One is an ordinary Tunisian crochet hook, characterized by a ‘ball’ at its non-hooked end, and identical to the type of hook-tipped knitting needle used in pairs for flatwork knitting. The other is hooked at one end and tapered at the other to match the smooth tip of an ordinary knitting needle. This is identical to the hook-tipped needle used in sets for knitting in the round.
The designers at Der Blatt would have had a reasonable expectation of their readers being able to obtain the prescribed tools. However, if hook-tipped knitting needles were commonly available to the target audience or in trade under another designation, the instructions would presumably have named them directly. Later instructions also specify a form with hooks at both ends, indicating that the need for altering stock Tunisian hooks or knitting needles was not an impediment.
The 1862 instructions use the hook/point and hook/ball needles together to make a “shell stitch” (Panzerstich) that was published with three other “new crochet stitches,” all modifying the TSS by varying the structure of the return chain. They significantly alter the standard form of that chain in different ways but the shell stitch is alone in the extent of its proximity to knitting. As was frequently the case with newly devised variations of the Tunisian stitch, it is only illustrated with a swatch.
Because of its unfamiliarity, a second illustration shows the fabric stretched open and the juxtaposition of the two hooks.
Here are the instructions:
“This stitch differs from the other Tunisian crochet stitches in two significant ways. Namely, it consists of pattern rows that alternate between one and two passes, and is made with two different wooden hooked needles. The one of these two crochet needles, which should be on the heavier side, cannot have a knob at its lower end, which has to be pointed like a knitting needle. The other needle is a wooden crochet needle with a knob at its lower end to prevent the stitches from gliding off, but has to be smaller than the needle without the knob by almost half. In order to highlight the distinction between the individual pattern rows, they are worked in two contrasting colors [here blue and white]. The pattern row that is worked in one pass only is always crocheted from right to left with a double strand of yarn and the hook without a knob. The following pattern row, which includes two passes, is made with the thinner hook and a single strand of yarn. The forward pass in this pattern row is also worked from right to left, as with knitting, using both needles…
1st pattern row. After making a foundation chain with the blue yarn and without cutting it, use the hook without the knob to pull a loop of the doubled white yarn through each stitch in the foundation chain. These loops remain on the hook to form new stitches. At the end of this pass, cut the double yarn and work the,
2nd pattern row with the blue yarn that was left hanging at the starting edge of the fabric, using the thinner hook. In the first pass a loop is pulled through each of the double stitches in the white yarn in the preceding pattern row, by inserting the hook into the back of the stitch as is clearly shown in the illustration, and removing the stitch from the hook so that the double strands on either side of that stitch cross over each other as shown in the completed rows of those stitches. The second pass is crocheted from left to right just as with the second pass in a pattern row of the ordinary Tunisian crochet stitch, and the blue yarn is left hanging until the next pattern row that uses it.
3rd pattern row. Again place the double white strand on the hook without the knob and crochet from right to left, by pulling a new loop through the opening between the vertical parts of each stitch in the preceding row. These loops remain on the hook to form new stitches.
4th pattern row as the 2nd, 5th pattern row as the 3rd, and so forth.”
The tip of the heavier hook is not illustrated but the direction in which the loops of double white yarn cross over it follows from the customary crocheter’s practice of beginning a stitch by wrapping the yarn over the hook from back to front (YO). In contrast, the thinner hook is shown ‘grabbing’ the blue yarn from above without a YO. This is equivalent to wrapping the yarn under the hook (YU), and seats the loops on it in the opposite direction.
However, as drawn, the paths taken by both the blue and white yarn around their respective hooks are the same, also consistent with the orientation of the blue stitches in the fabric. Since the white loops are twisted as they are worked into stitches, their orientation in the fabric is the opposite of that on the hook.
The instructions emphasize that the use of the hook to twist the white stitches “is clearly shown in the illustration.” However, if the YU is correctly represented, the leg of the blue loop moving toward the tip of the hook should be on the back of the hook rather than on the front. The express statement of accuracy makes it difficult to dismiss the inconsistency in the path of the blue yarn as the result of an initial YU being drawn where a YO is intended. That would be the most straightforward explanation, nonetheless, and is also supported by the orientation of the blue stitches in the fabric. However, the illustrated fabric structure can also be produced in a manner that applies both the YO and the YU techniques.
The instructions twist the loops in the white yarn by inserting the righthand hook into each of them from behind. However, if the white loops are YU rather than YO, they will be twisted by inserting the righthand hook into them from the front. The inconsistency in the drawing can therefore be resolved by swapping the illustrated YU forward pass from the blue to the white yarn, and the YO forward pass from the white yarn to the blue. A proof-of-concept swatch made in that manner can be compared with the initial woodcut.
Another detail of the described procedure requires comment. Cutting the yarn at the end of each row worked flat, and starting the next row with a new length of yarn, was a common attribute of flatwork crochet throughout the 19th century (readily seen in an array of stitches in the 15 June 1867 issue of Der Bazar). However, one feature of the Tunisian crochet stitch is that it permits flatwork without need either for cutting the yarn or turning the fabric. The illustrated shell stitch discards that advantage and the doubled white yarn leaves twice the usual number of dangling yarn ends to be dealt with.
Given the numerous variant Tunisian stitches that were otherwise available, it would be reasonable for readers of Der Blatt to wonder what the one that required a special second hook and additional finishing was good for. In direct response to numerous queries received from readers who posed that very question, the illustrations and narrative explanation were reprinted in the 14 November issue of the same annual volume. Nothing was added about its visual effect but its heading was extended.
“Panzerstich for application in men’s shawls, jackets, carriage blankets, etc.
Despite this, Der Blatt never published instructions for any garments using it (that I’ve managed to spot). Their designers continued to explore special-tool variants of the TSS, producing instructions (to be discussed separately) that call for the now familiar double-ended Tunisian hook before the end the century.
Anyone following this discussion with tools in hand will soon note that the hook on the tip of the righthand needle makes it trivially easy to slip an unworked loop onto it from the lefthand needle and then knit it into a stitch, crochet style (ambiguity intended). It may therefore be simpler to separate the actions that overlap in the illustration, first moving the loop of white yarn onto the righthand needle, and then working the loop of blue yarn into it.
The 1 January 1864 issue of the German biweekly magazine Der Bazar (discussed at length in the post before last) includes instructions that prescribe the use of a flat crochet hook in a form that is essentially identical to the one shown in the earliest known description of that tool, published in 1785. It is called a “shepherd’s hook” in numerous texts from the early 19th century.
The 1864 instructions present it for use with a “velour crochet stitch” (Velours-Häkelstich) that had previously been described in the issue of Der Bazar from 8 Jan 1861. Quoting from the initial wording, the stitch is:
“…made primarily in wool…using an ordinary crochet hook of a gauge appropriate to the material. However, the hook has to taper towards its tip, which must be narrower than the shaft.
Make a normal foundation and crochet as follows: Wrap the yarn four times around the hook as for a quadruple crochet stitch, push the spiral tightly together and a bit further back on the hook. Insert the hook into the next stitch and pull a new loop both through it and the entire spiral… Repeat this along the entire length of the work, stitch by stitch.”
It is illustrated as part of a belt.
The ordinary tapered hook in use at that time is illustrated in a potpourri of crochet stitches in the 15 June 1867 issue (and reproduced in numerous unaffiliated later publications). One of them is a double-crochet-based (UK) “solid shell” (feste Muschen) that also requires the yarn to be pulled through four loops in a single motion.
The 1864 instructions for the velour stitch, which describe its central element “appearing as a loosely knit shell” (lose gestrickt erscheinenden erhabenen Muschen), are effectively identical to those from 1861 (where the shell is a “bulge” — Bäuchen). However, they also specify how the taper is utilized on a flat hook.
“With the right index finger, push the spiral about 1.5 cm back on the hook and hold it firmly there.”
The structural detail of the flat hook is explained in a manner that indicates continuity with the 1800 and 1833 descriptions cited above.
“The velour crochet stitch is most easily made using a wedge-shaped pointed crochet hook as shown in the illustration. This hook is completely flat, only as thick as the back of a knife, and where it is not to be had in steel, is made from hard wood or ivory.”
Its application is shown with a woman’s shoe.
The velour stitch and flat hook are illustrated again in the 15 Jan 1865 issue with another woman’s shoe (also showing the floats between the elements made in the light-colored yarn on the reverse side of the fabric).
The range of materials in which flat hooks were produced, listed in the 1864 text, indicates that they were not simply a niche curiosity. The same illustration of the hook appears in 1865. The copy available online has a pencil sketch of a more pointed tip under the original illustration. This demonstrates reader awareness of the importance of its precise shaping and an interest in calling the attention of others to it.
The instructions from 1864 also make reference to a “spiral post stitch” (Spiral-Stäbchenstich) illustrated in the same issue. The differences between it and the velour stitch are described and immediately visible in the illustration. The fabric is worked with a Tunisian crochet hook, anchoring the stitches to the return chain rather than directly to each other, giving a more open structure. The yarn is wrapped around the hook five times, rather than four, adding additional flexibility.
The spiral post stitch is presented as a “very original variant of the Tunisian stitch.” Since it is produced using a cylindrical hook, there is reason to wonder why the four-wrap form requires a tapered one. Need for offsetting the additional tightness of the velour stitch provides at least a partial answer, and the shell stitch from 1867 is also intrinsically looser. (Four-wrap and longer spirals are otherwise a definitive attribute of what is now termed bullion crochet, and even longer spirals are a mainstay of crocheted tatting — all made using a long cylindrical metal ‘bullion hook.’)
However, the velour stitch also appears in instructions for a child’s shoe in the 1March 1864 issue of the Swedish women’s magazine Iduna, where it is called a “pineapple stitch.” It is likely to have been inspired by the earlier shoe in Der Bazar (and may even reflect an editorial relationship between the two publications) but is primarily made with the Tunisian simple stitch.
The instructions explicitly prescribe the use of the same cylindrical wooden hook for both the Tunisian and pineapple stitches, using an illustration of the hook taken directly from Der Bazar (highlighting that it is made of wood by showing its cross-section).
A separate hook is used for the sole, which is “crocheted with a heavy steel hook, back and forth with ordinary stitches.” The German description from 1800 of the mid-18th-century industrial use of a flat hook for slip stitch crochet footwear raises a question about whether the steel hook might have been a flat hook. Either way, there is contemporaneous documentation of that tool in Sweden and it is likely that the designer of the shoe was aware of it as an option for the pineapple stitch.
This gives three different implements attested for making the velour/pineapple stitch: an ordinary tapered crochet hook, a cylindrical Tunisian crochet hook, and a flat shepherd’s hook. The choice among them would have been a straightforward matter of individual preference. As a Tunisian stitch, the five-wrap spiral post is obviously restricted to a long cylindrical hook. There is also an upper limit to the number of equally sized wraps that can be effected with a tapered hook, varying with the degree of the taper.
The designs in Der Blatt treat the flat hook as advantageous when yarn is pulled through up to four loops or wraps at the same time. This extends the documented use of such tools beyond the realm of slip stitch crochet. In light of the flat hook’s long-standing Swedish nexus, it seems a fair guess that it was at times used for the stitches presented in the preceding post. If so, the distinction between flat hook crochet at the urban worktable and in rural tradition becomes all the more diffuse.
The initial categorization of the use of a shepherd’s hook as a form of knitting also extends to Tunisian crochet. Both the Tunisian crochet stitch and the long hook are described in terms of knitting in the 23 January 1861 issue of Der Blatt (where the method was introduced three year earlier).
“The Tunisian crochet stitch, widely known as a form of knitting [Strickerei] with a…so-called ‘knitting hook’ [Strickhaken] (a long crochet hook with an even diameter and a knob affixed to its one end).”
The additional description of the shell as a knitted construct, alternatively produced on a knitting hook or a shepherd’s hook, further highlights the discrepancy between 19th-century notions of both procedural and structural classification and those of the present day. It is often pointed out that the conceptual framework is language dependent, and that several languages other than English do not have separate words for crochet and knitting. In that light, it may be of more than coincidental interest that the Oxford English Dictionary defines crochet as “A kind of knitting done with a hooked needle; material so made.”
Sweden is a good place to be located for someone researching the historical and contemporary use of flat hooks for slip stitch crochet. It’s only a thirty minute walk from the desk where this blog is maintained to a folkcraft store in central Stockholm that regularly stocks such hooks, so it was easy for me to gear up for testing my findings experimentally. (A few years ago flat hooks were to be had just around the corner at a local yarn store that has since closed.) Books about the traditional Swedish practice are currently in print and tools survive from the late-18th century. This is also when evidence of comparable traditions begins to appear at other locations significantly enough distant from each other to make investigating the possibility of cultural and technological exchange worthwhile.
A previous post discussed the earliest illustrated description of flat-hook slip stitch crochet, published in France in 1785, but I overlooked the importance of something stated in that document. It clearly indicates that flat hooks were made in varying sizes and selected as appropriate to the intended stitching. Reexamining the corpus of such hooks in that light quickly revealed that it was incorrect of me to have presumed that all such hooks were of a relatively large gauge.
An undated flat hook in the collections of the Vänersborg Museum (attribution here) is clearly very narrow.
Another hook in the collections of the Nordic Museum (attribution here) shows the same secondary taper toward its tip and it seems clear that this dimension of a flat hook was matched to the gauge of the stitching and weight of the yarn.
I didn’t recognize the full significance of a document from 1812, either, when I made summary reference to it in another previous post. This is The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elisabeth Grant, where the English term “shepherd’s knitting” and its special hook first appear.
“…he wore a plaid cloak, and a nightcap, red or white, made by his industrious wife in a stitch she called shepherd’s knitting; it was done with a little hook which she manufactured for herself out of the tooth of an old tortoise-shell comb, and she used to go on looping her home-spun wool as quick as fingers could move, making not only caps, but drawers and waistcoats for winter wear…”
The thin finely tapered segment of the hook at the Vänersborg Museum can easily be reconciled with something that might be made from the tooth of a comb. In the doing, it also becomes apparent that shepherd’s knitting was not intrinsically limited to work in heavy wool yarn, nor was the shepherd’s hook restricted to slip stitch crochet.
If it can be dated correctly to the 18th century, it would pretty much have to be categorized as shepherd’s knitting. The problem is that its primary stitch is treble crochet (UK), which is otherwise unattested at that time.
If it is from the 19th century, the stitch is no longer anachronistic but a fine-gauge hook would still be required. This can credibly be provided by one of the Vänersborg design or a smaller tool corresponding to its hooked segment, as might be fashioned from the tooth of a comb.
The cap can also be a deliberate attempt by a later crocheter at making something with a rustic appearance, unaware of the slip stitch being an identifying characteristic of shepherd’s knitting, or simply unconcerned with that level of detail. Whatever the correct explanation may be, it seems clear that the flat hook has never had a tightly set form. There are many additional examples with the configuration illustrated above, as well as of characteristic designs in other regions. In at least the north European traditions considered here, they were clearly made in gauges appropriate for both light and heavy yarn.
It is not possible to know whether people working fabric with what the Victorian literature sometimes termed a “shepherd crochet” saw any relationship with its traditional namesake. However, a Swedish flat hook in hallmarked silver from circa 1790, one shown in Dutch instructions from 1833, and later German ones, all indicate that the traditional craft from which they emanated was also practiced at the urban worktable.
Schematic drawings of the slip stitch structure, identical to the ones seen in the preceding post, appear in published descriptions of other objects said to be nalbinding rather than crochet. Before considering individual such objects, I’m going to take a look at another way to use an eyed needle for producing not just crochet-type slip stitches but a variety of more complex structures normally identified as crochet.
In the present context, the difference between the two tools reduces to the single mechanical detail of whether the end that grasps the yarn is fully closed — an eye — or is open on one side — a hook. The former holds the yarn more firmly and constrains its separation from the tool. The latter allows the yarn to be removed and reattached at any time but is conducive to unintentional separation. Both tools are otherwise made with dull and pointed tips, although that attribute is more relevant to the (by no means unrelated) comparison of ordinary and tambour embroidery.
In 1966, Angela Huber was granted US Patent no. 3,228,212 for a Method of Hand Knitting and Knitting Needle, five years after filing a corresponding application in Austria.
“This invention relates to a method of hand knitting and a knitting needle for it. Both the method and the needle distinguish by being particularly simple because only a single thread and a single needle are employed.”
An eyed needle used to push a new loop through a preexisting one, gauging its size with an adjustable collar. The patent illustrates both knit-type and crochet-type looping, showing only the latter here.
A tool of the same design was sold in the late 1960s as the “Grant One Needle Looper” with a pattern booklet titled Grant’s One Needle Looping. It was telemarketed shortly thereafter as “The Original K-Tel Knitter — a revolutionary new method of knitting and crocheting with one needle.”
There is no indication of the relationship between the Grant/K-Tel items and the Huber patent but the instruction booklet in the K-Tel package (and presumably also Grant’s) illustrates a “simplicity stitch” with essentially the same drawings as the preceding ones.
This technique is currently marketed as Fauxchét® using a composite needle that is identical to a standard machine knitting 1×2 transfer tool (but trademarked nonetheless). It is again unclear if there is a relationship to the Huber patent.
As is seen in other videos in that series, an eyed needle can be used in the same manner to make crochet stitches of increasing complexity. This can be compared to the production of hand knitted fabric on a peg loom instead of knitting needles. In both cases, the adherents to the conventional technique are in a substantial majority and have varying opinions about the utility of the alternative.
A similar comparison can be made between the structurally identical cross-knit looping made with an eyed needle, and twisted-stitch knitting made with knitting needles. This highlights why the discussion of the structure of a piece of fabric so often needs to be separated from that of the various tools and techniques that can be used to produce it. This is further demonstrated by the basic principle of a sewing machine, which is to push a loop of thread through fabric using the eyed end of a needle, and that of a knitting machine, using what is essentially a battery of crochet hooks to create vertically chained knitted structures.
The eyed end of the needle is also commonly used in hand embroidery to pass the working thread between preexisting stitches and the base fabric without risk of piercing either. With all this it mind, it is reasonable to wonder why a second point is frequently seen on archaeologically recovered needles such as those found at the Viking settlement in Birka and currently on display at the Swedish History Museum.
Similar needles from an earlier Celtic settlement in Colchester are on display at the British Museum.
Just as it is frequently impossible to look at a piece of looped fabric and know what tools were involved in its production, a tool doesn’t always reveal what it was used for. It is safe to assume that it had a primary function. However, for example, it does not follow from the similarity between the second needle from the top in this photo and the needles used in the Nordic nalbinding tradition, as first documented in the 1940s, that the older implement was ever used for that craft. In fact, it cannot be proven that it was intended for work with yarn at all.
With the same caveat, if historical precedent for the production of crochet-type slip stitch fabric using an eyed needle can be established, one with two points at longer and shorter distances from the eye would easily support either of the techniques we’ve now seen.
The knitting sheath has a prominent position on the list of tools that were once ubiquitous but have since dwindled into restricted regional use. Although the sheath is only one of a number of devices used to anchor the passive end of a knitting needle, its name is often used as a collective designation for them all. The technique is also termed fixed-needle, anchored-needle, or lever knitting. It includes a variant where the needle is held between the arm and body without the support of a separate mechanical device — (arm)pit knitting.
The best known present-day form of auxiliary tool is the knitting belt used on the Shetland Islands. Nonetheless, as recently as 1986 in The Handknitter’s Handbook, Montse Stanley described and illustrated fixed-needle knitting as a current technique, with the right-hand needle anchored either directly under the right arm or in a sheath tucked into a belt around the waist, also at the right side of the body.
Stanley discusses this method as practiced both in Catalonia, where it was how she learned to knit (presumably in the late 1940s), and in the northern half of Britain. She suggests that it was historically more likely to be used by knitters with a greater interest in “efficiency” than in “elegance.” Those with the latter concern held the right-hand needle “like a pen” and knitters interested in the support provided by a sheath but not the implement itself, let the needle “rest on the forearm.” She further associates the two basic perspectives with people who “mainly knitted to earn (or scrape) a living” and those who “considered it a drawing-room pastime.”
Needles of various sizes. The numbers referred to are those of the knitting needle gauge. Needles pointed at either end, for Turkish knitting. Ivory or wooden pins, for knitting a biroche [sic]. A knitting sheath, &c., to be fastened on the waist of the knitter, towards the right hand, for the purpose of keeping the needle in a steady and proper position.
A previous post describes how the Swiss knitter Dubois taught fixed-needle knitting in German urban drawing rooms in the late–18th century. In contrast to the descriptions of that technique seen above, which explicitly state that the anchored needle was held in the right hand, Dubois held it at his left side. This could be taken to indicate that he was left handed but since he was earning his living as a knitting teacher it can safely be assumed that he demonstrated his techniques as appropriate to a predominantly right-handed audience.
The article on knitting in Switzerland from 1936 by Fritz Iklé, presented in another previous post, also discusses the traditional use of the knitting sheath there. It was widely employed through to the end of the 19th century and still known at the time of his writing. He cites an article from 1923 in another Swiss journal (which I haven’t yet tracked down) quoting a number of reports received from various areas of the country describing local practice.
These designate knitting both with the German word stricken and the Alemannic lismen. Although the two are frequently used as synonyms, some of the reports use them to designate separate methods. Here is one that does so with particular clarity.
In the earliest years here the sheath was also fastened in the right side of the apron. The idea later developed that the knitting could be held more firmly by using a special belt board (Gürtelbrittli) by which the sheath could be fastened to the side with a leather strap. With that, lismen truly becomes easier than stricken.
Another report places the sheath on the opposite side.
The knitting sheaths were about 18–20 cm long, nicely turned in boxwood, with the hole for the needle lined with lead. They were placed in working position by wrapping the left apron string two or three times around them.
Here again, the generalized wording of this description suggests that it is not of the practice of an individual left-handed knitter. Although the right-side position is the more frequent in these reports, they still confirm that Netto was not alone among his compatriots in holding the needle at the left side. Presumably it was also adopted by his students in Germany, and was reported in late–19th-century Denmark, as well.
The Swiss applications of fixed-knitting related in 1923 are largely about 19th-century practice. However, that it dated back at least into the 18th century is apparent from Netto’s activity and a description from 1809 of skills taught to girls in Swiss cities including the fiber arts of “…Lismen, Stricken, sewing, spinning…”
This means that the use of a sheath was not seen simply as an adjunct technique to knitting but was a named craft of its own. This may indicate that the social gap between the contexts placing opposite priorities on efficiency and elegance was wide enough to be reflected lexically. Another more conjectural possibility is that the two methods had different points of origin and the circumstances of their merger remain to be identified.
I’ve noted the significance of “The art of knitting in its full extent” (Die Kunst zu stricken in ihrem ganzen Umfange) by Johann Friedrich Netto and Friedrich Leonhard Lehmann in several previous posts (but have yet to find a good way to vary the introductory paragraph). This was published in 1800 and reflected in German texts on knitting by other authors well into the 1820s including mention of the utility of hook-tipped needles. Both here and more generally in the craft press of that time, what we might call plagiarized wording is commonplace (earlier notions about the permissibility of the unattributed reuse of the work of others differed significantly from ours) but original material is often added, making it worthwhile to examine the full detail of what may on first glance appear to be a rehash of someone else’s material.
Netto and Lehmann published a French translation of their book in 1802, which was then co-opted in subsequent French texts. One, in particular, explicitly acknowledges the prior work of the German authors and also names the Swiss knitter, Dubois, who figured prominently in their book. This is the “Treatise on knitting – simple or complex” (Traité du tricot, simple ou compliqué) by Augustin Legrand. It is undated but displays the address where he was located from 1810 and includes an advertisement for material he sold there in 1817.
Legrand’s book also illustrates a burgeoning divergence between texts focused on domestic enterprise and those treating fancywork as a leisure activity. Whereas the German derivates of Netto and Lehmann are directed toward the former audience, the two gentlemen themselves together with Legrand more clearly target the latter. Legrand’s chapter “On needles with hooks” (Des Aiguilles à crochet) places such implements on the French recreational knitter’s workbench and adds yet another method for holding yarn to those considered in previous posts.
“These needles are of ordinary length and have a small hook at the one end similar to that of tambour needles. To knit with these needles, the thread is first wrapped around the left wrist to place it under slight tension. It is then held on the index finger of the same hand so that it is ready to be grasped by the hook that pulls it back through the stitch into which it was inserted. This forms a new stitch that remains on this needle.
It is easy to imagine that this work cannot fail to produce a great economy of time, and a greater regularity in the work. It is even claimed that by means of this process it is possible to make a sock in an hour.
All kinds of knitting can be performed with these kinds of needles; but they are especially recommended for gold and silver wire. This is because they reduce jarring and friction, causing less wear on the metal, leaving the work more lustrous.”
The reference to the production of a sock in one hour is all but certain to derive from a section in Netto & Lehmann that describes Dubois’s work (here). However, one of the salient details of Dubois’s method for flat knitting was his use of long needles, supporting one of them under his arm. Legrand specifically prescribes needles of ordinary length, precluding a fixed-needle technique.
Similarly, Dubois’s method for working in the round (described here) uses a shoulder pin to feed the yarn to the front of the work. To the extent that Legrand is referring to this as well, the yarn-around-neck technique is replaced by what might be called yarn-around-wrist, feeding the yarn to the rear of the work.
The shepherds in Landes, the northernmost part of the French Basque Country, were a subject of popular attention during the 19th century for two traits. One was their use of stilts to deal with the marshy heathlands on which their flocks grazed, and the other was their practice of knitting while watching over them. A chapter on ‘The Shepherds of Les Bas Landes’ in the US publication Forrester’s Pictorial Miscellany from 1855 illustrates how widespread the interest in them had become. An article in the Scientific American Supplement from 26 September 1891 on ‘Stilt Walking’ describes the shepherds’ ambulatory prowess and social circumstance.
Illustrations of them knitting began to proliferate mid-century but rarely focus on its detail. The clearest one I have thus far been able to find is from 1863 (source information here) and shows yarn-around-neck (probably using a shoulder hook), with what may be a small pouch holding the yarn just below the sock that is in progress.
The shepherds’ knitting technique is described in Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book from 1938, showing the tools at the outset of the chapter on ‘Knitting Implements Ancient and Modern.’ (The preceding post discusses other aspects of her description of knitting in Landes.)
This photo shows an “ancient weatherbeaten knitting pouch” together with “modern…hooked needles…made by a shepherd…from old umbrella ribs…hand filed and shaped as they have always been made” in Landes. It is not clear what ‘ancient’ and ‘always’ actually mean.
Thomas says that hooked needles can be traced back to the Arabic origins of knitting, which applies in equal measure to the needles used in all the other schools of yarn-around-neck knitting discussed in previous posts. There is no evidence of a similarly characteristic shared use of a knitting pouch. It is of obvious utility for work while perched on stilts and, at least the form shown here, may have developed specifically in that context. The pouch is also seen clearly in a photo from the early-20th century, by which time the wetlands had been drained and the need for stilts had ended.
“This kind of work, which has lately become fashionable under its new name, was formerly called ‘Shepherd’s Knitting.’ It has long been a favourite occupation of this class of persons, particularly in the south of France, where, whilst tending their sheep on the mountains, they fabricate a number of useful and ingenious articles.”
This conflates the knitting of the Landes shepherds, who were approaching the heyday of their international renown, with the traditional slip stitch crochet called “shepherd’s knitting” and described in earlier British texts on crochet as the initial manifestation of that craft.
“Crochet,—a species of knitting originally practised by the peasants in Scotland, with a small hooked needle called a shepherd’s hook…”
That snippet was discussed in greater detail in an earlier post, leading to yet another form of knitting with a hook-tipped needle associated with Scotland, termed Scottish knitting or Tricot éccosais. This was most commonly referred to in the Victorian literature as “tricot” (now generally termed Tunisian crochet) and worked with a “tricot hook.” This gainsays Mary Thomas’s concluding remark about the practice in Landes, that “There appears no trace of hooked needles in Britain…”
The description of Bosnian crochet given by Luise Schinnerer in 1897 and discussed in detail in the preceding post, is echoed in almost all points of detail in the article on crochet in the Encyclopedia of Needlework; New Edition by Thérèse de Dillmont. This work has appeared in numerous editions beginning in 1886 but the first one makes no mention of Bosnian crochet, nor do the first French or German editions. The revised French edition appeared in 1900 (briefly reviewed in the newspaper Le Radical on 31 July 1900) and the various translated versions would not have been released earlier. This left ample time for Dillmont (a native German speaker) to have taken note of Schinnerer’s article in the interim. (The online copy linked to above is of a printing from January 1922, as indicated by the numerical code ‘122’ at the bottom of the page following the title page.)
Linda Ligon reviewed the Dillmont article in the July/August 1994 issue of PieceWork Magazine also noting that there was no mention of Bosnian crochet in the first edition of the Encyclopedia, “so it’s not clear when this special kind of work came to her attention.” I believe the answer to that question is when she found Schinnerer’s description of it.
Beyond illustrating the craft, Dillmont’s text is particularly important because it enters the English term “Bosnian crochet” into the fancywork glossary, defining it according to Schinnerer’s description. However, Dillmont does not retain Schinnerer’s exclusive focus on traditional tools and applications. The shared basic stitch is described in the Encyclopedia as the “single stitch” noting that it “is also known as the slip stitch.”
The work is not turned at the end of a row and the yarn is simply carried a bit beyond the final stitch and cut. When the next row is started, “the thread has to be fastened on afresh, each time.”
Dillmont provides detailed instructions for making a strip of the mixed-color form, working into the back leg of the chain loop of the corresponding stitch in the preceding row (now abbreviated BLO). Schinnerer only says that the same leg of that loop is used without specifying the front (FLO) or the back.
Another instruction is for the characteristic relief pattern that results from selectively alternating the point where the hook is inserted, from the back leg to the front leg of the loop. Both Schinnerer and Dillmont say this is only done using a single color.
Schinnerer also shows a photo of a hat where the upper closed-work portion is made in this manner (but does not describe the stitch structure of the wide band at the bottom).
Her article additionally discusses Bosnian-Herzegovinian knitting with hook-tipped needles, and the regional practice of making fabric with alternating bands of slip stitch crochet and knitting. Although something of a centerpiece for Schinnerer, Dillmont says nothing about it.
One interesting characteristic of the hybrid fabric is that the crocheted portions are made using a special hook and not the hook-tipped knitting needles, despite Dillmont indicating that the latter option would be viable. Her illustration of an ordinary crochet hook being used to produce slip stitches could as easily show the end of a hook-tipped knitting needle. In fact, this ties into an earlier post that I left dangling with the intention of following up much sooner, where a cylindrical crochet hook (found in trade listings up to 35 cm long) is illustrated in use for what may well have been slip stitch crochet.
Nonetheless, traditional slip stitch crochet is often associated with the use of a special hook, not just in the Bosnian school, but in others as well. Various local manifestations have been discussed in several previous posts. The current Swedish tradition uses this form, which can be traced back into the late 18th century.
It is also described in an early Dutch publication (details here ) and presumably used elsewhere. However, given the clear difference between it and the Bosnian hook shown by Schinnerer, there is no substantive basis for the frequent reference to the Nordic/Dutch form as a Bosnian crochet hook.