Crochet · History · Techniques · Tools · Tunisian crochet

The shepherd’s hook in mid-19th-century fancywork

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.

bazar-flat-hook

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.

bazar-velour-stitch

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.

bazar-bobble-1867

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.

bazar-velour-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).

bazar-velour-shoe-two

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.

bazar-sketch-hook-1.jpg

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.

bazar-spiral-post

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.

iduna-slipper

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).

iduna-hook

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, [is] 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.”

Early instructions · History · Tunisian crochet

Tunisian crochet in Sweden in the 1860s

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.

iduna-title.jpg

Iduna,
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.iduna-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.

axvirkning

“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.

Crochet · History · Structures · Tunisian crochet

Scottish and shepherd’s knitting revisited

This post is currently being revised

I have an article in the Winter 2020 issue of PieceWork, titled Evolution in Early Crochet: From Flat-Hook Knitting to Slip-Stitch Crochet. It supplants the text that originally appeared in this post, which will be refocussed on providing supplementary information to the article. The issue where the article appears can be obtained digitally and in print from the publisher of PieceWork.

Crochet · Knitting · Structures · Tricot · Tunisian crochet

The chain gang

The preceding two posts discussed inconsistencies in some of Irene Emery’s remarks about the fabric structures she calls plain knitting (here) and plain crochet (here). Her narrative continues with the observations:

In plain knitting all the loops in one row are on the same face of the fabric… One face has a smooth surface with an appearance of vertical chaining which emphasizes the vertical alignment of the interlooping

and

Crochet is really a doubly interlooped structure (made with a hooked implement)… It is basically a kind of chaining… In the simplest stitch — plain crochet — each loop is drawn through two previous loops, the corresponding one in the previous row and the previous one in the same row.

The first statement says the vertical chaining on one face of plain knitted fabric is not a structural attribute but only has the appearance of one. Nonetheless, the chains that create that appearance have a demonstrable structural coherence. This is seen when the loop at the top of a chain is dropped from its support and then runs through the stitches below it, forming a “ladder” of horizontal bars between the corresponding stitches in the adjacent intact chains. The vertical structure is commonly restored by using a crochet hook to loop each bar in the ladder around the bar above it in a process that can as reasonably be termed chaining as can the mechanical action fundamental to crochet.

The second statement presents two requirements for fabric to qualify as crochet. An individual crochet-type chain intrinsically fulfills one of them; each loop is drawn through the previous loop in the same row. However, a chain does not meet the additional condition of also being drawn through the corresponding loop in the preceding row. A row of chains is therefore not crochet in itself and only becomes so when it is worked into an adjacent row of chains.

The challenge addressed by the present series of posts is devising a descriptive framework that includes not only plain crochet and plain knitting, but also plain tricot (Tunisian simple stitch). This is procedurally more closely affiliated with ordinary crochet than it is with knitting but the same cannot be said about the fabric’s structure.

One of the definitive attributes of tricot is that a complete row of stitches requires two passes across the fabric. The forward pass resembles knitting in both procedural and structural regards. The return pass is similarly akin to crocheted chaining. However, its purpose is to return the tip of the hook to the starting edge of the fabric and does not necessarily add a crocheted structure to it.

This is clearly illustrated with plain tricot. The return chains can be removed from such fabric entirely, transforming it into plain knitting. If the vertical knitted structure is removed from plain tricot, the fabric simply disintegrates. However, there are tricot stitches where the forward row is worked directly into the preceding return chain. This interlooping qualifies them as crochet (again, by Emery’s definition) and there is an array of intermediate states.

Since both the horizontal and vertical structures in plain tricot can be described as chains, as can plain crochet and plain knitting, an obvious next step is to consider whether the chain can serve as the modulating factor in an overarching categorization scheme. The difference between its two forms is that a crochet-type chain is made by placing a single loop on a support and working a new loop through it in immediate succession. Although such a chain has no inherent directionality, when interlooped into fabric it is positioned horizontally. Knit-type chains are made by first placing a row of loops on a support and then successively working a new loop into each of the preceding ones. This forms a vertical structure with as many parallel chains as there are loops on the support.

The loops in the two types of chains can themselves be differentiated in terms native to industrial knitting. A distinction is made there between symmetrical and asymmetrical loops.

symmetrical-asymmetrical

It can readily be seen how the symmetrical form relates to plain knitting.

open-stitch-meander

The asymmetrical form (fundamental to warp knitting) only needs to be envisioned horizontally for its relationship to plain crochet to be similarly apparent.

patent-ss.jpg

The height of both knitted and crocheted fabric grows as new chains are added to it. However, since chains of asymmetrical loops lie flat across the working edge of the fabric, the vertical increments are smaller than those of chains made from symmetrical loops of the same diameter. That difference is recovered and can be dramatically exceeded by a structural device specific to crochet. This adds height to a row of what would otherwise be plain crochet by interposing a “post” between each new chain and the chain capping the corresponding stitch in the preceding row.

The length of a post is determined by the number of times the yarn is wrapped around the hook during its production, and the position of each “yarnover” relative to the loop(s) in the preexisting fabric into which the hook is inserted. This variation is labeled with the familiar (albeit ambiguous) sequence double crochet, triple crochet, etc., each with an extended form that adds a vertically oriented chain to the post. It is also possible to insert the hook into the post in a preceding stitch, or through a combination of loops and posts, adding further variation to the repertoire.

Crocheted posts are structural elements of tricot, together with crochet-type and knit-type chains. As noted, many tricot stitches combine them in manners that permit the resulting fabric to be characterized as a structural hybrid of knitting and crochet. However, other tricot stitches cannot be described adequately in terms of either. The remaining tricot-specific structural attribute(s) will be considered in the next installment in this series (after revisiting a few other topics).

Crochet · Knitting · Systematics · Tricot · Tunisian crochet

The systematics of crochet, knitting, and tricot

I’ve been introducing fabric structures in previous posts with reference to what Irene Emery says about them in her book The Primary Structures of Fabric; an Illustrated Classification, originally published in 1966. This is not because I think her categorizations and descriptions are optimal, but they are widely recognized and a generally useful point of departure.

It is frequently complemented by a second reference text, Textiles: a Classification of Techniques, by Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger, from 1994. As the title indicates, it is directed toward the classification of techniques rather than structures but strives to be concordant with Emery’s terminology. Unfortunately Seiler-Baldinger’s book suffered in translation, first by mismatches between some of Emery’s terms and the German category headings for which they were listed as alternate designations in the original German editions (1973 and significantly revised in 1991). This misalignment was then carried back into the English edition, where Emery’s terms were used as translations for the German category headings apparently without technical review.

Neither of the books adheres rigorously to its nominal point of view, nor could it, and both are essential reference works on a desktop such as the one where this blog is kept. That’s also the place where I prepared my presentation for the recent In the Loop at 10 conference, questioning the applicability of Emery’s basic definition of a loop to open-stitch knitting.

A complete loop is formed (and will be retained in the fabric) if the element crosses over itself as it moves on to form the next loop.

Loop: a doubling of a cord or thread back on itself so as to leave an opening between the parts through which another cord or thread may pass.

This satisfactorily covers twisted-stitch knitting.

emery-cross-knit

However, the path taken by the horizontal elements in open-stitch knitting doesn’t double back on itself as is fundamental to the definition.

emery-open-knitting

To rectify this, Emery introduces a seemingly self-contradictory “open loop,” meeting her requirement for the yarn crossing over itself on a row-by-row rather than loop-by-loop basis.

Knitting in its simplest form consists of successive rows of ‘running’ open loops, each loop engaging the corresponding one in the previous row and being in turn engaged by the corresponding one in the following row.

The twisted-stitch and open-stitch variants of knitting ought reasonably to be treated as having the closest possible structural relationship. This raises a question about the adequacy of Emery’s way of associating them. Seiler-Baldinger skirts the issue by defining loop in more senses than Emery does, before defining knitting.

I intend to delve further into this in future posts but am also trying to puzzle out how Tunisian crochet might have been described in either of the two reference works had the authors chosen to cover it. Since it contains elements of both knitting and crochet, not including it in a text on primary fabric structures is understandable. There is no similarly obvious reason for its absence from a book on textile techniques.

I don’t know how much effort this undertaking will require and am going to gear up for it with a review of what Emery says about the relationship between tools with hooked tips and the structural attributes of the looped fabrics they produce. She counts both crochet and knitting among them. However, as with her description of the relationship between twisted-stitch and open-stitch knitting, her characterization of crochet mesh is not as focused as it needs to be for analyzing the hybrid structure of Tunisian crochet (using the predominant Victorian designation for it here — ‘tricot’).

Crochet · Tools · Tunisian crochet

The double-ended tricot hook

The long cylindrical hook normally associated with Tunisian crochet doesn’t differ physically from a hook-tipped knitting needle. The past few posts have considered evidence of that tool having been co-opted for some form of crochet before the first descriptions of Tunisian stitches were published. In contrast, the double-ended hook appears to have been taken into the yarnworker’s toolkit specifically for Tunisian crochet, if not devised outright for it. (This is not the same implement as an ordinary crochet hook with different-sized heads at either end of a shorter, often contoured shaft.)

The first mention I’ve thus far located of a double-ended tricot hook is in an instruction for an “Infant’s Afghan” published in 1904 by Anna Schumacker in the 5th edition of The Columbia Book of the Use of Yarns. It is made with a “Fancy Tricot Stitch” requiring a “Wooden Double End Crochet Hook, 20 in., No. 13.” The stitch is described in relation to an “afghan stitch” illustrated under the heading “Fancy Stitches in Crocheting” but worked in what is recursively termed “tricot style.” This is now widely called the Tunisian Simple Stitch and the fancy version is similarly well known as the form of TSS produced with a double-ended hook.

The 1st edition of the Columbia Book was published in 1901 but I haven’t located a copy and don’t know if the same instruction appeared in it. Nonetheless, if double-ended tricot hooks were available in a range of lengths and gauges in 1904 and prescribed without any indication of their being either difficult to obtain or in any way novel, it seems certain they had been in use for a while prior to that date. This suggests, in turn, either that earlier descriptions remain to be located or that crocheted fabric requiring a double-ended hook was being produced for an indeterminate period before appearing in the fancywork literature. (NOTE: I have since found an earlier reference and described it in a subsequent post.)

The Columbia Book was expanded more or less annually. The 8th edition was released in 1907 and includes the same instruction for an infant’s afghan. The only difference is that the fancy tricot stitch is called a double-hook afghan stitch. It is described in additional detail, together with an illustration of a double hook in a separate section on “Detail Stitches of Afghans” that includes both ordinary and long-hook crochet stitches.

double-ended

The 8th edition includes a second instruction using the double hook (which may also be in the 6th or 7th eds., that I haven’t examined, either). This is for a “Men’s Golf Vest” using both the basic afghan stitch and the double-hook afghan stitch, worked on a “bone crochet hook, 12-inch, No. 6” and a “double-ended crochet hook, 12-inch, No. 7” respectively. (Some authors make a clear distinction between tricot hooks and crochet hooks, but Schumacker is not among them.)

Skipping over another sequence of revisions, the 17th ed. published in 1916, makes no mention of the double ended hook. However, it does appear in the 19th ed. from 1918, used to produce one of a number of “Detail Stitches of Afghans.” This “Double Hook Afghan Stitch” is not presented as being in any way noteworthy. It is identical to the “fancy tricot stitch” published in 1904 and had apparently moved toward a more central position in the repertoire of crochet stitches in the interim.

Other instructions in the earlier editions of the Columbia Book still call the basic long-hook stitch a tricot stitch but do not invariably prescribe a long hook for it, sometimes calling for a “crochet hook” and leaving its length to individual preference. The inverse situation also applies and ordinary crochet stitches are illustrated on far longer hooks than they intrinsically require. This may be for the sake of pedagogical clarity rather than describing everyday practice. However, as noted in the preceding post and will be further exemplified in a coming one, an illustration of someone using a long hook does not conclusively demonstrate that they are engaged in Tunisian crochet.

Crochet · History · Tools · Tunisian crochet

A Scottish knitter

In her book Tricot Crochet, Rebecca Jones presents a drawing of a woman using what appears to be a single knitting needle to work yarn into fabric. This would require the needle to have a hooked tip but no structural details of the fabric are visible. She got it from the Loch Ness Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit, Scotland without information about its origin beyond being told that it depicted the 1st Duchess of Sutherland, Elizabeth Sutherland Leveson-Gower (24 May 1765 – 29 January 1839):

tricot-sutherland

Jones notes that the drawing would obviously have been made before the Duchess’s death in 1839, thus providing evidence of what she presumed to be tricot crochet being known and practiced earlier in the 19th century. This dating, as well as the Scottish nexus of the drawing, hinge on the correct identification of its subject. Fortunately, this can be corroborated by an oil portrait of the Duchess painted by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, who died in 1811 and did his last work in the 1790s. She is noticeably younger in the portrait but her facial features are concordant in both images:

sutherland-dance-holland

If we accept that she was in her 30s in the portrait, it would have been among Holland’s later works and the drawing of her with the long hook would have been done at some time after 1800. (The portrait in the Wikipedia article linked to above shows the Duchess at an even younger age but is not as clearly congruent in all facial details. Despite what may have been artistically licensed rhinoplasty, the eyes still have it.)

The drawing as it appears here is certain to have lost detail through repeated copying, but the position of the hands in it seems to conceal the stitching to an extent that makes its specific identification difficult. (Unequivocal evidence of tricot would be provided by at least a partial row of stitches being shown on the hook.) Regardless of the additional information the original drawing might reveal, it provides clear evidence of a long hook being used for some form of crochet in Scotland at least two decades before the first published descriptions of such fabric explicitly made with that implement.

The name the Duchess used for the depicted activity is a matter of speculation. If it was a craft she had learned as a child or in her youth, it would most likely have been what we now call slip stitch crochet. In that case the drawing provides evidence of the long hook being used in a context where a flat hook might otherwise have been expected. However, such use is illustrated elsewhere and is a fully plausible alternative that leads to the nomenclatural can of worms where shepherd’s knitting and Scottish knitting (tricot écossais) are found.

If the Duchess followed trends in the development of the hooked yarncraft, or first turned her attention to it later in life, by the 1830s ordinary crochet would be an unsurprising further alternative. The long hook is attested in that context as well — a craft generally termed ‘crochet’ regardless of the type of hook used for it.

Finally, tricot stitches that intrinsically require the use of a long hook were varied and sophisticated by the time of their initial description in the fancywork press in 1858. Although we don’t know when their development started, it is entirely reasonable to take the pre-1839 drawing as evidence of it.

In any case, there appears to have been a substantive basis for the name Tricot Ecossais introduced by Riego. Whatever its actual derivation may have been, it seems likely that it was not simply a fanciful coinage.

Crochet · History · Tunisian crochet

Scottish knitting

This post is currently being revised

I have an article in the Winter 2020 issue of PieceWork, titled Evolution in Early Crochet: From Flat-Hook Knitting to Slip-Stitch Crochet. It supplants the text that originally appeared in this post, which will be refocussed on providing supplementary information to the article. The issue where the article appears can be obtained digitally and in print from the publisher of PieceWork.