India : Dhokra

Dhokra (also spelt Dokra) is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used. One of the earliest known lost wax artifacts is the dancing girl of Mohenjo-Daro. The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated. The lost wax technique for casting of copper based alloys has also been found in China, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Central America, and other places.

The process- There are two main processes of lost wax casting: solid casting and hollow casting. While the former is predominant in the south of India the latter is more common in Central and Eastern India. Solid casting does not use a clay core but instead a solid piece of wax to create the mold; hollow casting is the more traditional method and uses the clay core.

The first task in the lost wax hollow casting process consists of developing a clay core which is roughly the shape of the final cast image. Next, the clay core is covered by a layer of wax composed of pure beeswax, resin from the tree Damara orientalis, and nut oil. The wax is then shaped and carved in all its finer details of design and decorations. It is then covered with layers of clay, which takes the negative form of the wax on the inside, thus becoming a mold for the metal that will be poured inside it. Drain ducts are left for the wax, which melts away when the clay is cooked. The wax is then replaced by the molten metal, often using brass scrap as basic raw material. The liquid metal poured in hardens between the core and the inner surface of the mold. The metal fills the mold and takes the same shape as the wax. The outer layer of clay is then chipped off and the metal icon is polished and finished as desired.

Afghanistan

War Rugs from Afghanistan

In an age of globalization, museums have become the preferred venue for cultural tourism, transporting works from one locale to another to offer visitors a sense of cross cultural experience without travel. Traditionally, these objects have flown “West”-ward. Exhibiting visual and material works of non-Global North societies for Global North audiences as cultural artifacts has a long, problematic history, most notably as part of the World’s Fairs of the nineteenth century. Such exhibitions were connected to colonialism and imperial expansion (DUN DUN DUNNNNN), a heritage that makes negotiating the power dynamics in contemporary displays difficult. Yet, this very task is undertaken in the exhibition of war rugs from Afghanistan providing an entry point for a cross cultural, transnational dialog.

The Afghan “war rugs” are mounted as wall hangings and display themes including such topics as crossfire, Western perspectives, landmines, and symbolic animals.The juxtaposition of handcrafted textiles and images of warfare shatter certain common assumptions about the craft like being domestic, feminine, apolitical, and nonviolent spaces—is complicated through a subversion of the expected and conventional. It is, perhaps, the perceived benign nature of crafts that allows this war imagery to be blatant when open resistance of another kind would be suppressed. The use of butterflies, symbolizing the butterfly-shaped landmine, to adorn a tree converts weaponry to a decorative feature. The immediate materiality of the handcrafted object, mixed with representations of helicopters, landmines, artillery, and tanks create an undeniable sense of the presence of warfare to distant audiences.

Made with Afghan Crochet these war rugs are not merely then just a depiction of a land in turmoil there are certainly now economic factors at work here, reading the rugs solely as commodified interpretations of “Western” desires by Afghan producers ignores other conditions of their production. As suggested by Ariel Zeitlin Cooke, crochetings of war are best viewed as resulting from the “twin needs of subsistence and self-expression,” so that the textiles should be interpreted as both a mirror of Global North desires and a window to Afghan experiences. Denying the political agency of Afghan crafters threatens to constrain meaning making exclusively within the realm of artistic or market critique, essentially dislocating the rugs from politics.

Afghan crochet is the technique in which you usually use a longish hook with a stopper on the end. You pick up loops on the forward pass and then remove them with the return pass. (Stop me if this sounds familiar…..no not yet…hang on) You can think of it as a combination of knitting and crochet. It’s easiest for me to explain as “assembly-line” crochet. You start your stitches all the way across, then you close your stitches all the way across. Because of this repetition of one step at a time, it’s far easier for beginners to learn, especially children, than typical crochet. (Still not? Okay)

So, why do we now call it Tunisian crochet when it’s been known as afghan stitch since the 1970s? No, it’s not some hoity-toity marketing gimmick. Well, at least it’s not a marketing gimmick ‘now’. It certainly may have been when it was first called Tunisian crochet in England over 100 years ago. The term “afghan stitch” is just one of the many stitches in a family of stitches called Tunisian crochet. With it quick color changes and complicated design it’s certainly one of the more involved crochet cultures. But, motivation to tell a story and make their place in the world shows that if you want it it can be done. While we all can learn a lesson from these rugs that will never leave us lets hope its the one crochet that will never be fashionable to own for the hard story it tells about the struggles of ones culture to survive.

Italy

Sonia Brunalti is one the leading historians on Italian Crochet. She did a wonderful interview with a fellow crocheter Veruska Sabucco and here’s what we learned about Italian crochet and the its most popular form; Italian Lace.

She gave us some overall background information about Italian crochet lace. In Italy, Irish crochet lace arrived in the early 20th century, at a time when the local aristocracy needed a way to increase its dwindling resources. It took hold because many women had expert needlecraft skills. Irish lace, born to imitate Venetian needle lace, became both a popular artistic handicraft and a flourishing business enabling women to promote and earn money through their work. To meet the growing worldwide demand for Irish lace, lace-making was organized in an assembly-line manner, with each worker doing a specialized job.

But it wasn’t the Irish lace we learned about in Ireland nor that of the Spanish lace from last week. For example, the Umbria region was fertile ground for Irish crochet. There was an ancient tradition of weaving, embroidery and lace, for example Ars Panicalensis. In 1904, marchioness Elena Guglielmi brought several crochet lace teachers from Ireland to the Isola Maggiore, an island on the Trasimeno lake. They were to teach Irish crochet lace to local fishermens daughters, and the technique was given the name punto Irlanda (Irish stitch). The school was so successful that more and more pupils came. Women produced exquisite and extremely delicate lace with thin metal hooks working from designs created by well-known artists. A renowned teacher of the art was Elvira Tosetti-De Sanctis, schoolmaster until after World War II. Her name can be found on every popular book about this subject. After the war the school ceased operation.

Particularly in the town of Orvieto, Irish crochet took on a life of its own, developing a deep bond with local artistic treasures and iconography. In 1907, a group of noblemen created a patronage called Ars Wetana again with the intent of allowing townsfolk the means to sustain themselves by women’s work. Ars Wetana is one of the names by which Orvieto Irish lace is still called. Ars Wetana crochet uses a thread much thinner than that used in Irish crochet lace: when it was still available, thread of 250 were used, versus the 100 thickness of today that, to the expert, is considered coarse. Small iron bars were heated and applied on the wrong side of motifs to create a three-dimensional effect.

What I want you to understand in the midst of all this is that Italy is not country yet.The formation of the modern Italian state began in 1861 with the unification of most of the peninsula under the House of Savoy (Piedmont-Sardinia) into the Kingdom of Italy. Italy incorporated Venetia and the former Papal States (including Rome) by 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Prior to Italian unification (also known as the Risorgimento), the United States had diplomatic relations with the main entities of the Italian peninsula: the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the Papal States. With the exception of the World War II years when Benito Mussolini’s government declared war upon the United States (1941-43), the United States has had warm relations with the Kingdom of Italy and, after 1946, its successor, the Republic of Italy. But it’s actual fully incorporated founding date is June 2, 1946. Before this Italy was a combination of city states that had been that way since before the Roman Republic. What does this have to do with crochet? Well it has to do with supply and demand, and with culture.

The Orvieto school is in the middle of the peninsula and that’s a very religious group at this time because Rome is there. The school used the same techniques as had been employed in Irish crochet: a basic pattern for the shape of the finished piece on which motifs were then basted, then connected with a trellis, or background net, using threads of different thickness for the net and for motifs. Motifs were worked around padding cord to create volume and movement. But Orvieto crochet departed from the Irish style significantly by using newly imagined designs for motifs, and different types of filler patterns. The typical picot net disappeared. The net was no longer regular, but became irregular, almost improvised, to the effect that motifs, worked with extreme precision, were greatly enhanced. On this new irregular net, along with motifs, small rings appeared, called acinini, used to fill the empty spaces between motifs. Groups of small nebula-like hexagons often filled the center of tablecloths and doilies. From this central point of interest, the real motifs spread. The Umbria school found inspiration in Orvietoâ’s famous Duomo (cathedral) reliefs, producing classic motifs inspired by the the Biblical Eve as she was depicted on the front of the Duomo, deers, and mythological birds and gryphons. Crocheted lace reproduces all those creatures in an extremely realistic way, with raised crocheted feathers almost detached from the background. The motifs were surrounded by fluid branching plants, these in turn adorned with delicate ribbing. Overall, this was a true artistic and narrative language.

Spain

Lace as we know it today had its origin in the decoration of washable linen which came into general use in the fifteenth century for ecclesiastical, personal, and household purposes. Beautiful results were attained by drawing threads or cutting out spaces to be filled in with decorative lace stitches. The next step in the development of lacemaking was called reticello. The first pattern book to mention this work is Vecellio, published in 1591, and the famous Sforza inventory of 1493 uses the term but applied to trimming of sheets. In the process of making reticello, the desired open spaces were cut from the linen and a piece of parchment or stiff material was required to support the threads that formed the framework of the pattern. On this counted linen thread foundation the needle wrought beautiful laces of geometric designs. An example of this reticello in the exhibition is the border whose linen foundation has been cut in squares and the remaining threads entirely overworked, accented at intervals with conventional four petalled flowers. Due to its fast growing popularity, this alluring type of work sprang from a pas- time of leisure and luxury to a thriving industry even in the poorest homes and communities. Reticello rapidly developed into punto in aria or “stitch in air,” in which no linen foundation was used, the thread being woven with the needle accentuating the design firmly over a parchment pattern, then working it in with button hole and various mesh stitches. This name first appeared in 1529 in Tagliento’s long list of stitches in which his designs were to be carried out. According to Elisa Ricci’ this title “stitch in air” might be generically applied to all needle laces whose designs are independent of linen, are not raised, and have no background. 

    The pictures to this article are an example of modern Spanish lace. With crafting becoming more and more popular, contemporary artists from around the world are exploring the creative possibilities of age-old traditions. Recently, Spanish crochet teacher Eva Pacheco showed that textiles can do more than keep you warm in the winter. She and her students created a colossal canopy made up of dozens of crocheted squares intricately woven in old world Spanish lace designs with crochet needles. 

    This handmade awning is installed in the main shopping corridor in the Southern Spanish town of Alhaurín de la Torre, in Malaga. The project began three years ago after the city council’s Department of the Environment sought a more sustainable way to shade the high-traffic pedestrian area in the summer. Since then, Pacheco and her students have continued adding to their creation—using recycled fabric in a variety of vibrant colors—so that it now covers almost 500 square meters (5, 381 square feet).

North America

An American Tale….the Granny Square

The granny square first made its debut in 1891, in The Art of Crocheting as an engraving. It wasn’t until 1897, however, that a written pattern was published in Weldon’s Practical Needlework. That pattern is one of the few things that has translated pretty much fully to today in crochet. As we’ve learned from past articles most everything else would be unrecognizable to us to a certain point (like 1920). The only difference is that the granny clusters on the first one only contained two double crochet as opposed to three. Other than that it is the same as the granny square we are familiar with today.


The Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares (Fawcett, 1975), features a collection of granny-based designs, notes that grannies have been around for “as long as anyone can remember… Making colorful afghans by joining small squares,” the book’s introduction says that this “is one of the most traditional and American forms of crochet.” So strongly was this style of crochet identified with the United States that in Europe, it was called American crochet.


It’s an easy project, requiring zero eye sight and you can use all the scrapes of yarn you have from all your left over projects to make whatever stitches you feel like and create something amazing. Using scraps, regardless of color allowed crocheters of old to use yarn they otherwise couldn’t have used. The practice also inevitably led to the almost gaudy bursts of unlikely color pairings, usually bordered by black. Perhaps then this is where those gaudy Christmas sweaters came from (though Mrs. Weasley’s always made me want one). Yarn in 1891 was much more precious and scarce than yarn today. They couldn’t just pop on down to their local store or even go online. Even if they could have, they were unlikely to have the money. Those grannies and granny squares were the ultimate yarn stash busters.


The project isn’t just popular with long time crocheters but these squares are so easy they are one of the most common projects for new yarnists so even a beginner can quickly experience the rush of a finished object. The most basic square is typically only four or six inches, worked in just a few rounds. And we were all a beginner once who took on a project that was larger then we thought and perhaps we came to view it as a little larger then life and so we stopped working on it countless times because it was never going to get done….as my sister who made a purse and then couldn’t bear to finish it because it was taking for ever so she weaved twisty ties together and knotted them through the bottom and created a beach bag….hey, the bottom is water proof.


Granny squares saw a resurgence in the 1970’s and 80’s, and much like those hippie crocheted pants from the 1970’s, granny squares became popular again. In 2010, Cate Blanchett walked the red carpet in a granny-inspired dress for an opening at the Australian Center for the Moving Image. Designed by an Australian design team called Romance Was Born, the dress—rendered in traditional bright colors with black borders—drew out the best and worst in critics. Some dubbed the actress Cate Blanket.


Following on the heels of the dress, British designer Christopher Kane dove deep into granny-square waters for his 2011 fall runway show, which featured a variety of dresses and skirts rendered in a fabric with oversized grannies in subtle blue and gray hues. Kane seemed to be reaching for a new and exciting way to view this dappled motif, but reactions invariably included references to afghans.

Dutch

    In the 19th century, Dutch lace-making connected to the Ulster textile industry, as expensive linen pieces were trimmed with Dutch lace and linen thread used to make fine lace products for the home. The first details of crocheting emerged in the Dutch magazine “Penelope” in 1823, with an exhibit of then-stylish purses crocheted with silk thread. From which the work received its name. Like many of you, I wanted to know what that pattern looked like. And it begged the question; why are we not still making extremely delicate items with silk thread? Is it about time spent, durability, or cost effectiveness?  We know for certain their crochet, with stitches taller than just slip stitch, existed by 1822. That meant there had to be a commercial market for crochet already in existence in 1822. That market was in France supporting the Paris fashion industry (we’ve talked about those delicate feminine creatures).    

    Second, the Penelope article referred to the purses it was providing patterns for as being “in vogue”. But to be in vogue, very similar purses had to already exist  And they must have been crocheted. Penelope would have printed patterns in another technique if crochet wasn’t popular. In this plate from the magazine, the top 3 purses are crocheted, the bottom 2 use other techniques. 

    Skip head to today and you have what is becoming very popular ‘Hygge’ it hasn’t always been a crochet term (or yarn type) but it is a way of life. It’s the Danish quality of “coziness and comfortable conviviality”. It sounds great to me. Hygge yarn is extremely soft and drapey, despite its quick-to-stitch bulky size. The base yarn is twisted with a fur end, which adds a lovely texture that is wonderful to work with. Red heart has some for around 7 dollars a skein but if you really want to give it a go…https://woolfolkyarn.com/shop/hygge/ it looks like the warmest yarn you’ve ever felt in your life and absolutely a far cry from the silk threads of yesteryear. Those threads run from the very thin to 20g and 50g, which are are more popular today if you are going to imitate old fashion patters, and they drap well on the body. 

England

England; because the world revolved around them during this time (cough cough). Since Irish Crochet was a cheap and fast(ish) way of making lace, the higher class of society in early Victorian Britain considered it ‘below them.’ What with their dark colored clothes covering them from chin to wrist to the ground, cages, bustles and all the layers in between, perhaps they just dreaded wearing something else.

To make crochet more fashionable, Queen Victoria bought Irish crochet lace from the women in Ireland who were trying desperately to make money. She learned crocheting herself and produced eight crocheted scarves. She gave each one to veterans of the South African war…it would be interesting to see her handiwork. So English crochet is a little complicated. So for example, the American single crochet is the same as the British double crochet. The American double crochet is the same as the British treble crochet.

Here’s a little chart to help:

American CrochetBritish Crochet
Single CrochetDouble Crochet
Half Double CrochetHalf Treble Crochet
Double CrochetTreble Crochet
Treble CrochetDouble Treble Crochet
Double Treble CrochetTriple Treble Crochet
GaugeTension
SkipMiss


However…
Treble crochet in UK terms or double crochet in US terms is a taller stitch then double crochet (UK). It is around twice as tall as double crochet which means that your work will grow more quickly with this stitch, in the same way as a wall would grow more quickly if you used taller bricks. Just throwing that out there in case you want to really give that a shot. Those are just the closest they come to a translation. The good news if you can read UK you can Australian (there’s something to be said for colonization I suppose).


So if you decide to invest in some UK patterns (and they are out there) start with learning some new words and what those new words really mean. Also pay attention when reading the patterns,most modern patterns will state if using US or UK terms, older patterns will usually list the country the pattern is from.

Ireland

We move from France to Ireland in this article and while it may seem a natural course it’s actually going to separate what we’ve learned so far modern Crochet has its roots here. Something to remember about the evolution of crochet is that the needle work of china became knitting in the 11th century and modern crochet fabric emerged as part of the textile revolution in the 19th century. So if we get in our time machine and go back to 1590 you won’t see the crochet that you’re currently working on. Much like language you might not even recognize it.


Crochet in Ireland has a fascinating history. While knitting was popular, crochet is a unique art form there. You can identify Irish crochet pieces by their lacy, netlike backgrounds with applied or set in motifs. Irish crochet lace started as a way to easily produce lace that resembled the much-sought (and expensive) Venetian lace. Originating in France, it made its way to convents in Ireland as early as the late 18th century. In 1845 Irish lace was being taught in the Ursuline Convent in County Cork. And it is this artistry that emerged during the Potato Plight that quickly became a cottage industry for women. Church of Ireland philanthropic leaders taught crochet lace as famine relief projects in the north of the country and in Kildare and Cork. By 1851, approximately 16,000 women were working in crochet, thus saving Ireland.


Unlike most forms of crochet, worked in either rounds or rows, traditional Irish crochet (sometimes just called Irish Lace or freeform crochet) is made up of motifs that are joined with mesh stitches forming lace. Irish Crochet Lace was traditionally made with a very fine steel crochet hook and fine crochet linen thread, though modern Irish Crochet lace is made with mercerized thread or a cotton crochet thread, perle cotton in varying weights, and even finer weight wool or cotton yarns. It begins with an outline of the pattern on a piece of cloth. Each motif is then crocheted separately, using cotton cord for volume and shaping. The most traditional examples of this craft are so delicate that you may not even realize that they are crocheted. You can also make a more modern interpretation of Irish crochet with thicker materials and bold colors. The finer the thread, the more delicate your lace will be. Irish crochet motifs use stitches that even beginners are familiar with, and most modern patterns come in the form of charts. Check out our chart of symbols if you need some guidance. And if you want to play it back and save the homestead for yourself more traditional Irish crochet designs are available through the Antique Pattern Library.


A particular Irish style of lace Clones lace has been making a come back in recent years. There’s actually a great book about it that I flipped through last night (curtesy of my Amazon prime unlimited account…which sorry (not sorry) is an amazing place to be. Anyway the books is called Clones Lace and it’s by Maire Treanor. Clones lace was made in the Cavan/Monaghan/Fermanagh area. Clones lace is made with floral designs accented with picots or knots. Its really brilliant!

France

In this next article we move from China to France. This may seem like a large jump however, crochet actually started in Europe here first. It came here as part of the trade on the silk road and then expanded to something delicate and light, something we don’t practice with our bulky and warm wool yarns. The word crochet came from the Old French word crochet, meaning ‘small hook.’ Which in turn is from croche. Croche comes from the Germanic word croc. Both mean hook. Now, it’s far as this point to talk about the Germanic states in the 1600’s.


Let’s just cover Germanic states and crochet very briefly here, not because its inconsequential, but because there’s only two really interesting things to come out of the region; the German scalped crochet stitch that’s fairly new to the game and the way they started crocheting. When you are speaking of Germany’s early modern period you are speaking about a time from c.1500 to around 1800. They were divided religiously and politically. It is the time of the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither and empire, nor holy, nor roman…but they tried). It’s also the time of the Reformation (Hello, Martin Luther). These entities being what they were meant that the region was under a constant state of violence both on the ground level and politically.


But court still needed lace and in Germany they believed that one should always keep the tension, either crocheting loosely or tightly but keep to one. The also said that unless you are working in a circle you should tie off every end. Every. End. We wouldn’t work both side of crochet until like 1920……yeah about that. We’ll get there. The German scalp stitch is similar to others buts flourishes are smaller more delicate….its also made with a smaller yarn though not as thin as the French thread used during this same time. That brings us back to the French. Crochetage means a single stitch used to join separate bits of lace together. People used this term in making French lace in the 1600s. The word crochet came to describe both the hook and the craft. Before Yarn crochet was thread crochet. Remember that up to this point yarn as we know it wasn’t a thing for this… that would change in Ireland when threads would become finer and thicker. At this point its a thin thread and they are making lace. Elaborate, expensive lace. This is before patterns are published; we’ll get to that Dutch Penelope article from 1823. When we get to the Danes I’ll also talk about Nalebinding which is knitting and crochet with a needle instead off a hook.


In France, they had the Tambour crochet which also involved beading and is a professional hand beading technique that is performed with a hook in a holder. This holds a shortened French Cornelli needle, and is used to bead onto fabric that is stretched over a frame. This technique is used in French Couture to embellish gowns, interiors and accessories. And we’ve all seen examples of those gowns and surprisingly I’ve even see a how to instagram recently. However if you don’t know what it is you might take it for a trick of the light needle point. The French work is done with the thinnest of threads and the smallest of needles making truly elaborate pieces of art work.


It was this expensive piece of haberdashery that made Ireland embrace the bulky, comfy (more then at hand) sheep’s wool and create something cheeper, stronger and more attainable to everyday life.

China

Research suggests that crochet probably developed most directly Chinese needlework. Since this art is believed to be the oldest; I’ll cover this next for our around the world series. If you look at our previous articles you’ll see Amigurumi; which is essentially the same as crochet, only it refers  to the process of making 3-D toys, and Tunisian Simple stitch which takes 4 seconds longer to make then a traditional double crochet stitch (a US single stitch). Neither of these things would be possible without that first Chinese needlework.

            Chinese needlework was widespread by the Han Dynasty (1027-221 BCE). There are today five different types the oldest being Yue embroidery from the Guangdong Province and the youngest being the Su school of Chinese Embroidery. However, it is the chain stitches used to make tambour lace and needlelace that are believed to have given us our beginnings in macrame and crochet. Chain stitch is an old craft that archaeologists have found evidence of as far back as the Warring States period between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE. Excavated from royal tombs, the embroidery and lace was made using silk threads. From here Chain stitch spread to Iran and onto the Silk Road.

            There are several Chinese crochet stitches that are popular today and that we will go over in this article. The  Chinese Puzzle stitch, the Chinese lanterns stitch and the Chinese lace stitch.

            The Chinese Puzzle stitch uses two different types of double crochet to create it. The Puzzle stitch gives a knitted look that if you create squares will give you a beautifully textured Afghan blanket. Please take into consideration before starting such a project that the edges of the squares will not lay flat and you will have to block it. For this I would use a 5.5 or a 6 to complete the pattern. Chain a multiple of 7 its; plus add an additional 4 sets starting the chain. The final finished dimensions will be 8” by 8” blocked. I’ll provide more detail instruction in an upcoming post. The Puzzle stitch and Puzzle Stitch Afghan are one of those challenges we take to brush up on our skills no matter what level you’re at. I love looking at it now in the cold season when I think I’m going to be crocheting. The recommended yarn for this project is Medium weight/Worsted weight and Aran (16-20 stitches to 4 inches).

            The next stitch we’ll cover is the Chinese lantern stitch. This stitch is composed of double and single crochet stitches and chain spaces. Chain multiple of 8 and 2 start out this process and again I’ll post more detailed instructions in my tips and patterns sections. This lantern shaped stitch is good for light weight blankets and those that small children will become attached to.

            Our last stitch to be discussed in this article is the Chinese lace stitch. This is the oldest of the stitches and you can do this with the lightest weight silk thread or a thicker, hardier yarn for colder months. The lace stitch will require blocking materials and a 3.75mm hook. Unlike some Chinese knitted lace and French lace you won’t need the bobbins. If you are very apt at this stitch you may find you don’t need the blocking though it does come highly recommended. Most lace patterns recommend starting out with a single foundation stitch.

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