Crochet: A History Part 1

The word Crochet comes from croc, or croche, the Middle French word for hook, as well as the Old Norse word for hook, krokr. In Holland it is known as Haken, in Denmark, Haekling, in Norway it is Hekling, and in Sweden it is Virkning.

Crochet, itself, is the art of creating fabric from yarn, thread, or any other stranded material using a hook. The material is worked into loops, forming a smooth chain, then followed by any pattern of your choosing.

Through out history, Crochet has been called many things, netting, knotting, needle-coiling, Tunisian crochet, looped needle-netting, Irish crochet, Shepard’s knitting, lace making, and tatting. Each of these techniques, among many others that have also been called Crochet, are worked up with one type of hook, or needle.

Depending on who you ask, the first confirmed traces of Crochet are from somewhere between 1500 (Italy) and 1800 (Europe) BC. These traces are based on the hand technique of Crochet, though this is likely a Middle Eastern technique that has shifted over the times to other civilizations. In Italy and France it was known as Nun’s work or Nun’s Lace. It reached Europe in the 1700s, though at that time it was known as Tambouring. Tambouring bears a strong resemblance to needlework and embroidery, just with crochet stitches. Tambouring is most likely thought to have developed from Chinese needlework, which in itself is a very ancient from of embroidery known in Turkey, India, Persia, and North Africa. Towards the end of the 18th Century, Tambour crochet evolved to no longer need a fabric background and the stitching was worked on its own. Still using a tambouring hook, it became known as “Crochet in the air”.

This is an example of Tambour Crochet. It is very similar to modern day crewel embroidery.

From then on, crochet evolved into shepard’s knitting, then into Irish Crochet during the potato famine (1845-1850). Irish Crochet literally saved lives as it allowed them to work and make money without relying on crops.

Irish Crochet

Modern Crochet, as we know it, started in the early 1900s. Which I will cover in part 2 of my History of Crochet mini series.