Crochet Classifications

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We spoke in a previous article about the past and the present changes in crochet. And if indeed it should still be called crochet since the art form…and indeed the needles used are very different today then the traditional needles and threads used. In Textile History in 2018 was a wonderful article call Defining Crochet by Cary Karp. Mr. Karp is a retired museum curator based in Sweden who now serves as Director of Internet Strategy and Technology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, International Council of Museums.

It’s an 18 page article in case you go searching for it and want to know if you’ve got the right article. He writes;

Textile classification systems differentiate between the looped structures that characterize the present-day crafts of knitting and crochet. Printed sources prior to the early ninetieth century do not make this distinction, labeling fabric of either structure as knitting, thereby obscuring references to what would not be termed crochet. These can be identified in published instructions, nonetheless, with the prescribed use of a single hook being a ready indicator. Although looping does not inherently require tools and some structures can be made with alternative techniques, certain forms of crochet-type looping depend on the design of the books used to produce them, the typology of such implements provide a framework for tracing the convergence of the precursors of modern crochet into the craft.

What he is specifically talking about is the most relevant consequence of classifying crochet as a ‘double interloped structure’ is that single row of chain stitches is not crochet, and can only become so when a second row of stitches is worked in into the chain. If that second row consists of a plain crochet stitch worked into every stitch in the chain, with successive rows produced in the same manner, the resulting fabric is now commonly termed slip-stitch crochet — the least complex form of closed work. If the stitches in the second row are not worked into every stitch in the chain, forming instead sequences of shorter chains attached to the growing fabric at intervals, the result is termed openwork
crochet. Its simplest regular form is an arched (or diamond) mesh, made by affixing
the end of each sequence of chains in the current row to the midpoint of the adjacent
sequence in the previous row.

This may seem like a lot to bear but this is crochet in two forms. These rows can be independent from each other whereas knit is dependent upon each other. This is a huge defining only because until as recently as the 1890’s crochet fell under the heading knitting. It’s also an important distinction because its really the only one you can use. There are so many different needles in both crafts in the past and the present that defining it by needle may prove far more difficult and you could end up with many more yarn craft types.

This necessitates a subjective judgement about whether craft identity or structural detail is the primary factor in the generic classification of an individual example of such work. The range of slip-stitch traditions also suggests craft identity to be of importance when categorizing that material. Although a specimen of fabric does not necessarily reveal the tool(s) used to produce it, much less the associated terms of art, such information is easily conveyed in a written description. The pre-nineteenth-century texts uniformly treat the closed-work slip-stitch structure made with a hook as a form of knitting, and not a discrete craft. The authors would have been no less able to perceive the morphological distinction between the crochet and knitting types of interlooping than we are, but ascribe no nomenclatural significance to it. They use the term knitting in the sense that Emery defines as interlooping, without subdividing it by the way the loops are interworked.

Added historical detail from 1844: Crochet — a species of knitting originally practiced by the peasants in Scotland, with a small hooked needle called a shepherd’s hook — has within the last seven years, aided by taste and fashion, obtained the preference over all other ornamental work of a similar nature. It derives its present name from the French; the instrument with which it is worked, being by them, from its crooked shape, termed ‘crochet’. This art has attained its highest degree of perfection in England, whence it has been transplanted to France and Germany, and both these countries, although unjustifiably, have claimed the invention.