Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crochet Bursts onto the Scene.... 2nd in a Series of 4

Detail of crochet lace done by me.
Although a modern pattern, it
does have 19th c. elements.
"Lace...It All Starts Somewhere" was a piece I posted in August 2011. Filet, Needle and Pillow/Bobbin Lace were presented as early and popular forms of lace making. These lace techniques would remain popular to varying degrees through the Edwardian era on into the 1920s, but their decline would begin much earlier. The decline of these popular laces is complex and can be found in the changing tastes, technology, talent, and introduction of new forms of lace-making that would become available.  To use a modern euphemism, the introduction of Crocheting and Tatting would  burst onto the scene in the 1840s and 1850s forever altering the art of lace making.

Reproduction lamp mat with beaded
crocheted lace edging I crocheted
fusing a couple different 1860s
Peterson's magazine patterns.
It is not uncommon to read texts describing crocheting and tatting as centuries old or even ancient techniques. In short, this is simply not the case. Indeed, these forms grew out of old, even ancient techniques, but the crocheting and tatting we recognize today have only existed for approximately 155-170 years.  It is difficult to pin down an exact year that modern crochet begins, but we can say it is fully realized by 1845 and not earlier than the 1820s. It appears its modern seeds are found in the 18th century techniques of tambour (or nun's work) and shepherd's knitting. Tambour is most frequently credited to France and Shepherd's Knitting to Scandinavia. Both areas have a rich history of needlework.

Lady's wool petticoat (c.1860s-1880s) 
done primarily with the Afghan
crochet stitch from my collection.
There is also Afghan or Tunisian Crochet a slightly different and less familiar technique. This technique ebbs and flows in popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Afghan crochet's beginnings are even less certain than traditional crocheting, but there is evidence that it may indeed have begun in or around Afghanistan or Northern Africa.

Much of crochet's appeal lies in the ease of technique, inexpense of materials and quickness of results. The main reason the technique to spread throughout Europe and North America quickly after its development lies in technology. At the same time the technique is perfected in the 1840s, so is the ability for middle class ladies to subscribe to monthly periodicals or magazines and have the purchasing power for readily available and inexpensive materials. Publications like Godey's Lady's Book and Peterson's Magazines, companies like DMC and JP Coats and creative, influential women like Therese de Dillmont and Mlle Eleanor Riego de la Branchardiere were eager to instruct, influence and sell to the growing middle class.

Detail of Irish crochet lace collar
c. 19teens from Old World
Wisconsin's collection
It would be remiss not to mention the Irish Potato Famine in the spread of the popularity of crochet. During this time of great tragedy for the Irish, Ireland would, too, play a roll in crochet's popularity. French Nuns taught crochet lace to some of the poorest Irish women and children. They hoped to create a cottage industry so these women could work and feed their families. In short, they were indeed successful. Imported Irish Lace would be popular throughout the the 2nd half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Irish crocheted lace would also become a sub-culture of crochet all unto its own.

Piece of crocheted lace
c.19teens-1920s from my collection
The average Victorian lady in both America and England was eager to consume the latest styles and learn the newest techniques in handwork. Easy to learn and quick to master, crocheting would indeed burst onto the scene in the 19th century and become a beloved form of handwork.  Rather than villanize the myth that crochet is an ancient art. I would rather put forth the idea that in a relatively short period of time crochet has been so fully embraced that it has become one of the most recognizable forms of handwork in the modern world. So recognizable in fact, we cannot imagine a time when it did not exist.

Full view of the lace doily. This is one of my favorite pieces
that I have crocheted. It was done about 10 years ago.
The pattern was found in one of the late-1990s
monthly editions of Magic Crochet published
by Les Editions de Saxe S.A, Danbury, CT.

Up Next: Tatting....

Liz Paludan, Crochet History & Technique, (Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1995).

S.F.A Caulfield, and Blanche C Savard, The Dictionary of Needlework, (London: 1887).

Kathleen Warnick, and Shirley Nilsson, Legacy of Lace, (New York: Crown Publishers, 1988).

Heidi Marsh (Compiled By), Knit, Net, Crochet and More of the Era of the Hoop, (Greenville, CA: Self-Published, 1993).

Annie Louise Potter, A Living Mystery: The International Art & History of Crochet, (United States of America: AJ Publishing International, 1990).

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating history! I love crocheting rugs but have never done anything delicate like your lace doily. Beautiful!