On July 13, 2019 I had the privilege of being inducted into the Crochet Guild of America Hall of Fame. In my acceptance speech I talked about some of the research I am doing on the history of crochet. You can read the speech here.
Category: Crochet and Knit
My Family Heirlooms Crochet Sample Book won first place in thread in the 2019 CGOA Design Competition. It was inspired by the crochet sample books popular from about 1880-1930 but I had a few” improvements” in mind. Many of the old books had raw fabric pages that ravel so I wanted the individual pages finished. Many of the old books had several empty pages at the back which I don’t like so I wanted mine to be expandable having only as many pages as necessary. Most of the old books have no information on maker, dates, materials, stories, etc. I wanted mine to have room for notes and journaling.
So here are some features of my book. Each fabric page is edge-finished in crochet. Pages are assembled into an expandable book using a unique, flexible button and buttonhole spine. The book is filled with swatches made by me and both my and my husband’s grandmothers and great grandmothers. The backs of edge-crocheted ball bands provide journaling space for family stories and notes.
I already consider this a family heirloom and it’s only 6 months old! I love flipping through the pages and remembering my grandmothers and great grandmothers.
I was thrilled to win the 2019 CGOA Design Competition Grand Prize with my Rockabilly Swing Dress. It features a sweetheart neckline, form-fitting bodice and full skirt. Made with Aunt Lydia’s size 10 crochet cotton using Catherine’s Wheel stitch. Internal shaping used to shape bodice. Cape and gloves complete the ensemble but were not submitted as part of the design competition. The dress took about 150 hours to complete.
My article “Mid-Nineteenth-Century British Crochet Hooks: A Story of Invention” has made its debut in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of PieceWork magazine. It discusses early crochet hook designs and advances in steel technology that made them possible. Dating of hooks is backed by British patents including the patent numbers. Here’s a link to an excerpt from the article.
There haven’t been many articles on crochet hook collecting published. One of the early ones was a magazine article in the June 1979 issue of Crochet World. It’s an interview with Bert Turriff of De Pere, Wisconsin, who collected old hooks using an ad in a trade magazine. You can read the entire article using the link below.
All Crochet Hooks Look Alike by Jean Ferenbach, Crochet World vol 2 no 2, 1979-06, House of White Birches.
The new issue of Vintage Crochet, a special issue of PieceWork magazine, has just been released. I’m thrilled to have an article on Irish Crochet, Bebe Irish Crochet – DYI Irish Crochet from Written Patterns, and two projects – Irish Rose Pillow and Pansy Pillow in the issue. My article discusses changes in Irish Crochet needed to move it from a commercial production technique for a finished product to a written pattern technique that could be worked by a single person.
For magazine purchase:
For digital purchase:
I created this Irish Crochet doll dress as an appreciation piece to see what it was like to make Irish Crochet on the scale used in the 1850s. It is worked with size 80 cordonnet for the motifs and size 100 for the mesh. These thread sizes would have been on the larger size of those used in the 1850s. Working in the 18″ doll format allows use of full-sized stitches while keeping the overall size down. Still the dress took over 300 hours to complete. The dress won the PieceWork Needleworker of the Year First Place in Crochet in 2001/2002.
Here’s where the appreciation comes in. First of all, I didn’t think it would take that long to make this dress and I’m a fast crocheter. I estimate a similar full-sized woman’s dress would have taken about 5000 hours. It also surprised me how much such a little dress weighed. I asked Maire Treanor about the weight and she told me that the Irish Crochet was made in a lightly twisted thread (similar to DMC floche). A tightly twisted thread like cordonnet weights much more than a loosely twisted thread like floche.
The pattern for the dress was published as Irish Crochet Doll: Annie’s Attic leaflet 872651 in 2001. I have a few copies left. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
I’m always surprised at how many people in their 20s are picking up crochet. I guess I don’t notice it because most of the ones I meet are crocheting without patterns. Noelle, one of my daughter’s friends, made this African grey parrot to look like our real African grey parrot named Hermes. It is so lifelike that at least two of us in the family have tried to put the fake Hermes back on his perch! Noelle said she was thinking about putting some of her work up for sale on Etsy. I volunteered to teach her how to write patterns if she would rather sell patterns than finished items since she has never crocheted from a pattern herself. Hope she takes me up on my offer as her work is outstanding.
As my crochet hook collection grew over the years, I began grouping my hooks first by material the hook is made from (not the handle) and then by style. Most of the more ornate and delicate styles are steel needles or hooks used for thread work and are no longer made. I wondered if I could date them. I eventually found four sources of information useful in dating hooks: patents/registered designs, materials technology, company documents and packaging.
Patents and registered designs are the most accurate way to date crochet hooks. Either can date the first release of a hook. Patents are usually for innovations in technology such as US patent 572809 by Kippenberg in 1896 for the flat (grip, thumb rest) found on most hooks today. British registered designs or US design patents are usually for a decorative element such as the handle like the diamond mark, US design patent D52973, on the grip of the Peerless Novelty Company hooks.
Materials technology covers the methods of working steel to form a crochet hook. The goal is to make a hook better, faster and cheaper. Steel for the earliest hooks was made in small batches and the hooks were fashioned the same as sewing needles. Later innovations allowed steel to be made in large batches and later still to have the steel formed by stamping machines. Materials technology gives a broader date range as it took time for the industry as a whole to switch from one technology to another. A new company might have to be formed or an established company might have to retool before a new technology would be incorporated.
Major milestones in materials technology for crochet hooks included the changes from small batch steel to large batch steel (Bessemer process patented in 1856) seen in the shift from needles in separate handles to one piece hooks, improvements in tool steel that allowed rods to be stamped into hooks instead of hooks being cut into the rod and decorations worked by lathe turning, and the switch from stamping to swagging. A summary of the materials technology in table format is shown in this link. Associated technologies can also be used to date crochet hooks such as offset lithography on tinplate, usually associated with tin toys, used for crochet hook covers.
Company documents such as advertisements, wholesale catalogs, incorporations, mergers and even litigation over trademarks can provide information on the age of a hook or the length of time a particular hook was manufactured. Advertisements and wholesale catalogs usually only give spot data on when a hook was in production but don’t address when it was first or last made. Legal documents such as articles of incorporation and mergers may put outer limits on the dates a hook was made. British crochet hook manufacturers in the early 1800s were cottage industries. These small manufacturers and their brands might cease to exist after a generation or two or might be consolidated into larger companies such as Milward with logos and brand names being used by the purchasing company. Legal documents can date these events.
Packaging can sometimes by useful in dating crochet hooks especially modern hooks. Boxes holding a dozen hooks were used from about 1900 into the 1960s. In the 1960s C. J. Bates changed to individual blister packages for needlework tools and won several awards in the packaging industry. Most large companies followed suit. Changes in the packaging such as price, whether there is a zip code (see image of package without zip code), and changes in logos and trademarks can all help with dating. For the Clipson hook shown, the Clipson trademark was registered in December 1949 and zip codes were created in 1963 so this packaging is from between 1950 and 1963.