I’ve just posted an in-depth discussion of and instructions for the Perfect Irish Rose and Irish Rose Leaf in the techniques section (pdf). These two crocheted motifs are probably the most recognized motifs in Irish Crochet. Discussion includes how repeats and progressions are used to make the two motifs and how you can easily memorize the basic formula for each so you’ll never need to search for a pattern again! You’ll also learn how to easily modify the patterns to get the exact look you want.
Category: Crochet and Knit
March and National Crochet Month have rolled around again. This year for Crochetville’s National Crochet Month blog tour, I want to introduce you to a new section on my web page, Quiet Yarns – Textile Artists. You’ll see the section in the right hand column about half way down.
Quiet Yarns is a collection of stories that I will continue to add to about women (and maybe a few men) who did needlework as part of their daily lives. You probably haven’t heard of any of them. They worked quietly in their homes to add a little luxury to their lives, have a creative outlet, do a little needlework to relax, or maybe make a little money to help support their families. Their stories are typical for the times they lived in so were seldom considered important enough to tell. I’ll tell a few here. I’d like to start you off with the story of my grandmother, Laura Nehring, and her crocheted Pansy Bedspread.
If you missed last year’s blog tour, check out my Crochet Hook Classification. It’s a work in progress but already has a lot of good information that will help you identify and date your old crochet hooks. It also has photos of all of the CGOA Commemorative Crochet Hooks.
And finally, if you did not see my blog post last month, I have a free crochet pattern for Carol Danvers’ (aka Captain Marvel) Lucky Hat first seen in Marvel Comics – Captain Marvel Issue 9. The hat looks like and stretches like knit but it is actually made with slip stitch crochet. Since this hat was made by for Carol by her grandmother Rose in the comic, my version features a beautiful crocheted rose.
I have a 20 something friend, Julie, who is taking up crochet. She works from patterns which she gets from both print and the internet. Julie is also a comic book fan and one of her favorite characters is Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. Now Carol has a Lucky Hat (Captain Marvel Issue 9) that her Grandmother Rose made for her and Julie wanted to make herself one. She could find a pattern in knit but not crochet so Julie asked me if I would design a Lucky Hat pattern in crochet. Julie is modeling the result above.
The hat looks like and stretches like knit but it is actually made with slip stitch crochet. Since this hat is crocheted, it uses a beautiful crocheted rose instead of those messy, undefined things in red. The hat was made by Grandma Rose after all.
The pattern for Carol Danvers’ Lucky Hat in crochet is here.
By 1930, cellulose acetate along with specially designed compression molding equipment was available and began replacing celluloid for plastic crochet hooks. The main advantages of cellulose acetate over celluloid were that molding techniques were much faster and cellulose acetate was not flammable.
Like celluloid, cellulose acetate is naturally clear but can be made in any color or opacity. It is tough and flexible. It is easily machined and easily manipulated by hand when softened to 100 degrees C (212 degrees F, boiling). Because it is nonflammable, cellulose acetate was perfect for compression molding which was introduced in 1929 and, later, injection molding introduced in 1934.
About 1929 Tennessee Eastman, a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak, began selling sheets, rods, tubes, and molding powders of Tenite cellulose acetate. Boye began making injection molded crochet hooks out of Tenite. This is the substance the crochet hooks marked
are made from. These came in a wide variety of colors: white, red, yellow, translucent green, sky blue. Patent number 2024794 actually refers to the shape of the hook which is square in cross section. Many other hook manufacturers used cellulose acetate also.
Examples of celluloid crochet hooks (top to bottom) – Diadem Manufacturing Company imitating ivory, tortoise shell imitation, imitation amber hook came in a variety of transparent colors from “apple juice” as shown to “cranberry”, Sunlight Yarn Company with hollow ivory colored handle and solid black plugs at both ends.
The first plastic used for consumer goods, specifically celluloid, was used for crochet hooks as early as 1912. The British patent for celluloid was issued to Parkes in England in 1856. The US patent was issued to Hyatt in 1878 and expired in 1892.
Celluloid is a naturally clear, hard, shiny, durable substance. It can assume any desired color or opacity. Early on, it almost always imitated natural materials: ivory, tortoise shell, amber, horn, coral, agate, malachite, or wood. For crochet hooks, celluloid joined the market imitating the first three of these items. Its main advantage was to manufacturers because celluloid was more consistent in quality and all of the waste could be reused. Its main disadvantage is that it is flammable. Celluloid exposed to high heat or open flame bursts into flame. In the factories, this resulted in frequent fires. At home, women with celluloid buttons on their dresses sometimes had the buttons burst into flame if they got too close to the stove.
Celluloid, ivory, tortoise shell, horn, and bone, all of which were used for larger size crochet hooks, all had some supply problems between 1900 and WWI. The quality of Celluloid varied, sometimes turning color, bubbling, warping, etc. Camphor, derived from the camphor tree and used in the Celluloid manufacturing process, became hard to obtain due to deforestation of the camphor trees in Asia. Eventually, artificial camphor was invented. Ivory was available but the price and quality both fluctuated widely and it was always more expensive than Celluloid. Tortoise shell required a long process to prepare it for use, so it too was more expensive than Celluloid. Horn became scarce by 1900 as ranchers adopted the practice of dehorning cattle before shipping them to market. Cow shin bone of sufficient length became hard to get in the late 1920s as US ranchers began to ship cattle to market at a younger age.
Eventually, celluloid became more consistent in quality, easier to obtain, faster to manufacture, and, therefore, cheaper than natural materials used for crochet hooks although it never completely replaced any of them. That would be done by later proprietary plastics.
WARNING—because Celluloid is constantly degasses and both the gas and the Celluloid itself are flammable, store Celluloid crochet hooks in a container that allows air to circulate and keep Celluloid away from open flames.
Just got copies of my new crochet book Learn Short Row Slip Stitch by Annie’s (formerly DRG – Dynamic Resources Group). My favorite pattern has to be be the Cosy Vest loosely based on a Victorian era pattern called al Hug-Me-Tight. I like the pattern so much that I made one for myself in peach that I wore to the Knit and Crochet Show and CGOA Chain Link Conference last month in Indianapolis. My editor’s favorite pattern is the Wrapped Scarf. You can vary the look by wrapping it one, two or three times around your neck! She’s wearing it to the Knit and Crochet Show in Charlotte next month!
Slip stitch crochet produces a fabric that is nearly identical to 1×1 knit rib. It’s soft, stretchy and flexible. Short rows, a technique borrowed from knitting, shape the slip stitch into unexpected shapes such as domes, wedges and ruffles. Short rows are also used in the book for easy custom bust cup sizing. Order your copy from Annie’s Catalog in either a paper or digital version.
Shortly after 1865 when the Bessemer process for making steel in large batches was invented, making fine crochet hooks using needle making methods was more or less abandoned. Small crochet hooks were fashioned by drawing out the end of a steel rod and fashioning a hook on it. The remaining thick body of the rod became the handle. These one piece hooks were studier, better quality and required less labor (were cheaper to make) than hooks made with needle making technology.
The biggest problem with the rod was that it rolled in the fingers. Every so often you had to stop and look at the hook to rotate it back into position. In 1896, August Kippenberg, a German citizen, was granted US patent 572809 for an integral crochet-hook comprising a shank, a hook at the end thereof, and a flattened portion therein…the grip.
Kippenberg must have taken out similar patents in Germany and England because grips did not become a universal feature of steel rod hooks until sometime between 1912 and 1914 when his patent expired.
The hook pictured with the scissors is from Hadley, Sara, ed., The Lace Maker, D. S. Bennet, vol. 1, no. 5, May 1903.
The Fall 2013 issue of Knitting Traditions by Interweave Press is out and two of Mary Shiffmann’s knitted lace patterns, Star Doily and Freda Frase’s Square Doily (pictured above) are featured.
I first met Mary Schiffmann in 1994 at a meeting of the Lacy Knitters, a group she cofounded to promote lace knitting by collecting, cataloging, and making available old knitted lace patterns. Mary had collected more than 500 patterns in her lifetime, and these form the foundations of the Lacy Knitters pattern bank. Mary very much wanted to see her collection of patterns in print. She felt like a lone crusader in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s as she watched the interest in lace knitting die. Mary died April 28, 1996 [prior to the publication of The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann by Nancy Nehring, Interweave Press, 1998]. Here final words to her knitting friends were, “I spent my life looking for patterns. Don’t you quit.”
Most crochet hooks were made out of common materials so it is a treat to come across a crochet hook with a semiprecious agate handle. The agate handles were manufactured in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, from agate mined in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Historically there were agate deposits at Idar-Oberstein and water power to help work the stone. Local workers became experts at cutting, grinding and polishing the stone. When agate deposits began to play out about 1800, hunger caused many of the workers to emigrate to South America. In 1927 some of these Germans discovered agate deposits in Rio Grande do Sul. The expertise for working agate still remained in Germany and beginning in 1834 raw agate was shipped to Idar-Oberstein as cheap ballast on ships returning empty to Germany. Manufacturing items from Brazilian agate continued until World War II.
Crochet hooks with agate handles were made using the same methods used for bone handled hooks from the mid to late 1800s. A metal collet glued to the bone or agate held a removable steel needle in place. Crochet hook manufacturers who wanted a higher priced line of hooks probably just ordered handles from Idar-Oberstein manufacturers to fit the metal parts they were already using. Some of the hooks were further embellished with silver and the hooks also came in boxed sets with multisized hooks. A lovely gift then and now.
Top to bottom – tatting hook, Presto needle threader, button hook, sley tool, citrus peeler, latch hook, tambour hook, leather working tool made from nail, rug hook
Not every hooked tool is a crochet hook. So what are some of the common hooked tools mistaken for crochet hooks and how do you know? When confronted with a hooked tool that may or may not be a crochet hook, the first thing to do is to try and crochet with it. If you can’t crochet smoothly and rhythmically, it’s not a crochet hook. If it hurts your fingers or hand, it’s not a crochet hook. Pictured above are some hooks often mistaken for crochet hooks. Here’s a little about each.
Tatting hooks are often distinguished by their short length. They are usually under 3″ and sometimes advertised as children’s crochet hooks which they are not. You can use the bone one above to crochet but without the long handle of a regular crochet hook to stabilize the hook against your hand, work does not flow very smoothly.
These pictures show both a tatting hook and a crochet hook from a Ladies Necessities set. Note that the hooks are set in the handles at different angles. It is difficult and uncomfortable to crochet with the tatting hook because of both the short length and angle of hook.
Presto Needle Threader
The Presto Needle Threader was designed to thread sewing machine needles. The spring loaded hook will collapse when inserting the hook into a stitch.
Button hooks have a large open hook. They were used for fastening shoe buttons. Slightly smaller hooks were made for fastening glove buttons. The hook catches when trying to pull the yarn through a stitch. You may find these with the same (and sometimes elaborate) handles as tatting and crochet hooks as they were included in Ladies Necessities.
I often wish these were crochet hooks as they were sometimes made of decoratively carved ivory like the two pictured above. Sley tools are used when warping a loom to pull threads through the reeds and have to be narrow. Sley tools are usually rectangular or oval in cross section with the narrowest width in line with the hook. When crocheting, you try to hold the hook on the narrow side of the rectangular hook or pointy ends of the oval.
These wide flat tools are citrus peelers. Like a sley tool, the hook it at the wrong angle to crochet with easily. If it has an orange painted on it or says Souvenir of Florida, it’s a citrus peeler.
This tiny latch hook was used to repair runs in (knitted) silk stockings. The hook is basically one hook from a knitting machine mounted in a handle. The latch usually doesn’t open when crocheting leaving the yarn trapped in the hook. Large latch hooks are used for rug making.
A tambour hook (bottom in photo above) usually has a screw that tightens against the needle (hook) to hold it in place. The screw serves a second purpose. The opening of the needle is aligned with the screw so you can maintain orientation of the needle as you pick up the thread underneath the work where you can not see (you catch the thread “blind”). Without an orientation guide, the needle would roll out of position as you work. If you try to crochet with a tambour hook, you find your fingers constantly bump into the screw. The earliest crochet hook patents were for handles that secured the needle by methods other than an exposed screw (top in photo above). Tambour hooks and crochet hooks with matching handles were sometimes found in Ladies Necessities.
Leather Working Tools
Heavy leather tack was sewn together by hand. An awl or punch made matching holes in two pieces of leather to be sewn together. A hooked tool pulled heavy thread or leather lacing through the holes forming a loop and a second piece of thread or lacing passed through the loop. The first thread or lacing was tightened until the crossing of the two centered in the holes – like the top and bobbin threads on a sewing machine. Leather workers might make their own tools like the shaped nail above.
Rug hooks come with and without latches. When you try to crochet with these, you want to hold the hook down on the round metal part instead of on the handle. This makes the hook hard to hold and lets the hook rotate out of position as you crochet. The chunky handles give a better grip when pulling yarn or fabric through the mesh base of the rug but get in the way when crocheting.