When you think of the history of crochet, what comes to mind?
Maybe you think of the crochet boom of the 20th century, and imagine homemakers crafting after World War II, or perhaps you envision the crochet fashions that were popular in the 1970s. While both of those time periods represented a rise in crochet popularity, the craft has actually been around much longer.
Although much has been written about the history of knitting and needle art in general, there isn’t as much information available about the history and origins of crochet.
Because the fibers break down over time, it’s difficult for archaeologists to find evidence of crochet from cultures and civilizations across the centuries and throughout history. Many nations claim to be the original home of crochet, including China, France, Italy, and South Africa. There are also some that claim it originated in the Middle East and was carried along trade routes to Spain.
While we may never know exactly where crochet was born, we can construct a timeline of its more recent history.
This information is based in large part on what has been reported by Nancy Nehring in her article on crochet history that was published in Margaret Hubert’s Complete Guide to Crochet. I would definitely recommend reading the full article in the book if you can since it provides much more information about the details of this timeline!
- 1812 – Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant references “shepherd’s knitting” which is slip stitch crochet. Crochet started as just the slip stitch.
- 1824 – A Dutch magazine named “Penelope” features an article with instructions for slip-stitch crochet techniques.
- 1835 – Crochet bag patterns begin to be more widely published in Dutch and German. By this time chain stitch and single crochet stitch have been added to the designs.
- 1844 – Mercerization is invented. This strengthens cotton making it more durable to crochet with.
- 1846 – Patterns are published in England to reproduce Spanish needle lace. This is the first time that we see patterns that include working through both loops (it was previously only through the back loop) and the first time that we see rows worked back and forth with turning (previously it was worked right to left and the yarn was cut off at the end of each row). This is starting to look like crochet as we know it today!
- Late 1840s – Irish crochet lace becomes a way to make money in Ireland during The Great Irish Famine.
- 1850s and 1860s – Industrialization makes it much more affordable to produce crochet hooks and the Industrial Revolution means that more women have leisure time to fill. This results in more crochet work being done as a hobby.
- 1867 – Harper’s Bazaar launches. This reflects increased literacy among women and magazines for women who want to craft.
- 1886 – DMC Guide to Needlework book is published with information on crochet.
- 1910 – 1920 – The Edwardian fashion style means that crochet work is now more detailed and textured.
- Post WWII – After the war, there was a resurgence in home crafts, and crochet came alive again after it had been mostly forgotten by the general public.
- 1960s and 1970s – Crochet fashions hit a peak. We’ve all seen the granny square items from this time! This is also when freeform crochet begins to be popular.
- 1994 – Gwen Blakley Kinsler founds The Crochet Guild of America to encourage crocheting.
- 2007 – Ravelry launches. Crochet and social media merge. By 2010 Ravelry had one million members.
- 2009 – The Yarn Bombing book is released. Some people think this is an important part of crochet history. Do you?
If this timeline has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more, Crochet Insider has an interview with Nancy Nehring who did research into crochet history.