Vintage Crochet History: 1940

It’s time to begin a new decade in my research into vintage crochet history. We finished up 1930s crochet and now let’s move into the 1940’s, starting, of course, with the first year of the decade. Here’s what I found so far in crochet from 1940.

About Crochet in 1940

1940 crochet

Of course the thing that stands out about this time in history is World War II. Many books reference “wartime knitting” or “wartime crochet” at the start of the decade. If you want to learn more about wartime crochet, check out the guest post by Karen Ballard on @crochetkween’s great blog. At this time, there was a lot of really practical crochet done for the home – rugs and curtains and afghans, for example. There was also a lot of upcycling in crochet as a means to save money. For example, Anne Orr wrote a book at this time called Creative Crochet with Carpet Warp and Candlewick Cotton. Although money was tight, yarn and thread purchases were still high. The 7/14/1941 issue of The Miami News says, “During 1940 and early 1941 more women competed in national sewing and crochet competitions than ever before. Department stores all over the country report vast increases in sales of yarn, crochet cotton …”

Favorite Find: Crochet Health News!

vintage crochet health news

I am always excited when I see any mention of the health benefits of crochet, so of course I was thrilled to find this in my research for 1940 crochet. Page 58 of the University of Michigan Official Publication, Volume 41, reads:

“Busy hands distract sick minds. This is not a church “sewing circle“, but a session of an occupational therapy class in a state hospital. Patients sew, knit, crochet, and do fancy work. They make many articles for their own use and for the use of others in the hospital. Occupation that diverts and stimulates the minds of patients is curative in its effects. … Such work not only has a beneficial effect and helps while away the long hours of necessary hospitalization, but also furthers the productive ability of patients looking toward the time when they are sufficiently recovered to return to their homes and society.”

Crochet in Popular Magazines

Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines often referenced crochet hooks as tools for making various things but occasionally the reference was actually for crocheters to use. For example, the November 1940 issue of Popular Science has a design for making a model house and suggests that “mother and daughter” can crochet rugs and curtains to go with it. Here are some other references:

1940 crochet

This DIY yarn box for crochet was in the August issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. What I love most is that it mentions crocheting in the car even back then.

1940 crochet

Jun 1940 issue of Popular Science recommends this yarn-y trick

Celebrity Crochet and Crochet Designers

vintage 1940 celebrity crochet

10/16/1940 Herald-Journal reports that wartime musicals actress Constance Moore crocheted Halloween placemats for a party. The newspaper archives have a written pattern for the pumpkin placemat.

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And although she wasn’t quite a celebrity, I thought I’d mention that there was a “crocheting queen” named in the 11/20/40 issue of Reading Eagle newspaper

crochet mary card

Crochet designer Mary Card passed away in 1940. Heirloom Crochet explains that she first started selling her patterns at the beginning of the 20th century in Ladies Home Journal. She was from Australia but spent a lot of her designing time in the United States. She passed away back at home with her sister.

1940 Crochet Patterns

Many newspaper crochet patterns continued to be printed by anonymous designers under the fictitious name Alice Brooks. For example, in the 11/9/1940 issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle, you’ll find a crochet carriage or crib cover pattern. Sometimes crochet patterns were published for free in newspapers. Other times, you needed to send away for the pattern, and it typically cost ten or fifteen cents.

crochet collar pattern

Crochet flower collar pattern for sale from Today’s Treasure

1940 crochet swimsuit

1940 crochet swimsuit pattern via Etsy’s Liloumariposa

crochet bunny rattle

1940 crochet bunny rattle pattern for sale on Etsy from CreationsByMeshell

crochet bedspread pattern 1940s

1940 crochet bedspread pattern for sale on Etsy from CarolinaJayPatterns

1940 Crochet Books

The crochet books published at this time were primarily created by the thread manufacturers of the era.

crochet afghans

Crocheted Afghans in Bear & Bucilla Yarns #315ir?t=moho 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00PC50TDQ

1940 crochet home

Crochet for Your Home (Book No. 49)ir?t=moho 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B003065VZ0 from Royal Society

crochet book 1940

Table Cloth Book: Crochet Designs by Cecilia Vanek from American Thread Company

1940 crochet book

Table Treasures crochet book from Spool Cotton. You can see one of the patterns in this crochet book over at Vintage Crafts and More.

1940 vintage crochet

Crochet Bedspreads pattern book from Magnolia

And More Vintage Crochet from 1940

vintage 1940s baby crochet

Crochet / embroidered doll sweater via Doll Price Guide

1940 crochet apron

Vintage 1940 crochet apron from Etsy’s VictorianSistersShop; apron skirts are trending for 2015 fashion!

5 thoughts on “Vintage Crochet History: 1940”

  1. Lovely to see the fine examples of wartime crochet. I’m sure it proved not just useful but very therapeutic for a lot of crocheters. It reminds me – I live in the UK and, a few months ago, I saw a documentary about women in World War One who were involved in the war effort. Many of them attended knitting and crochet sessions organised by the then queen, Mary, and there were some wonderful photos of them all working together creating socks, jumpers and the like. What was so nice about this was that, in those days, the class barriers were very strong. The lower working class did not mix with the upper classes! However, women of all social groups took part in these sessions quite happily and there was no sign of any tension amongst them. It just showed what a leveller knitting and crochet can be!

  2. As an educator, especially in History, and an avid crocheter, am thrilled with these series. I was born in 1949, so look forward to what was crocheted in that year. Thank you for the hard work and the wonderful lessons!!!!

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