My Return to Crochet
I began crocheting when my grandma taught me at age 8. She said that I had a natural talent and was easy to teach. At first, I enjoyed making things like potholders and I even attempted a small purse. Later as a teen, I began an ambitious project by doing a 3-colour rippled granny stitch afghan. As I was also committed to my education, it took me years to finish it. I am not going to admit how many years, but I carried it with me in move after move, in those early years of university. I was very busy with my education, which started with a Home Economics degree, and finished with a PhD. Then I had a career and a family which was time consuming. It wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I returned to crochet and finished the afghan. In so doing, it sparked in me a keen interest in the yarn crafts. I even dabbled in knitting a little, only to discover my real interest lied in crochet.
I was fascinated with how crocheting had changed over the years and with the help of the internet there was now access to so much information. Patterns were readily available – free on blogs or by purchase on sites like Ravelry and Etsy. I loved the modernity of patterns and the availability of yarn with diverse textures and weights. YouTube videos were easily accessible for learning new stitches. I became keen to learn as many new stitches as I could and I experimented with new yarns of varying weights. I also became interested in the history of crochet and I wondered, are these stitches really new, or was I just unaware in my early years.
As I delved into the craft, I learned that historically knitting and crochet were not as distinct as they are now, and end products were often referred to as knitted or interlooped fabrics, with the only differentiation being the use of a single hook for what we now call crochet (Karp, 2018). When I see these ‘interlooped’ fabrics posted to Facebook with the question: “Do you know what stitch this is?”, I understand why it is often difficult to tell and the responses will sometimes vary between knit and crochet stitches, as “the fabric does not necessarily reveal the tool(s) used to produce it” (Karp, 2018, p 209).
With more perseverance, I was able to find several stitch descriptions from an 1891 (yes, that is correct) publication from Rose Publishing, Toronto. It was fascinating to see the familiar shell, puff, and crossed treble stitches and the way they were described. The stitch described below will be easy for a knowledgeable crocheter to guess despite the differences in language used to describe the stitch: “*thread over the needle before putting it through the work (same as d. c..) draw the thread through, and draw it out longer than ordinary d. c., * repeat what comes between the stars twice, thread over, draw it through the 7 sts. on the needle, thread over, draw it through the st. on the needle.” (Home Work, 1891, p 20)
There were also several stitches that were unfamiliar to me including the mussel, crazy, and gobelin stitches. I wondered if perhaps, they were stitches I knew but by different names. It seemed the mussel and gobelin stitches were used for what we now call Tunisian crochet as the picture showed several loops along the ‘needle’ as they called it. It was interesting to me that these stitches were intermixed with the other crochet stitches because we now seem to separate crochet and Tunisian crochet.
The crazy stitch was intelligible to me but I hadn’t seen any recent patterns with this stitch, which I could tell was similar to a granny stitch. I was, however, able to find YouTube videos of the ‘crazy slanted granny stitch’, the ‘drunken granny stitch’, or the ‘slanted shell stitch’ which were the same or similar. “Make a chain the desired length. 1. Three double crochet in 4th stitch of chain, 3 chain, 1 single crochet in same stitch, * miss 2 stitches of chain, make 3 double crochet in next stitch of chain, 3 chain, 1 single crochet in same stitch. Repeat from star to end of row. Turn. 2. Make 2 chain, * make 3 double crochet in chain of 3, 3 chain, 1 single crochet in same chain of 3. Repeat from * to end of row. At the commencement of each row make a chain of 2. (Home Work, 1891, p 18)
Now that I have expanded my stitch repertoire and observed others trying to learn, I realize that my grandma was right, it can be difficult for some people to learn. It takes some skill to hold the yarn with just the right tension and to move the hook in a way that allows for various stitch combinations. However, many, many people have learned over the centuries and if you are someone who wants to learn you can do it! It just takes guidance and practice and now there is so much guidance available to you at the click of a mouse!
Keep Cozy while Coiling!
Karp, C. Defining crochet. Textile History. 2018:49(2):208-223. Doi: 10.1080/00404969.2018.1491689
Home Work. A Choice Collection of Useful Designs for the Crochet and Knitting Needle. Rose Publishing Co.: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 1891.