Mankind has been producing fabrics in one form or another for thousands of years. It is amazing to think that the first woven textiles date back at least 20,000 years. The art of knitting is a mere pup in comparison to its cousin, weaving, as it has only been around a thousand years or so. Would it surprise you however to learn that crochet, is certainly the baby of the family at only a mere two hundred years old or so. It certainly surprised me!
There is a fair amount of mystery about the origins of crochet and it is difficult to pin down the exact moment of its birth. However, the first crochet patterns ever to be produced can be traced back to a Dutch publication in the early nineteenth century.
Crochet was now on the map and it began to grow in popularity among the working classes as a cheap alternative to the very fashionable but exclusive fine laces which were in vogue at that time. At this time it was very much looked down upon by ladies of society as a cheap ‘knockoff’ and was never seen in fashionable circles.
However, this was soon to change as it soon began to become more acceptable among the higher classes, not only as a past time for idle hands but as a fashionable fabric, to replace lace whose industry was becoming disreputable due to bad practices and appalling working conditions. Crochet became a way for society to boycott the lace industry.
In 1846 the Irish potato famine struck, resulting in major economic crisis in Ireland. Humble crochet played a vital part in its recovery, as a method for impoverished women and children to make money. Thus ‘Irish Crochet’ was born and was extremely sought after, being shipped all over the world. This beautiful delicate work was very popular, especially in the States and also gave upper society a chance to indulge their philanthropic sides.
Towards the end of the 19th century crochet had earned a place in the hearts of crafters and had become a legitimate pastime, especially in America. Its popularity did of course wax and wane over the decades: who could forget the influence of crochet in the 60′s and 70′s? Crochet is a remarkably versatile craft, it can be used to make the most delicate lace to chunky sweaters and even objects with structured form such as baby booties. It is still a popular craft today thanks to its versatility and is often seen in its various forms on fashion house cat walks all over the world.