Discovering Crochet Traditions

Jul 5, 2011

Standing in front of the magazine rack at my local newsstand or browsing through the latest crochet magazine issue and updating my mental queue, I find myself thinking about crochet's future. What techniques are gaining in popularity? What inventive way has a designer created to showcase filet crochet or Irish lace? But as I contemplate its future, I realize I am forgetting a vital and fascinating piece of crochet, its history.

While the exact origins of crochet remain a mystery, crochet's vital role in the ninteenth and twentieth centuries is well documented through vintage patterns, historical photographs, antique pieces, and the stories passed from generation to generation. Crochet Traditions compiles some of these stories, helping to connect modern crocheters and crochet lovers to those, like Polish crocheter Maria Gwarków and her daughter (at left)  who paved the way before us.

Crocheting gifts for others has always been a large part of the crochet culture. I would have loved to meet the mischievous Preacher Lewis, an Episcopal preacher who learned to crochet after he was struck with chorea, a neurological disorder, as a child. As a pastor in New Mexico, Preacher Lewis crocheted socks, sweaters, and more for the boys in a nearby dormitory and made sure every baby he baptized received a handmade cap. One of the first hats I crocheted was from a pattern (at right) based on one of his designs.

And as a lace enthusiast, I am in awe of the nineteenth century lace bonnets, edgings, home décor, and collars created with filet and Irish crochet. The collars are amazing and intricate works of art illustrating the ingenuity of their crocheters as they adapted European and Brussels lace styles to create wide crocheted lace collars and chemisettes (collars with short backs and long, square bodices that were belted at the waist). I find it especially fascinating that in the absence of modern cleaning agents, women used gin, green tea, boiling water, or cold milk to clean their handmade lace.

There is so much about crochet's history and traditions to explore, from the garments and techniques brought with immigrants to Ellis Island to crochet in the White House and during the Civil War to bead crocheted misers purses from the late eighteenth century. Pre-order Crochet Traditions today and join me as we investigate crochet's history, learn these traditional techniques, and gain a greater appreciation for the craft we all enjoy. 

Best wishes,

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