The History of Crochet
A single hook of any size and some yarn or thread are used to crochet fabric, clothes, toys, jewellery, and pretty much anything else you can put a pattern to. Similar to knitting, by pulling yarn through an active stitch loop, each crochet stitch is created. Whilst knitting involves a row of active stitches (loops) the process of crocheting only uses one loop or stitch at a time. A variety of textures, patterns, and shapes can be created through varying tension, dropping and adding stitches, and wrapping the yarn around the hook a different number of times during stitch creation.
Google searches over the past few years has seen crochet become more and more popular. People of all ages are bringing this centuries old craft in to the modern day. Whilst the exact origins of crochet are unclear, it is suggested that it may have evolved from traditional craft practices in places such as South America, the Middle East, and China.
The earliest known recorded crochet patterns were printed in 1824 and were typically patterns for luxurious purses of gold and silver silk thread. Although these were the first documented patterns, there seems to be evidence to suggest that women in particular, had been sharing crochet patterns since well before then.
Having been invented as a method for producing a cheap substitute for traditional lace, the humble beginnings of crochet gave it a reputation as an inferior craft. That was until Queen Victoria herself gave it the royal thumbs up by buying crocheted lace made by Irish women who were struggling to make a living after the Great Potato Famine. As a result, she herself learned to crochet, and by the end of her reign in 1901, much of England was quite literally hooked!
In the 1920’s and 30’s crochet progressed in to a means of producing entire items of clothing. As well as the decorative pieces that were already popular, women began producing dresses, skirts and hats of varying patterns. By the 1940’s and World War 2, crochet became part of the war time effort in Britain and the U.S. and women would contribute by making items for the troops.
In the spirit of austerity at the time, crochet was also an excellent way to liven up existing outfits, and provided a much needed lift for both clothing and the community. After the war, crochet again evolved in to fashion and became a classic fifties look, with everything from A-line skirts to wedding dresses being produced from the single hook!
The 1960’s was the decade where the crochet boom really began. It took off as a free-form means of expression and there was a huge trend for household crochet items as well as the swinging fashions of the day. The ‘granny square’ also came in to style at this time. A simple design, the granny square could be used to make a huge variety of clothes and accessories.
Crochet today is making quite a bit of a comeback. From designers such a Christian Dior to Dolce & Gabbana, crochet is a regular feature on the catwalk – even the granny square! What better time to give it a go yourself!
According to The American Counselling Association, depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crocheting. The repetition of the craft has shown to release serotonin which is a natural anti-depressant. Furthermore, in another study published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after crocheting, and more than half reported feeling “very happy”. Crafting in general helps to build self-esteem by encouraging new skills. In addition, it promotes the feeling of being productive, providing a fulfilling way to give to others, and creating something beautiful through expression.
Their are many health benefits to the physical act of crocheting too. The simple act of counting stitches has been shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Bilateral, coordinated, precise hand movements are hard work for the brain. As a result, we are less able to pay attention to other issues and concerns. This helps with the concept of ‘staying in the moment’, which is a recommended practice called mindfulness.
Mindfulness, according to the NHS, is an awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Furthermore, it can help with our mental well-being. Repetitive, rhythmic movement is well known to calm us when we are stressed. Pacing, rocking, tapping, and hair pulling are classic examples of anxiety crutches. Replacing these with crochet has proven to help on a significant level. Another interesting physical benefit of crocheting, is the lack of eye contact that is needed within a group. People who are self-conscious, shy, nervous, and socially awkward can usually cope better in situations where it is totally acceptable to make eye contact only when they choose. Although general etiquette is advised in terms of greetings. In light of this, conversation isn’t a crucial part of a crocheting group. This creates a ‘feeling-safe’ place for people to choose whether or not to speak – giving them back some control.
Read more about the amazing health benefits of crochet here.