Arts & Culture

Crochet: A History

Where I live, January is one of the coldest months of the winter season. And the clothing that immediately comes to mind is the sweater. Most sweaters are mass-produced as knits, but I am going to tell you about crochet and its history. No one quite knows where crochet got its start, but this handy craft definitely has lots of different stitches and patterns to its credit. So, let’s start with “haken” as they say “crochet” in Holland.

The word itself “crochet” comes from the combination of the Middle French word for “hook,” which is “croche,” and the Old Norse word for “hook,” which is “Krokr.” Historians have speculated the mysterious issue of this art form’s origin and have some ideas that it may have been found in England during the sixteenth century. Fast forward a bit, and in 1916 examples of what we call “true” crochet were found in India. There is some evidence that crochet developed from Chinese needlework called tambouring. Tambouring was a tricky kind of sewing—one would essentially sew with your hook. And in Europe, a woman named Mlle Riego De La Branchardiere gave rise to the popularity of crochet through her patterns, which mimicked the old bobbin lace styles.

In 1845, the potato famine struck Ireland, plunging the people into harsh working conditions and dirt-poor living situations. The Irish found a way to make extra money by working on crochet in the day light when they weren’t doing chores or working. At night, they would work by candle, toiling over intricate crochet projects, which they would sell to adorn a rich lord or lady’s collar or cuffs. Families used the sales to support themselves, and when many left and came to America, they brought the crochet with them. Thus, was born the art of Irish crochet, or Celtic crochet, one of the most beautiful forms of this handy-craft.

Materials that are used for crocheting today are hooks, which are usually made from plastic and metal, and yarn, which usually were acrylics, cotton, or wool blends. Back in old days before the hook was widely available people used their fingers as well as bone bits and wood to serve as their needle. Moreover, yarns could range from fur and hair to grass, natural fibers, and even silver and gold strands.

    Here is how to make a nice washcloth using three different crochet stitches. Crochet is not that easy, so it may take a couple tries to get your cloth started. You will need: a size H hook, or a five millimeter hook, and some fun cotton yarn. Cotton yarn is important to making a washcloth because it is different from regular acrylics and more like natural baling twine. Acrylic yarn tends to shed and become thread bare if used to scrub things.

Once you have your hook and thread, it’s time to start! To begin, create a slip knot and tighten it about the shaft of your hook. The knot itself should be firm and the circle it makes around the hook should be snug but not too tight. If the slip is too tight you will find out right away because you will not be able to get the first loop off your needle.

With your knot done, you must next, create a row of chain stitches. If you have ever had finger kitting or taken basic crochet, you will be familiar with this stitch. If not, a chain stitch is created when you replace the loop on your hook with another one. The way you do this is, take the needle in your dominant hand, loop the end of the string that is still attached to the yarn ball around you needle and hold it down. At this point you should have two loops on your hook. Take the original loop and slide it off the hook. Continue to do this stitch until you have a row roughly the size of the bottom of your washcloth.

Next, to create the body of the cloth, turn your needle so that it faces the opposite direction that you were working in. To create the desired effect, you must do one stitch on top of each of the stitches already there. Your first stitch will be a double crochet and the second a single crochet.

A double crochet consists of first wrapping your yarn around the hook once then picking up the next stitch with your hook so that you have three loops on your hook: the original loop, the wrapped yarn, and the stitch you just picked up. Now, wrap another loop of yarn around your hook and pull through one of the loops behind it. At this stage, you should only have three loops left on your hook. Then, loop over once more, and take the rest of the old loops off of your hook.

A single crochet is done the same except when you go the pull through the fourth loop from the beginning of the stitch, you pull through them all at once rather than adding another loop. The picture above this is double and single crochets alternating in the pattern of the washcloth body.

The pattern continues on down the row until you reach the end. At the end of the row, you turn again and go back over your stitches, so they build up. Here is a link for a chart of the stitches. They are pretty basic ones, but you may need to watch a tutorial or two in order to get the hang of things.

Link for stitch chart:


Research links:

Picture credits



  2. Great job and yay for crocheting!!!! I’m so glad you wrote an article about it!

  3. Love this! Some people use the name single crochet for a different stitch (no extra loop before picking up the stitch), and the one you’re teaching here they call half double crochet.

  4. I liked the history at the beginning of the article! Good job.

  5. Great article Bronwyn! You inspired me to take up Celtic crochet! 😀

  6. This is awesome!! Thanks for posting!!

  7. This is really interesting! I’ve crocheted for as long as I can remember, but I never really thought much about where it originated or where it got it’s name. Great work!

  8. Wow, this is very interesting, Great job Bronwyn! I have crocheted once in awhile, but i never really knew where crocheting originated from. The history of Crocheting is amazing! Thanks for posting!

  9. Thank you guys, it means so much!

  10. My mom crochets A LOT!! Its really cool to now where it really came from where it originated. Great Job with the article!!! :+1: 🙂

  11. Interesting! Good job!