I’ve just posted an in-depth discussion of and instructions for the Perfect Irish Rose and Irish Rose Leaf in the techniques section (pdf). These two crocheted motifs are probably the most recognized motifs in Irish Crochet. Discussion includes how repeats and progressions are used to make the two motifs and how you can easily memorize the basic formula for each so you’ll never need to search for a pattern again! You’ll also learn how to easily modify the patterns to get the exact look you want.
Category: All Posts
March and National Crochet Month have rolled around again. This year for Crochetville’s National Crochet Month blog tour, I want to introduce you to a new section on my web page, Quiet Yarns – Textile Artists. You’ll see the section in the right hand column about half way down.
Quiet Yarns is a collection of stories that I will continue to add to about women (and maybe a few men) who did needlework as part of their daily lives. You probably haven’t heard of any of them. They worked quietly in their homes to add a little luxury to their lives, have a creative outlet, do a little needlework to relax, or maybe make a little money to help support their families. Their stories are typical for the times they lived in so were seldom considered important enough to tell. I’ll tell a few here. I’d like to start you off with the story of my grandmother, Laura Nehring, and her crocheted Pansy Bedspread.
If you missed last year’s blog tour, check out my Crochet Hook Classification. It’s a work in progress but already has a lot of good information that will help you identify and date your old crochet hooks. It also has photos of all of the CGOA Commemorative Crochet Hooks.
And finally, if you did not see my blog post last month, I have a free crochet pattern for Carol Danvers’ (aka Captain Marvel) Lucky Hat first seen in Marvel Comics – Captain Marvel Issue 9. The hat looks like and stretches like knit but it is actually made with slip stitch crochet. Since this hat was made by for Carol by her grandmother Rose in the comic, my version features a beautiful crocheted rose.
I have a 20 something friend, Julie, who is taking up crochet. She works from patterns which she gets from both print and the internet. Julie is also a comic book fan and one of her favorite characters is Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. Now Carol has a Lucky Hat (Captain Marvel Issue 9) that her Grandmother Rose made for her and Julie wanted to make herself one. She could find a pattern in knit but not crochet so Julie asked me if I would design a Lucky Hat pattern in crochet. Julie is modeling the result above.
The hat looks like and stretches like knit but it is actually made with slip stitch crochet. Since this hat is crocheted, it uses a beautiful crocheted rose instead of those messy, undefined things in red. The hat was made by Grandma Rose after all.
The pattern for Carol Danvers’ Lucky Hat in crochet is here.
I’ll be teaching three classes at the IOLI (International Organization of Lace, Inc.) national convention in Sacramento, CA on Aug. 4-8, 2014.
Romanian Point Lace Necklace
This Romanian Point Lace Floral Necklace is a new class that I am introducing. It is based on Romanian Point Lace technique with crocheted cord and needlelace fillings. I’ve taken some liberties with this piece in that it is worked in layers and is not reversible like traditional Romanian Point Lace.
I will also be teaching this 9″ Irish Crochet Butterfly based on a piece in the collection of The Lace Museum, Sunnyvale, CA. If desired, you can also improve your skills at working Irish Crochet from 1990 era patterns.
And for the 6 hour session, I will teach how to make the four buttons pictured above.
I’ll be teaching Irish Crochet at The Lace Museum on February 1, 2014. We’ll be working on two different Irish Crochet motifs from Irish Crochet Lace by DMC circa 1900. Learn to work over a padded cord, make grounds, make the perfect Irish Rose and practice reading antique patterns. You also have the option to continue working on your Irish Crochet Butterfly from last year’s class. Donna has also promised that she will pull the boxes of Irish crochet out of the archives for us to study. Class is from 9:30-4:30. Go to The Lace Museum website to sign up.
Recently I was looking at an old Interface Age magazine (Sept 1978, p. 76-81) and I ran across this gem. It’s a program on a vinyl record, called a Floppy Rom, that prints out McCalls sewing pattern 6066 for the dress pictured above in sizes 9-13. The program is designed to print out the pattern on a 132 character wide printer in multiple long strips that you tape together. The pattern is mapped as it was sized on the pattern sheets. There is no provision to dynamically adjust the pattern.
For you geeks out there, a bit about the Floppy Rom. The Floppy Rom is a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record that is thin enough to be bound in a magazine. Usually these records held one song or some audio advertising but a technique was developed so that the vinyl record could store digital data in the Kansas City standard, a format originally developed for audio cassette tapes.
Click on the link to see the full article The Automated Dress Pattern for the Apple II by Wm. V. R. Smith III, (c) Artsci Publishing. It is reprinted here with permission of the author. You can follow Bill’s current company and learn a little more about how the pattern program was developed under the history section at Artsci Publishing and learn a little more about Bill on his web page William V. R. Smith.
By 1930, cellulose acetate along with specially designed compression molding equipment was available and began replacing celluloid for plastic crochet hooks. The main advantages of cellulose acetate over celluloid were that molding techniques were much faster and cellulose acetate was not flammable.
Like celluloid, cellulose acetate is naturally clear but can be made in any color or opacity. It is tough and flexible. It is easily machined and easily manipulated by hand when softened to 100 degrees C (212 degrees F, boiling). Because it is nonflammable, cellulose acetate was perfect for compression molding which was introduced in 1929 and, later, injection molding introduced in 1934.
About 1929 Tennessee Eastman, a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak, began selling sheets, rods, tubes, and molding powders of Tenite cellulose acetate. Boye began making injection molded crochet hooks out of Tenite. This is the substance the crochet hooks marked
are made from. These came in a wide variety of colors: white, red, yellow, translucent green, sky blue. Patent number 2024794 actually refers to the shape of the hook which is square in cross section. Many other hook manufacturers used cellulose acetate also.
Examples of celluloid crochet hooks (top to bottom) – Diadem Manufacturing Company imitating ivory, tortoise shell imitation, imitation amber hook came in a variety of transparent colors from “apple juice” as shown to “cranberry”, Sunlight Yarn Company with hollow ivory colored handle and solid black plugs at both ends.
The first plastic used for consumer goods, specifically celluloid, was used for crochet hooks as early as 1912. The British patent for celluloid was issued to Parkes in England in 1856. The US patent was issued to Hyatt in 1878 and expired in 1892.
Celluloid is a naturally clear, hard, shiny, durable substance. It can assume any desired color or opacity. Early on, it almost always imitated natural materials: ivory, tortoise shell, amber, horn, coral, agate, malachite, or wood. For crochet hooks, celluloid joined the market imitating the first three of these items. Its main advantage was to manufacturers because celluloid was more consistent in quality and all of the waste could be reused. Its main disadvantage is that it is flammable. Celluloid exposed to high heat or open flame bursts into flame. In the factories, this resulted in frequent fires. At home, women with celluloid buttons on their dresses sometimes had the buttons burst into flame if they got too close to the stove.
Celluloid, ivory, tortoise shell, horn, and bone, all of which were used for larger size crochet hooks, all had some supply problems between 1900 and WWI. The quality of Celluloid varied, sometimes turning color, bubbling, warping, etc. Camphor, derived from the camphor tree and used in the Celluloid manufacturing process, became hard to obtain due to deforestation of the camphor trees in Asia. Eventually, artificial camphor was invented. Ivory was available but the price and quality both fluctuated widely and it was always more expensive than Celluloid. Tortoise shell required a long process to prepare it for use, so it too was more expensive than Celluloid. Horn became scarce by 1900 as ranchers adopted the practice of dehorning cattle before shipping them to market. Cow shin bone of sufficient length became hard to get in the late 1920s as US ranchers began to ship cattle to market at a younger age.
Eventually, celluloid became more consistent in quality, easier to obtain, faster to manufacture, and, therefore, cheaper than natural materials used for crochet hooks although it never completely replaced any of them. That would be done by later proprietary plastics.
WARNING—because Celluloid is constantly degasses and both the gas and the Celluloid itself are flammable, store Celluloid crochet hooks in a container that allows air to circulate and keep Celluloid away from open flames.
Just got copies of my new crochet book Learn Short Row Slip Stitch by Annie’s (formerly DRG – Dynamic Resources Group). My favorite pattern has to be be the Cosy Vest loosely based on a Victorian era pattern called al Hug-Me-Tight. I like the pattern so much that I made one for myself in peach that I wore to the Knit and Crochet Show and CGOA Chain Link Conference last month in Indianapolis. My editor’s favorite pattern is the Wrapped Scarf. You can vary the look by wrapping it one, two or three times around your neck! She’s wearing it to the Knit and Crochet Show in Charlotte next month!
Slip stitch crochet produces a fabric that is nearly identical to 1×1 knit rib. It’s soft, stretchy and flexible. Short rows, a technique borrowed from knitting, shape the slip stitch into unexpected shapes such as domes, wedges and ruffles. Short rows are also used in the book for easy custom bust cup sizing. Order your copy from Annie’s Catalog in either a paper or digital version.
My upcoming article “Make Your Own Heirloom Buttons” in Threads magazine #169 is featured on this week’s Threads’ blog. The blog post shows how to embellish your completed Dorset and Shirtwaist buttons with embroidery and beads. You can also learn how to make variations of two types of toggle buttons – a cord toggle and monkey’s fist.
Louise and Larry Reeser, friends of mine in McLean County, Illinois, just installed their new barn quilt this week and Louise sent me this photo.
Here’s what Louise told me about their choices for their quilt.
The pattern is “hands all around.” We need all hands to work on the farm.
Orange for “Case” tractors
Blue & Orange for Illini
Dove in center for “peace”.
Someone has written a poem about us and the quilt, but we will not hear it until the kickoff ceremonies next weekend.
The barn quilt (8′ x 8′ painted on wood) is part of the McLean County Barn Quilt Heritage Trail. You can get information and a map here http://www.mcleancountybarnquilts.com/Barn_Quilt_Sites.html. The Reesers’ quilt and 19 other new ones added this year are not listed yet but should be soon. If you want to drive by the address is 16838 E. 775 North Road, Heyworth, IL 61745.
Shortly after 1865 when the Bessemer process for making steel in large batches was invented, making fine crochet hooks using needle making methods was more or less abandoned. Small crochet hooks were fashioned by drawing out the end of a steel rod and fashioning a hook on it. The remaining thick body of the rod became the handle. These one piece hooks were studier, better quality and required less labor (were cheaper to make) than hooks made with needle making technology.
The biggest problem with the rod was that it rolled in the fingers. Every so often you had to stop and look at the hook to rotate it back into position. In 1896, August Kippenberg, a German citizen, was granted US patent 572809 for an integral crochet-hook comprising a shank, a hook at the end thereof, and a flattened portion therein…the grip.
Kippenberg must have taken out similar patents in Germany and England because grips did not become a universal feature of steel rod hooks until sometime between 1912 and 1914 when his patent expired.
The hook pictured with the scissors is from Hadley, Sara, ed., The Lace Maker, D. S. Bennet, vol. 1, no. 5, May 1903.
The Fall 2013 issue of Knitting Traditions by Interweave Press is out and two of Mary Shiffmann’s knitted lace patterns, Star Doily and Freda Frase’s Square Doily (pictured above) are featured.
I first met Mary Schiffmann in 1994 at a meeting of the Lacy Knitters, a group she cofounded to promote lace knitting by collecting, cataloging, and making available old knitted lace patterns. Mary had collected more than 500 patterns in her lifetime, and these form the foundations of the Lacy Knitters pattern bank. Mary very much wanted to see her collection of patterns in print. She felt like a lone crusader in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s as she watched the interest in lace knitting die. Mary died April 28, 1996 [prior to the publication of The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann by Nancy Nehring, Interweave Press, 1998]. Here final words to her knitting friends were, “I spent my life looking for patterns. Don’t you quit.”
Most crochet hooks were made out of common materials so it is a treat to come across a crochet hook with a semiprecious agate handle. The agate handles were manufactured in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, from agate mined in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Historically there were agate deposits at Idar-Oberstein and water power to help work the stone. Local workers became experts at cutting, grinding and polishing the stone. When agate deposits began to play out about 1800, hunger caused many of the workers to emigrate to South America. In 1927 some of these Germans discovered agate deposits in Rio Grande do Sul. The expertise for working agate still remained in Germany and beginning in 1834 raw agate was shipped to Idar-Oberstein as cheap ballast on ships returning empty to Germany. Manufacturing items from Brazilian agate continued until World War II.
Crochet hooks with agate handles were made using the same methods used for bone handled hooks from the mid to late 1800s. A metal collet glued to the bone or agate held a removable steel needle in place. Crochet hook manufacturers who wanted a higher priced line of hooks probably just ordered handles from Idar-Oberstein manufacturers to fit the metal parts they were already using. Some of the hooks were further embellished with silver and the hooks also came in boxed sets with multisized hooks. A lovely gift then and now.
Nov 9, 2013
San Jose, California
Button Making Workshop – 6 hours
I’m scheduled to teach a button making workshop for the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild. We’ll be learning to make all four of the buttons in the photo! Contact them at the email address above for more information.
Top to bottom – tatting hook, Presto needle threader, button hook, sley tool, citrus peeler, latch hook, tambour hook, leather working tool made from nail, rug hook
Not every hooked tool is a crochet hook. So what are some of the common hooked tools mistaken for crochet hooks and how do you know? When confronted with a hooked tool that may or may not be a crochet hook, the first thing to do is to try and crochet with it. If you can’t crochet smoothly and rhythmically, it’s not a crochet hook. If it hurts your fingers or hand, it’s not a crochet hook. Pictured above are some hooks often mistaken for crochet hooks. Here’s a little about each.
Tatting hooks are often distinguished by their short length. They are usually under 3″ and sometimes advertised as children’s crochet hooks which they are not. You can use the bone one above to crochet but without the long handle of a regular crochet hook to stabilize the hook against your hand, work does not flow very smoothly.
These pictures show both a tatting hook and a crochet hook from a Ladies Necessities set. Note that the hooks are set in the handles at different angles. It is difficult and uncomfortable to crochet with the tatting hook because of both the short length and angle of hook.
Presto Needle Threader
The Presto Needle Threader was designed to thread sewing machine needles. The spring loaded hook will collapse when inserting the hook into a stitch.
Button hooks have a large open hook. They were used for fastening shoe buttons. Slightly smaller hooks were made for fastening glove buttons. The hook catches when trying to pull the yarn through a stitch. You may find these with the same (and sometimes elaborate) handles as tatting and crochet hooks as they were included in Ladies Necessities.
I often wish these were crochet hooks as they were sometimes made of decoratively carved ivory like the two pictured above. Sley tools are used when warping a loom to pull threads through the reeds and have to be narrow. Sley tools are usually rectangular or oval in cross section with the narrowest width in line with the hook. When crocheting, you try to hold the hook on the narrow side of the rectangular hook or pointy ends of the oval.
These wide flat tools are citrus peelers. Like a sley tool, the hook it at the wrong angle to crochet with easily. If it has an orange painted on it or says Souvenir of Florida, it’s a citrus peeler.
This tiny latch hook was used to repair runs in (knitted) silk stockings. The hook is basically one hook from a knitting machine mounted in a handle. The latch usually doesn’t open when crocheting leaving the yarn trapped in the hook. Large latch hooks are used for rug making.
A tambour hook (bottom in photo above) usually has a screw that tightens against the needle (hook) to hold it in place. The screw serves a second purpose. The opening of the needle is aligned with the screw so you can maintain orientation of the needle as you pick up the thread underneath the work where you can not see (you catch the thread “blind”). Without an orientation guide, the needle would roll out of position as you work. If you try to crochet with a tambour hook, you find your fingers constantly bump into the screw. The earliest crochet hook patents were for handles that secured the needle by methods other than an exposed screw (top in photo above). Tambour hooks and crochet hooks with matching handles were sometimes found in Ladies Necessities.
Leather Working Tools
Heavy leather tack was sewn together by hand. An awl or punch made matching holes in two pieces of leather to be sewn together. A hooked tool pulled heavy thread or leather lacing through the holes forming a loop and a second piece of thread or lacing passed through the loop. The first thread or lacing was tightened until the crossing of the two centered in the holes – like the top and bobbin threads on a sewing machine. Leather workers might make their own tools like the shaped nail above.
Rug hooks come with and without latches. When you try to crochet with these, you want to hold the hook down on the round metal part instead of on the handle. This makes the hook hard to hold and lets the hook rotate out of position as you crochet. The chunky handles give a better grip when pulling yarn or fabric through the mesh base of the rug but get in the way when crocheting.
finishing techniques from Couture Techniques
I’ll be teaching several classes at the Knit and Crochet Show, featuring the Crochet Guild of America Conference and The Knitting Guild Association Conference, in Indianapolis in July.
July 17-21, 2013
Sheraton at Keystone Crossing, Indianapolis, IN
July 17, 2013 Wednesday Professional Development Day
How to Photograph Your Proposal
July 18, 2013 Thursday
Victorian Button – 3 hours
Crochet Hooks Past and Present – 3 hours
July 19, 2013 Friday
Designing Larger Sizes – 3 hours
Couture Techniques for Knit and Crochet – 3 hours
July 20, 2013 Saturday
On the Edge – 3 hours
Stacked Rectangles – 3 hours
July 21, 2013 Sunday
Internal Shaping – 3 hours
Ross 1878 patented crochet needles
By 1868 crochet needles in the U.S. were being made from tempered steel wire – not wrought iron that was converted to steel after the needle was formed as needles were in the 1840s and 1850s. But the new Bessemer method of steel making was still in its infancy as was development of tools to fashion the steel. Swaging or stamping, the method used to fashion steel hooks today, was not yet possible.
During this time two different designs for steel hooks were used. Both had manufacturing drawbacks. In one method, a needle was mounted in a handle. The handles were made from a variety of materials: bone, wood, brass, steel wire and steel sheet were common. Having separate handles made and attaching them to the needles was labor intensive. In the other method, a steel rod was tapered by being drawn out at one end and formed into a hook. Drawing steel caused it to loose its temper and the needle had to be heated and tempered a second time. William Ross patented a crochet needle that he thought would overcome the drawbacks of these two types of hooks.
William Ross of Baltimore, Maryland, patented a method of attaching a handle to a crochet needle on May 27, 1879 (U.S. patent no. 215,979). Of the early U.S. patents related to crochet needles, this is the oldest one that I know an actual hook exists. The following excerpts are from the patent.
“ it consists of a crochet needle having a tempered hooked stem provided with a handle formed by casting a readily fusible metal on one end of said stem … The handle, is formed by placing the stem in a mold and pouring the fused metal around it”. The handle was made of a soft, low melting temperature metal such as pewter.
“One special advantage in construction crochet needles as herein described consists in the fact that the stem may be formed of tempered steel of a uniform thickness or gage … In wholly metallic needles heretofore constructed, the handle has invariably been of the same metal as the stem, and where steel was used the stems, after being reduced to the required size, had to be tempered before the needles were fit for use.”
“By casting a very fusible metal around an end of the tempered stem to form the handle two results are attained, the first being that the temper of the stem is not affected by the low temperature requisite to fuse the metal and form a handle; and, secondly, the soft metal forming the handle can more readily be impressed with the numbers of the needles than when a hard metal is employed.”
Ross crochet needles were produced with a variety of handle designs and with either one or two needles. The handles were usually clearly stamped with W. ROSS’S PAT. 79, PAT. May ’79 or a similar mark. You can’t miss them.
Excerpts from C. J. Bates and Son, Inc. 1873-1973 100 Year History, internal document used with permission.
Back of package for Susan Bates Clipson® crochet hook explaining purpose of clip.
Bates is the oldest operating crochet hook manufacturer in the United States and by 1971 was the largest needlework tool manufacturer in the US. The company is named for Carlton Joseph Bates. Bates began working for the firm of Tyler and Post in 1861 at the age of 14 by stoking the stove and sweeping the floors before going off to school each day. Tyler and Post made small items from ivory discarded by a piano key manufacturer in a one-room shop. In 1865, Mr. Post bought out his partner and bought up another business, Griswolds, which made crochet hooks from whale bone (baleen) and cow shin bone.
Carlton Bates bought the business from Mr. Post in 1873. He continued to make small items such as crochet hooks, studs, stillettos, bodkins, and manicure implements from bone and ivory. Carlton’s son Hamilton took over the business when his father became seriously ill in 1893. Hamilton was chief executive until his retirement in 1954. Grandsons Hamilton Jr. and Wells assumed leadership of the company and incorporated it in 1960. Manicure implement production was sold in 1964 creating a needlework tools only company. In 1993, C. J. Bates and Son, Inc. became part of Coats and Clark.
Around 1905, whale bone (baleen) became scarce and its use discontinued. Cow shin bone was used exclusively for the manufacture of bone crochet hooks. By the end of the 1920s cattle were being slaughtered at an early age in the US. The shin bones were not long enough to make crochet hooks. Cattle in Argentina were allowed to grow larger so shin bone was imported from Argentina until the late 1960s when a special plastic replaced bone.
Originally, Bates needlework tools were unbranded or branded with private labels. Bates began using its own brand names, Chester and Barbara Bates, in the early 1930s. In the early 1940s Chester was changed to Zephr and Barbara Bates to Susan Bates.
Bates began expanding its needlework tool line in the early 1900s by introducing wooden crochet hooks. In the mid 1930s plastic crochet hooks and in the late 1930s aluminum crochet hooks were added to the line. During WWII, production of plastic hooks continued at a reduced rate while production of steel and aluminum items ceased entirely. Factories were converted to produce airplane fuel sight gauges and glider frames.
The company has received several patents and awards. In 1944 Bates received a patent for the in-line hook shape. In 1952 a patent was issued for the Clips-on thread retaining clip. The 1960s saw changes in mass marketing and Bates received several awards for packaging and display including awards for color coded crochet hooks and point of purchase displays.
Freda’s Small Doily from The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann
Several years ago I did two interviews for a TV program called About Books. About Books was recorded at Foothill Community College, Los Altos Hills, California, as part of the college’s communications curriculum. It featured interviews with local authors about their recently published books. My son digitized my old VHS tapes of the programs and I got permission from Foothill College to show them on my website. They are each about 30 minutes long. The quality is poor but they are rather fun to watch.
The videos are
I’ll be teaching a class in Irish Crochet at the Lace Museum, Sunnyvale, CA on May 4, 2013. We will be making this Irish Crochet Butterfly taken from a bedspread in the Lace Musuem’s collection. Contact the Lace Museum for details and to sign up.
Some of my favorite crochet hooks top to bottom – abalone shell, glass, piqué posé work in horn, porcupine quill handle, brass filigree with aquamarines, forged brass, bone with needlecase and Stanhope
I’m teaming up with Crochetville’s A Tour through Crochet Country to celebrate National Crochet Month. Each day this month the tour will feature the blog or website of one or two designers from the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). On her day, each designer will create a post specifically for A Tour Through Crochet Country. Details and the list of designers are here. I’m following along each morning with a cup of tea, join me!
Today is my day and I’d like to introduce you to a resource that I’m developing – the Crochet Hook Classification. It’s a catalog of crochet hooks, manufacturers and supporting documents such as ads and patents. It will help you answer all of those questions about our favorite needlework tool like – How Old Is It?, What Is It Made Out Of?, or Who Made It?. It’s a work in progress so some sections aren’t complete yet but I’m constantly adding more material so check back.
Also, if you would like a little information on my background and a little inspiration, you can read my 2005 CGOA keynote address Past, Meet Nancy Nehring here.
Crochet needles and hooks were first made in England around Redditch about 1850 by individuals and families as part of a small cottage industry. There were a lot of companies and brands and they changed rapidly as generations changed, family and companies joined through marriage, etc. Over time, sole proprietorships and small companies consolidated into larger and larger companies. Brands with good name recognition were often used by acquiring companies to keep up sales. Knowing a company name, its dates of operation and its brands can help date a crochet hook, but the task of keeping the names and brands sorted is daunting. I’ve made a start at sorting it out by making tables for Company Family Tree for Redditch Crochet Hook Makers and Independent Crochet Hook Makers in Redditch Area. Please use the information as approximate data only the quality of the documentation varies. Some information is reliable being taken from sources like legal documents. Other data is from much less reliable records like family genealogies.
A photo from my article on the history of filet crochet in the March/April 2013 issue of PieceWork made the cover of the magazine. It shows a table topper made by my husband’s great grandmother, Elsie Norman, Wellman, Iowa, circa 1920. The piece is about 36″ diameter. It has a square linen center. The piece is made round by adding a crescent of filet crochet to each side. The design in the filet crochet is the same design used in the colored cross stitch embroidery. This issue of PieceWork is now on sale if you would like to read the entire article.
I’ve always used crocheted hot pads. When I was growing up, my grandmother made them for my mother. Among my favorites were hot pads that looked like a sliced grapefruit with a cherry in the center and a sliced watermelon. There was also a hot pad mat or trivet that was a bunch of grapes with a pop bottle cap in each grape to give it shape. The patterns came from Coats and Clark or Star booklets from the 1950s. My grandmother gave me her crochet booklets in the 1980s and I made myself some of my favorites. By now they have a few charred edges, are stained and faded. I’d make new ones but several of the thread colors (like variegated purple for the grapes and neon pink for the watermelon) are no longer made.
The hot pads pictured above were made for me by my great aunt Marie Eggers as a wedding shower gift in 1974. My grandmother (Marie’s sister) said that Marie’s tension was way too loose, you’d burn your fingers right through the hot pad! I never used these as hot pads (I framed them and hung them in my kitchen) so they still look like new. And I heeded my grandmother’s warning. I crochet my hot pads thick and tight or add a layer of nonwoven cotton batting so I don’t burn my fingers. And I always use 100% cotton thread, synthetic fibers can melt and stick to your skin causing a severe burn.
Top to bottom – removable crochet needle (G. Chambers 1847), crochet needle permanently mounted in handle (Milward Cleopatra), bone hook (Susan Bates), and steel one piece hook (Boye).
Do you call it a crochet hook but your great aunt Mabel calls it a crochet needle? Who’s right? Actually, both exist. The crochet tool used with thread to make lace in the 1840s was actually a needle mounted in a separate handle. One-man shops in Redditch, England, turned out crochet needles, sewing needles and fishing hooks. All were produced using the same materials and procedures. Today most crochet tools are formed with an integral handle and are called hooks.
Crochet needles from 1845 until about 1880 were made in the same manner and in the same facilities as sewing needles. Crochet needles have always been made of steel. But the steel manufacturing process was still as much of an art as a science in 1845. Steel is hard and brittle. It was difficult to work with the tools available in 1845. Steel needles were made of iron, which was much easier to work, and then the iron converted to steel. This way only a final polishing of the steel was needed. This method of converting iron to steel required that the items be small and thin.
Comparison of the 1847 G. Chambers crochet needle (bottom) with a modern sewing needle.
Needlemaking was a long, involved process. The needlemaker began with iron wire 0.072” in diameter. The wire was drawn to correct thickness, cut to length and straightened. Next the wire was stamped with the impression of the eye, two eyes being stamped back to back. Then the eye was punched through. Each different type of needle had it’s set of stamps and punches. For example, a tapestry needle has a large eye with a gutter (thread guide), a milliner’s needle has a small eye and no thread guide, and a crochet needle has a large eye with one side removed. The needle was pointed either before or after the eye was formed. In the case of some crochet needles, a point was not needed and for other crochet needles another eye was put on the opposite end to accommodate a chatelaine ring. The needles were then bound into large rolls with abrasive rocks and scoured until smooth.
These wrought iron needles were then converted to steel. A hole in the ground was lined with firebrick to form an oven. A fire was started in the hole and kept at white heat until the firebrick was white hot. A crucible containing alternate layers of needles and charcoal was placed in the hole and the temperature maintained for 24 hours. Then the crucible was allowed to cool, undisturbed for about 2 weeks. During the firing and cooling, the iron absorbed some of the carbon from the charcoal and the iron converted to low carbon steel. The needles became rough as they absorbed the carbon and had to be polished again. The harder steel needles required a longer scouring and polishing.
In 1856, the Bessemer process for making steel was patented which allowed large pieces of high quality steel to be made in large quantities. By 1880, all of the machinery and procedures needed to make steel hooks by swaging (stamping) were perfected. Crochet hook manufacture based on needlemaking methods was abandoned. It was now possible to make one piece steel crochet hooks from wires or rods large enough to be held in the hand without mounting in a separate handle. The steel hooks we buy new today are still made by swaging.
I don’t often link to other web sites because the links often break after a few weeks or months but this web site has been in place since at least 2002 so I’ll give it a try. It is a web site for Tulip and it’s parent company and shows how crochet hooks are made today. The web site also shows how sewing needles and straight pins are made.
One of my all time favorite textile stores is Lacis in Berkeley, California, and with friends coming to town for Stitches this weekend we had to do a road trip! My favorite part of the store use to be the book section. There is a huge selection of books on any and every aspect of textiles, both new and used. I could spend hours just looking through the books. Then there is the new and used (antique) tools section. They carry tools( and supplies) for every type of needlework you could imagine. And crocheters don’t need to slink in, the crochet hook section is just as large as the knitting needle section. But be forewarned, Lacis does not carry any yarn. They have a wide range of thread for lace making but no yarn. Another section of the store is devoted to vintage fashion and bridal dresses and accessories. Need a corset pattern or a class on corset making? This is the place to come. Lacis has an online catalog, too.
A few years ago the owners of Lacis established the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles and now the museum rivals the store for my attention. The current exhibit is Knitted Lace from Estonia. Most of the pieces on display are delicate shawls that feature the nupp, a small knot of yarn that can’t be made by machine ensuring the pieces are hand made. We also got a sneek peek at the new exhibit space on the second floor that will open in March with an exhibit of Asuit Cloth. Soon to be twice as much wonderful stuff to look at!
Historically many companies in the textile field produced educational/promotional material about how their products were made. The practice was popular in the first half of the 20th century but began to loose favor after WWII as manufacturing processes became more sophistocated and patented processes and trade secrets in manufacturing became more common. Targeted audiences for this educational/promotional material were Home Economics teachers and their classes and salesmen and their clients. Boye® made this educational card showing how needles are made sometime after 1921 when they started producing needles.
You can read most of the information directly off of the card but I have a few close up photos of the steps that form the eye of the needle. Excuse the rust in some of the photos – the card is old!
Step 5 impression of eyes for two needles
Step 6 eyes punched through
Step 7 broken in two
Step 8 ground
Irish crochet bedspread, 58″ x 83″, cotton, maker unknown, date unknown, accession number TLM 1994.0433.146
A few days ago I went over to the Lace Museum to photograph an Irish Crochet Bedspread in the collection. The bedspread was being put on display as part of the Knit 1, Chain 1 exhibit featuring some truly impressive pieces of knit and crochet lace. The bedspread uses larger thread than is typical for Irish Crochet and this large thread Irish Crochet also goes by the name of Course Crochet or Gros Crochet. Although there is no provenance for the bedspread, I would guess that it was made circa 1890 possibly in France. In addition, the knit tablecloth that I blogged about and my Irish Crochet doll dress (in slide show) are in the exhibit too. The exhibit runs through June 23, 2012. You won’t want to miss this exhibit if you are near San Jose, California.
Yarn needed – 4 ply: 1 oz. for 2 small sizes, 2 oz. for larger sizes
Measurement around the palm:
|5”||5 ¼”||5 ½”||5 ¾”||5 ¾”||6”||6”||6 ¼”||6 ½”||6 ¾”||7”|
Start cuff using #2 needles. Cast on:
K2, p2 for:
|2”||2”||2”||2 ¼”||2 ¼”||2 ¼”||2 ½”||2 ½”||2 ½”||3”||3”|
or as desired.
Change to #5 needles and work stockinette for:
|1 ¾”||1 ¾”||2”||2”||2 ¼”||2 ½”||2 ½”||2 ½”||2 ¾”||2 ¾”||3”|
Next round, slip number of stitches onto safety pin to be worked for thumb:
Cast on same number in place and complete round.
Work straight until piece measures from end of ribbing to tip of little finger:
|3 ½”||4”||4 ½”||4 ¾”||5”||5”||5 ¼”||5 ¼”||5 ½”||5 ½”||6”|
Next round, knit around decreasing 4 stitches evenly. Next round, knit around. Repeat last two rounds alternately. Do not let decreases fall over each other. Decrease a total of:
Break yarn and darn closed.
For thumb: Use stitches on safety pin and pick up/cast on:
Work on three needles until thumb measures:
|2”||2”||2”||2 ¼”||2 ¼”||2 ¼”||2 ¼”||2 ½”||2 ½”||2 ½”||2 ½”|
or as long as necessary.
Next round, k1, k2tog. Repeat to tip of thumb.
To this day, I still remember the mittens my grandmother made for me. The mittens were always a surprise, usually a birthday (November) or Christmas gift. One pair with a matching scarf was black and orange striped, my school colors – I was on the varsity basketball team and the set was really popular. Another pair was black had suede palms stitched on which I really liked when I turned sixteen and had to drive in the winter. The steering wheel didn’t slip through my hands with the suede palms. The mittens always fit perfectly and I never knew they were coming because she never took any hand measurements. How did she do it?
I recently acquired this mitten knitting chart from my friend Gracie Larsen (I should have asked my grandmother, she probably had the same chart). My friend’s mother, Lilian Sterling, was a seamstress and knitted mittens to sell as part of her business. Using this chart, she knitted up mittens during the spring and summer so she would have a good supply on hand when the weather turned cold. Few of us knit mittens for income anymore but I have growing children who need new mittens ever year. Now I can work new mittens for them even when they are in school or at after school activities. The chart will be even more useful when I have grandchildren that I don’t see every day.
The basic pattern, in the form of the accompanying chart, is designed for use with 4 ply yarn. Size 2 needles are used for the ribbing and size 5 for the body of the mittens. The gauge is about 6 stitches to the inch but the pattern is worked by measurement, not gauge so any size of yarn or needles can be substituted. Make sure your mitten has some ease in it, it should be ½” – 1” larger around than the palm measurement.
Basic mittens produced from the chart don’t have to be plain. I customize mittens by incorporating a decorative stitch or colored pattern. Small children love bright colors and lots of them. I make their mittens from random bits of brightly colored yarn. It uses up my scrap yarn at the same time. I divide the scrap in half and use half for each mitten so the mittens match although I’m sure I care more than a toddler does. For older girls, I add a lace stitch to the back of the mittens for a feminine touch. This gives me a chance to try out new patterns. Older boys are hard on their gloves, so I stitch an Ultrasuede palm to their mittens with a machine zigzag stitch.
So get out your yarn and needles and knit up some memory making mittens at your convenience. You no longer have to wait for the kids or grandkids to show up to get started.
Sizes 12, 13 and 14 fit adult women S, M and L.
100 year old kapa cloth with printed design
I just returned from Kauai, Hawaii where I purchased a piece of kapa cloth. Kapa cloth has long been on my list of fabrics that I wanted in my collection and doubted that I would ever find. The cloth is about 22″ wide and 12′ long. The color is off white without any printing. I purchased it at a native crafts sale at Kilohana Plantation from the granddaughter of Amelia Uepi, Kappa, Kauai, who made the fabric.
I’ve always been fascinated by kapa cloth (tapa cloth). It’s a nonwoven fabric found in Hawaii and Polynesia that is made by pounding tree bark. These islands didn’t support any of the plant or animal fibers that most of us are familiar with for thread and fabric production. The piece I have is made from wauke (paper mulberry). Other trees are used to make kapa cloth but wauke seems to be the most desirable. Basically branches about 1″ in diameter by about 2′ long for my fabric are cut and the bark removed. The outer bark is scraped off leaving just the inner bark. Strips of bark are pounded separately and then together to make a piece of fabric the desired length. When I hold my fabric up to the light I can see the strips joined about every 3″ (1″ diameter times Pi gives a circumference of 3″ or width of 3″ when cut open). There are also small patches visible where the bark was thin but these are generally pounded in very well and don’t show or affect the drape of the fabric.
The weight and drape of the fabric is similar to a medium weight nonwoven interfacing. It seems like it would wear like a lightweight muslin. It can be folded without breaking the fibers. I suspect that it would get softer with use. Also available for sale were tapa wall hangings which were painted on a base made of three layers of tapa cloth glued together with tapioca starch. This made a much more rigid fabric.
During my adult life I have tried to have one project that I work on that helps other people or makes the world a better place to live. My projects have varied over the years. In the 1980s my job with the US Geological Survey included a project through USAID to bring geothermal energy to San Miguel, Azores, where rural areas might have no electricity. Even in the towns service was unreliable. In the 1990s I inventoried plants in a new regional park to document species and especially to document endangered species. In the 2000s most of my work was through the local schools as I had three children at home. My children are through or nearly though college now and I have been thinking it is time to concentrate my efforts on a new project. But what?
Last week I decided on a new project – actually it’s more like increasing my participation in an ongoing interest of mine. In August I attended BlogHer ’11 with my daughter. It’s a conference for women (mostly) who blog, many of whom address health, family and other social issues. Johnson & Johnson had a booth there but instead of displaying their products they were highlighting their philanthropic efforts and how bloggers could get involved. One of the groups that they featured was Kopanang Community Trust and the display featured two embroidered tapestries made by the women at Kopanang. For years I have been interested in organizations that help poor women by teaching them skills that they can use to support themselves and their families. I gravitate toward those groups that produce and market needlework. I have supported these organizations and women through purchase of needlework products in the past, I have a small but growing collection of arpilleras, molas, Indian embroideries, and Egyptian braidwork, but it has been when I happened to stumble across such a group. My new plan is to do a more systematic job of seeking out, supporting and promoting these groups. This includes occasionally blogging about the people and organizations here so watch for my posts and support the women if you can.
Today I want to introduce you to the Kopanang Community Trust in South Africa. A broader overview of the project can be read here. I fell in love with the water buffalo on the second tapestry and hope he will be living at my house soon.
knitted tablecloth, approx. 6 foot diameter, cotton, by Cherie Helm, USA late 1900s
The Lace Museum is one of those hidden gems that you count yourself lucky to stumble upon. I feel especially fortunate as it is located in the same city that I live in and I have gotten to know many of the people associated with the museum. The museum is small but packed full of unbelievably beautiful lace, laces that required hundreds to thousands of hours to make. Most of the laces are handmade with bobbin lace, needle lace, knitted, crocheted, and tatted laces all having small permanent displays. Rotating shows are changed 3 or 4 times a year assembled from the best of the museum archives. If you have a special type of lace that you are interested in, you can call for an appointment to view laces in the archives. The museum also offers classes.
Over the last several years I have written a number of crochet how-to booklets for DRG. I always strived to explore each technique in depth by including numerous variations using the technique. The booklets are in print for a few years but then fade into oblivion, not that the booklet was poorly received but yarns used in projects are no longer made, fashion changes and models look dated, and new techniques pique crocheters’ interest.
When I saw that DRG was collecting a number of techniques in a new book called the Crochet Compendium under the House of White Birches imprint, I checked it out on the internet and found that one of my booklets was partially reprinted in the collection. Shortly thereafter I received a contributor copy of the book. Wow, was I surprised! The technique sections of five of my (out of print) how-to books were partially or completely reprinted: bead crochet, hairpin lace, slip-stitch, waffle-weave, and wiggly crochet. Several of my projects were also reprinted. They had been chosen to be simple, timeless examples of the techniques and yarn neutral – projects in which different yarns could easily be substituted.
The book includes many other techniques. Several are by well known designers that are known for that technique. Darla Fanton does double-ended crochet, Margret Willson does mosiac crochet, Sue Penrod does fleece, and Kim Kotary does crochet socks. Some basic skills such as reading symbols and crocheting with thread are also covered.
The Crochet Compendium is well worth acquiring. It’s unlikely that you already have the original booklets for all of the techniques covered and even if you do can you find all of them? Each technique has detailed yet concise instructions. Although there are only one or two projects for each technique, the project(s) is(are) enough for you to try the technique to see if you like it or to refresh your memory of a technique tried long ago.
Ellison, Connie, ed., 2011, Crochet Compendium, House of White Birches #871130, DRG, Berne, IN, 136 p., ISBN 978-1-59217-341-9, $19.95 US
My grandmother whom I learned to crochet from gave me a pair of pillowcases with crocheted edgings as a wedding gift. She pasted away a few years ago and hadn’t crocheted for a while before that. But I loved the lace edged pillowcases and decided to carry on her tradition. I am crocheting lace edgings and attaching them to pillowcases as wedding gifts for all of my nieces and nephews. Most of them are old enough to remember Grandma Nehring and saw her needlework, especially crocheting, knitting and quilting. I add a little note to the card about the pillowcases I received from Grandma and that I am continuing her tradition.
I’ve been interested in costuming for a long time. I did most of my speech credits in college sewing costumes for the theater department, did some costumes for my daughters’ ballet recitals over the years, taught at costuming conventions and crocheted themed garments for fashion shows.
Fast forward 30 years. Two of my children have been attending FanimeCon for a few years now. FamineCon is a convention centered around Japanese anime although it also includes mangas, videos, video games, movies, TV programs, comic books, etc. One of the main events is the Cosplay Gatherings. Cosplay Gatherings are convention attendees dressed up in costumes of their favorite characters from specific books, games or movies specifically for a group photo shoot. This year my son and I volunteered to be Cosplay Gatherings staff photographers. I was specifically interested in getting some photos of Steam Punk costumes and Steam Punk was the theme for the convention this year.
These costumes aren’t your typical Halloween costumes. Although most are made by amateurs, the quality and attention to detail is amazing. Costumes are generally custom made by the cosplayer for him or herself. Many of the cosplayers make one new costume a year. Some have been at it for several years and you see the same person in a different fabulous costume each day.
You can view my Fanime photos on my photography website Nancy Nehring Photography. In the left sidebar under Galleries you’ll see a page for FanimeCon 2011. Click on it to see my Famine photos. FanimeCon requested that I post all of the photos that I took. That’s a lot of images to go through unless you have a specific interest in cosplaying. For just a brief taste look at the folder Favorites(under FanimeCon 2011) which shows a sampling of my favorite images.
My friend and fellow crocheter Margaret Hubert is the author of The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet released by Creative Publishing International in 2010. The book features 100s of crochet stitches each documented with a beautifully photographed closeup and both written and charted instructions. It’s ideal for those who prefer a visual learning style. The book features several projects including examples of Margaret’s freeform crochet. Other projects are by well known crocheters which demonstrate different crochet techniques along with complete patterns. I can’t say I’m completely unbiased about this book. Margaret invited me to write an article on Crochet: Developing a Craft as a historical introduction to the book. I have reprinted the article here on my blog with permission of the publisher. After reading the article I’m sure you will want to check out the whole book.
Hubert, Margaret, 2010, The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet, Creative Publishing International, Inc., Mineapolis, MN, 272 p. ISBN-13 978-1-58923-472-7
Coats and Clark just released the pattern for this Granny Rectangle Make-up Bag that I designed. They advertise it as a make-up bag which is a perfectly good use for it but I use this bag to store all of the bits and pieces for my iPhone like earbuds, charger and USB cable. I can just pop it in my purse or suitcase as needed.
All of you crocheters have probably made a Granny Square but you can make a Granny Rectangle also. Here’s a crochet symbol chart to show you how to get started.
By starting with a chain and then slip stitching back along the chain through the bottom loop, you get a much firmer start and you have two vertical loops to work through all around for the next round. Then you continue adding rounds as you would for a Granny Square.
You can get a free download of the Make-up Bag LC2429 pattern from Coats and Clark at http://www.coatsandclark.com/Crafts/Crochet/Projects/Accessories/LC2429+Make+Up+Bag.htm.
I spied this beautiful embroidered angel when I was in Iceland recently. She and several other similar angels are embroidered on a 16th century altar cloth. I am amazed at how well preserved it is. The background and dress fabrics are velvets. The couched strips are leather. She’s surrounded by stars and a couched leather halo. She just might be my Christmas card this year.
I’ll be teaching four classes at the Knit and Crochet Show in Greenboro, North Carolina on September 21 and 22, 2011.
Grading Patterns is a 20 minute lecture/question and answer for the Professional Development Day break out sessions.
Couture Techniques for Knit and Crochet is a 3 hour course covering finishing tips and techniques for either knit or crochet.
Unusual Combos is a 3 hour course discussing ways to attach crochet to other materials like plastic, paper and fabric.
Designing Larger Sizes is a 3 hour course discussing how to design for large sized women – both apples and pears.