Tracing the History of Crochet: Ancient Craft to Modern Art

History of Crochet

Today, I’m excited to take you on a fairly quick journey through the rich and fascinating History of Crochet. I think understanding its origins and evolution can deepen our appreciation for this beloved pastime.

In this post, we’ll explore the history of crochet, from its mysterious beginnings to the modern techniques and styles of today.

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What is Crochet?

Crochet is a needlework craft that involves creating fabric by interlocking loops of yarn or thread using a single hook. Crocheting is a popular hobby that enables individuals to create a wide variety of items, including clothing, accessories, home decor, and toys

I believe almost everyone should crochet, as it offers creativity and relaxation with a simple hook and yarn. The slip stitch is essential for joining pieces and creating texture, and hooks come in various materials like metal, wood, bamboo, or plastic.

Although, crochet terms and techniques can vary from country to country, often making it challenging for crocheters to follow patterns from other parts of the world.

As a result, crocheters sometimes need to utilize conversion tables or guides to ensure that they are following the pattern accurately. 

Despite these differences, crochet remains a universal language that brings together people from all over the world. The advent of the internet has helped the crafting world flourish online!

Crocheters have categorized the many types of crochet and tend to prefer one style over another.

History of Crochet

The Origins of Crochet

Crochet has a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries and continents. Although it’s true origin is uncertain, some experts believe that it evolved from ancient needlework methods. The earlier techniques such as shepherd’s knitting, linen weaving, lace-making, and embroidery.

With just a little imagination, we can trace crochet’s origins back to ancient times when people used bone or stick to knot chains of plant-based threads.

The first known mention of crochet in literature, was in the 1800s, when the craft was referred to as “hooked lace” or “shepherd’s knitting“. The first printed crochet patterns were in the early 1800’s, and were typically luxury patterns for purses of fine metal silk thread. 

History of Crochet

Ancient Arabia

Although its exact origin remains a mystery, archaeological finds suggest that Arabia may have been the original area where wool was first worked with just one needle or hook.

Biblical historians suggest that the Israelites worked wool in this way during their long trek across the Sinai desert (when fleeing Egypt). Babylon thereafter, became the center for woolen crafts.

The Babylonians loved fancy clothes made of heavy wool with intricate designs. Crochet was likely used to make these garments. Over time there was a shift toward simpler clothing, like a basic woolen sack, with the fabric resembling that of knitting or crochet.

History of Crochet

Tambour Embroidery

Tambour embroidery is a type of needlework that is now making a comeback! Although the needle now is manufactured and quite different to the original. This 3-dimensional embroidery style originated in Persia and was later popularized in France in the 18th century.

There are also very close similarities between the Persian tambour needlework and historical Chinese needlework. Therefore, China may play a part in how crochet evolved.

Chinese needlework used a hook-like tool, which resembles the modern crochet hook. Additionally, some Chinese embroidery techniques use a looped thread similar to the looped structure of crochet stitches. 

Tambour embroidery involves using a single hook to create a chain stitch, similar to the basic stitch in crochet. The technique was also used in creating lace and other decorative elements.

While the exact relationship between tambour embroidery and crochet is uncertain, some experts believe that crochet may have been inspired by it. Note that by exchanging thread for wool yarn, heavier fabrics could be produced, as required for textiles made in cooler climates.

History of Crochet

Shepherd’s Knitting

Shepherd’s knitting, is a technique that uses a single hook to create a fabric weave that’s similar to knitting. This technique is believed to have originated in Bosnia, and has been used for centuries to create warm and durable textiles for shepherds, and in rural communities.

Some experts believe that Shepherd’s knitting may have influenced the development of modern crochet, as both techniques involve the use of a single hook to create a fabric. However, the exact relationship between the two crafts is still a matter of debate.

History of Crochet


Nålebinding, also known as “knotless netting” or “single-needle knitting,” predates both knitting and crochet as an ancient technique used to create fabric.

The technique differs from crochet as it requires passing the full length of the thread through each loop and involves piecing together short lengths of yarn rather than using a continuous strand.

Although working in the round, rows worked flat and use of a single hooked needle – are why this craft is considered a possible early form of crocheting.

This handcraft is still practiced by indigenous people in Peru and is popular in Scandinavian countries and the Balkans. Nålebinding was used during the Viking age to create sturdy garments and was made with needles made from wood, antler, or bone. 

Although it declined in popularity after the 1950s due to changes in the textile industry, it has gained renewed interest among textile historians, archaeologists, and craftspeople.

Further Suggestions for the True Origins of Crochet

Over time, a number of other suggestions have arisen about the origins of crochet. One theory suggests that nuns in medieval Europe invented crochet.

Crafters within convents often crafted woolen crafts during the Renaissance period. And later it was nuns who taught crochet to wealthy women in finishing schools.

Another is that it was created by sailors using their rope-making skills to fashion clothing and other items at sea.

There are many who believe that traditional crochet is a young craft, developed during the 19th century, in Paris.

As generations pass down fiber crafts and their techniques through memory, we lack substantial evidence to prove or disprove any theory. So, much is speculated on the history of crochet.

History of Crochet

The Role of Crochet in Different Cultures and Time Periods

Crochet has played a significant role in different cultures and time periods throughout history. In Europe, the wealthy considered crochet a popular pastime and often utilized it to create ornate lace patterns.

In contrast, in Ireland during the potato famines, Irish crochet became a cottage industry, with people making collars, frills, and other adornments as a means of earning much-needed income. These skills traveled with them, when droves of Irish imigrants colonized America.

In many Middle Eastern and African countries, crochet is still a way of life, with women using it to create functional items like blankets, baskets, and clothing. 

In recent years, modern crochet has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Modern crocheters often experiment with new techniques and designs. Crochet has become as much an artform, as a practical skill.

The longevity and all of these many uses of crochet, showcases the versatility of this timeless craft!

History of Crochet

The Early Years of Modern Crochet

The French word “croche” means “hook,” which refers to the tool used in the craft. Originally, crochetage was the term used for a stitch that joined different pieces of lace in 17th century French lace-making.

The word crochet was later used to describe the type of textile and the hooked needle used to create it.

History of Crochet

The Rise of Crochet in Europe and America

In the 1800s, crochet gained popularity in Europe and America as a practical and decorative craft. The availability of inexpensive cotton yarn and crochet hooks made it accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Women’s magazines of the time began publishing patterns and crochet designs, and the hobby quickly became a beloved pastime. 

The Development of Crochet Patterns and Techniques

As crochet grew in popularity, new patterns and techniques were developed. The granny square, which is now often a staple of many crochet projects, was invented in the 19th century.

The Irish crochet lace technique, which involves creating intricate motifs that are then joined together, was also developed during this time. 

The 20th century saw significant changes in the world of crochet due to the impact of industrialization and technology. The availability of new materials and machines allowed for mass production of yarn and other supplies, making crochet more accessible to the general public.

As a result, the craft gained even more popularity and instead of being used to primarily produce items of necessity, it became a beloved pastime for people of all ages and backgrounds.

During this period, new styles and techniques also emerged in the world of crochet. One such technique is filet crochet, which involves creating a mesh-like fabric by working with spaces and solid blocks of stitches.

Another technique that gained popularity is Tunisian crochet, also known as Afghan stitch, which combines the features of both knitting and crochet to create a unique textured fabric.

Additionally, crochet was also heavily influenced by various artistic movements in the 20th century. The Arts and Crafts movement, which focused on the value of handmade goods and traditional craftsmanship, emphasized the importance of crochet as an art form. 

Crochet stitches and techniques continue to evolve today, with modern crocheters pushing the boundaries of what can be created with yarn and a hook!

History of Crochet

Suggested Timeline for the Important Dates of the Evolution of Crochet 

6500 BCEarliest archaeological find of fabric created by nålebinding
1500 BCAncient needlework techniques in China may have led to crochet’s development
950 BCCrochet may have been used by Israelites during the Exodus
1700sTambouring, an early form of crochet, reaches Europe from North Africa and Persia
1800sCrochet becomes popular in Europe and America
Late 1800sEmergence of filet crochet and Tunisian crochet
Late 1800s to early 1900sArts and Crafts movement influences crochet
1820sThe first crochet patterns were printed, for luxury items
1840sIrish crochet is developed and spreads rapidly for side income
1920s-1950sCrochet becomes more functional and less decorative in the English speaking world
1940sCrochet important for the wartime effort in US & UK especially
1960s-1970sFreeform crochet emerges as an art form
1990s-2000sAmigurumi and modern afghans become popular trends in crochet
Present dayCrochet remains popular and accessible, with online communities and social media connecting crocheters around the world
The Evolution of Crochet

Modern Crochet

Crochet has come a long way since its ancient origins. Today, it remains a popular craft that has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Even younger generations are attracted to the creative and sustainable nature of crochet, making it a trendy hobby.

With the help of online communities and social media platforms, crocheters can connect with each other from around the world and share their love of the craft.

As crochet has evolved, so have the styles and techniques used in modern projects. One of the latest trends is amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting small, stuffed dolls that are representative of animals and articles from everyday life.

This fun and quirky style has captured the imagination of crocheters everywhere and has become a popular way to create cute gifts for loved ones. 

Another popular trend in modern crochet is the use of bold colors and geometric shapes in afghans and blankets. And finally, Freeform crochet, has gained popularity in recent years as a way to create unique and abstract pieces without following a specific pattern or structure.

History of Crochet

Famous Crocheters and their Contributions to the Craft

Throughout history, there have been many famous crocheters who have contributed to the popularity of this handcraft. One of the most well-known is the longest reigning monarch: Queen Victoria, who famously crocheted.

The crochet bug bit soul queen Aretha Franklin, and she stated that the pineapple stitch was her favorite! And Betty Davis was just one of the many movie stars in the 1940s, 50s and 60s who were keen knitters or crocheters.

Now in the 21st century. Celebrities such as Kamala Harris, Cher and Hilary Duff have been known to crochet on movie sets, helping to bring the craft into the public eye. Songstress Katy Perry said in an interview that she likes to crochet on tour.

Additionally, many famous designers – such as Missoni and Chanel – have incorporated crochet into their collections, elevating the craft to new heights of popularity and recognition.

History of Crochet

In Conclusion

So it’s fairly clear that crochet as we know it today, wasn’t a sudden invention! It evolved from ancient needlework techniques. Its exact origins are technically unclear, but we can generally assume that it’s come from Arabian, Scandinavian and/or Chinese roots.

The problem seems to lay with the fact that scholars differ on what deems the term ‘crochet’ in relation to its history. In some expert opinions, origins and evolution aren’t necessarily the same thing as history.

Crochet-like needlework, has been practiced for centuries, with archaeological finds producing woven fabric samples and single hook tools. Although, the craft as we know it today, gained popularity in Europe and America. This lead to the development of new crochet patterns and techniques. 

Around the planet, crochet designs range from the traditional to the modern, and crocheters use various types of yarn and techniques to create their projects.

Despite its potentially long history, crochet remains a popular craft practiced all over the world. And its popularity doesn’t look to be slowing!

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