A little disclaimer before we begin, I am not a historian. But since I am a master of crochet, I feel like I should know a thing or two. Thus, I did some reading up on this subject.
It seems no one knows for sure where and when crochet came to be. It just appeared almost simultaneously in various places. The French had their tambour embroidery, the Danish had their nålebinding and the British had their shepherd’s knitting. To be fair, tambour embroidery came to Europe from Asia and nålebinding uses a thick needle rather than a hook, though the results are quite similar to crochet.
Shepherd’s knitting hook has a large handle with a smallish hook at the end and is not what crochet hooks look like today. It did not allow for many stitches to be held at the same time, thus was useless in lace making. It was meant for yarn, not thread.
Tambour hooks, on the other hand, are tiny and sharp. They are still popular today especially with high end fashion houses for beading and embroidery since they can produce intricate designs in an efficient manner without compromising the quality.
The hooks we use today are a combination of the two.
I’m sure everyone knows about the two particular times crochet thrived in popularity. During the Great Irish famine crochet was introduced to women as a means to make extra income. It was meant to resemble needle and bobbin lace. Both of those techniques of lace making is extremely time consuming and difficult to master. Irish crochet was a great alternative. It was quick and accessable, yet intricate.
Women started specialising in specific parts of this lace making. Some only made leaves or flowers or other designs. While others had those motifs brought to them to be assembled into garments. Many women kept their patterns secret from competitors. Regions developed their own styles and the unique lace was in high demand all over the world. In time the fashion changed and demands dwindled, putting crochet into the back burner.
The second coming of crochet during the 70s brought us granny squares. All the granny squares! An abundance of granny squares! Not much to be said about that odd era of human existence when it comes to crochet.
We have come to the time that is now. The internet has brought us all together. New ideas and old are combined and reimagined. It is truly a wonderful time for crafters everywhere. Mass production is not the goal for people of today and slow fashion is gaining momentum. There are so many talented people improving the craft, inspiring us all. It leaves me hopeful that crochet isn’t going anywhere any time soon, even if we don’t know where the hell it came from to begin with.