Crochet, “hook” in French, is a form of sewing that consists of a double interlaced structure built from a chain base. The basic stitch is a simple slip loop, but many different stitches can be created by varying the number of loops on the hook and the ways they integrate with the structure.
It’s no surprise to anyone that crochet has been a hit in fashion for the past years; if you’ve seen it on social media, it might become a trend. One of TikTok’s most loved styles, let’s find out more about this trend.
Before we talk about crochet nowadays, it’s important to learn about its origins. Tracking the beginnings of this needlework it’s not as simple as many would think. It doesn’t have only one source.
While some researchers believe that it originated in Arabia, then spread eastward and westward on Arab trade routes to other Mediterranean lands; others affirm that it comes from indigenous tribes in South America. The last theory indicates that it originated from Chinese needlework, a very ancient form of embroidery known in Turkey, India, Persia, and North Africa.
Considered a men’s job, crochet was created for practical purposes in the early centuries. Hunters and anglers made knotted strands of woven fibers, cords, or strips of cloth to trap animals and snare fish or birds.
Later, it expanded to decorations for special occasions such as religious rites, celebrations, marriages, and funerals. Crochet was transformed into ceremonial costumes like ornamentations and decorative trimmings for wrists, arms, and ankles.
One thing is certain with an unknown origin: crochet reached Europe in the ‘1700s. Here, it was referred to as “tambouring”, from the French “tambour” or drum. In this technique, a background fabric is stretched out on a frame. The working thread is held underneath the fabric.
At the end of the 18th-century, the tambour evolved into what the French known as "crochet in the air". Then, the background fabric was eliminated, and the stitch worked on its own.
European royalty and wealthy people covered themselves in lace trimmings, gowns, jackets, and headpieces during this period. The poor couldn’t afford this fabric, so they appealed to crochet as a form of imitation of lace.
Italian crochet lace from the ‘1700s.
For years, it will be only seen as the cheap version of lace. But things changed during Victorian times when the Queen gave the royal seal of approval by buying crocheted lace made by Irish women who were struggling after the potato famine.
The Queen even learned this technique, making crocheted scarves for veterans of the South African War.
During Victorian times, crochet patterns were used for flowerpot holders, birdcage covers, baskets for visiting cards, lamp mats and shades, wastepaper baskets, tablecloths, antimacassars (covers to protect chairs from men’s hair oil), tobacco pouches, purses, men's caps, and waistcoats.
Queen Victoria knitting.
The Queen’s scarf.
To everyone’s surprise, crochet was a lifesaver during the potato famine in Ireland (1845-1850). Apart from farming, Irish people relied on crochet to help them financially by selling hand-made items. They organized into crochet cooperatives, schools taught this skill, and trained teachers were sent all over the country. When Irish people migrated to North America, their skills came with them, and the technique grew in the country.
Irish crochet lace. 19th-century.
In the ‘20s and ‘30s, crochet evolved from decorative lace pieces and transformed into larger accessories and full garments such as ballroom and wedding gowns.
During the first 30 years of the 20th-century, women also made afghans, slumber rugs, traveling rugs, chaise lounge rugs, sleigh rugs, car rugs, cushions, coffees and teapot cozies, and hot-water bottle covers.
‘1920s crochet hat and ‘1930s evening gown.
During World War II, crochet became part of the wartime effort in the USA and England. Women could contribute by making hats and mittens for soldiers. Crochet also became an ally to fashion, finishing every simple outfit of the time.
‘40s turban hat and shoulder bag.
The post-war times of the ‘50s inspired creativity and crochet became part of fashion once again, keeping up with it.
‘1950s crochet skirt and dress.
The ‘60s and ‘70s saw the crochet boom, being transformed into clothes and homeware. One of the crochet’s most known patterns was invented, the “granny square”, and it was used in a variety of colors, clothes, and accessories.
1973 “granny square” afghan.
Due to the pandemic, people have been spending a lot of time indoors and had to find activities to keep themselves busy. Simple and accessible activities, like knitting and crochet, became a great companion during these times. It didn’t disappear, but this technique returned to the spotlight in 2020.
Like this, Tiktok became the center of craft projects, with fisherman hats, balaclavas, bras, tops, among others, being protagonists in the app. (Last year, #crochet reached 3.7 billion views, while #knitting has more than 618 million).
By September, the fabrics surpassed the digital world and appeared on the international catwalks of spring 2021. Sweaters, hats, and handbags were seen in the Ulla Johnson show, and in Anna Sui’s lookbook. Weeks later, in Milan, short dresses with woven details appeared in Alberta Ferretti’s collection.
Since then, celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Katie Holmes have been seen sporting this trend. Hadid wore a Mango sweater in June and Holmes a knit sweater from the same brand.
Gigi Hadid wearing a crochet sweater by Mango.
Fun, inspiring, body inclusive (during its peak, many trends surfaced on TikTok portraying oversized women), easy, and with a cozy feeling, it might be one of the coolest recent fashion trends.
There is a need for tangible and handmade things in a digital and intangible world. Handmade and irregular objects are thought to have a “soul” and therefore bring that homely and comfortable touch that is sought in a design.
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