It was not something I ever thought about until my mother died. Going through the remains of her personal effects, I came upon three bundles of crochet hooks, each wrapped securely with bands made from elastic, the kind you find in knickers. They were sorted methodically according to hook size--small medium and large, each bundle holding an assortment of hooks of different lengths and different colors. The small hooks were mostly shiny steel while the medium and larger ones tended to be plastic. Each one was essentially a stick with a hook at the end, something that could be whittled out of wood. The hook is measured by the circumference of the shaft--the thicker the handle, the bigger the hook; similarly, the smaller the shaft, the smaller the hook. This allows the hook to work its magic with different thicknesses from finest thread to hanks of wool.
In our house, as in many others, my mother’s constant production of doilies, tablecloths and lace trims around handkerchiefs, was part of the evening routine between supper and bedtime,; she crocheted on the chesterfield in the living room while we played with a few toys or did our homework around the dining room table and my dad read the evening paper in his armchair chair or listened to the radio.
The word “crochet” is a French word meaning “hook”. There is an aloofness attached to the use of crochet hooks to make garments--- perhaps an elitist feeling. In the past, as a method of making fabric, crocheting was considered to be inappropriate for common folk. As well as using more thread to make a garment, lacy trims were not suitable for the peasantry. As a result the poor were dependent on spinning, weaving and knitting to clothe themselves. What happened during the Industrial Revolution when machines took over those cottage industries is common knowledge: spinning, weaving and knitting went into commercial production. Crocheting did not. There is no official name for someone who crochets; “crocheter” does not lend itself to English vernacular and it would be insulting to name them hookers.
Today there are legions of ordinary folk--- mostly women who crochet and to this day, crocheting remains the only means of making fabric that cannot be reproduced by machine. It is surprising to realize that every crocheted article in this modern era is hand-made; it is pure romance.
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