Crochet Class

October 2nd, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, eight ladies and two gentlemen gathered in the basement of the Ottendorfer Library under the auspices of the New York Nineteenth Century Society to learn about crocheted lace. I was drafted to deliver the opening remarks, since I’ve been reading about crochet lately, thanks to my petticoat obsession project.

After my little speech, complete with a few gems culled straight from period sources (stay tuned for a full article on early crochet as soon as I get the time to put it together), everyone whipped out their hooks. We began making samples from the triangular looped 1855 pattern I found in Peterson’s and used for my recently completed petticoat.


Luckily, everyone there already knew how to crochet. I was just leading them a bit further down the primrose path to needlework insanity. They caught on quickly, producing impressive headers for their samples, and even getting so far as the first row of loops. The photo above shows one of our talented hand-work circle members in mid-double-crochet.

Audio MP3

Here’s an audio excerpt from the introduction I gave. Before you listen, a couple of possible errata. I call point lace an embroidered lace, but I think it would be more accurately termed a needle lace. Also, I say that Peterson’s is searchable on ProQuest. I don’t believe it is…but there is another major database that many research libraries do carry with Peterson’s, if I could only remember which one!


After I finished my little speech, everyone set to work. I wandered around helping as needed, and working on my own petticoat trim. To make it more portable, I wrapped it around my neck (as captured in this photograph by my handsome and talented father, who was in attendance).

19th-C. Hand-Work Circle: Crochet Workshop

September 14th, 2011

I’m going to share my recent obsession for mid-19th century crochet edgings next month at our first fall meeting of the New York Nineteenth Century Society Hand-Work Circle. I hope you’ll plan to be there!

Saturday, October 1, 1 to 3 p.m.
At the Ottendorfer Library, 135 Second Avenue in Manhattan

Join the New York Nineteenth Century Society’s Hand-Work Circle for a presentation featuring techniques for recreating crocheted lace from historic patterns. Afterwards, you’re invited to hone your own crochet skills (please bring a spool of crochet thread — not yarn — and an appropriately sized hook), or simply sit back and enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts while you work on your latest hand-work project. Free, but space is limited. RSVP to Use of library space by the New York Nineteenth Century Society for this program does not indicate endorsement by The New York Public Library.

Earlier this month, I finished my second fancy petticoat with a hand-crocheted trim based on an 1855 pattern from Peterson’s. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, for I’ve already begun another length of crochet trim, also from a Peterson’s 1855 pattern. This one is quite a bit more elaborate. And time consuming. Plus, I think it’s fussy enough to stand a little embroidery on the accompanying petticoat skirt…

New Crochet Trim

So far, I’ve just got the header done, and have begun adding the central motifs, spaced along the length every couple inches or so.

I really enjoy adapting crochet patterns from the past. It helps so much when there’s a picture to go along with the written directions, since so much is up for interpretation in crochet. I also like the way crochet can be used to imitate other styles of lace — that’s partly the reason crochet caught on in the first half of the 19th century. We’ll discuss the history of crochet, as well as techniques for finding and using historic patterns, at the upcoming Hand-Work Circle.

Here are a few other crochet projects from my past:

late-19th cent chemise crochet detail

This is the neck and sleeve of a chemise, made to be worn under an 1870s ballgown. I made up the pattern myself, based on a picture in Weldon’s Practical Needlework. I was in too much of a hurry to work through the pattern properly!


Ignore the top two, they’re both tatted (and very poorly). The bottom one is a crocheted insertion, from a modern pattern.

crocheted collar

A completely apocryphal crocheted collar — just a bunch of repeats of a mid-20th century edging. Still, it’s rather pretty, and would look well on a dress…if I ever actually finished one, that is!

Once I finish my current crochet trim, I think I’d like to try something with really fine thread. I have a set of teeny weeny hooks, imported from Germany, that don’t get nearly enough use. My size 10 steel hook (just about perfect for bedspread-weight cotton thread, which Peterson’s says is right for a petticoat) has seen so much activity lately, it’s changed color where my fingers go and started to bend at the top!