When you think about crochet, the traditional image that often comes to mind is of an old woman skillfully weaving by the warmth of a fireplace. But guess what? Given the resurgence of crochet, it’s not unusual to see photos like those of diver Tom Daley crocheting away by the pool at the Olympics.
This transformation not only confronts outdated stereotypes but also illuminates the contemporary appeal of crochet across diverse demographics and settings. As crochet continues to weave its way into the global creative landscape, its resurgence is also seen in diverse corners of the world, including the vibrant crochet community in India.
Before we get into the history and evolution of this craft and uncover the factors that led to its resurgence, it’s essential to distinguish Crochet from its close cousin – Knitting.
What is Crochet?
Crochet uses a single hooked needle for individual stitches, allowing versatility in intricate patterns. Knitting, with two needles, creates a more uniform fabric with added stretch.
The choice depends on the project’s texture and appearance, with crochet excelling in flexibility, while knitting is favoured for its uniform, stretchy fabrics, especially in garment-making.
Crochet craft gives rise to a variety of items, including tops, bows, toys, scarves, blankets, and hats (and recently trending – crochet flowers!). The fibres used, such as wool, cotton, and acrylic yarn, combine to produce a final product with a distinct woollen aesthetic.
Historical Roots and Evolution of Crochet
Where did it all start? Now that’s a tricky question. It’s like trying to pick out a single starting point when there are lots of different possibilities.
The true origins of crochet remain veiled in mystery, largely undocumented. Various theories propose diverse geographic roots, with some asserting an Arabian origin, speculating that crochet spread through Arab trade routes across the Mediterranean.
Others contend that the craft has its origins tracing back to at least 200 A.D. during the era of Ancient Egyptians, who initially employed the technique of stitching loops into rope for decorative purposes.
One view suggests that indigenous South American communities hold the key to crochet’s beginnings while another theory states that crochet evolved from a Chinese needlework technique, subsequently spreading to Turkey, India, Persia, and North Africa.
Interestingly, the term “crochet” finds its roots in a French word denoting a small hook. The earliest documented instructions or patterns featuring abbreviations, as recognized today, made their appearance in Dutch Magazine in 1823. Notably, the first English reference to garments created by looping yarn with a hook, known as “Shepherd’s Knitting,” surfaces in The Memories of Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant (1797-1830).
Despite the uncertainties surrounding its genesis, the development and widespread popularity of crochet, in the form we recognize today, are credited to European immigrants who introduced the craft to the United States in the early 19th century.
Crochet in India
Crochet embroidery has a rich history in India, spanning 300 to 400 years. Introduced in the 18th century by British rulers, it gained popularity among upper-class women in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, a missionary couple by the name of Macrae from Scotland is said to have played a crucial role in bringing crochet to India.
The craft quickly adapted to various religious ceremonies, with Muslims using it for prayer rugs and caps while Christians incorporated it into their ceremonies. Over time, crochet in India transcended religious boundaries to become a versatile and practical art form, with filet and thread crochet being common across the country.
Places known for Crochet in India
Providing an overview of the crochet history in India, it’s essential to spotlight three prominent locations where this craft has gained recognition.
Narsapuram, Andhra Pradesh
The first is Narsapuram (Narsapur). Situated in the west Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, this town stands out as India’s largest hub for lace and crochet industry. It boasts a flourishing lace and crochet industry with approximately 160,000 women artisans, primarily from fishing communities. Their expertise in net-making seamlessly translates into intricate crochet work. This region has become a sourcing destination for international markets, including Europe, the USA, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, contributing significantly to the Indian economy through exports.
Our next location is the oldest centre for crochet in India – the city of Jamnagar in Gujarat. The tradition in this region dates back to the Mughal era under Emperor Aurangzeb, with women engaged in this craft for generations. Jamnagar showcases crochet lace as a notable form of craftsmanship, characterised by designs inspired by print motifs such as boots, floral patterns, bouquets, almonds, and dates. The colour palette predominantly features black and brown hues, creating visually appealing decorative and utility crochet lace items.
The third location known for its crochet is the town of Panjim in Goa – where the craft found its way through Portuguese missionaries and nuns around the 15th century. Crochet in Goa once held traditional significance, with brides receiving embroidered linen and crochet items as part of their dowry. Initially a craft for affluent Christian households, it eventually evolved into a thriving cottage industry, producing a wide range of articles, including clothing, tablecloths, coasters, altar coverings, and rugs.
The Renaissance of the Hook: Crochet’s Revival
In the early 20th century, the surge in mass-produced items led to a decline in the popularity of handcrafted activities like crochet. Nevertheless, in recent years, crochet has experienced a resurgence, particularly among youngsters, who are embracing it as a means of self-expression and personal achievement. Additionally, crochet has become an affordable hobby with readily available and reasonably priced supplies.
The advent of social media and online communities has made it all the more easy for crocheters to connect, allowing for the easy sharing of patterns and ideas, as well as providing a wealth of inspiration. The lively online crochet community has also simplified the learning process, offering numerous free tutorials and video resources to help individuals acquire crochet skills.
Gen-Z’s Rendezvous with Crochet in India
To explore the perception of Crochet as a trend in India, we spoke to a few Gen-Z crochet enthusiasts who shared interesting insights into their journey with this craft.
Sayee Shobha Vikas, a 15-year-old student and crochet enthusiast shared her three-year journey into the craft, driven by a desire to learn something new. What she initially deemed a foreign activity turned out to be a hidden talent among her family, particularly her mother and grandmother who were quite skilled at the craft.
When discussing the crochet community in India, Sayee notes that she has found companionship in crocheting with her classmates, and friends.
Regarding social media, she admitted that crochet’s overshadowing by knitting might have deterred her. Yet, she emphasised how it has empowered her creatively, enhancing her attention span, serving as a therapeutic outlet for stress relief and fostering a stronger bond with her grandmother.
While Sayee was introduced to crochet by social media, Sania Rebello, a 21-year-old fashion design student, learnt the craft in a yarn class as a part of her course. She added that with people increasingly supporting sustainable fashion, handicrafts and small businesses, the appreciation for the diverse range of crochet products offered by crafters has only increased.
When discussing the personal benefits of crocheting as a hobby, the interviewee shared its role in stress relief and occupying their time. Crocheting serves as a valuable tool to combat overthinking during stressful moments.
The crochet revival has played a pivotal role, to the extent that a mere scroll through popular social media platforms, such as Instagram, is likely to acquaint you with various crochet artists or thriving businesses in the field.
Weaving it all together,
There was once a time when crochet was associated with grandmas alone. But thanks to popular culture aesthetics like Cottagecore dominating entire Pinterest boards, crochet is back in the scene and it’s here to stay for a while!
Whether it’s adorable amigurumi, crochet flowers, totes, or tops, the crochet world has elevated everything to a level of cuteness and sustainability beyond imagination!
This craft as it goes on defying gender and age stereotypes, has seamlessly integrated across diverse communities in India and over the world, establishing itself as an inclusive and universally appealing hobby.