|Deep Crochet Research
Before the internet I was a bookworm and hung out in libraries. I enjoyed libraries so much that I visited them when I traveled, and assumed that I would earn a degree in Library Science (and Philosophy).
This past week I was immersed in my crochet library. I use a simple research worksheet for these immersion times (see photo below). It lists all of my crochet books in chronological order by © date, grouped into a few broad categories. Each book has space for notes next to it. When I have a research question I go through the books, noting whether and how the topic is addressed.
This isn’t the crocheter I used to be. Bookish teen yes, but not a reader of crochet. I learned how to do the basics from one source, and never checked other books. This week I enjoyed discovering how different authors enrich basic topics with their nuanced perspectives, so much that I bought FIVE more crochet books!
This week’s quest: “How have foundation stitches been described, by whom and when, and have they changed?” In case you’re curious what I found out from 43 books, I’ll sum it up below. I discovered a history-altering development in crochet world!
Something else also happened (besides book-buying). Things got pretty philosophical. I got to thinking that there's an unknowable (and exciting) gap between the crochet that’s published and the crochet that’s invented privately--the freeform nature of crochet being what it is. Sometimes a designer just happens to be the one to write down what another crocheter discovered but didn't record, or what someone else would call a mistake.
It fascinates me when there's a consensus among crochet authors and when there isn't. Philosophical stuff like: what should be part of the crochet “canon”? What happens to the other stuff? How do we know what counts as new--should it be based on what is in print? A seemingly new stitch or technique could have been published somewhere, sometime, and how do we know for sure? Crochet authors rarely cite each other, and that makes it difficult to trace ideas.
Gleaned From 43 Crochet Books:
1. Of my 43 stitch dictionaries and how-to books dating from the 1800's to 2010, 22 offer 1 and occasionally 2 alternatives to a foundation chain. I had no idea that a foundation alternative has been a widely available idea for over a century.
2. Until 2006, these books all offer the same stitch, usually called "double chain," sometimes "double base chain" or "double foundation chain." If a pattern abbreviation is offered, it's always "dch." A drawing of how to do the stitch is almost always provided. An exception: One of them (Keim, Werker) says "see p. 32" for an alternative foundation but it's missing from the page so I don't know how it compares to other books.
3. I enjoyed seeing the reasons each author offered for using a foundation stitch. Two of them (Kooler, Martingale) mention it only as a method for increasing stitches at the end of a row, such as for filet crochet. The most comprehensive are Marty Miller (in her article for Interweave Crochet Spring 2007), James Walters, and Lily Chin.
4. I found the first published change in 2006 (among the books I have). Lily Chin specifies a way to add a chain (ch) to a single crochet (sc) and other taller stitches, which she first learned from Mary Rhodes, who uploaded a page to the internet in 1998. Also, sometime before 2004 Doris Chan was introducing the dch foundation in her patterns to crocheters, because it's a more wearable way to start her crochet-in-the-round from-the-top-down garments. Then Marty Miller's article appeared in 2007, explaining the foundation sc (fsc) as part of a family of foundation stitches.
5. Online from approx. 2007-2008, crocheters were buzzing about Mary Rhodes' page, Doris' designs, Marty's article, and the foundation stitches. Youtube how-to videos at the time were in breathless demand.
6. As of 2011, in online forums and in print I'm noticing a confusion of the earlier dch with the later fsc, and the two stitches never appear in the same book. For example, Pauline Turner uses the same name (double foundation chain) for both stitches in different books: dch in 2003, fsc in 2009.
Other notables: Clinton MacKenzie also offered a good explanation of the dch. Margaret Hubert is the only one I found who handily depicts the fsc before and after the next row is worked into it. Rita Taylor offers a turned version of the dch.
That's it for issue #18! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks! --Vashti