“What Is Crochet, Really?” was first published as issue #103 of Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter. I sent it to 8,043 subscribers on October 9, 2020 with the title, “The Big Picture of Crochet”. I’ve updated the third paragraph (“This idea for a newsletter topic…”) as of Nov. 2, 2020.
I have a fresh big picture of crochet to report.
I’ve worried about whether you’d be interested in my “what is crochet” thoughts, but you know what? It’s crochet theory, which we don’t have enough of, so I’m probably not alone in pondering it.
For help in my quest I turned to national libraries, big crochet sites, encyclopedias, and academia. How does crochet fit into the larger world? How is it defined by and for non-crocheters, versus crocheters? Within the subject of crochet, how is its huge variety organized into subtopics?
This idea for a newsletter topic grabbed hold of me thanks to three writers (I’ve listed all mentioned sources at the bottom): Cary Karp, Rachel Maines, and Sue Perez. Cary’s Loopholes blog has several thought-provoking posts and published articles about crochet history and structure; his “Defining Crochet” article had me mulling “what really is crochet” for weeks. It turns out that my “how does crochet fit into the larger world” question is addressed in Rachel’s book. Sue’s new category-crossing crochet book was an indirect trigger (see Links at the bottom).
Updates October 20, 2020: I expanded the Timeline entries for 1977, 1982, and 1991.
The limpet stitch crochet topic evolved dramatically in the ten years since I wrote my third newsletter about it. As of September 4, 2020, this greatly updated version is now my ultimate resource page for crocheting limpets, limpet variations, and more reasons to crochet with half hitches. It even has a timeline and a table of related terms.
“Limpets, those cheery, little-used sideways shells.”
Sue Perez (a.k.a. Mrs. Micawber)
Issue #003 went out to just over 370 subscribers in 2010. That’s about 70 more than for issue #002. I remember feeling very encouraged by that. One of my early goals was to find likeminded crocheters. Back then, the only folks talking (enthusiastically!) about the limpet stitch, like Mel, Myra, Barbara, Margaret, and Pippin, were members of FFCrochet, the International Freeform Guild (INTFF) yahoo group. Limpet stitches have expanded their reach, as you’ll see below.
I’ve been looking forward to writing up a little love letter to the Limpet Stitch. It’s not like any other crochet stitch because it is a fundamentally different way to add loops onto the crochet hook. (September 2010)
The first thing a crocheter learns, after making a slip knot and putting the loop on a crochet hook, is to yarn over (wind or wrap the yarn around the crochet hook). We can’t make any basic stitches without it. Strictly speaking there’s only one way to do it. If you wind the yarn around your hook the opposite direction, it’s a yarn under. (Read all about yarn overs, yarn unders, and reasons to use both.)
There are other ways to add new loops to the crochet hook beside yarning over (or under). The one we use for limpet stitch crochet is challenging at first only because changing how you yarn over feels very alien! It’s actually simple, easy, and quick to do. The limpet stitch has an avid fan club.
Beyond the Standard Yarn Over
From a crocheter’s point of view, limpet stitch yarn overs have an added half-twist in them. In the photo at right you can see how the two loose loops on the hook have a little twist at the bottom of them. Adding the half-twist as you yarn over is a neat trick.
This simple little twist is powerful. It is the basis of all needle lace, macramé, and tatting. It’s fundamental to sewing and embroidery. Latch hook rug making requires it, and bobbin lace starts with it. It’s the simplest cast on in knitting.
Making room for it in our crochet toolbox means reclaiming the DNA that crochet shares with these other string arts. You may wish to make room for two more, like I have. The little half-twist can turn in two different directions: to the left (counterclockwise), or to the right (clockwise). The two loops in the photo turn to the left, as if a cursive letter “e” is written backwards: “ɘ”.
I seamed with stitch equivalents in this 2019 image. It was not in the original 2011 newsletter issue #2, A Super Crochet Maneuver. It’s explained at the end.
First, the original newsletter issue, below. It went out to a few more than 300 subscribers in September 2010. That’s nine years ago! I’ve removed the original two-column formatting, colored backgrounds, and especially the outdated links. I’ve refrained from revising the original text, except for light edits.
This stitch equivalents topic looks different to me now. I’ve added my current (September 2019) thoughts at the end.
Welcome to issue #2.
Subscriptions have doubled since the first issue was sent out 14 days ago, so welcome to all of you new subscribers!
The “super crochet maneuver” I’ve been thinking about lately is not only a big problem-solver for designers, it can single-handedly put the “free” in freeform! It’s not a big secret, but I get the feeling it’s not common knowledge either.