What is Crochet?

Learn about the origins of this artisan technique

Not long ago, crochet was considered old-fashioned and unattractive. However, like many other crafts, this fiber art technique has recently been given a modern spin and thus a second life.

Discover the types of personalized pieces you can create armed with thread and a crochet hook, such as clothing, accessories, toys, and decorations.

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Alicia Recio Rodríguez

What is crochet?

The term comes from the Germanic “croc” and the old French “crochet”, which both mean "hook".

It is a technique used to create textiles using a crochet hook to form chains out of wool or thread. It’s possible to do using very fine thread and a delicate hook, or thick wool and larger hooks.

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Crochet hooks are usually made of aluminum, steel, wood, bamboo, or plastic. For textiles crocheted using delicate, fine thread, it is better to use metal hooks–they also last longer.

Crochet hooks come in 25 standard sizes. When you buy wool or thread, you are usually told which number hook (or needle) you’ll need.

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Aluminum crochet hooks. Photo: pschemp

When it comes to thread, you can use more or less any type, including embroidery thread, metallic thread, worsted, wool, or even old fabric that you upcycle, giving clothes you’ve stopped wearing a second life.

You can find books or websites full of patterns that explain the abbreviations used for each stitch. The easiest way to do this is to start teaching yourself how to crochet.

In this video, crochet expert Steel & Stitch explain the materials you will need:


Various sources trace the origins of crochet back to different time periods and regions around the world. Like many other artisan techniques, examples of pieces that have been made using similar techniques, yet with their own unique characteristics, have been found across the globe.

While there is evidence of people having hand-woven textiles dating back to the 11th century, it is debatable exactly when crochet emerged. Its beginnings are often situated in 16th century Europe, when delicate laces were woven. Other historians state that it also existed in America and the Middle East, and from there it might have traveled to Spain and Asia. There is also earlier evidence of it being used in China.

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Queen Victoria of England crocheting pieces for soldiers. Crochet Magazine
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Irish cotton lace crochet bolero, early 20th century. Textile Museum of Canada

It is thought that Tambour embroidery, which used a hook, is where crochet originated from. This technique is thought to have been first used in India, Turkey, Persia, and North Africa. Finally, in the 16th century, it reached Europe.

In the 18th century, the French gave this technique the name "air crochet." They had stopped using the embroidery hoop typically used for Tambour or Lunévillie embroidery. In the 19th century, this technique became popular in Ireland as a means of survival during the famine. Irish migrants brought the technique to the United States.

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Cotton crochet hat made in Pakistan, end of the 20th century. Textile Museum of Canada.
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Contemporary crochet pieces from Guatemala. Photo: ArtProf

What makes knitting different to crochet?

Knitting uses two needles to create stitches and form fabric, while crochet only uses a hook.

What kind of projects can I create?

Crochet offers a great range of possibilities. If you crochet flat, you can create accessories and clothing such as sweaters, tops, or blankets. If you crochet in a circle, you can add volume and create pieces such as amigurumi–this crochet method came from Japan and is used to create three-dimensional toys.

This technique can be easily combined with other crafts to give your pieces different textures, whether they be miniature or monumental.

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Alicia Recio Rodríguez
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Binge Knitting
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Steel & Stitch

If you are keen to get started already, here are a selection of crochet course available:

Knitting and Crochet Basic Techniques
Amigurumi: Creation of Characters through Crochet
Creating Garments Using Crochet
Upcycling with Crochet for Beginners
Introduction to Tapestry

English version by @eloiseedgington.


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