In honor of St Valentine’s Day…

Wish I had an FO to present, but I do not. I did, however, come across an interesting coincidence while out thrifting today. At our first stop I found The Complete Book of Crochet, with a copyright date of 1973. At our second, I found the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, with a copyright of 1979.

My hubby was born in ’73, I in ’79. Finding books our ages is romantic in a geeky crochet sort of way…

More to the point, it also lets me go off on one of my favorite subjects: the myth of “modern” crochet. Each generation seems to like to think it’s come up with whatever craft all on its own. This may have been true for crochet a couple hundred years ago, but not now. Folks were indeed making ugly ponchos back in the 1970s. I know, I know. Quelle suprise. I think ugly ponchos are one of the odd constants of design. Along with hideous hats.

But there are more subtle similarities. The older book, for instance, has a pattern for a “long evening skirt” that isn’t wildly different in attitude from the famous spiderweb lace skirt over at Weird Mirror. Berets are still quite common, as are tote bags. And throw pillows.

There are differences, of course. The Complete Book of Crochet has a very large number of thread crochet patterns. Very nice, intricate ones. Yes, my dears, the dreaded doily. Sometimes I wish I had the patience for thread…

It’s the second book I am most excited about, to be honest. And, you know, I can’t think of a single book published today that follows up its directions for basic techniques with a discussion of designing your own garments! Oh, woe betide the old-fashioned crochet!

(I am secretly rubbing my hands together in glee over the macramĂ© directions; I’ve been longing for a hanging macramĂ© onion basket for longer than I care to admit…)

More interesting stuff from the second book…

The double chain stitch (otherwise known as chainless single crochet), a technique very few crocheters my age seem to have heard about, is herein presented as a crochet basic, as is a Solomon’s knot (which they call a double knot stitch).

Their suggestion for a first project is not a scarf. I will repeat: NOT A SCARF. It’s a tote bag. A striped tote bag. With purchased handles. Which means beginners are expected to be able to grasp the concepts of changing colors, shaping, and sewing. Which means crocheters are expected to be reasonably intelligent!

They give patterns for an oval, a triangle, a mitered-corner square, an octagon, and, elsewhere, a star. Do you have any idea how much trouble I had trying to find a coherent, non-openwork star pattern so I could make a stuffed star for my daughter for Christmas? I had to come up with my own!

There are also techniques I haven’t seen clearly explained before. Like overlaid meshes, two different versions. One where you slipstitch across a mesh background. Very interesting look.

Getting back to that design thing…It tells you how to shape three different necklines (square, high round, and V)…Three different sleeves (set-in, raglan, & semi-raglan)…Four different techniques for ribbing, four different buttonhole techniques…I’m so happy. This book doesn’t seem to exist in a newer edition past 1981. I really don’t think there is anything comparable to this out today. This book managed to pack into only a few pages more information on garment-making techniques than even Donna Kooler’s Encylcopedia of Crochet! I’m in love!


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