The history of crochet hooks is one of evolution. With today’s wide variety of lovely hooks crafted in a plethora of fabulous materials, styles and colors, it’s hard to imagine the rather crude, unappealing tools some of our earliest crochet forbearers had to use. It helps us appreciate all the more the wonderful tools we have available today and admire anew the incredible stitch work created by our ancestors with their limited and rudimentary implements.
Most of us give little thought to our crochet hooks other than to check the instructions for the suggested size for the project at hand. If we don’t have the appropriate size at home, we can always run out to the nearest craft or yarn store and pick one up.
The earliest crocheters, however, didn’t have chain stores or mailorder catalogs to fulfill their needs for crochet tools. The history of crochet hooks started with people fashioning their own, usually of wood, bone or metal. In Ireland, exquisite Irish laces were worked with hooks made from stiff wire inserted into a piece of wood or cork. The end of the wire was filed down and a hook turned at the end. Poor farmers often carved wooden hooks for their wives out of whatever was readily available.
Looking back through the history of crochet hooks, it’s amazing that these early crafters could turn out such lovely pieces of needlework with the crude hooks with which they had to work.
As crochet grew in popularity and technology flourished, stitchers enjoyed a renaissance in the production of hooks. Crocheters in the upper classes could take their pick of beautiful hooks hand-carved from wood, bone or ivory, or made of mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, abalone, horn, agate or sterling silver, and sometimes inlaid with gemstones.
Moving to the early 1920s in the history of crochet hooks, sets of interchangeable hooks became popular. Each set consisted of a single handle, perhaps of bone or amber, with an assortment of short steel hooks generally ranging in sizes from 1 to 14. The crocheter simply selected the size hook she needed for her project and screwed it into the tip of the handle.
In America, the Boye Needle Co. produced the first complete line of American-made steel crochet hooks in 1917. Each hook sold for a nickel. Aluminum =hooks appeared in 1923, and hooks for hairpin crochet were introduced in 1935.
World War II forced the government to order the cessation of nickel plating for crochet hooks in 1942, and Boye began a special black plating process known as “hoto” black process, or hot oxide black process, in order to prevent corrosion of the hooks. Nickel plating was not reinstated until the latter part of May 1945.
The history of crochet hooks has progressed to a time when we enjoy the convenience and availability of crochet hooks in an almost limitless variety of eyecatching styles and colors. From exotic woods and sparkling glass, to dazzling beaded and handpainted creations, we can revel in the pleasure of using beautiful, finely crafted crochet hooks that look as good as they work!