If you’ve spent much time hanging out in the online crochet community, you will at some time or other have run across a list of famous crocheters. Often topping those lists is the illustrious name of Queen Victoria of England, who was not only a committed crocheter herself but such a strong advocate of the craft that some have suggested her patronage was solely responsible for lifting it out of obscurity.
During the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, things looked bleak for the lower classes. The potato crop failed again and again, and hundreds of thousands of people were starving. In an attempt to stimulate the economy, nuns and charities began teaching crochet for free to anyone who would learn, so that they could produce something of value to sell and perhaps feed themselves. There was a problem, though: crochet was cheaper and faster to make than its counterpoints, needlepoint and bobbin lace, so it was regarded as common and undesirable. The women of Ireland were left with an abundance of lace but little market for it.
It was likely this situation that prompted a gift of Irish crochet lace to Queen Victoria. The Queen not only accepted the lace but wore it, instantly catapulting crocheted lace to fashionable status. Ladies with money decked themselves in it from head to toe, and even ladies of the middle class could afford a cuff, a collar, or a trim. At one point it became so popular that a fine panel of crocheted lace could be traded for favors from wealthy ladies or the nobility.
This would have been extraordinary enough, but Queen Victoria learned to crochet herself as well, removing the stigma from the activity. Some even believe that crocheting helped her cope with the grief of her husband’s death. What we do know is that in the last year of her life, the Queen crocheted eight scarves for members of her forces fighting in South Africa. Only the most distinguished soldiers received the award that came to be called ‘The Queen’s Scarf.’ Five feet long, these “mufflers” were to be worn as sashes over the shoulder and buckled on the opposite hip. (One of these scarves is on display at the Canadian War Museum.) At one point, there was confusion over the status of The Queen’s Scarf as an award – some claimed it was an honor even higher than the Victoria Cross. While research has determined that The Queen’s Scarf is not even a valid military decoration, an object made with her own hands is one of the greatest honors that can be given…as any crocheter could tell you.
About the Author
Melissa Mall is an at-home mom with four sons seven and under. They are currently residing in Arizona after a three-year stint in Japan and are having a fun time readjusting. You can keep up with their ordinary adventures over at her blog, or take a peek at her crochet patterns and tutorials at Inner Child Crochet.
Article © Melissa Mall. All rights reserved.