The Origins of Tunisian Crochet

by Melissa Mall

The Origins of Tunisian Crochet by Melissa Mall

Tunisian (or ‘afghan’) crochet is a somewhat less-popular method of crocheting that shares some characteristics with knitting. It is generally worked with a hook that is elongated – often with a stopper on the end – because, unlike conventional crochet, the hook has to hold multiple stitches at once.

So who invented it, and when? Well…no one can say for sure. Some believe that the technique evolved from the ‘hook knitting’ of Egypt, Afghanistan, and Tunisia, which uses two long needles with hooked ends. We might guess from the terms ‘Afghan’ and ‘Tunisian’ that it originated in the Near East or northern Africa, but there’s not a lot of evidence to substantiate that. In fact, most believe that the term ‘Tunisian crochet’ was coined by the French. When we look at the list of other names by which it has been known – tricot crochet, hook knitting, hakking, railroad knitting, and shepherd’s knitting – things just get more confusing.

By the early 1800s directions for Tunisian stitches began appearing in publications for crocheters. It was used at the time primarily for blankets, as the dense stitches Tunisian lends itself so well to are ideal for creating warm layers. By the mid-19th century it was practiced in Western Europe and the British Isles (where, some claim, it was known as “Royal Princess Knitting” in honor of Victoria’s use of it). Likely due in part to this, it remained popular through the Victorian era, but in the early 20th century its popularity began to fade.

By the 1930s, Tunisian (or Afghan crochet, as it was by then known in North America) receded into obscurity. Although tentative resurgences have occurred throughout the years – in fact, thanks in part to the rise of the internet, Tunisian crochet is currently undergoing its largest rise in popularity for a hundred years – it is still an under-appreciated form of crochet that has vast, untapped potential. Why don’t you give it a try?

About the Author
Melissa Mall
Melissa Mall is an at-home mom with four sons eight and under. They have just completed yet another transcontinental move – hopefully it will be their last!!! 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 & images © Melissa Mall. All rights reserved.

3 responses

  1. My family is involved in shooting black powder and pre-1840s rendezvous activities. I am researching the origin(s) of Tunisian Crochet because one of the women in our group stated that she didn’t believe the stitch existed prior to the late 1800s/Queen Victoria. Where did you find your information? Thank you.

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