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Monday, June 8, 2009

1854 Article from Ladies Complete Guide to Crochet & Fancy Knitting

This is from 1854

Crochet work proper is, in its present improved form, almost a modern invention. It has only been introduced to any extent into this country within the last twenty years, but now it is very general, and our old-fashioned knitting work is completely thrown into the background by the crotchet-needle (sic).
It is quite wonderful to see the perfection this art has reached in some districts of Ireland. Every day develops new improvements and contributes some novel patterns to the world. It is pleasant to see that what was of late only a dainty accomplishment with which the gentlewoman idled away her time promises to become a means of support to the working class.
In this country, crochet is considered not merely as an elegant way of whiling away time, but as one of those gentle means by which women are kept feminine and ladylike in this fast age. Masculine women of hard and coarse-grained natures are seldom given to these pleasant household employments.
There is a careless fashion among gentlemen of speaking lightly regarding those graceful exhibitions of female industry which pass under the head of fancy work. Yet, to our mind, there is no amusement more innocent and graceful. Let gentlemen deride these pretty occupations if they please; we know how much of a soothing influence lies in the dreamy habit of counting stitches and how many bright faculties are pleasantly exercised in arranging and matching colors.
On no occasion does a lady seem more lovely than when half occupied with some feminine art which keeps her fingers employed and gives an excuse for downcast eyes and gentle preoccupation. There is an air of tranquility and a proof of innocent contentment in these domestic accomplishments that have a beautiful significance in the family circle.
It is only in well-regulated households that leisure moments are thus gathered up. It is only minds, composed and serene in their joy or submissive in sorrow, that can constrain themselves to the gentle monotony of work like this.
With a crotchet-needle in the hand, we join more pleasantly in conversation; the little implement fills up all embarrassing pauses. Its use gives feminine and domestic air, which men may smile at but cannot condemn. Under all circumstances, it is better than counting beads like the modern Greeks, or flirting with fans like the Spanish belles -- or flirting without fans, as sometimes happens to ladies of all nations.
The time which any lady gives to ornamental needlework is usually made up of those leisure moments which would be lounged away on a sofa or in a rocking chair, and it is wonderful how many pretty objects start into existence that, but for this taste, would be dreamed away into nothingness.
Of course, no person of well-regulated intellect would make a business of this graceful accomplishment unless compelled to exercise it for a subsistence. We advocate it simply as an amusement, like all recreation, to be indulged in only when the more serious duties of life are disposed of.
Without a gift for needlework, what should we ladies do for appropriate mementoes for our brothers, husbands and friends at Christmas time, and when birthdays come round, sounding their yearly remembrances upon our heartstrings? What should we do for wedding cushions and christening robes when our favorite cousins insist upon becoming heads of families and useful members of society?
What excuse should we have for casting down our eyes when other people's eyes become troublesome? Every lady knows how many heart tremors can be carried off in a vigorous twist of the crotchet-needle. How many pleasant words may be innocently received in a sensitive heart, when all its defensive faculties are busy counting stitches?
In short, we persist in the belief that a feminine character cannot be quite perfect without a knowledge of all sorts of needlework, and a downright hearty love of it, too. For our part, we have buried many a heartache in the growing leaves of a silken rose and blunted the sharp edge of pangs that would not be wrestled with by the sweet, calm monotony of a shining bit of steel.

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