The place where construction meets design, beaded crochet is the act of using beads to embellish crocheted items. "Crochet" is derived from the French croche or croc, which means "to hook." When first popularized, the consensus by the wealthy segment of the populace held that crochet was too fancy for commoners, although it appears this belief was never really accepted by the so-called commoners.
Used on everything from clothes to bags to shoes to jewelry, this fiber art has fallen in and out of favor and fashion since it first burst on the scene in the early 19th Century. Although knitted bags were already popular at that time, crochet was thought to be a new fiber art.
Beaded crochet bags remained popular for nearly a hundred years, falling out of style in the early part of the 20th Century. By the time of the flapper-filled days of the 1920's, they were all the rage, and the decorative ropes of beads hanging off of them were a good complement to the flapper dresses of the period.
From early Prohibition through the 1950's, beaded crochet continued to be at the forefront of fashion in bags, shawls, sweaters, and gloves, finally becoming washed-up by the end of this decade.
By the 1960's, crochet became an accepted art form. Crochet items, including beaded ones, were displayed in museums and international fiber shows. Innovative practitioners of the 1960's and 1970's created stitches, patterns, garments, and accessories, not to mention pieces of fine art, in great numbers. They are responsible for many of the existing library of books on crochet published in the late 20th Century.
The 1980's brought a resurgence of beaded crochet, especially bags. This coincided with an explosion of renewed interest in home crafting, as well as the traditional arts and crafts, as practiced by the layperson for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.
Beads are incorporated into crochet items in several different ways.
One method dictates that the beads be strung on the yarn or cord prior to beginning to crochet. As the artisan reaches the place in the pattern where she wants a bead to go, she pushes one into place near the stitches on the needle, and secures it as part of a crochet stitch. The result is a bead secured on the right side of the fabric. To completely fill a crochet item with beads, it is necessary to "crochet in the round." Otherwise, beads applied every row will be alternately on the right or wrong side of the item.
The second method of attaching beads to crochet is to first string them and then sew the resulting string onto the finished or partially finished crocheted piece. Generally, stitches are sewn between each bead, securing each one individually.
Finally, beads are sometimes individually applied to finished crochet items, usually with nylon cord, to guard against it breaking. This method is used most often to add only a few beads as embellishment, rather than as an integral part of the design.
Beaded crochet continues to be popular with artisans and hobbyists alike.
Copyright Sharon Shares, 2011
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