Crochet work was popular among the Germans from
Russia in the Dakotas, and mention is made by Joseph Height [Homesteaders
on the Steppe] of both crocheted tableclothes and
pillowcase lace as prized posessions of German housewives in Russia.
Photos in Karl Sumpp's The German Russians: Two Centuries
of Pioneering show evidence of decorative lace and
crochet work on the clothing of German women and girls 1920-1942.
Various pieces of crochet work can be seen in the photos
of German-Russian families included in the various Jubilee books produced by North Dakota
and South Dakota towns.
As young girls developed fine-motor skills, they
were introduced to needlework by their mothers or grandmothers.
A first project might be hand-sewing a simple
dress for a favorite doll, or hemming a dishtowel or other small
cloth object. As the needle
skills progressed, the child might be instructed in embroidering
a colorful design on a pillowcase, which would naturally lead
to learning to crochet lace to edge the pillowcase.
Girls would often prepare hand-decorated linens
to be carefully saved in their dowry box.
Dreams of a future home of her own motivated many a young
girl to diligently invest time and effort in the preparation of
these handwork pieces.
Modern crochet work is an outgrowth of tambour
embroidery and became a highly developed skill in the convents
of France in the 16th century.
The word "crochet" is the French word for "hook," the vital
piece of equipment needed for crochet work.
Early on, crochet patterns did not exist. Women would copy a favorite crochet piece of
a relative or friend, working row by row and with the assistance
of a magnifying glass if needed.
Some women would combine elements from several crochet
pieces into their own unique design.
Some crochet pieces start with a beginning ring
and work outward - such pieces can be round or square, depending
on the design. Other pieces start with a long chain, with the
rows built on this foundation, resulting in a square or rectangular
piece. A motif is a small
piece of crochet work which, when attached to many other pieces
of the same design, results in a larger crocheted item.
Crochet work can add strength and a finished
look to linens such as towels, tablecloths and pillowcases.
Crochet work can be used as a joining piece between two
panels of fabric. Crocheted
doilies and tablecloths add elegance to the home as well as providing
practical protection for prized furniture.
By the use of crochet, yarn can be turned into warm afghans
The following patterns present a sampling of
some of the crochet work done by German-Russian women in the Dakotas. Additional examples of German-Russian handwork
can be seen in The
Gluckstalers in New Russia and North America pp. 647-665.
It is hoped that the patterns here presented will provide
a venue for interested individuals to participate in a "living
history" of Germany-Russian culture and help preserve the accomplishments
of our ancestors.