Preserving the Craft: Keeping Hand Crochet Alive

By Carly Giacoio

At SAACHI, we honor and uphold the rich tradition of  hand crochet , working closely with skilled artisans in India who specialize in this timeless craft. Committed to preserving this art form for generations, we ensure sustainable practices while empowering rural women in conservative settings. 

Now, a weaving art cherished for its elegance and tradition lies a narrative of urgency and necessity for preservation. Delving into the world of hand crochet unveils a rich tapestry of history, technique, and its pivotal role in empowering rural women, particularly in India and Nepal.


Hand crochet, though its true origins are shrouded in mystery, can be traced back to 1824 in Spain. Throughout this period, nuns used scrapbooks to preserve crochet design samples. They began binding them to pages of books, large fabric pieces, or storing them loosely in bags or boxes for others to copy and replicate. After its origin, crocheting gained popularity in India in the early 20th century as a simpler alternative to hand knitting. Hand crocheting’s debut in India began as a mass-production method for prayer rugs and prayer caps for Muslim people. 

Through time, crochet has evolved into a versatile craft. Pieces like intricately designed home furnishings such as tablecloths and curtains, soft toys like stuffed animals, high-fashion garments like dresses and shawls, and women’s accessories like hats and bags can thrive through crochet. For instance, a crocheted dress can be a unique and stylish addition to a fashion-forward wardrobe. Today, India has become a significant sourcing destination of hand-crochet items for businesses in Europe, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. This two-century-spanning evolution is witness to the craft's adaptability and creativity. 

Crochet Today

With textiles serving as the second-most significant source of employment in India, particularly the income for 4.4 million weaver families, the preservation of hand crochet becomes not just a matter of heritage but also of economic survival. The livelihoods of these artisans, their families, and their communities depend on the continued demand for hand crochet products. 

Given the pandemic and economic instability in recent years, the plight of artisans is profound. With many losing their livelihoods due to disrupted supply chains and reduced demand, the hand crochet industry has experienced significant shifts. This crisis has made it clear that action must be taken to protect this long-living craft and the livelihoods it supports. 

The Craft

Hand crochet sets itself apart from its mechanized counterparts with its meticulous craftsmanship. Although often compared to knitting, crocheting serves a different purpose. Instead of utilizing delicate stitches for thinner and finer wear, crocheting uses bulker stitches and yarn for heavy and durable pieces like hats, blankets, home furnishings, and cardigans. 

The process of hand crochet begins with selecting the suitable yarn. Heavier yarns like cotton or jute often give the final product a distinct texture and durability. Artisans then weave patterns using one or more of the four core stitches like chains, single crochet, double crochet, and half-double crochet. These stitches are like the building blocks of the crochet piece. The process requires patience, precision, and a deep understanding of the craft, making each piece a true masterpiece. For example, crocheted items would appear lumpy or imbalanced if the artisan changed tension grips. Small details like these accentuate the dedication and understanding needed to make quality products. The time and effort invested in each stitch shows the commitment and skill of the artisans, making hand crochet a true masterpiece. 

Empowering Rural Women

 At  SAACHI , we recognize rural women’s profound resilience and ingenuity, particularly in conservative settings where challenges abound. Hand crochet, beyond its aesthetic appeal, symbolizes their unwavering spirit. Through our initiative, we aim to harness their craft and uplift their communities. 

In villages across India and Nepal, hand crochet is not a factory product; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. We collaborate with these communities by providing designs and distributing them among the women. They can work from home, aligning with their schedules and familial responsibilities, thereby avoiding the constraints of a factory environment. SAACHI’s model of decentralized production, rooted in empowering rural artisans, fosters economic growth and creative expression. In India, known for its diverse artistic traditions, we incorporate sustainable dyes such as indigo, turmeric, and pomegranate, preserving cultural heritage and ecological balance. 

SAACHI’s partnership with rural women goes beyond mere production; it’s a commitment to empowerment and sustainable development. We create exquisite products and cultivate thriving communities by honoring their craftsmanship and nurturing their potential.

Bridging Tradition with Modernity

As we navigate an increasingly interconnected world, the legacy of hand crochet calls us to embrace tradition with a forward-focused vision. At  SAACHI, it’s our goal to allow our artisans to sustain a fulfilling livelihood by carrying on the generational skills of the craft. By championing artisanal craftsmanship and fostering sustainable practices, we pave the way for a future where heritage and innovation converge seamlessly. We can all participate in this mission by supporting local artisans, choosing hand crochet products, and spreading awareness about the craft's significance and its steadfast place in today's fashion industry.

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