I’m excited to announce the publication of the peer reviewed article, “Three objects catalogued as vantsöm in the collections of the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland,” in Archaeological Textiles Review No. 64 (2022).
I had the distinct pleasure of collaborating with my friend Cary Karp to write this article after we were allowed the opportunity to jointly examine the items in question at the museum storehouse in January of 2019. I posted about that visit here (where you can see a few extra photos). Cary will be making a corresponding announcement on his blog, Loopholes; which has lots of additional information on the technique.
ATR is now Open Access and so you can freely download the complete volume, including our article, by following the instructions at: https://www.atnfriends.com/. If you’d like a hard copy of the issue, you can purchase a print on demand copy from the University of Copenhagen’s Campus Print Webshop here. You can now also download or purchase all of the back issues as well if you like. An offprint of the article itself can be found here.
The looped structure termed a slip stitch in the craft glossary of crochet can be produced both with a hook and an eyed needle. These implements are not equally amenable to working that structure into complex constructs such as the toe and heel of a sock. This article describes the examination of three objects that have been misidentified as nalbinding. Two of them are certain to have been crocheted and the third is highly likely also to instantiate that technique. The provenance of the objects is recorded as “Coptic Egyptian” on anecdotal evidence and without ascription of specific dates. If scientific dating were to establish that any of them approaches even the youngest age this might imply, the accepted date for the advent of crochet would require major revision.
As I’ve mentioned before, incorrectly co-opting slip stitch crochet structures into the nalbinding atlas of stitch variants has obscured and made difficult the study of crochet’s history and transmission. Given that nalbinding has long suffered under this same issue of miss-classification/identification obscuring its own history, it behooves us to exhibit caution when examining textiles with which we may not be as familiar to avoid doing the same to our looping cousins.
My presentation at NESAT XIV in 2021, “But it looks like… methods for differentiating non-woven looped structures,” looked to clarify some methods for recognizing ambiguous surface textures and the sometimes subtle, but distinctive, secondary structural attributes that can be used to distinguish the particular technique used to create an object.
The sock and the pouch discussed in “Three objects catalogued as vantsöm in the collections of the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland” could very well be important early instances of the crochet technique of potentially pivotal historiographic significance, but we won’t know until they have been scientifically dated. This is an important reminder that dating crocheted objects based on the art historical dating of other nalbound items because the items were not recognized as crochet entirely obscures their potential place in crochet history and simultaneously muddies the water of nalbinding’s history, construction details, and definition.
I’m excited to be able to see this article in print and am looking forward to future projects and collaborations.