Monday, January 30, 2012

Crochet is the Opium of the Masses

Double Crochet Belt from “Learn to Crochet,” 1963

This belt is the very first project in “Learn to Crochet”. The method of instruction, the reader is assured, is most “pleasant”, although one is warned to always keep in mind the importance of neatness of execution. In other words, if your finished work is not lovely, it’s your own damn fault and your time would be better spent pursuing messier hobbies like pottery or bog snorkelling.

Observe the young lady in the picture above. She clearly understands the necessity for neatness as she’s shellacked her hair in place. There’s no arguing with results, her crocheted belt is lovely. True, she also has the pale complexion and lethargic poise of an opium addict, barely able to lift her arm toward her books.

Looks like she’s been reading Morocco by Jean-Louis Miège, an historian so obscure he only rates three sentences in the French language Wikipedia. I’m not sure what this tells us about our crochet model. Has she visited Morocco? Is she planning to? Is her opium supplier Moroccan?

Look, there he is! Seconds after this photo was taken, the fellow opened his robe, and asked historian Jean-Louis, “Say, wanna buy some opium? Primo stuff. Fell off the back of a truck. Would I lie to you?”

Or possibly our model can’t breathe and really needs to loosen her double crochet belt before she passes out.

For the complete pattern (and more snark!):

Double Crochet Belt

Coats Mercer-Crochet No. 10 (20 grm.): 2 balls.

There’s a strange symbol directly after Coats. Exhaustive internet research reveals that sadly it’s not a secret symbol used by opium smugglers. It’s actually just an older version of the modern Coats logo.

This model is worked in White, but any shade of Mercer-Crochet maybe be used. No. 10 is available in White, 610, (Dk Ecru), 609 (Ecru), 442 (Mid Buttercup), 621 (Lt. French Blue), 623 (Spring Green) and Spec. 8918 (Lt. Coral).
Lots of choice, so long as you stick to bland, inoffensive shades. No Ravishing Reds or Sex-Kitten Sapphires for you! Even Light Coral has to be special ordered, as a mere glimpse of a colour approaching pink will upset your opium-addled, ahem, delicate sensibilities.

And don’t even think about using any crochet thread other than Coats. Page six of the instructions, which you’ve memorized to ensure the loveliness of your work, decrees: “Coats Mercer-Crochet possesses qualities which are of the utmost importance to the work. It washed beautifully, never loses its colour or becomes ‘stringy’… it is the ideal crochet thread.”

Heaven help you if your thread becomes stringy! Your neighbours will accuse you of being strung-out.
Beads and sequins. 1 buckle.

¾ yd. corded silk ribbon for lining.

Milwards Steel Crochet Hook No. 2 ½. (Slack workers could use a No. 3 hook and tight workers a No. 2.

Slack workers lack proper motivation. This being the early sixties, tight workers simply need a strong sedative.

Of course, even the slack workers will need Nervine, a dry martini, or just plain ol’ opium, as the very first project in this book involves teeny tiny needles and thread.

Welcome to crochet! Please enjoy the complimentary eye-strain.
Tension: 12 rows = 1 in.

Measurements: 3 ½ in. deep x 22 in. long.

Commence with 33 ch.
You can tell this is a classy pattern by the way the designer invites you to “commence” instead of “begin”.
1st Row: 1 dc (double crochet) into 2nd (second) ch (chain) from hook, 1 dc into each of remaining ch, 1 ch, turn.

2nd Row: 1 dc into each dc, 1 ch, turn.

Repeat 2nd row until belt measures 23 in. (or 1 in. longer than waist measurement), omitting turning ch at end of last row.
Or until you have a nervous breakdown from row after row of nothing but double crochet. No wonder the model for this pattern was dreaming of escaping to Morocco!

This also explains why she quit crocheting her belt despite it being clearly several inches too small.
Fasten off.

Damp and press.

Sew on buckle. Then sew on beads and sequins as shown in illustration or as desired. Line inside of belt with corded ribbon.

Don’t go wild with the beads and sequins. Three beads and two sequins is all you can handle as a beginner crocheter and a social opium smoker.

Of course, if you believe that after this pattern you’re ready for the hard stuff, I won’t warn you to just say no. However, if the police show up at your door, you didn’t get this from me.

Click here for the printable pattern.


  1. The photo of the model wearing that crochet belt seemed familiar to me,so I looked in my crochet books and found it in "Coats book no.507-Printed by Jesse Broad&co.Ltd.,Manchester.R7590 Published by J.&P.Coats Ltd.,Paisley,Scotland.
    The date of publishing is "1959"!.
    This pattern actually belongs to the fifties.It seems that it took four years to travel from England to Canada !.

  2. Hi, Hind!

    That's really cool... who knows how many years they've been recycling that poor model. I bet she never got any royalties, either.

  3. Love the blog!! Thanks for including my Opium Poppy pic. Keep up the fabulous work, I adore the vintage patterns!

  4. I knew I shouldn't have clicked that "bog snorkeling" link. I just knew it. I'm just glad it didn't mean what I THOUGHT it would. What they actually DID mean was only marginally better though.

    1. There's nothing to fear in bog snorkelling. I have it on good authority that water scorpions are completely harmless. Mostly.

      And even if there are a few dead sheep or zombies down at the bottom of the bog, the acidity of the water will render them totally non-infectious. Totally.