Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hooks with a History - Susan Bates

  In all of the "vintage" hooks I brought home from my mom's, there's only one Susan Bates. I immediately thought this must be an ancient hook, because of the price stamped on the flat. I automatically figured that hunting down any history of it would be just as hard as the last time... But my research led me right where I needed to go, and I only have one hook to put a date to. This went quickly enough that I have time to give you a good laugh:

vintage, crochet hooks, Susan Bates

  Before any seriousness, let's all chuckle about the dumb things I do sometimes... As I stared at this hook prior to any research, I thought it was aluminum. But then I noticed what was printed on the opposite side of the flat: "SIZE 4 OR E". Now, my eyes saw that as "size 4/ore". So, I'm sitting here, like an idiot, thinking: What kind of ore? There's all kinds of metal ores, so what is it made of? Thankfully, my eyes stopped tricking me and I soon noticed that the "E" is bigger than the "or". *Face palm*!! Dummy! It's "SIZE 4, or... E, and yes, it's aluminum! Glad I figured that out before I told anybody... Oh wait, I just told you... Shh... Okay?

vintage, crochet hooks, Susan Bates

  Anyways, let's see if I can feel smarter again... Before I dig into the research, let's cover what I already know: Susan Bates hooks are famous for their patented inline heads, which means the head of the hook is in line with the shaft. This produces a sharper angle in the throat, which some claims helps to catch the yarn. Personally, I find that inline hooks tend to increase the issue of yarn splitting, but I'm addicted to hooks with a tapered head. Which do you prefer?

crochet hooks, Susan Bates, in-line head

  Now, on to the history: Originally C. J. Bates and Son, the company began when Carlton Joseph Bates bought the business from his employer. From the age of fourteen, C. J. Bates started working for the firm of Tyler and Post in 1861. Post bought out his partner and a company called Griswolds in 1865, then Carlton Bates bought the business from Post in 1873. The company continued to manufacture items from bone and ivory such as manicure tools and, of course, crochet hooks. In 1893, Carlton Bates fell seriously ill. His son Hamilton took over the business and held the position of chief executive until he retired in 1954.

  Needlework tools from Bates originally had no brand marked on them, or they were marked with a private label. It wouldn't be until the 1930's when the company started using its own brands, Chester and Barbara Bates. (I assume Chester was for the original location in Chester, Connecticut.) In the 1940's, the brand Chester was changed to Zephr, and Barbara Bates to Susan Bates.

  Okay, so that quickly narrows down the search for the age of my hook. Susan Bates wouldn't have been stamped on it until the 1940's or later. Like most other companies, C.J. Bates and Son experienced a halt in production during that time due to World War II. Further searching of products led me to identify this hook as part of the "Silvalume" line, which (as far as I can tell) wasn't introduced until the 1960's. Although I can't find any information to an exact date of when the price was stamped on the flat, I now know that this hook isn't really an antique. A real "Susan Bates" antique wouldn't be made of metal at all, or be stamped with "Susan Bates".

vintage, crochet hooks, Susan Bates

  But just like the rest, it's still vintage to me. Coats and Clark now owns the name, and hooks are no longer manufactured in America. You won't find any new hooks with this stamp of "Made in U.S.A.", and you definitely can't buy them for 29 cents. I couldn't dig up a list of patent dates; I didn't find any other hooks like it on eBay or Etsy. I'm not going to worry about stressing to put an exact date to this hook. It's special just like the rest, no matter what it's true age is. Since this hook is all by itself in my bunch of "vintage" hooks, it seems lonely to me. I'm gonna stop working to dig up it's history and show it some love... As soon as I stop splitting my yarn with this in-line head. This is supposed to be easier? :)

crochet hooks, in-line head, Susan Bates, yarn splitting

*I have to extend a big, huge THANK YOU to Lace Buttons! All company history came from this page:

Happy Crocheting!


  1. Hi. Interesting story. I prefer the inline of Susan Bates. It helps keep stitches even for good tension

  2. I have a Susan Bates hook I am using, (older like yours size E) and my yarn is splitting. What kind of hook would prevent this?

  3. I've used both Susan Bates and Boye hooks. I prefer Boye. I have two sets that are American made of the Boye .I may have one it two homes that are Susan Bates

    I've mostly used tapered head crochet hooks. I never really liked the "flat" head ones.

    I learned to crochet as a child. I probably wasn't even 10 years old when I started. I'm 50 now. Funny how time flies.

    I probably would add vintage Susan Bates hooks to my collection but probably not use them.

  4. That is very interesting. Boye needles were made in Freeport, Illinois by Newel company for long time. Thank you for sharing. I will treasure my hooks even more. God bless.

  5. I recently bought a Susan Bates antique crotchet hook from a thrift store. Mine is either wooden or bamboo and is stamped with 8m/m US 11 and a price of .75 cents. Actually a cent symbol, but keyboards of today don’t have the cent symbol anymore. I am loving it, and it is now my favorite hook. Mine is a lonely one of a kind too... for now. Cindy

  6. Susan bates hooks make my life so much easier!!! I think that you only have a big issue with splitting when you're using small yarn. Chunky yarn is a dream to work with using a susan bates hook.

  7. "Legend has it that C.J. Bates, who nurtured an ivory carving company into the largest manufacturer of knitting needles in the country, couldn't ever remember women's names. So he simply called every woman he met Susie. Thus the company's name."

  8. Got a good laugh form C.J Bates not remembering women's names. I am now using a Susan Bates J hook, am making some cotton crochet produce bags. I noticed that the stem to the hook is a bit shorter than the Boyles. Never noticed this before and I have been crocheting for some thirty years. I work faster with the shorter stem. Great article. Crocheting in Grenada, the West Indies

  9. I love my Susan Bates hooks. I do have some others that I use sometimes, though.
    I have some with fat handles that I use when my hands are hurting. I would like to try some Furl's hooks but honestly cannot afford them.


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