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!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hooks with a History - Boye

I apologize in advance to those who were expecting a short post in consideration of the holiday season. Once I delved into the history of Boye, I knew I couldn't keep my promise. 

I should probably also apologize in advance for my repeated cheesy wordplay with the Boye company name. But Boye, I just can't help myself...

  Although I consider plain ol' aluminum Boye hooks to be everyday and quite uninteresting (no offense, Boye, I think that's just because I use them every day), my new "vintage" Boye hooks seem to have more than originally meets the eye. Let's begin with some history of the company itself:

crochet, vintage, crochet hooks

  First of all, Boye, they really got me! (Ha, ha...That's two already.) All this time, I thought they were just a knitting and crochet company! In fact, the Boye company began in 1906 with the introduction of a sewing caddy called the Rotary Case. That would be a clock-looking cabinet thingy that I don't even want to begin to understand because it has to do with sewing, so if you're interested, please go read this article. The authors were able to interest me in this sewing accessory even though I didn't want to be sucked into sewing history.

  So, getting back on track... After James H. Boye and a few of his unnamed associates started the company with this invention, they further expanded into the realm of torture. I mean sewing... They expanded in the sewing business with sewing machine parts and accessories. It wasn't until 1917 that they would put out the first line of Boye steel crochet hooks.

  This at least tells me that my Boye crochet hooks can't be any older than that. Now, how to put a date to each of them? My most-used set of hooks are brand-new-ish aluminum Boye hooks, purchased at a Wal-Mart. The first thing I noticed about these older Boye hooks is that the style of the trademark is different. That's where I started the rest of my research:

vintage, crochet hooks, Boye, trademark

  I came across a wonderful bit of the Boye history while having no further success in my searches. In this article, I was able to find the years that certain hooks were manufactured, along with some other really interesting information. But first, I had to find out what "crochet forks" are. (Hairpin lace looms.) Did you know that because of the shortage and need for steel, the government stopped the production of steel crochet hooks during World War II? I mean, sure, I learned about that in history class, but not specifically crochet hooks. Guess the thought never crossed my mind that it wasn't just machines and building materials that were scarce; needlework suffered, too. And that's where the history gets a little confusing to me...

  Nickel plating was stopped first on May 1, 1942, so (possibly) all steel crochet hooks from then to May of 1945 were finished with black oxide. But, all steel hook manufacturing was halted in August of '42. In April of 1944, two sizes of steel hooks were reinstated. And the ban on nickel plating was ended later in May of the next year. So, if I have this right, then black oxide hooks were only available for a few months before the ban on steel hooks, and for one year after. And since my Boye size 3 and G steels aren't black oxide, I can look farther ahead into the past for that.

vintage, crochet hooks, Boye, steel

  Now, to cross-reference the information I gained about the steel hooks with the changes in trademarks and other markings...

  To get the less-exciting news out of the way, the size 3 steel hook isn't very vintage. First of all, the print on the flats was changed to read "size/Boye/size" in 1925, so I was hopeful. But jumping right ahead, the trademark without the quotation marks wasn't used by the company until 1962. Although that means that it's ancient to me, this steel hook isn't truly an antique. This is a newer hook, possibly purchased by the generous soul that provided my mom with her first hooks, but probably by Mom herself.

Boye, steel, crochet hook

  On a related note, the colored size K and N hooks aren't truly vintage, either. The updated trademark along with the fact that size K wasn't introduced until 1956 tells me that these are newer. And... After a painfully long search through vintage hooks on ebay, I found a case... And bid on it... A set of Boye "Diana" crochet hooks packaged in a hard plastic case, and, if I remember correctly, a felt-covered or foam insert that held the hooks... Wait... What was that? How do I remember? Seeing the case struck a memory of watching Mom pull out this set of hooks every time she made a baby blanket for somebody. The colors matched all of the vintage ornaments she has for the Christmas tree, so in my little mind, it was always a bit like Christmas to see Mom's hooks. I know my mom stopped crocheting shortly after I started school, so it's been a long time since I've seen that set. I've discovered that the random size "J" hook I've been using belongs to that set... But where are the rest? Hmm... Mom never looses anything... Or takes it out of the case it belongs in... Grr, now that's driving me nuts! Where are they? I have asked; now it will probably drive her nuts, too. Alright, let's move on to something more interesting for everybody.

Diana, Boye, crochet hooks, aluminum

  The two aluminum G and J hooks with worn paint use a trademark from before 1962. The part that has me stumped is: I can't find any information for exactly when the flats read "MADE/size/U.S.A., with "Boye" alone on the opposite side. But Boye, oh Boye, I think it doesn't matter... I had to do some extra learning, but I think the proof is in the paint. The color of anodized aluminum doesn't chip, peel, or wear off. Since these hooks are showing considerable damage (especially that bent one), I believe they may be from before 1949, when the anodized aluminum hooks were first sold. However, I'm unsure if these are the lacquered aluminum hooks sold from 1932 to 1935, or the set of various colors released in 1949 prior to the anodized. The colors listed are "dubonnet, starlight blue, aqua, and silver". Did they sell a set of all different colors, the way hooks are sold now, or was each size available in each color? So, I'm still a bit stumped, but my gut is telling me that these could be the older lacquered hooks.

crochet hooks, vintage, Boye, lacquered aluminum

  For the coolest of the cool, and the most vintage of the vintage, let's get to that steel size G hook: It's vintage! Oh Boye, it's vintage... I was able to track down this assortment of hooks on Lace Buttons, where I found what it is: A nickel-plated steel rug hook! First introduced (along with size "I") in 1926. From there, I browsed many sources from Pinterest, eBay, Etsy, etc., but every one of them that has information says "made around the WWII era", and no actual date.

vintage, antique, crochet hook, Boye, steel rug hook

  What I learned from my original source is that G and I steel hooks were not manufactured between 1942 and 1947. There are a few rare black oxide-finished "G" and "I" hooks out there, but mine's not that uncommon. So, being harder to place, I can only figure that it is from between 1926 and 1942, or it was made sometime after 1947. I was unable to discover when these hooks were discontinued for good, but my gut tells me it was sometime around 1949, when the aluminum size "G" hook was introduced.

  Boye was the first company to sell a complete line of hooks that were made in America. And even if you have some Boye hooks that might not be "vintage", but they were made in the U.S.A., you have something that isn't being manufactured anymore. In 1989, the Boye Needle Company merged with Wrights, then Conso acquired Wrights in 2000. (

  I'm not sure at what point during that time hook manufacturing was moved to China. Although it's not stamped on their hooks, that's what it says on the packages my hooks came in. Boye hooks can still be purchased, but with a no-flair logo on one side and international hook sizes on the other. They still have similar Christmas-ball anodized colors and the classic tapered throats that every Boye user either loves or hates. But that "vintage" stamp of "U.S.A." is now a faded memory of the past, so hang on to 'em if you've got 'em.

Boye, crochet hooks, vintage, modern, made in U.S.A.

  And who knows? Maybe someday in the future, manufacturing will come back to the United Stated, and those of us who have these made-in-China/bought-at-Walmart hooks can call them a collector's item. Yeah, probably not. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. But what I will hope for is that no matter where they were made, and by what company, somebody will cherish them because they were a part of Mom

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hooks with a History - Part 1

  Check it out: I have new toys! So, if you saw the post about the Holly Holiday Table Runner, then you know I was at Mom and Dad's house to take the pictures of it (as well as the old Lacy Fall Table Runner). I gave them the new table runner, but I didn't come home empty-handed: I scored some crochet goodies! And these are vintage crochet goodies... Oooo!

crochet hooks, vintage

  Please bear with a bit of confusion in this history, for I have trouble keeping everything straight when Mom's telling me the story as I'm distracted by the sight of their "white panther" staring at me through the door, the TV's on, and I'm suffering from heavy metal and coffee withdrawals...

cat, crochet

  A long, long time ago, my great-granny, or maybe my mom's great-granny was doing something... She cleaned houses, took in laundry, helped take care of sick people, took food to the poor... So, she was doing some kind of nice thing for somebody as usual, and they happened to hear that my mom (16 or so at the time) was trying to teach herself how to knit. They sent over a how-to or a pattern book and a set of needles.

knitting, needles, vintage

  I scored those needles and more a long time ago when I was trying to teach myself to knit. After the lady passed away, her family gave all of her needlework stuff to my mom. And then my mom gave it to me when I started knitting. So, I learned (and promptly forgot) how to knit on vintage needles; cool! I really should get back into knitting...

knitting needles, vintage

  Anyway... You may or may not have heard the partial story of my vintage Hero hook. That was in a case with some cable holders, another rusty hook, and other stuff that Mom told me to keep, even though I wasn't crocheting yet or knitting cables. I've been trying to dig up some history on the Hero hook forever, and can't really find any solid information. I also can't find any hook exactly like it. So, I thought maybe Mom could fill in a little of the story, and perhaps owned the rest of its mates. What I got wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I got a partial history, more mystery, and more vintage!

crochet hooks, vintage, steel

  The history that we know is pretty much what I already told you. Some lady gave them to my mom when she was a teenager. So, since the original owner was pretty vintage herself, I have no idea how old some of this stuff could be without more research. Some of it is obviously not-so-old, but it's all way older than me! I'm going to be taking a closer look at all of them and doing some internet digging over the next few days. Since it's the holiday season, I'll break up what I find into separate posts, to keep them short. And until then, you'll just have to sit in suspense...

Happy Crocheting!

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