As much as I love crocheting all sorts of toys and garments, I’ve always wondered whether there is a machine that could do the same for me. Knitting machines create many of the clothes I wear, so surely there must be a crochet machine, right? To find the answer, I went straight to the experts and combed through the latest academic research on this topic:
Crochet machines do not exist that can replicate handmade crocheted items because they are incapable of creating the transverse chains that are a definitive attribute of hand crochet. Since a machine that can replicate handmade crochet has not been invented, all crochet items are handmade.
To find out why crochet machines have not been invented yet, and to learn about the closest mechanical approximation to crochet, read on!
Why aren’t there crochet machines?
Crochet machines do not exist because of “the free flowing nature of the crochet technique and the dexterity needed to make crochet,” according to Dr. Gail Kenning in a journal article published in the MIT Press (discussed here).
Essentially, since crochet patterns are organic in nature and also because each crochet stitch is complex to manipulate mechanically, crochet machines that mimic handmade crochet exactly have not yet been invented.
For a more technical reason, museologist Cary Karp weighs in, stating that “there is no mechanism for making the transverse chains that are a definitive attribute of hand crochet. A machine that can produce true crocheted fabric therefore remains to be devised” (discussed here).
“A machine that can produce true crocheted fabric therefore remains to be devised”Dr. Cary Karp, PhD
Based on this research, it appears that the crochet technique and method of creation has remained remarkably stable since its inception almost 200 years ago, even in this age of technological advance and mechanization.
That means that any crochet item that exists was completely handmade and cannot have been made by a machine. Of course, that makes all of our crochet creations even more special! I love that this means that when I crochet something, there is no way that someone can get it machine made, especially when clothing factories are often run by underpaid workers in life threateningly unsafe conditions.
Will there ever be a crochet machine?
Although a crochet machine does not currently exist, that does not mean that one never will. Clothing companies developed knitting machines for the purpose of mass producing knit garments and accessories, and most crochet items can be substituted for the knit analog in the market.
It’s likely that since knitting can create most of the projects that crochet can, there has not been a concerted effort to fund research and development into a crochet machine since knitting machines already exist.
Knitting also tends to be more suitable for clothing with its fine drape and also is more yarn efficient, using 30% less yarn that crochet does. It’s entirely likely that crochet has not yet been mechanized simply because clothing companies have found knitting machines to be sufficient and more cost efficient.
For an in depth break down into the differences between knitting and crocheting (as well as which one is better) and what kinds of projects you can make for each, check out this blog post I wrote here!
It’s likely possible to create a crochet machine, but whether there will be research and development to create one is another story, since it requires a concerted effort to develop the necessary technology.
Are Warp Knitting Machines Crochet Machines?
Warp knitting machines are the closest mechanical equivalent of hand crochet since they also use a hooked needle and approximates a crochet look. However, warp knitting machines cannot fully replicate hand crochet techniques and are an interpretation only.
Typical knitting machines are also called “weft knitting machines,” while machines that are able to approximate crochet are called “warp knitting machines,” and often may be called crochet machines in industrial terminology. These machines are able to create chain stitches, which also resemble the vertical chains present in the posts of crochet stitches.
Museologist Cary Karp states that because of this, “the literature of industrial knitting accepts nonetheless that hand crochet bears the same relationship to warp knitting that hand knitting does to weft knitting” (discussed here). Below, you can see a mock up of Groz-Beckert warp knitting machine creating a crochet chain stitch.
It’s so mesmerizing to watch! Although warp knitting machines can get this far in terms of replicating crochet, they still cannot create any of the fundamental crochet stitches, such as the single and double crochet. If you’re curious to see how a knitting machine works, click here for similar video!
Because of the similarities that warp knitting bears to crochet, industrial knitting companies may call these machines crochet machines, which explains why there are sometimes articles or videos (such as this one) referencing “crochet machines.”
A popular industrial knitting machine company, Comez, makes warp knitting machines that are called crochet machines on their website and elsewhere, though these machines are not able to fully imitate handmade crochet techniques.
How can I crochet faster?
If crochet machines don’t exist, then how can you optimize your crocheting speed? This is a thought that I’ve often had when I’m in the eighth hour of trying to finish a simple teddy bear, and here are some techniques that I’ve learned that you can try out too.
If you’re wondering how long it takes to crochet a blanket on average, check out this post I wrote for the surprising results!
And take a look at this breakdown I wrote for how long it takes to crochet amigurumi!
- Use bulkier yarn.
- Using thicker and bulkier yarn will always make your project go faster because you will need to crochet fewer stitches. Using bulkier yarn can also give you some great stitch definition that makes your project have its own unique charm, so don’t be afraid to use this tactic liberally!
- Use a suitable crochet hook for the type of fiber.
- Different crochet hooks are more suitable for different types of yarn. Bamboo and wood crochet hooks are more tactile and grippy, making them better to use with more slippery yarns such as bamboo and silk. Aluminum crochet hooks are ideal for yarns where the fibers stick to each other, such as wool, mohair, cotton, and alpaca. Using the correct crochet hook for the type of yarn will make sure that you don’t waste time dealing with slippery yarn or being slowed down by wooden crochet hooks when working with wool.
- Use an efficient crochet stitch like the double or treble crochet.
- Using an efficient crochet stitch means that you’ll be able to cover more space with each stitch and finish your crochet project faster. Heavily textured stitches like bobbles or puff stitches will slow you down because they take a lot more stitches to cover the same surface area that you can will simple stitches like single and half double crochets. However, double and treble crochets are even taller than single and half doubles, and will help you finish your crochet project that much faster.
- Crochet in clear, bright lighting.
- Often working with dark colored yarn can make it difficult to see. Black is notoriously frustrating to work with, but with any yarn being able to see the stitches and loops clearly is essential to being able to crochet quickly and effortlessly.
- Use a yarn bowl or bag to hold your yarn.
- Something that slows me down a lot when I’m crocheting is adjusting the yarn ball, skein, or hank. My favorite trick is to keep tote bags hanging off the sides of my chair that I can put my yarn in. That way, the ball of yarn will turn inside the bag as I crochet and even if I yank on the end of yarn to get some slack, it won’t go tumbling off my desk. I bring bags with me wherever I go so that no matter what, as long as I have somewhere to hang the bag, my yarn won’t go flying.
- Good practice makes perfect!
- Practice doesn’t make perfect — good practice makes perfect. The more you crochet, the faster and more even your stitches will be. But make sure that as you’re crocheting, you’re not indulging in bad habits, like poor posture, high tension in your hands, or gripping your hook too tightly. Whatever small habits you pick up will be compounded the more you crochet, so take the time to relax, take breaks, and enjoy crocheting so that a few years from now you’ll still be doing it!