The Origins of Filet Crochet

Jan 31, 2013

As with many of the crochet techniques, filet crochet was created to mimic lace. The lacemaking art of filet (sometimes called lacis) was worked by creating a mesh of squares before filling in some of the squares with weaving to create a design or picture. With the basic crochet chain and simple double crochet, the lace pictures of filet could be crocheted more quickly and easily, making this technique much more easily accessible. Interestingly, the filet technique is now often used to mimic filet crochet.

Filet Crochet  
Doily made by Elsie Norman using a single chart for the cross-stitch and the filet crochet.  

The term "filet crochet" appeared as early as 1912, but the technique-then known as square crochet- appeared much earlier. In her PieceWork article, A History of Filet Crochet: Creating Pictorial Designs, Nancy Nehring talks about the first filet crochet patterns:

Instructions for filet crochet appeared within the first twenty years of written crochet instructions (it was then known as square crochet). Early patterns might be presented as charts, tables, or written instruction. Needlework books in the 1850s were small, usually measuring about 4 ½ by 7 inches (11 by 18 cm), and this limited patterns to small projects such as little doilies and edgings. (A History of Filet Crochet: Creating Pictorial Designs, PieceWork March/April 2013)

  Historic Filet Crochet
   Briar Rose pattern by Mary Card from the October 1933 Needlecraft Magazine.

I love the adaptability of filet crochet. With a rudimentary understanding of the technique, you can create filet crochet designs from cross-stitch, neeldepoint, or filet charts. You can even easily create your own filet crochet charts with a pencil, graph paper, and a bit of creativity.

I love filet crochet charts for several reasons. They allow you to clearly see how the final design is constructed. A filet crochet chart will generally take up less space than the full written instructions and is easier for many crocheters to read. Plus a chart eliminates the possibility of typographical or pattern errors.

Filet Crochet Pattern
Charted pattern of birds and flowers from Priscilla Filet Crochet Book No. 1 published in 1925 and undoubtedly copied from Giovanni Ostaus's La Vera Perfezione del Disegno perPunti e Ricami (Rome 1567).

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Best wishes,

P.S. Have you ever created your own filet crochet chart?


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Char55 wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 9:53 AM

I haven't done filet (thread) crochet charts, but I have made similar looking charts for working patterns in Tunisian crochet. I use a cross-stitch software program called PC-Stitch and used colored blocks to show where my colors start and stop. The vertical lines on the graph represent the vertical loops of the 1st half of the Tunisian row and the colored in blocks represent the second half of the row.

I would love to attempt making a filet crochet shawl using perle cotton in rich colors. It would have to be from a published pattern, though, because I have no idea how to graph a shawl.

on Jan 31, 2013 11:11 AM

I just got a keepsake of filet crochet (I didn't know what it was until I saw this article) that my grandmother made in either the late 1800's (she was born in 1886) or early 1900's - it has a couple of holes and a stain - but is in excellent shape considering it is over 100 years old

I would like to post a pix of it - but don't know how or if it is allowed.

whitenancy wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 11:12 AM

I'm looking for a pattern for a vest made in a filet pattern. can you help me

mgquilts wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 1:20 PM

I've never made my own chart but I have tried my hand at filet crochet a few years ago. I luv it. Since then I inherited some beautiful filet crochet bodices (for night gowns or summer dresses?) from a great-aunt who was married and living in the 1920's and 30's. There are a number of them and I can only assume she made them herself. I also have some trimmed doilies but they are yellowed and stained. I have great admiration for ladies of my great-aunt's era who had the patience to work with such thin threads to create such lovely works of art.

Toni Rexroat wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 2:48 PM

Suzismf, we would love to see a photo of your grandmother's filet crochet keepsake!



Char55 wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 4:08 PM

To WhiteNancy,

There's a filet crochet vest pattern here:

on Jan 31, 2013 5:13 PM

I made a shawl in filet crochet in  black.  Unfortunately, the pattern doesn't show up well in the dark color.  What I learned about designing the pattern is that the filet crochet is not the same shape as the squares of the graph paper.  It is similar enough for the charted design to work and was fun to work out.  I'd suggest starting with something smaller or using an existing chart like the birds and flowers shown above.

on Jan 31, 2013 5:36 PM

If washing does not clean the antique pieces of thread crochet, try wetting  them with diluted lemon juice, then lay them in the sun to bleach out the yellowing and stains.  You might want to try an inconspicuous spot first.  I would try this before using diluted bleach which I would consider a last resort.

Big Stash wrote
on Jan 31, 2013 9:27 PM

The Young Ladies Work-Table and Embroidery Frame Manual book (pub. 1843, pg 174-175) lists "Open Crochet" which is today's filet crochet.  

I have made (my designs and published) fine thread filet projects (doilies, scarves, edgings, etc.).  Also designed and made yarn baby blankets in filet crochet.  Pre-school coloring books are a great source for ideas.

Char55 wrote
on Feb 1, 2013 6:32 PM

I found a filet shawl pattern on this site:

Pictures of it in alternative colors on this site:

Supposed to be an easy pattern.

Char55 wrote
on Feb 1, 2013 6:47 PM

Found one with Hearts on this link:

KellieN wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 5:23 AM

I know it's the internet, but you all make your mark in the world with words, so please continue to take your usual care with copy editing. Mistakes like cart instead of chart in the photo caption and neeldlepoint instead of needlepoint in the 4th paragraph bespeak rushing to publish or a lessening of care for your chosen medium of expression. I love Interweave products (including these simple everyday emails) as oases of beauty and permanence in a throwaway world, so please don't get caught up in the sloppiness that abounds elsewhere in today's instant publishing world.

Thank you so much.