A craft believed to have been introduced to Goa by the Portuguese nuns of the Santa Monica Church, Goan crochet is a tradition practiced today primarily by women in North Goa, especially the city of Panjim (now Panaji). The origins of crochet are debated, but it became popular in Europe during the Renaissance in the sixteenth century. In Goa, crochet production, alongside lace making and European forms of embroidery was fostered by missionaries and other colonial agents. Crochet was initially used to make religious garments for the clergy, and as decorative elements in worshippers’ clothes.
Goan crochet uses different techniques for different textiles. The motifs depicted are often reminiscent of Goan life and culture, such as the commonly-used mandala design, valued for its symmetry and used as a symbol in both Hinduism and Christianity, found in both simple and elaborate crochet garments. Another motif is the shell or fantail stitch, consisting of rows of differently coloured shell patterns to embellish the garment and give it a slight three-dimensional effect. The pineapple stitch is used in making skirts and shawls and consists of a densely knit teardrop-shaped form surrounded by knots with large gaps, resembling a pineapple. Filet crochet, a technique used to depict intricate images and symbols with a lightweight yarn, is used to decorate tablecloths, curtains and scarves.
Goan crochet has historically functioned as a cottage industry. Designs and stitching preferences vary from village to village, or even between households. Knowledge of the craft is traditionally handed down from mother to daughter, thus retaining each family’s style. Historically, prospective brides wore clothing which they made fully or partially with crochet as a way of displaying their skill with the craft. Crochet items were also presented as dowry during the colonial period.
Today, the traditional form of the practice has faded to a large extent, and more market-oriented production has become the norm. Crochet garments are popular among Goans as well as tourists and other visitors to the state. A key organisation supporting local crochetiers is the Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (GHRSSIDC), established in 1980. While also involved with the production of other Goan textiles, the GHRSSIDC sells locally made crochet goods in and outside Goa, providing Goan crochetiers with steady demand for their work.
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