Irish Crochet

Last winter/spring while scrolling through archive.org, looking for some creative inspiration, I stumble upon several turn of the twentieth century books on Irish Crochet.  I though to myself “now, that’s something I would like to try.”  A good year later, under 3 feet of snow, and with St Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I figured that it might be a good time to dust off my old notes, and revisit/formalize them for future use.

Irish Crochet was popularized in the mid 1800’s as a faster and more efficient alternative to Venetian Needlepoint Lace.  Creating Irish Crochet Lace required patience and a steady hand, but only the most basic of supplies.  When sold, though, Irish Crochet was considered a luxury good and could turn a significant profit.  Something that was highly enticing to many a young women in famine scared Ireland. As the process spread and was further popularized around Ireland, different areas developed there own specialized patterns and styles of Irish Crochet – many of which, were past down among families for generations.

What makes Irish Crochet so different from regular crochet is 1) you create a series of different elements and pieces that are then netted together into a final product 2) you crochet over cotton cords to create variations in the textures of the pattern (This takes practice: a looser over the cord crochet will give you a straighter structure while a tighter over the cord crochet will give you a slight curve – being able to do both are necessary for Irish Crochet) 3) this is delicate work using smaller crochet hooks 4) picots are used as a common design element (a typical Irish crochet picot usually refers to a Ch of 4).

Three sites or books that I referenced fairly regularly while learning this technique:

  • Kenmare Lace – has video demonstrations on how to net Irish Crochet Lace along with videos and tips for making other forms of Irish Needlework Lace.
  • My Picot – has free patterns and clear instruction on how to make some basic Irish Crochet elements.
  • How to make Baby Irish Crochet Lace from archive.org – has further instructions on vintage Irish Crochet, although, interpreting and understanding the old patterns can be a bit of a challenge.
  • The book Irish Crochet Lace.

Materials:IMG_7878

  • U.S. Size 7 (1.65 mm) Crochet Hook
  • Yarn (Lace (0) weight)
  • Cotton Cord:
    • It should be a match the lace weight yarn in color since you will be crocheting over the cotton cord and elements of it might peek through.
      • You can use 4 strands of the lace yarn as a substitute to a single cotton cord – this takes care of your color matching problem but can be harder to work with then a single strand of cotton cord
    • Keep in mind that the cotton cord is sometimes referred to as the foundation cord
      • a single cord foundation = 1 strand of cotton cord (4 strands of the lace yarn)
      • a double cord foundation = 2 stands of cotton cord (8 strands of the lace yarn)
      • a triple cord foundation = 3 strands of cotton cord (12 strands of the lace yarn)
  • Metal Jewelry Rings
    • I use them as a substitution for a cord foundation ring since it gives you a sturdier structure to work form, although Irish crochet traditionalist might see it as a cheat to the more traditional forms of Irish crochet.
    • Things to take into account when using metal rings in place of a corded foundation ring.
      • Use a thicker metal/plastic ring or multiple rings for a triple or double cord foundation.
      • Using a metal ring gives the structure a rigidity without the organic looseness sometime found in using a corded ring.
      • Metal rings can be heavier in weight then corded rings. Keep that in mind, and use them sparingly at the center of your bigger elements.
    • Size of metal rings correspond to the amount of St made around the foundation ring.
      • 10 mm (25 – 35 St)
      • 8 mm (15 – 25 St)
      • 6 mm (10 – 15 St)
      • 4 mm ( < 10 st)

Crochet the Individual Elements:

  • Branches: thicker crocheted stems that unify the elements.
    • For a Basic Branch
      • Crochet with single crochets (Sc) over a cotton cord.  This takes practice: a looser over the cord crochet will give you a straighter structure while a tighter over the cord crochet will give you a slight curve – being able to do both are necessary for Irish Crochet.
      • Ch 1 to turn the work.  Bend the cord to turn it since you will continue to crochet over it.
      • Single crochet back up the row (over the cord) hooking each new crochet stitch through both horizontal loops from the single crochet stitch in the previous row.  creating a thick branch.
  • Sprays: small organic elements that shoot off of or at the end of branches.

IMG_8849

Netting the Crocheted Elements Together:

In my research I have come across two different ways of doing this, and I have also pioneered a third way of netting the elements together.

  1. Technique 1:  You crochet over a single foundation cord, turn, and start working your way back over the cord in a netting sequence (for example): *Sc 1. Ch 7. Sk 5 Sp.* repeating the sequence until you reach the end of your foundation cord where you would then turn and start again. You would then continue to create your single swatch of netting, and work in your crochet elements as you go.
  2. Technique 2:  You baste two pieces of scrap fabric together, and then sew in your crocheted elements and edges – tacking them in.  You would then proceed to crochet a net around these elements.  Once you have finished the netting you  would then remove the design from the fabric by cutting through the tacking threads.
  3. Technique 3:  This was my personal experiment for netting the elements.
    1. I pinned by crochet design elements face-down onto a piece of styrofoam.
    2. I then crochet over a single foundation cord, and then proceeded to also pin it into the styrofoam forming the borders and base of my piece.
    3. Then I went back in with my crochet hook, and started a netting sequence of *Ch 7. Sc 1 into the next open Sp* until reached the end of the work.  I would then turn the work and proceed with my netting sequence until I finished filling in my entire netting area.
    4. I then went back through with my needle and thread, and reattached a few of my design elements in order to make sure that they were not going anywhere when the pins are removed.
    5. I then removed the pins and lifted the piece.

IMG_8834

 

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