Unlike most forms of crochet, worked in either rounds or rows, traditional Irish crochet is made up of motifs that are joined with mesh stitches, forming lace.
While some crocheters seek to preserve this technique, others take alternative routes, making items purely from motifs, or hooking the mesh background first and attaching the motifs with appliqué for speedier, freeform-style makes.
Irish crochet lace was developed in Ireland in the mid-1800s during the potato famine. The income that their sales provided was a lifeline for many families at this time. Crocheting was a simpler way to make lace and the techniques were easy to learn.
The motifs usually take the form of solid ribbons, leaves, shamrocks and flowers. The Irish rose is the most recognisable design. Some motifs were made around a cord for a bulkier look. Traditionally, the lace was worked in one colour using three different weights of fine thread in either cotton, linen or silk. The finer the threads used, the more delicate the lace. Thicker threads would be used for the motifs and the finest threads would be used to form the mesh. The mesh could be embellished with picots or tiny Clones knots. This design is by Carola Herbst, who makes motifs in vibrant shades. Find her patterns at www.carocreated.etsy.com
Although the lace looks complex, as it’s just made up of motifs and mesh, it’s not too difficult to master. Originally, this form of lace was used to make collars, trims and gowns. Due to its more freeform construction, Irish crochet can in fact be used to almost make anything, from bags and jewellery to tops, dresses and shawls. It’s a really great way of working to make unique designs.
Embracing the delicate nature of Irish crochet, Doris Chi makes stunning jewellery (above-left). You’ll find her latest creations here.
Crafter Natalia Kononova creates detailed motifs to make her Irish crochet garments (above-right). See what she’s up to here.
A beautiful example of an Irish rose (left) – Gabriella Bittner’s lace pebble cover. There are more of her designs for sale here.
Find out more:
Lacework for Adventurous Crocheters by Margaret Hubert (Quarry Books £16.99)
This thorough lace guide has brilliant step-by-step instructions and pretty patterns for Irish, traditional, freeform and Bruges lace crochet.
There’s a fantastic Irish crochet section that highlights the connection with freeform and has motifs and seven projects to hook – accessories and lovely lacy garments. (If you’re in the US, use this link).
www.irishcrochetlab.com is a site where four designers share patterns and tips. It’s a brilliant resource for anyone looking to explore this technique.
You’ll find patterns for motifs and garments, a gallery of Irish crochet for inspiration, video tutorials and more.
A group of international Irish crocheters share all their latest makes and antique Irish crochet finds over at www.irishcrochettogether.blogspot.ca You’ll find an index of free vintage patterns, details of workshops, and the group’s modern and traditional makes.