Posted in crochet history

Crochet Lacework, Then and Now

Part 1

pineapple doily
Modern-day lace work. From The Workbasket, September, 1970

by Anna Murphy, ©2018

In modern crochet, there is a distinction between lace and fabric of lacy stitches. Lace by definition is a fine fabric comprised of motifs or designs set within a mesh. There are examples of lace in crochet, but there is also the concept of using lacy stitches to make fabric.

The most well-known example of crochet lace is Irish Crochet. A famous school for making the lace was established in Clones, a small town in western Ireland, so you will occasionally see Irish lace referred to as Clones lace. Clones lace has some distinctive components not found in other schools, so the terms are not truly interchangeable.

Can you imagine crocheting intricate Irish lace with nothing more than a needle or a stiff wire, inserted into a cork or piece of wood, with the end filed down and bent into a little hook? The makers of Irish lace were primarily peasant women, and they used what tools they could find. This art form had been brought to Ireland from France during the 1800s by nuns. The potato famine created a population in need of income, so those who did not flee the blight were aided by wealthier women who set up schools to teach the lace making. They also established stores where the fabric was sold. Each woman would probably specialize in a particular motif. The various pieces were accumulated then joined with a mesh into a pattern much like freeform crochet. Queen Victoria was so impressed with the lace that she learned to make it, elevating the craft from a cottage industry to a fashion statement.

irish lace choker
An example of contemporary Irish Lace, by Andria McFetridge. This piece would be added to others with a mesh background to form a collar or yoke. Used with permission.

As fashions will do, the trend died down, and many of the techniques are lost. Interweave Press published a book by Maire Treanor, A Step-by-Step Guide to Clones Lace, with 12 Irish Crochet Motifs Patterns eBook, available here. Excerpts of the book were also reprinted across several issues of Interweave Crochet. Another interesting resource is The Irish Crochet Lab where you can find some free and paid instruction.

Other areas of Europe had their own style too, as seen in Bruges (Belgium) lace and Romanian Point lace. Bruges lace is comprised of tapes of crochet that are joined by way of loops that are formed as you go. The Sara scarf   pattern I recently published uses a similar technique. Romanian Point lace was also known as macrame crochet. Fine examples of these techniques can be found on Ravelry, and there are Ravelry groups devoted to the crafts as well. For more on Bruges lace, check out this site. To learn more about Romanian Point Lace, visit these two sites here. and here.

bruges lace
Contemporary example of Bruges Lace motif, by Andria McFetridge. This was made in a long strip with loops on each side. The loops were joined later after establishing the shape for the motif, then a border was added. Used with permission.

Some of the most interesting contemporary designs, in my opinion, are those of Ukranian crocheters. A short journey through Pinterest confirms this. Fortunately, most of the patterns posted are charted. You can also visit the web site for Duplet magazine that covers needle arts from crochet, knitting, embroidery, tatting and more for more inspiration.

In Part 2, we will look briefly at Hairpin, Broomstick, and Filet lace as well as the use of lacy stitches for making fabric.

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