Posted in crochet history

Crochet Lacework, Then and Now, Part 2

© Anna Murphy, 2018

Like an alphabet or musical notation, crocheted fabric is made up of individual units, or loops. You join the units into words, chords, and stitches. They become phrases and riffs, then novels and arias. Or hats, shawls, and heirloom bedspreads.

These loops lend themselves well to airy, lacy fabric. You can achieve this with different techniques, like using a fine yarn with a larger hook, by increasing the number of chain stitches, by pulling up the loops longer on the hook, and so forth. The detail is ultimately seen after the final product has been blocked.

Some crochet stitches have the name “lace” in them, like broomstick lace or hairpin lace. These are stitches used to create a lacy fabric, and they each use a device as indicated in their name. The hairpin lace tool or loom was modeled after 19th century hair ornaments but is not recognizable today as something to put in your hair. Long loops are made on the loom which are joined in the middle with the hook. These strips of loops are taken off the loom and incorporated into intricate designs with regular crochet stitches.

Vintage (open source) Hairpin Lace Stole

Broomstick lace uses…a broomstick. Or a 50mm knitting needle, if you prefer, to make multiple, long, even loops which are joined with a crochet stitch as you work the loops off the stick. Depending on your pattern, you might join five together, then the next five, and so forth. These clusters of loops are joined with regular crochet stitches to make shawls, tops, scarves, and the like. Broomstick lace can be sturdier than hairpin lace, but you can vary each of them with the weight of yarn and your pattern.

More popular than either of these two is the Solomon’s knot. Most people recognize this stitch as looking like an X made of long loops. Technically, the Solomon’s knot is only one leg of the X, whereas the double Solomon’s knot is what creates the completed X. Some patterns incorporate more knots to create a flower design. A pattern I made recently, Ella by Julie Blagojevich, utilizes the knot in its single form. However you use it, the result is long loops joined with a crochet stitch. Are you beginning to see a pattern of how lacy stitches can be made?

rows of knots2
Single Solomon’s knots in the Ella shawl designed by Julie Blagojevich. I crocheted it using Ultra Pima cotton yarn by Cascade in Desert Sage, Juniper, Sage, and Suede colorways.

There are many, many more combinations of stitches for making lacy fabric. I mentioned the use of multiple chain stitches, and you see this in various forms of mesh which includes filet crochet. Typically, filet is used to create pictures or words. It works a bit like cross-stitch embroidery in effect by having gaps and filled-in places. Filet is also used to create open sections in fabric, as seen in the sleeve of this cardigan.

lace sleeve
A Lacy sleeve on a cardigan, The Bell-Sleeve Cardigan designed by Margaret Hubert and crocheted with Paton’s Grace mercerized cotton.

Even though it can be used alone, mesh is usually incorporated with other combination stitches like the V-stitch, fan, shell, and more. And what is a crocheted pineapple motif but all the above. Take a V-stitch, fill it with a fan or two, top it with rows of chains and single crochets, and you’ve got a pineapple. The Pineapple Twist shawl uses both filet and pineapple motifs.

lima pima
The Pineapple Twist shawl designed by Cheri McEwen. I’ve made a few of these shawls, and this one is finished with beads on the border. Dubbed “Lima Pima”, it was crocheted using Mirasol Pima Kuri cotton yarn and has almost 400 beads in the border.

Another popular mesh motif is the spider. As the name implies, the motif has multiple “legs” made of chains, which are joined in the center with single crochets. The center portion can be very solid or only a couple of stitches, and the motif can fill either a square or a diamond shape. Here is an example that utilizes the treble crochet in place of chain stitches – after all, a treble is just a stack of chains. The motif is often combined with other crochet stitches to create lovely shawls, bedspreads, and even simple headbands. View the Spider Lace Throw or Cate’s Stretchy Hairband

spider square
Typical spider motif
spider headband
Basic chart for the typical spider motif

Just remember that the pattern is a song that you sing over and over, made up of simple notes that you know already. So grab your hook and start singing.

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