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. Continue reading “Crochet Lacework, Then and Now, Part 2”

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. Continue reading “Crochet Lacework, Then and Now”