Adventures in Irish Crochet Lace

March 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Crochet, Lace | 3 Comments
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I haven’t been writing about lace (or anything else — sorry for that) for a while, but for one of my current projects I do need lace — lots of it. I’ll write more about that project in a later post, but what’s important for the moment is that I want to include as many different kinds of lace as feasible. And of course I’m using that as an excuse to try something new to me. For this project I need small pieces of everything, so it is a perfect opportunity to experiment.

I have long been fascinated by Irish crochet lace and the ways it imitates the older and more elaborate bobbin and needle laces. You can see a few examples here and here from the V&A’s excellent online collection. Especially in the second image you can see clearly how Irish crochet lace is built: Individual motifs, often flowers or leaves, are worked and then connected by a background. While I have made some of the motifs before, I never tried to make a connected piece of lace with this technique.

For a pattern to use, I needed to look no further than my own hard disk, which houses a fine collection of digitized public domain needlework books. The one I ended up using is Thérèse de Dillmont’s “Irish Crochet Lace”, which I originally downloaded from the On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics. There’s lots of stuff there, not only about weaving but about all kinds of needlework. There doesn’t seem to be a way to link directly to specific entries, but the books are sorted by author, and you can find the book I used under the letter D.

Helpfully, the book has draft patterns for several lace edgings, and given the space constraints on the piece I am doing, I choose the narrowest edging available. Printing out the pattern and enlarging it to the size needed was the easy part. I made the individual pieces first, and then matched the pattern to their size, since a huge disadvantage of using old sources is that I generally have no idea what the thread sizes they recommend for a pattern actually look like. I used pretty much the thinnest thread I had on hand anyway, otherwise things would have gotten bigger than I needed.

So, how to get the pattern actually made up? The instructions in the book were not very extensive, so I went with my first instinct and set the pattern up like I would do for needle lace: Attach the pattern to a piece of cardboard and sew the ornaments down where they belong.

Irish Crochet Edging - PatternThat turned out to be a lousy idea, since it is nearly impossible to crochet next to the cardboard, as opposed to sewing like for needle lace. I also realized that I really needed to use a thinner thread for the connections for things to look even remotely good. This is where I was when I gave up in frustration:

Irish Crochet Edging - this doesn't workI ended up throwing the whole thing into the proverbial corner for a while, pretty much until I really needed the finished piece to go on with the whole project. At that point, I came up with what turned out to be a great solution: not only did it work, it saved me an additional step later.

For the project in question, I was going to attach the lace pieces to a dark ground fabric. So, why not use the ground fabric as the pattern? Being much more flexible than cardboard, it should be much easier to crochet on top of it, and I would end up with the lace already attached where I needed it anyway. I transferred the pattern to the fabric, and suddenly there was progress:

Irish Crochet Edging - in progressIt’s still far from perfect, but it starts looking like it’s supposed to be. I ended up doing a few parts twice, but it got finished fairly fast after that point. Here’s the finished piece after washing the markings out and pressing:

Irish Crochet Edging - FinishedNext time, I’ll show you what I made of this and other lace goodies from my collection.

The Tiny Orang-Utan

February 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Crochet | 1 Comment
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A few months ago a monkey-loving friend of mine was in need of a new guardian for her keys. While searching Ravelry for suitable patterns, I came across this adorable orang-utan. I decided to make this up using the orange Malabrigo Lace leftovers from this project. (Hmm, looks like I never posted the finished shawl. Must rectify that soon.)

The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, what I had is laceweight, so you can imagine I was working on a tiny scale. All went well for the head and body, there were enough stitches to work with. However, as soon as I started to make the arms and legs, I ran into a wall. Even after multiple tries, I couldn’t manage to make a tube in rounds of 4 sc with that yarn. I needed another technique to make the skinny tubes from.

Kumihimo to the rescue! Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding technique, which I came across quite a few years ago. Apart from making intricate braids, it can also be used to create very simple things, like the round braids you’ll usually find as shoelaces around here. While you can buy specialized equipment in craft shops, usually rubber discs with slits all around, the book I learnt from suggested using a simple cardboard disk. I made that disk back then, and it has been very useful to me on numerous occasions. I once bought one of the nice disks to give as a present to my niece, but am still using my handmade one.

I started by cutting the requisite number of threads for my braid long enough to be used for both arms, and then threaded them through the body to come out where the arms should start. This way, I only had one end of the braid to take care of at the end, with the other one already safely anchored. Here it is with impossibly long arms sticking out. I secured one side with a kitchen clip so I could work on the other one without pulling the threads out.

orangutan - start of arms

I then set up my trusty disk:

setup of kumihimo disk

You can see there are six slits on each side, and a hole in the middle where the braid will be forming. The numbers can be used to describe patterns easily by stating from which slit to which other slit a thread should be moved. For the simple over-and-under braid I’m aiming for the description looks like this:

  • 2 -> 21
  • 8 -> 2
  • 15 -> 8
  • 20 -> 15
  • 21 -> 20
  • 4 -> 9
  • 22 -> 4
  • 17 -> 22
  • 10 -> 17
  • 9 -> 10

Repeat until the braid is long enough. However, it turned out there was a problem with my braid. The laceweight yarn made much too skinny arms!

Orang with skinny arm

This is were I threw this project into a corner and forgot about it for a few months. The solution was pretty obvious, using more threads for the braid, but I didn’t look forward to opening up the braid and starting again. However, that’s exactly what I ended up doing, just a bit later than expected.

This is the new start, doubling up all the threads:

Orang-Utan, braiding the arms

This time things worked out just fine, and soon I had a finished little orang:

Orang-Utan with ruler

Some Assembly Required

June 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Crochet | Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago, I needed to come up with something handmade for my niece’s birthday present in a hurry. She loves dogs, and I had a dog theme already going for her present, so why not include a crocheted dog? A few minutes of Ravelry search later, I came across this adorable creature (you can download the pattern for free from there).  Grabbing some leftover sockweight yarn and a hook, I set to work. Of course, since my last try at making amigurimi I had completely forgotten how fiddly these things tend to be, especially if they have a multitude of tiny ears and legs and paws. About a day later, after being repeatedly amazed that such a small project can suck up such a surprisingly big amount of time, I had this:

Yep, some assembly required, with all those loose ends needed for sewing. But after another hour or so, there was this:

My colours are quite a bit darker than the ones used in the pattern, so the eyes don’t really pop out. What I like most about this pattern is the realistic form of the body and back legs. It’s not just a barrel with a head and legs added, the body is shaped and the hind legs are constructed from two pieces. I’m happy with the result, and I hope the recipient likes it, too.

Fun with Dolls

December 31, 2008 at 7:50 am | Posted in Crochet, Knitting | Leave a comment

After spending 10 years in the garage and only being recently and unexpectedly found again, the clothing of my collection of dolls I never really played with as a kid was in less than optimal condition. What a perfect excuse to do some fun knitting!
Pink Doll Dress
This evening dress is very simple: I cast on enough stitches to circle the body under the arms (28 stitches in my case) and knit in the round downwards. The skirt is created by increasing 8 stitches every fourth round. I used yarnovers for the increases, leading to a subtle pattern in the skirt. Increases in subsequent rows are done immediately before the previous increase, leading to a diagonal line of holes. I finished the skirt off with a crocheted picot edge, counteracting the tendency of stockinette to curl up.

I then picked up 11 stitches from the cast on to work the front of the dress, gradually decreasing down to five. The straps to close the dress in the neck, giving a back-free design, are done as a single crochet chain, and I worked a row of single crochet down the sides of the front and round the back of the cast-on row.

To make sure the doll doesn’t freeze when going out to her New Year’s Eve party, I started a scarf from the same yarn, to be sewn together at the arms in the “Sleeves” style from Versatility. This wasn’t finished when I had to leave, but my mom promised to finish it, so pictures will have to wait till I’m going back to my parents’ place.

Holiday Gifts

December 29, 2008 at 8:50 pm | Posted in Crochet, Knitting, Lace | Leave a comment

Now that the holidays are over and I’m slowly catching my breath, I’ll try to catch up with what’s going on in the fiber department. We left the Waves of Grain scarf still blocking on the sofa in the last installment. After taking it off and admiring it, I decided the gift wrapping needed to fit with the contents.

I started by making an Irish crochet flower from gold-coloured thread:

Irish Crochet Flower

The pattern for the flower is from Thérèse de Dillmont’s Irish Crochet Lace, which I found on the Weaving Digital Archives, which despite of its name has lots of goodies for all kinds of needlecraft. It’s the Third Wheel (fig. 17) on pages 9 and 10 of the book. Together with the red and gold wrapping paper it gives the present a festive look:

Waves of Grain - Wrapped

Since I couldn’t get any pictures in daylight before wrapping the present, I had to wait for it to be unwrapped again. My mom was really happy about this totally unexpected present, and I even managed to take a few pics in bright daylight over the holidays:

Waves of Grain

Waves of Grain - Detail

Of course there was more knitting going on over the holidays, but more on this in a later post.

Crocheted Bookworms

December 15, 2008 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Crochet | 2 Comments

While looking for something handmade to include in the Christmas presents for my nieces, I came across Michelle’s Bookworm Recipe. I immediately fell in love with those little fellows and had to make some, to live in the books for my nieces I’ve yet to buy. They work up really fast, it can’t have taken me much longer than 10 minutes to crochet one, and a few minutes more for finishing. They’re the perfect use for the odds and ends of variegated sock yarn I seem to be collecting.

Bookworms

While making those, I realized they might make the perfect project for a young child just learning to crochet. I remember the long lines of chain stitch that couldn’t really be used for anything my older niece produced one Christmas, but never really progressing beyond that. With this pattern, you could just have the child make the chain, and then work up the body yourself for the first few, giving instant success for everybody involved!

Since I think my nieces might want to make a few more of those for themselves or to give to friends, here’s what I did: After translating it into German, I printed the pattern out on a smallish piece of paper and mounted it on a piece of cardboard, so it doesn’t break easily. I included the picture of the bookworms in the corner. I’ll include this card in the present, and a copy will go to Grandma in case somebody needs help when I’m not around. It’s nice to see that at least one of my nieces seems to have inherited the fiber bug, and of course I’ll do everything to encourage her! 🙂

Hyperbolic Crochet — The UK Reef

August 8, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Crochet, Museums and Exhibitions | Leave a comment
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In London I had the opportunity to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and it was just great! There’s a very good picture gallery of the whole exhibition on the IFF’s website, but of course nothing beats to see the whole thing in 3D! I saw the exhibition on Saturday afternoon, and found out there would be a workshop at the beach just in front of the Royal Festival Hall the following Monday. Since it was way too hot for sightseeing, I decided to go have a look, and found a lot of people sitting in deckchairs in the shade under Festival Pier around a box full of yarn and crochet hooks and having a good time doing hyperbolic crochet. Of course my fingers started to itch, and I was invited to join in. Here’s what came out of an afternoon of crochet:

Those workshops are organized to make contributions to the UK Reef. This little piece will hopefully become part of it, and I’m proud to have made a small contribution to what I think is a great project! Here are a few pictures of the UK reef in progress at the day of the workshop:

The exhibition is still running till the 17th of August, so if you have an opportunity to visit, it’s really great!

Hyperbolic Crochet

July 6, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Crochet | 1 Comment

A friend gave me the link to the website of the Institue for Figuring. The institute devotes itself to educating about different kinds of figures. They figured out that hyperbolic geometry can be demonstrated easily using crochet, while it’s very difficult to do so using just pen and paper. Their online exhibit on hyperbolic space is consequently full of crochet models to demonstrate the different properties of hyperbolic space. On the gallery page you can find lots of examples of crocheted (and even beaded) hyperbolic beauty. I really couldn’t keep my fingers still while looking at those images, so I found myself a leftover ball of yarn and a crochet hook and played along:

This is a hyperbolic pseudosphere, crocheted in a spiral from the center outwards and increasing one stitch every two stitches. As you see, Hyperbolic forms often look very organic, just like kelp, or corals, or other marine life. Inspired by the different forms that could be created using the hyperbolic crochet technique, the IFF started to build a hyperbolic coral reef. The results are simply amazing.

And the best of it? The crochet reef is currently exhibited in London. So I just added another must-see location to my itinerary in London. It looks like it will be a lot of fun. I’ll leave you with another view of my tiny little model:

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