Irish Crochet Lace Workshop at Worldcon

September 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Conventions, Crochet, Lace | 2 Comments
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Quite a few months ago, I made a suggestion to the Programme team at Dublin 2019 – an Irish Worldcon that when having a Worldcon in Ireland, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a workshop on Irish Crochet lace, which is one kind of lace that’s native to Ireland? Having made that suggestion, I was pretty sure that a) it would be taken up and b) I’d be asked to teach the workshop. I was right on both counts.

Basically, it meant that on top of everything else, I needed to find a suitable pattern, collect the necessary materials and prepare a handout. The pattern was easy: I had seen this shamrock in one of my historical intruction manuals before, and it does have all the basic ingredients that make Irish Crochet different from other kinds of lace crochet:

Irish Crochet Lace Shamrock

Irish crochet lace aims to imitate dimensional needle laces by using two threads – a fairly thin thread for the crochet stitches and a thicker “cord” which other stitches are worked over, replacing the loops of chain stitches often found in modern lace crochet.

Materials were also fairly easy: I wanted participants to use the same materials I used for my class samples, so I had a good idea of how much was needed and the instructions would work with the threads. Since the thread sizes in historical needlework books are incomparable to what’s used today, finding materials that work together and adjusting the pattern to match is often the hard part of recreating those patterns. The real challenge was finding the right-sized crochet hooks. None of my collection of small hooks has anything resembling metric sizes. I made a guess that 1.25 or 1.5 mm hooks should work, and the lovely people at This is Knit reserved their stock for me. Since hooks in this size don’t seem to be a heavily sought-after item and I needed 10 of them, we ended up with a few 1.75mm hooks in the mix as well, which in hindsight may have been a bit too big.

So I made a couple of samples in May, got distracted by all the other Worldcon stuff after that, and made another sample just a couple of weeks before leaving for Dublin (this was mostly to figure out how much thread the pattern needed, so I could prepare the thread packages for participants), and wrote the handout on pretty much the last weekend possible that enabled me to still get it copied before leaving.

The workshop itself was fully booked, as I’ve come to expect for this kind of workshop at a Worldcon – they all were, no matter what the subject matter. We had fun, and I hope everybody got something out of it. For those who couldn’t get in, and others who may want to try Irish crochet lace, here’s the handout.


Happy to answer any questions!

Another Scarf from Victorian Lace Today

February 17, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Posted in Knitting, Lace | 6 Comments

A few days ago, I finally finished another project from Victorian Lace Today, which is a fabulous knitting book I have owned for quite a few years now. The link goes to my review which I wrote shortly after aquiring the book.

This scarf has been a long time travel project, since it provided a lot of knitting hours in a very small package. But the result is magnificent!

Scarf from Victorian Lace Today

Here you can see a bit less than half the length of the scarf draped over my reading chair. The reason I was originally interested in this scarf is its construction: You first work the wide border on the left lengthwise, then pick up stitches along the whole border to knit the middle bit sideways, and finally knit the right border lengthwise again while using up the stitches of the middle. Fun, and except for the middle bit, you work with relatively few stitches at a time.

Here’s a closeup of one end:

Scarf from Victorian Lace Today - Detail

The yarn is a lovely hand-dyed lace yarn consisting of silk and camel, which was great to work with. Now, I guess I need to find a new travel project!

Mirror Images the First

August 27, 2016 at 8:01 am | Posted in Lace | 6 Comments
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Remember the Afghan Embroideries I was so excited about a few months back? I’ve been sorting out ideas for what to do with them for a while, and have already finished a part. The challenge I want to submit the hopefully resulting quilt to is to create a “tablecloth” using at least three of the embroidered motifs.

My mind immediately jumped to the classic white damask tablecloths my mom still has and uses occasionally. They’re white, and if they’re very fancy, decorated with whitework embroidery of some kind. So I wanted to contrast the colourful embroidered triangles with different kinds of whitework motifs, mirroring the embroidery with something similar but different.

Here’s one possible layout I came up with, having paper copies as stand-in for the whitework, and my white table surface pretending to be a white damask tablecloth:

Afghan Tablecloth - Possible LayoutBy now, I’ve finished the first motif. I made it in needlepoint lace, an old favourite of mine. You can find a tutorial how to make this kind of lace right here on my blog.

Here’s the finished lace motif:

Afghan Tablecloth - Needlelace Motif

I want to keep the sense of playfulness that I get from the embroidered motifs, which I’m finding quite difficult. The needlelace may have given me more freedom than other techniques I’m currently tackling.

And here’s the needlelace again together with its inspiration:

Afghan Embroidery and Needlelace Motifs

I’m currently trying to figure out what exactly to do with the other motifs, which isn’t easy, and since there’s a deadline involved, I’m trying to make progress.

Flanders Lace – another Finish

April 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Lace | 6 Comments

With the weather not being very cooperative right now, I got the chance to finish another project carried over from last year today.

The strip of Flanders lace I started after my vacation to Belgium last year is 110 cm long:

Flanders Lace - Finished

Here’s a closeup, so you can see the details in this delicate lace:

Flanders Lace - Bean Pattern, Detail

The little “beans” are surrounded by a thicker thread, which is one of the characteristic traits of this kind of lace, together with the background patterning. I enjoyed making this very much and am already playing with the thought of making another strip in this technique, with a different pattern.

Back to Lace-Making

June 27, 2015 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Lace | 4 Comments

As an expected and very welcome side effect of my vacation exploits looking at lace in Belgium I’ve been back at my lace pillow that had sat unloved in a corner for several years.

Having found over time that I have no use for lace doilies, and keeping the art stuff to quiltmaking mostly, what do you do? Quite a while ago I decided to just make lengths of lace, just like the ones that would have been used for decorating all kinds of things back when machine lace wasn’t invented. I’ve used some of those strips in my lace quilt (there’s one at number 10 in this post), and there was another one on the pillow, which I finished fairly quickly, because I needed the pillow for a new project:

Bobbin Lace Strip Bobbin Lace Strip - Detail

It’s not quite one meter long (which is usually my goal for these strips), and I wanted to practice working with a single thicker thread as accent here.

So, that being out of the way, what’s the new project? Looking through the lace books available in my library’s catalogue, I found a little gem of a book about Flanders lace. It is the German version of Vlaanderse Kant by J.E.H. Rombach-de Kievid. Looking at the internet, this book doesn’t seem to have been translated into English.

This image from the wikipedia article shows pretty much exactly the pattern that’s currently on my pillow:

Flanders-bean” by Poljo – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Another interesting thing I noticed travelling was just how unusual the lace-making setup I grew up with seems to be. I learnt making bobbin lace in the Erzgebirge region, and everybody there had cylindrical pillows mostly suited to making strips of lace. This is how mine looks like:


In Belgium and England I exclusively saw flat pillows, and smaller bobbins where the thread is wound at the front part. My bobbins have the thread at the back, protected by that dark brown sleeve that slides over the bobbin. There was a cylindrical pillow just like mine shown in the entry area of the Kantcentrum in Brugge, and when I asked the lady there about it she said she believes it came from Spain. Interesting. Off to practice some more Flanders lace!

Kantcentrum Brugge – Belgium’s Center for Bobbin Lace

June 6, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Lace, Museums and Exhibitions | 4 Comments

Brugge was one of the places on my must-see list in Belgium. It is one of those pretty old towns with lots of old houses and lots of water that I was to find several times during my week of traveling around.


Of course that also means the town is full of tourists and souvenir shops, but that’s to be expected. After a while I was taking care not to look into the windows of the souvenir shops, since the displays made me cringe. The lace that’s displayed as “handmade in Belgium” can’t possibly be both, given the prices listed. It has to be either machine-made or imported from somewhere where handwork isn’t as expensive. I wonder how many Asian tourists take home a piece of “Belgian Lace” that’s made the trip the other way round not long ago.

But I was here to see the real thing, after all. The Kantcentrum is located a bit off the beaten track in an unassuming building, so you’re not likely to stumble over it by accident.


The poster advertising lace-making demonstrations is one of the few things you can see from outside. Inside, there’s a nice little museum with old lace as well as new and lots of information packed into a small space. While buying my ticket, I was also instructed to go upstairs to see the demonstration when I was finished with the exhibition. To my big surprise, there wasn’t just one or two ladies sitting there with their lace pillows, but a whole room full! There must have been something like 15 to 20 women there. It seems like the courses they give double as the demonstrations for the visitors. I was able to see different lace pieces in various states of completion – great eye candy for sure.

As a nice lady in Antwerp would be telling me a few days later, the Kantcentrum is the place to go to if you want to learn to make bobbin lace. When gathering my links for this post, I stumbled over the summer courses they give – lots of interesting things, I’d love to go one day.

Twenty Times Lace – the Details Part 1

May 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Lace | 3 Comments

As promised, I want to talk a bit more about the different laces in my 2015 challenge piece. Here’s the numbered detail picture of the left side again for reference:

20 Times Lace left side

  1. This is the lace we got for the challenge, which we had to include in our piece. It is a fairly wide, scalloped machine-made lace.
  2. I already wrote about this piece of Irish Crochet Lace, made by me.
  3. I made this bobbin-lace edging many years ago, and it has been sitting in my little lace collection since then. I think it is put to good use here.
  4. This is technically embroidery, but it is worked very similar to needlelace, just on a fabric foundation instead of completely free. I also wanted to include the literal number 20 to commemorate our anniversary, and this was the best way I could come up with to do so.
  5. A small tatting motif from a German tatting book I had from the library, so sorry for the missing reference, since I forgot to write it down.
  6. A similar motif from the same book.
  7. This actually wasn’t a butterfly when I started with it. The wings of the butterfly are cut out from a bigger piece consisting of lots of those motifs connected by bits of openwork. I got it together with a whole pile of other laces from my mom, and this was the fabric sample for her wedding dress. According to her it is Plauener Spitze, which also fits this kind of lace. I embroidered the body of the butterfly over the lace pieces.
  8. Reticella is one of the oldest needle-lace styles. I designed this heart myself based on historical examples. Here’s the original blog post about this one.
  9. A relatively coarse machine-made bobbin lace.
  10. I made this strip of bobbin lace to practice the little leaf shapes that make up the flowers in the center of the band. They are quite tricky to get right tension-wise.

I’ll get around to the second half of the quilt next time, and of course I’d be happy to answer any questions around this batch.

Twenty Times Lace

April 15, 2015 at 10:19 am | Posted in Lace, Patchwork | 6 Comments

To celebrate our twentieth exhibition this fall, my quilt group has come up with a special challenge project this year. As part of a fabric donation, we got a considerable length of lace which we decided would be the common material to use. In addition, the colour scheme used should be natural colours from beige to brown, making a nod to the 20th anniversery traditionally being the porcelain anniversary, and our lace having a beigish colour anyway. To top it off, the number 20 should play a role in some way, and this was the part that got me into trouble, since the size requirement of 40×40 cm hadn’t been changed.

Being interested in lace of all kinds, you can’t give me some lace and not have me think “I’m going to use 20 different pieces of lace here!” Collecting materials, I acquired my mom’s collection of mostly machine laces, looked which of my collection of handmade samples would be useful, and then tried to figure out how to put 20 different pieces into 40×40 cm. Turns out in order to not run out of space, I would have to keep things fairly simple. My original ideas where much more elaborate, with lengths of lace interweaving between the horizontal and vertical directions. But as is often the case, constraints ended up making it all better: the simple layout leaves space to show off the laces themselves, which was supposed to be the point, after all. So here’s the finished piece:

20 Times Lace - finished

And since it’s the laces themselves that are the interesting part of this piece, I’ll do a detailed writeup of what you’re seeing here in the following couple of posts. As a teaser, here’s the left side all numbered so we know what we’re talking about.

20 Times Lace left side

Which lace do you like best, and why? Which one would you like to know more about? Mind you, since some of it has been gifted to me, I may have not much information on it either.

Adventures in Irish Crochet Lace

March 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Crochet, Lace | 4 Comments

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.

Looking for a Flower Garden

June 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Lace, Museums and Exhibitions, Tatting | 3 Comments

Wandering around Greenwich on my trip to London a few weeks ago, I also ventured into Queen’s House, lured in by a poster that had of all things something fibery on it! And my eyes weren’t deceiving me. There’s currently an exhibit by Alice Kettle at Queen’s House, named The Garden of England. It’s still running till August 18, 2013, so if you’re in the area go ahead and have a look, it’s free! It’s a small exhibit, just four or five pieces, but it seems to have left an impression on me, since my mind has been wandering around making flowers lately.

Flowers have long been a favourite motif for all kinds of needlework, so I started to rummage in historical needlework books. First, my favourite source, Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf. Since I want to create free-standing flowers, to be applied to a larger piece later, I skipped the embroidery books and landed on the Bath Tatting Book. On closer inpection it turns out that the first three doilys presented there have a small flower as their basic unit. Just what I was looking for!

I then realized that my last tatting projects were long enough ago that I had forgotten how to make the knots. Another favourite to the rescue: the Encyclopedia of Needlework has the clearest tatting instructions I’ve ever come across. Half an hour later I was up and running. Here’s what I made:

Flowers from the Bath Tatting Book

What I did not expect just from looking at the pictures and a cursory readthrough of the instructions, was that the flowers are actually three-dimensional. I started with the rose shown in the middle. Here’s the doily it comes from:

Rose Doily from Bath Tatting Book

On the left there’s the cornflower from this doily:

Corn Flower Doily from Bath Tatting Book

On the right is the sorry attempt at the chrysanthemum from this doily:

Chrysanthemum doily from Bath Tatting Book

I’ve currently given up on that one. There’s a lot of picots and not many double knots holding them in place, so they tend to turn round or vanish when you’re not looking. Even after looking closely, in the current round I’m never quite sure if I’m tying to the correct loop, since those are loops I already tied to in the previous round. And there’s lots more of that kind of stuff coming when creating the spirals on the outer edge of the flower. I think the result would be stunning, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull it off. I may try to pick it up again in a few days or so.

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