Irish Crochet Lace Workshop at Worldcon

September 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Conventions, Crochet, Lace | 1 Comment
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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.

IrishCrochetDublin2019

Happy to answer any questions!

Adventures in Irish Crochet Lace

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

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