HNW - Irish Crochet

Kim Salazar kbsalazar at
Wed Jan 3 08:06:20 PST 2001


Encourage!  Encourage!  [grin]

I've dabbled in Irish crochet - but I wouldn't consider myself far from 
being an expert of any sort.

I got my best results with a gauge that was a bit tighter than I've used in 
other styles.  My chains were just loose enough to admit the second thrust 
of the hook when the stitches were formed but stitches but loose enough to 
lie flat rather than riding up into the "caterpillars" that form when 
they're too tight.  I found it very important to match the needle size and 
thread size, too.  Irish crochet can look anemic if done with thread that's 
too small for the needle, or clunky and ungraceful if too large a thread is 

Like many other types of work predicated on assembling small units, Irish 
crochet doesn't feel as time consuming as one might think.  There are lots 
of stop and admire points and incremental milestones as the various small 
motifs are finished.

One point of interest - I remember several sources saying that the motifs 
themselves were not the hardest part of the work, and that beginners in the 
commercial workshops were often employed on simple flowers and leaves to 
start.  The most advanced/highest skilled part of the work was the 
formation of the picot ground in which the sprigs were set.  That bit was 
usually given to the most experienced workers in the group.  From my 
limited experience, I agree.

My advice for doing the ground is to first make a small practice square of 
nothing but the picot ground stitch.  I used a bit of braid to make a 2 
inch diameter square by tacking it down on some sturdy Kraft paper.  Then I 
infilled the square with my chosen ground.  This taught me a lot about 
optimum spacing for even coverage and how to avoid a slack ground fabric 
(think hammock or tent roof).  Then I took a "sacrificial" sprig and made a 
second practice square - this one with the sprig basted in the center.  I 
maneuvered the filling stitches around the single sprig, learning how to 
"deform" the pattern to accommodate the sprig itself, while still 
maintaining both optimum even coverage, and avoiding slack.

Once I was comfortable with fitting the fillings in on my sample bit, I 
moved on to my real project.

What I ended up making was a crocheted ringbearer's pillow for a 
wedding.  The sprigs I used on it were adapted from a rose collar 
republished in an early 1980s issue of "Old Time Needlework" (one of the 
old White Birches magazines.)  The original collar pattern was first 
circulated shortly after 1900.  My practice squares ended up on a little 
sachet the bride gave to her flower girl.

As to style variants - I've seen some very 1910-ish, and 1920-ish, and 
1930s-ish adaptations of Irish styles.  Simplification, and more geometric 
lines are mostly what sets them apart from the earlier stuff.  To my 
untrained eye, the earlier work seems to be more evocative of other lace 
styles, and more exuberant.

I too would be interested in seeing if various turn of the century or late 
century artisan/arts movements had influence on Irish crochet.  Please keep 
us informed on what you find!

Here are some links showing nifty pieces:

Kim Salazar
who agrees with Kathryn - "Too many centuries, too little time"
kbsalazar at

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