Irish Crochet Tutorial for Beginners

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Cluny Collar

How to Irish Crochet
by Ann Reillet

Irish crochet is about texture and artistry. The intricate motifs and picot netting create an illusion of flowers caught in a spider’s web. At its finest, it is elegant and timeless.

 

Poppies CottageA single motif, in its complexity, may take a few minutes or several days to make. Many are needed for even the smallest project. For this reason, it’s often impractical to realize a profit from the making and selling of handmade Irish Crochet, but compare any piece to modern machine-made lace and you’ll know it’s worth its weight in gold.

One option is to combine sections with fine fabric as insertion lace. This reduces the amount of work. To learn insertion techniques, see Lauren’s amazing tutorial here: http://wearinghistoryblog.com/2012/04/tutorial-attaching-laces-to-each-other-gathering-lace/

Irish skirt with trainHook Method – Irish Crochet
The method of Irish Crochet described in this tutorial is called “Limerick Lace” because it uses a hook, rather than a needle, to create the ground. Historically, this type of crochet was brought to Ireland by French nuns in the mid 19th century, around 1840. A book published in 1846 by Mademoiselle Riego de la Blanchardiere is the first known book to contain patterns for this early form of Irish Crochet. There is some confusion about whether Irish Crochet is an imitation of Milanese needle point or another form such as Venice Lace. It’s my opinion that Irish workers expanded on their original teachings, creating the richly sculpted texture of the motifs we know today in order to produce an imitation of Venetian Gros Point; a technique that dates back to the early 17th century, Italy. Similarities exist between the motifs made by needle in Venetian Gros Point and by hook in Irish Crochet, both of which resemble floral marble carvings of the Renaissance period.

_MG_2819

Needle Method – Venetian Point Lace

If you’re interested in learning the needle method for creating net, see Lorelei Halley’s Point de Gaze tutorial on how to make the “Two Twist Whipped English Stitch” here: http://www.lynxlace.com/StitchesofPointdeGaze.html

For further study, see Priscilla Needlework Book ca. 1898. This book can be viewed online free at Antique Pattern Library in the cut work section of their catalog.

Catherine Barley

Another artist to look into is, Catherine Barley. She creates numerous types of point lace.  I especially love her Venetian Gros Point motifs.  Even a cursory observation shows that by using a needle, you can employ much smaller thread and achieve results that are daintier, perhaps more elegant, than crochet alone.

To see Catherine’s outstanding workmanship, visit:

http://www.catherinebarley.com/186037431

 

Irish Ann

Helpful to Know.
Assuming you already know how to crochet and understand basic techniques; perhaps made a doily and worked with thread? If not, thread sizes are explained herein, but if you’re just learning how to crochet, I recommend “Crochet Geek” on YouTube, as Theresa Richardson is a gifted teacher and this tutorial doesn’t cover basics. You don’t need to be an expert to learn the Irish method, however, it’s helpful to know a few techniques that are involved:

Irish PaddingCORDS: I-Cords and Romanian Point Lace Cords look beautiful in Irish Crochet, but true Irish Cord is made with padding. Padding is basically a technique that creates thickness in the edging or perimeter of the pattern outline. Instead of making a chain and crocheting over the chain, you use several strands (usually 4-10) of a thicker thread and crochet over the thickness of the thread. You can use the same thread that you’re crocheting with. I use a size 3, 5 or 10 for padding cord. By using a larger thread, it takes less thread to create bulk. This thread, whatever size, by its use is called “cord”.

To practice making Irish cord:  Cut 7 strands of size 10 thread at an equal length; perhaps 7 inches or the length of your hand. Tie one end together. Now using size 20 thread, make a slip knot and sc over the strands nearest to the knot, then sc over all but the bottom single thread strand and alternate back and forth; over all strands, then over all but one. This creates a flatter patterned cord. For arched work, crochet over all of the strands. If you want to reverse the arch, ch 1 (or 2 depending on the thickness of the cord), flip or twist and sc on the opposite side; this creates an “S” shape. Another option is to cut 1/2 the number of strands at twice the length and fold them in half so that 3 strands become 6 or 4 become 8, begin with a sc at the fold on the solid end to secure and work toward the cut end, crocheting over all the strands or as above, alternating over all but one and then all strands. This method creates a neater more secure cord because there is no knot at the end. To finish off, tie the end/cut strands and work over and around the knot, securing the last st to the sc over the cord; I do this as if to start a 2nd row, but it could also be done around and secured to bottom as if making  an oval.

 

_MG_2352

Padding Center & Perimeter

PADDING: It’s also helpful to understand how padding is used within the motifs of Irish Crochet. You can experiment with this technique by wrapping the thread around your 4th finger 7 times, sliding it off, hold in place and sc over the thickness of the wrapped cord and the tail from the slip knot. Once the circle is filled with stitches, trim excess tail and join with a sl st to the 1st sc. As you continue making the motif, add padding again, in the form of 1 long cut strand folded in half then folded again, using the solid end to secure, then crochet over all the strands and the area of the motif you want to pad similar to crocheting over a tail to tuck it in while you’re working. The result is 3-dimensional, which adds texture to the motif and gives the motif a sturdy, finished look.

Here’s a free padded leaf pattern: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/irish-crochet-motif-leaf/

Picot vs. Clones Knot

Picot vs. Clones Knot

CLONES KNOT: A Clones Knot is similar to a Bullion Stitch or embroidery’s French Knot in that it is grouped stitches. There are online videos to help master the clones knot. If it’s too difficult, you can use a standard picot (ch 4, sc in the 4th ch from hook) to create decorations along the netted background. It’s best to practice the clones knot to perfection; and it may take a lot of practice, but it’s an important stitch to learn for Irish Crochet. It’s neater and bulkier than the picot, making it well worth the effort of learning.

Here you see the difference between the two in this Venetian net with picot rows on the bottom and clones knot atop.

Tip: Steel hooks with long barrels and a short tapered end work best. If it has a thumb tab, that is fine. If you find a hook that makes clones knotting easy, label it for this specific use.

To make a clones knot, practice as follows. When practicing, use whatever thread and hook size you’re comfortable with, but the thinner the thread, the nicer it will look:

(Starting chain) slip knot, ch 5
(Set up) Looking at the loop that is on the hook from the 5th ch, push that loop up onto the barrel of the hook, away from the tapered end, but not on the narrow thumb tab. Looking at your thread feeding hand, widen your thread holding stance and keep the thread feed taut. Looking back at your hook holding hand, slide the thumb and index finger down to the base of the hook, gently gripping it with your thumb and index finger in an oh, so very tea party manner.
(Now begin) *Hook under thread, catching thread and spin the hook 360 degrees horizontally (anti-clockwise if right-handed). Make sure the thread that moves onto the hook comes to a rest on the barrel next to the starting loop that was already on the hook. Having pivoted the hook, working from the opposite side now, mirror what you just did by hooking under the thread, catching a thread and rotating back 360 degrees to starting point. The 3rd loop should also rest on the barrel next to the two preceding loops. *Repeat. Counting the total times you spin, when you reach six (6) and you’re back to the starting normal crochet forward position, hold the bottom of those loops by the beginning chain with your thread feeding hand (mainly the thumb and index finger) yarn over bringing your hook holding hand back into normal position, ease the loops onto the narrow tapered end of the hook and pull through all the loops on the hook at once. Quickly ch 1 to hold the sts in place.
(Finish off) Now, looking back at this disaster, er I mean creation, there is the ch-1 you just made and the clone’s knot, followed by the chain on the opposite side: you can either: sl st or sc in the 1st ch on that opposite side, closest to the clones knot, OR you can sl st or sc across the clones knot to the chain on the other side; as always, there are variations, but this last st is important because it hugs the knot to form a tighter sphere and secures the shape.
(Repeat) Ch 5 and make another clones knot.  In the practice piece; vary the number of times you spin to see the differences between larger and smaller knots. Also, vary the placement of the stitch used to secure the knot so you can see the difference and find your preferred method. Finally, try to create 5 or 10 identical knots because consistency is key in creating a symmetrical look. 

THREAD SIZES:  Various sizes of thread are employed in making Irish Crochet. Traditional vintage sizes range from 60-110, which in modern crochet terms are defined as tatting thread; all of which use a 0.6mm #14 hook and smaller (#18). For beginners: Larger threads (size 3, 5 and 10) should be used for padding, thinner threads (20+) for motifs and the thinnest (30+) for netting.

If you’ve only worked with yarn, it’s a good idea to start with a large size 0 steel hook and sock yarn to make your first motif, as you get comfortable with the steel hooks, decrease the sock yarn to size 3 thread, then 5, then 10 (with a size 7 steel hook). The idea is to decrease gradually and build confidence.

Thread size is a confusing aspect of crochet.  For instance, the lustrous non divisible DMC perle #8 is similar to US size 20. Yet, the hand over-dyed 3 twist Valdani #8 is similar to US size 30. Oren Bayan #60 is similar to US size 40.  I use US size 20 or 30 in the Coat’s & Clark Brand of  “Aunt Lydia’s Fine Crochet Thread”  on a spool containing at least 400 yds to crochet motifs and size 40 for netting.  

The thinner the thread, the nicer it will look. Ideally, DMC Cordonnet Special No. 80 with a .5 or .4mm hook is best… and a pair of magnifying glasses.

Tip: When working with sharp pointed hooks, wrap the index finger at the top knuckle in First Aid tape to avoid injury.

Consistency is Key
As with all crochet projects, consistent stitch work and patterned arrangement of motifs net the best finished results. If the stitches are too loose or the arrangement haphazard, the piece loses its sense of balance. This applies to the netted background as well.  Some Irish patterns are worked in sections that are “fenced in” or offset with cord; this is where you want to place motifs that go well together. Other patterns use only a few motifs, like all one type of flower with leaves and vines. Still others are an eclectic mix of motifs and this is probably the hardest to design because the balance can sometimes get thrown off if it looks too busy.  As always, experiment with the pattern of the layout.

If using colored threads, consider a small palette of not more than 3 colors that combine well and compliment one another; like red and brown or beige and white or pink, brown and white. Look at paintings, photography, fashion ensembles, vintage pieces like Jacobean, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco. Study the color schemes and identify the palettes that appeal to you.

Galina Verten "Asia"

Galina Verten “Asia”

Skill Level Increases with Practice
My first attempt at Irish Crochet was a baby bib… best to start small. For the first project, I used only size 10 thread. All of my instructions came from vintage sources; it was very confusing. That is why I created this tutorial. Over the past few years, I’ve completed several Irish Crochet projects, I’m nowhere near Galina “Asia” Verten, but my skill level continues to improve and yours can too!

You can see my first project here:  http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/irish-crochet-bib/

In Asia’s example, a variety of color and motifs are used ranging from vine work, flowers, paisleys and leaves.  The texture is created with padding and Romanian point lace cords. The plain mosaic fill draws the eye toward the motifs.  It’s a Jacobean style; a true masterpiece by a most talented artist. See more of Asia’s designs here: http://youtu.be/hwutAqMC6lA

 

 

 

Ann’s Beginner Tutorial
Steps to Making Irish Crochet 
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11.  Study & learn all you can about Irish Crochet from many sources. Irish Crochet is a free form technique; there are no rules per se, only variations to achieve similar results. Whether in the layout or netting, with or without a pattern, each piece is truly unique.

2. Build up a supply of padded motifs. For beginners, motifs should be crocheted in a minimum thread size of 10 (preferably 20) with a size 7 or higher steel hook. Start with an Irish Rose and Venetian Leaf, then branch out; palm leaves, stars, oak leaves, grape vines. The possibilities are endless.

 

Temair in Thread

Temair in Thread

While this tutorial is for beginners, I encourage you to experiment, especially as you gain experience, employ smaller finer thread; even colored threads. Irish Crochet is traditionally a white work, but it looks great in color, and scarfs can be done in lace and sport weight yarn: (See Nicky Epstein’s Irish scarf patterns at Caron yarn.)

Shown left is one of Nicky’s afghan designs that I altered to create this Irish chair back cover in #10 thread.

Tip: When it comes to pattern arrangement, balancing motifs is key. If you want a mirror effect, make at least two of each motif and don’t forget vine work and leaves.

Here’s a motif I created: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/free-irish-crochet-pattern-escape-flower-motif/

Also, if you scroll up and click on Irish Crochet under the “Category” tab on the upper right hand side of this page, there are several Irish motifs posted here.

  1. Prepare a work space consisting of:
  • [A] Cambric (a finely woven 300-400 thread count per sq. in. cloth).  A solid color is easier on the eyes; in Ireland they use the emerald green cloth. I use a white cloth.
  • [B]  Chalk or non-permanent sewing pencils for outlining patterns on the cloth. Tip: Don’t use ink, otherwise you can’t reuse the cloth.
  • [C]  Thin cardboard such as watercolorpaper for stabilizing the cloth.
  • [D]  Foam pad or styrofoam that is thick enough to absorb…
  • [E]   Sewing pins, which are used to secure the motifs and border while the net is being made.
  • I also use office supply type binder clamps and paper clips to secure the cloth to the paper and sewing pins to secure that to the pad. I use pins to secure the border and motifs. Sometimes, I baste (hand sew) the border, but never the motifs.


Workplace Alternatives: A cylinder or bobbin pillow could be used for narrow insertion type pieces. Other types of platforms include non-pinning options where you use just the cloth and baste the motifs and border.  I don’t use this method because it requires a lot of hand sewing and it feels less secure to me than the pinning method. I find that I have more control over the layout of the netting when it’s pinned down. But I encourage you to try various techniques in order to find your individual preference.

You can read more about the workspace here: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/irish-crochet-board-creating-a-workspace/

4. Decide what you’re going to make. I recommend starting with a small item, not larger than a placemat. Suggestions: Bib, bonnet , collar, cuffs, coasters, corner piece for napkins or placemats, etc…  Have a sketch or photograph of the ideal piece aforehand in order to start with the end in mind and work toward that achievement.

Outline:
5. Pencil or chalk the outline onto cambric (don’t use permanent ink otherwise you can’t re-use the cloth).  Trace an actual item, such as a bib or collar or create your own design. For clothing, trace the outline of a cut-out paper sewing pattern. The idea here is: This is your final sketch; the shape your garment will take.

Border:
6. Crochet a chain that is exactly long enough to cover the outline. Try not to pull it taut, but lay with consistent tension. Make sure the chain is flat as you pin it on the outline so it doesn’t become twisted. If you’re following an example piece, some have cord in the outline and that’s fine if you want greater thickness in the edge. Either method works cord or chain and pad can always be added over the chain as an edging in the final round.

BorderPin the border in place and/or sew it down with a temporary basting stitch along the penciled outline on the cloth using a colored thread that contrasts with the crochet thread. Slip stitch or sew the ends of the border chain together to join like a necklace. The idea is that you want the border to be complete and stay in place while making the net. I’ve done both methods, sewing and pinning. I find the pinning method to be much faster and easier.

 

Bib Design

Bib Design

Design:
7. Arrange your motifs so they fit inside the border in a pattern that is pleasing to you. I recommend sewing in the tails and snipping the ends of the motifs to keep the work area clean while you’re making the netted background. Iron the motifs first. You can gum and block them now or later, if you want to do that now see step 13.

 

 

Basting motifs8. TURN the motifs over so they are facing down and pin in place, pushing the pins all the way down so they’re not in the way. The reason for turning the motifs over is so it will look like the netting is coming from behind and pushing the motifs forward, thus improving the finished look.

You can see the finished scarf here: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/irish-crochet-shrug/

_MG_1159Pinning the motifs is quicker and easier than sewing them down, but you can sew them with a temporary basting stitch if you prefer. The idea is that you want the motifs to stay in place while you’re making the net.

 

_MG_1161Note: Depending on what your project is, exceptions and variations may occur. For instance, the Irish Chair Back (shown here), required no border chain to start the net, rather the netting began at the center and spiraled outward until a border could be added in the final round.

 

At the end of step 8, everything should be pinned down and secure to the padded workspace.

Netting/Background:
9. Start the netting in the lower corner of the largest open area (preferably at the very bottom of the border chain) because in the corner, you’ve already got 2 sides. Begin with a sl st. If you’re left-handed start on the left side of the border chain; if you’re right-handed start on the right side of the border chain. The sl st should be up 2 or 3 ch sps depending how tall you want the height of the square, ch 2, hdc (or dc depending on how tall you want the open spaces to be), do this hdc (or dc) on the lower side of the border chain, ch 2, sk 2, hdc (or dc). Now you have 2 squares, keep going.

Join to Border:
When you get to the 2nd to the last space at the end of this first row, stop and think about the letter “F” (left-handed) [or the mirror image of a letter "F" if you're right-handed]; instead of chaining 2 to the end, do a hdc (or dc) in the border chain that aligns with the top of this row. This keeps you in place, then chain up and repeat before changing directions for the next row.

Tip: Try to avoid chaining and slip stitching in the border, rather work a dc in the border to join. This avoids uneven borders because if you do sl st in the border, you usually have to continue slip stitching up the ch to obtain sp for the next mesh.

Filet Mesh in Irish Crochet

Filet Mesh in Irish Crochet

Join to Motifs:
As you work up to the motifs, insert your hook in the st where you want the join to be, sc, then continue with your chs and hdc (or dc), trying to keep your rows lined up as much as possible. You can sl st over the back of the motif to get to the other side or you can work the area in between, tie off and work the next area, whichever you prefer.

By starting with a simple square shaped net, you will quickly gain an understanding of how the background is applied. The hardest thing for some will be re-learning how to position your hands and hold your hook because with everything pinned in place, it limits your movement. Rather than bringing the work to you, you have to accommodate it. Try not to pull at the motifs, instead, turn the workspace 180 degrees, one row will feel natural and the next… awkward.  Later on, maybe on the next project, you can experiment with doing a cluster stitch, picot trellis, bullion stitch or clones knot.

Traditional Net Shown in Yarn

Traditional Irish Net Shown in Yarn

If you’d like to learn traditional netting, practice as follows:
Note: When filling, the net is usually done in a smaller thread size than the motifs, but when you’re learning for the first time and practicing something new, use whatever thread and hook size you’re comfortable with and don’t worry about your edges, just focus on the pattern of the stitch; that is what’s important. Remember that when you’re making the net, you already have a border pinned down so your edges join to that framework.

Use either a standard picot or clones knot:

 

 

_MG_2369Traditional Irish Trellis with Two Picots:
1st Row: ch 58 (a multiple of 7 + 2)
2nd Row: sc in the 2nd ch from hook, *ch 2, picot (ch 4, sc in 4th ch from hook), ch 3, picot, ch 2, sk 6, sc in the 7th ch, *repeat to end. Turn.
Note how wide the stitch is: 7 chains (2, 3, and 2) with two picots; that is why smaller (size 60+) thread is used.
3rd Row: *ch 2, picot, ch 3, picot, ch 2, sc in 2nd ch of prev 3 chs betw picots, *repeat to end. Turn.
Note: For this practice tutorial, there should always be eight (8) full trellis per row. The edges are not straight-straight, but rather triangular with the outer picots aligning to form a “straight edge.” These picots are where you would join to the border.
4th Row, etc. Repeat Row 3.
7. Sans BorderBasic Trellis with Single Picot:
1st Row: ch 26 (a multiple of 5 + 1)
2nd Row: sc in 2nd ch from hook *ch 5, sk 4 ch, sc in next ch *repeat across. Turn.
3rd Row: *ch 5, in 3rd ch of next ch 5 work sc-ch3-sc *repeat across. Turn.
4th Row: ch 1, sc in same *ch 5, sk picot, picot in 3rd ch of next ch 5 *repeat across. Turn.
To keep the edges straight, at end: ch 2, dc in the sc of last row’s 1st st.
After a dc ending: ch 2, picot in 3rd ch and continue pattern with ch 5, sk picot, picot in 3rd ch of next, etc.

Basic Trellis (no picot):
As Irish Net: Join to 3rd ch side border (from bottom), *ch 5, sk 3 chs (on bottom), sc in next, *repeat. At row’s end, join to opposite side with a ch 2, dc then ch up and repeat before changing direction for next row. Skip to 3rd Row instruction.

As practice: 1st Row: ch 27 (a multiple of 4 + 3)
2nd Row: sc in 6th ch from hook, *ch 5, sk 3 ch, sc in next *repeat across. Turn.
3rd Row: *ch 5, sc in next ch 5 sp *repeat across. Turn
4th Row, etc: Repeat row 3

Miroslava Gorokhovich

Miroslava Gorokhovich

Fill-in Net:
Various forms of netting can be employed including patterned stitches and filet. Another option is to make fill-in pieces of net, especially if you have large open spaces. Similar to motifs, fill-ins are worked first and pinned or sewn on cambric. Additional netting joins these little islands together. The technique creates a mosaic look and transfers time spent making the ground with everything pinned down because it’s easier to crochet when the piece is free and you can hold it in your hand.

In this example, you can see that the artist has already joined the motifs with vine work and connected them to the border using padded Irish cord to enhance the edging. It’s a Venetian technique made by a world renown expert. The fill-in pieces are then joined with the finishing net. Note the gray cloth and sewing pins securing the work. Pattern source: Duplet 119

Duplet 119

See more of Miroslava Gorokhovich’s designs here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.407881239259004.82143.171750306205433&type=3

To start a fill-in: ch 5, sl st in 5th ch from hook to form ring, ch 3 (counts as dc), *ch 4, dc in ring, *repeat for 5 or 6 petal loops, join to 3rd ch of 1st dc, ch 3, and continue. As you tier up and outward, the ch 4 remains, but the spacing between dc decreases. You might do one round in the loops and in prev row’s dc, or put two dc in one loop. You can also quit the round direction, turn (with a ch3, ch 4) and work the reverse. The idea is to create a fill-in of fairly consistent size spacing, but less symmetry than a motif.

Sew on Net

Vintage, French Guipure

Sew-on-Net:
For the purposes herein, we won’t call this cheating. It’s actually another form of crochet from the French Guipure et a la croix or fil pour dentelles; which in modern crochet terms translates to: motifs sewn on filet. In the Guipure technique, no pad is used. The open mesh filet net is made first then shaped and ironed in preparation for motifs, which are arranged atop the net and sewn to the surface. While this is not Irish Crochet in the traditional sense, it is still handmade and the results are beautiful and symmetric. Any open-work net can be used; like a six-sided polygon: From starting ch, sk 8, dc in 9th ch, *ch 5, sk 4, dc in next ch, *repeat across ending with a dc in last ch, ch 3 turn (counts as dc), ch 5, dc in 3rd ch of 5-ch sp.

Another type of sew-on-net is Applique Lace. In this technique, it is not even necessary to know how to crochet; you buy the netting as a fabric to produce a “Faux-Irish Crochet Style” using sewing techniques only. The fabric is basted or tacked with temporary fabric tape onto a working surface, then machined lace, braids or appliques, such as Venise Lace, are arranged atop to form a pattern. Motifs are secured with various stitches, usually overcasting, button hole and darning stitch with fine thread. Once secure, the back side of the net is cut away from these motifs. On the cut area, it’s best to have an outlined motif, braid, or edging opposite. Fabric fray block also helps to maintain the structure of the netted fabric.

Tip: All crochet and some fabric has stretch to it, so it’s best to use strong and stretchy sewing thread.

4

Venetian Coverlet plate-form

Connecting Bars:
Whether it’s Irish Crochet, French Guipure, Point Lace or Maltese Crochet Art everything traces its roots to Venetian Lace. This is where the oldest, earliest examples of decorated net are found, like the head dress of Beatrice d’Este Sforza, portrait, painted 1493. It’s my belief that net itself, originated in fishing communities for form and function and was eventually used in fashion as adornment and decoration. The Venetian technique uses connecting bars as fill or net. It is typically done with a needle rather than a hook, especially Sorrento bars. However, connection bars can be created with a crochet hook in the last round of the motif at the location where a join is desired: ch 4, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next, sl st in motif. Joins are made at the tip’s end: ch 3, insert hook in joining bar, sc, ch 1, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next, sl st in motif. The Venetian technique does not require a pad, but it’s imperative to have a pattern drawing in order to gauge the placement of joins.

 

net as you go

Net as you go:
Lastly, in some petal flower patterns, the net can be made as the motifs are created. In this technique, two or three of the petals are made in one row with the remainder created in the next. Since Irish Crochet is usually done with a variety of motifs, this method works best for edgings where uniformity is desired.

Another “net as you go” technique is the French Bebe Crochet, which is typically done in very fine thread (size 60+). The technique is similar to making granny squares for afghans in that each motif is created in a geometric shape which can then be joined to another motif. The technique gives the finished result a patterned look. Many motifs that begin with one shape like a star, flower, circle or even square can be adjusted with netting around the perimeter to create an entirely different shape like an octagon, diamond, square, etc.

 

net topUse multiple nets:

Don’t feel you have to limit the netting to one type. Be creative! Many fine examples of Irish Crochet contain multiple nets in various sections of the garment, which, when joined together create a richer more appealing effect.

See photo (left) for an example.

 

10. As you make the net use pins to secure it in place. Finish the entire netted background in one sitting… just kidding. It will take a while. The netting is a sort of free-form technique that takes a little forethought as you go. For example, if you need to turn or come back, you might put 2 stitches in the same open mesh and then work down the side of it. And don’t worry, even the most mathematical mind will work themselves into a dead end. When this happens, tie off and create a new sl st or, since we’re working from the back side, sl st over the motif to get to the other side. Either method works, provided the motifs are facing down.

11. Once the entire background is made, pull out the pins and/or basting thread and lift the piece off as one garment. Weave in tails. Tip: Avoid snipping the work by cutting the basting thread from the back side of the cambric.

12. Do a row of sc around the border and/or add padding or a decorative trim.

13. Block and iron. Blocking boards with lined grids are great for squares and rectangular pieces. When blocking, I use a “gumming” technique rather than full-on washing (submerging) because, it’s new, unsoiled. To gum, I wet a wash cloth and sponge that on the garment or use a spray bottle to lightly mist, then shape and iron. When ironing, I set the temperature to cotton with steam and gently press the back side or put a linen cloth over the front and iron/press. I don’t always starch, but it’s fine to do so. Once the piece is moist and pressed, pin on blocking board or Styrofoam to dry. The idea is to have the piece dried in the proper shape and wetting/ironing enables you to shape it.

Note: Historically dry Arabic Gum was used, hence the word “gumming.” I think the mixture was something like 2 tsp of powder to 1 pint of boiling water to create a starch that would leave the piece crisp while variations of the mix (less water) would harden it to a plaster-like crocheted tree ornament. Today Arabic Gum is seen in diet supplements and glue or gelatin. For obvious reason, it’s fallen out of use as a starch.

_MG_231614. Leave color as is or dye it. If dying, follow the directions on the manufacturer’s instructions. I’ve used RIT brand with some success; it was gray dye on ecru cotton thread and the color came out light gray, almost dusty blue. I prefer powder to liquid and like to combine colors for various results. There are recipes on the Rit website.

If you want multiple colors, see my post on watercolor crochet using fabric dye: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/rit-fabric-dye-crochet-watercolor/

Resources

There are a few resources that I recommend:

1) The Antique Pattern Library. Best FREE online resource. This is where I learned about Irish Crochet. http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org/

2) Best FREE Video Tutorials: http://www.youtube.com/user/Sheruknittingcom/videos

3) YouTube Channel titled Lace from Ireland. Several free tutorials from an authentic Irish source. http://www.youtube.com/user/lacefromireland

4) YouTube Channel titled Ira Rott. Not a tutorial, but her work is amazing to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wMpQN4DlK0

5) A world-wide collaboration of Irish Crochet. Once you’re over the total newbie stage, this is an excellent resource for advancing your skill. Mostly pay-by-instruction tutorials, but worth it if you want to take it to the next level. http://irishcrochettogether.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-true-collaboration.html

6) For color and texture motifs, some pay/some free, check out Nicole Galen’s patterns at mypicot.com

 

Japanese Irish Crochet

Irish Crochet by Yhteinen Ystava
ISBN 978-4-529-04710-4.

I had to throw this one in because anyone who knows me isn’t surprised that: I bought a Japanese book to learn Irish crochet. I only wish I’d discovered it sooner! The scarf on the cover is gorgeous, but there are a lot of motifs and purse patterns. Though the book is written in Japanese, a language I do not speak, charts follow a universal language. ;-)

 

 

duplet_special_xxl_release_irish_laces_-_9_russian_crochet_135521e4The Russians & Ukrainians have forever changed the face of Irish Crochet; all that wonderful color and texture. Designers like Miroslava Gorokhovich, Alisa Verbitskaya, Antonina Bobrova and many more have renewed interest in Irish lace the world over. In the same way that Ireland made the French guipure their own by creating shamrocks and thistles, so too have the northerners captured a culture.

For amazing charted patterns, google Duplet Magazine .

 

 

These are some of Bette Davis’ costumes in Death on the Nile, fine examples of Irish Crochet:

DONATIONS 

There is much work that goes into creating and updating tutorials such as this. If you find the information useful, kindly consider a donation to: 

The Antique Pattern Library at  http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org/   

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you will continue to visit this site. Please feel free to subscribe, comment or contact me directly.

Have a wonderful day.

crochetthread.wordpress.com  c. 2013 Ann Reillet. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “Irish Crochet Tutorial for Beginners

  1. Thank you for the explanation of the netting! I always screw that up. I can make motifs and clones knots till I’m blue in the face then I screw up the netting. This I’m sure will help. :)

  2. Hi! I’m so glad I’ve found your page! I love crocheting and have just decided to branch out and try Irish Crochet, but I’ve been having a terrible time trying to find a bit of easy to understand info for Irish crochet novices!!Thanks ;)

  3. Thanks for tutorial any chance of a video tutorial as there don’t seem to be much info on Irish crochet and some of the links that I have found have expired.

    Great site

    • Chris, I wish I could, but right now I don’t have a video camera that works well in focusing on the stitch detail. If I get a camera with better zoom, I definitely will.

      Peggy, Thank you. I hope you do try it. It’s really not as hard as it looks.

  4. Anne you are a wonder! My grandmother taught me knitting and crochet and I learned Irish crochet from old books she and her friends had (including Godey’s Ladies Books). Taught Master Crochet classes at conventions, but I can’t find my instructions, which were not as good as yours. I am so impressed with your work… wish we could meet (I am 89 yrs old… so have been working a long time)

    • Peggy, Thank you so much. It warms my heart to hear such positive feedback. I learned to crochet when I was 12. My great grandmother knitted, crocheted and tatted. I taught myself the Irish technique armed only with vintage books from the Antique Pattern Library. It was very confusing. That is why I created the beginner’s tutorial, in hope that I might make someone else’s experience easier than my own. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I live in Southern California; don’t know if that’s in close proximity but I wish you good health and happiness always. – Ann

  5. This is a wonderful learning tool. I cannot wait to practice this. From what I’ve seen so far, I would design my pattern. Is that correct? Thank you for sharing this. I was searching for this, and a new friend passed this on to me. I cannot find the words to thank all of you enough! Claire

    • Always best to start with the end in mind. Balancing the motifs of the pattern is key. I usually make 4 of each motif, sometimes more. Unless it’s a collar than 2 is sufficient. Good luck!

  6. What a fantastically detailed post on Irish crochet (which I’ve never heard about before). I have a few other things on the go at the moment, but I would love to give some of your suggestions a try when I have a bit more time! :)

    • Thank you so much. I remember when I first saw Irish Crochet and immediately thought it was beyond my expertise, but I was intrigued and wanted to know how it was made. I’m so glad I made that journey of discovery. It’s kinda like being handed-down a piece of history. I do hope you’ll give it a try. Cheers, Ann

  7. I just found your site this evening and read the last post. Well…I did it!!!! I made my daughter a ‘tank’ top. It took me 7 months. I made various motifs all winter but then I struggled as I didn’t know how to connect the ‘right’ way, so I winged it. Your post was very informative. Better late than never. I started with a manikin and chained border. I found I can’t work on the vertical. Killed my back. I had seen tutorials on making the netting on a flat surface, that was awkward for me. I can’t bend over my work on my lap for hours at a time. I bought the styrofoam and foam to cushion the work space. I was frustrated with the flat surface. It didn’t feel right! I finally sewed the motifs to a tank top that I used as the pattern,then stuffed that with a sofa pillow so I could bring it to me. I found it was soft enough to allow me to hold the motif but still keep the overall shape. I scrapped the chain border and just continued the web in a single row as needed on the outside or slip stitched across where I wanted the motif to protrude outside the border as an accent. I didn’t work in rows, just ‘around’ the motif. I think your way will be better. I am starting the next project, for myself now.Thanks for clearing up a few puzzlements. It’s a great site and help. Alice

    • Yea Alice! That’s awesome. I hope your daughter cherishes her ooak mom… and top! Pillows work great, especially the cylinder pillows. Lace makers use a wood cylinder with batting over and fabric on top to create a lap work station. I’m glad you improvised. The back we save may be our own, eh. Cheers, Ann

  8. THANK YOU so much for gathering and sharing this information. I did not know what to call the filet/picot net imagined in my mind for joining together motifs. You have opened up new vistas for me. You have done so many of us a great kindness.

    • Thank you for that. Glad I could remove some of the confusion. In vintage publications pre-1930, the netting is simply referred to as “ground.” Best wishes, Ann

  9. Thank you for the information. I have been researching irish crochet ever since I saw an irish crochet wedding dress. The information out there is not very easy to understand. The patterns are also hard to find. I have looked at craft stores to find books on Irish crochet with no luck. My ultimate goal is to make a wedding dress for my vowel renewal but needed a few smaller projects to practice. I have been crocheting since I was 12. My mom and my grandma are very crafty and I like to try new things. This is now my new project to master irish crochet. thank you for the help

    • That’s wonderful Tonya. I wish you the best of luck. A wedding dress will take a lot of motifs. You might want to start a blog and request motif donations; just be sure to specify thread type, size and color. Also, a padded dress form is best for making dresses. Best wishes, Ann

  10. Hello! It’s very useful information. I’m a beginner in the knitting and in the Irish crochet of course. But I have loved in it. I started my learning from a big thing. I have been knitting since January. It’s very intersting and so difficult. I don’t know many things. And unfortunetly nobody can answer my questions. But I try to continue. I hope it will be done. Can I ask you about unknown things?

  11. the only problem I ran into is , sl KN and sc over the strands nearest I have crocheted since I was 10 or so and never in my life hae I seen KN except in kniting

    • Hi. Sorry for the confusion. sl kn = slip knot Tie a slip knot onto the crochet hook as your starting loop similar to the start of all crochet. Then sc (single crochet) over the cord (thread strands either folded over in half or tied at one end). I prefer the folded in half method and secure the first sc to the folded end, crocheting over one-half of the cord, then my next sc is over all the strands of the cord. In the post I did on the “padded leaf” there are pictures that demonstrate this. Also, Crochet from Ireland posted a video on YouTube showing how to make the “passion flower” motif, in that video she shows how to crochet over cord. Hope this helps and best wishes. Have a wonderful day. – Ann

  12. Your post is amazing, and thanks for making this! You have brought back memories of my 3rd year in high school when my teacher demanded that we learn this type of crocheting – without explaining what the technique is called. I am tired of the usual crochet patterns that I grew up with, and I am so ready to branch out.

  13. Sinds ik kennis heb gemaakt met Irish crochet,ben ik er helemaal weg van.
    Ik vind het in een woord geweldig!
    Via uw post leer ik heel veel over deze techniek,ik heb er een fascinatie voor gekregen,en blijf uw blog zeker volgen,
    Ben blij dat ik u gevonden heb ,ik wil u daarbij heel hartelijk bedanken voor de informatie die u deelt!

    In een woord GEWELDIG!

    Lia

  14. I’m crocheting an Irish Crochet Sampler Doily. On the edging it says Row 2: At the beginning of Row 1 join with sc in first ch 1 space Ch 3, 2tr cluster in front loop and side bar of last sc. Don’t understand how to do the 2tr cluster in front loop and side bar of last sc. Wondered if you could help me please.

    • Most crochet stitches create a bar and two (2) threads on the top. Normally, we use the top two threads of the previous row’s stitch, adding stitches atop one another. Sometimes, we work the back or front singularly. But in this instance, rather than working the top, we’re working the bar [front side] of the previous row’s stitch; substituting the top two for the bar of the stitch.

      Yarn over two (2) times, working the side bar of the previous row’s single crochet stitch, push the hook from front to back in and around that bar and draw up a loop, yarn over, pull through two (2) loops, yarn over, pull through two (2) more loops, leave the last stitch unworked. Holding the triple crochet on the loop, yarn over two (2) times and crochet a second (2nd) triple crochet, again saving the last stitch, now there are two (2) triple crochets on the hook, yarn over and pull through all three (3) loops. This is a 2tr cluster.

      Stitches worked in the bar are raised in appearance. An example of a stitch worked in the bar can be seen in the strings of the violin shown here: http://crochetthread.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/crochet-violin-motif/

      Hope this helps.

  15. I’m a veteran of the US Military and came away from the war with a very difficult to manage PTSD issue. One of the things I found that worked great for managing my stress and anxiety was knitting and crocheting. I’ve only been crocheting now for about 5 years, but I absolutely love it. I came across some videos on YouTube about Irish Crochet and was stunned at the intricacy and beauty of it. I have since been working toward being able to do my own pieces but had trouble finding good, easy to understand tutorials. Your page is the best I’ve found so far and I now feel confident enough to really start my first project. What I would like to know is where do you get your thread and needles from? I’ve looked at Michaels and various other craft stores but can’t find fine enough thread or small enough needles. (Size 20 thread and 1mm needles is about the closest I’ve found.) Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and have a bless day!

    • First, let me say thank you for your service. I agree, crochet is one of the most relaxing crafts. I’m so glad to hear that my Irish Crochet technique inspired you and wish you all the best.

      I buy the size 20 and size 30 Aunt Lydia’s Fine crochet thread from redheart.com website and Herrshner’s carries the size 20 large cones. This comes closest to the UK sizes 40 & 50. The typical standard size is UK 60 which is US 40. The 60/40 is worked with a .4mm or .5mm hook. If you want to use the UK 80, one of the thinnest, it uses a #18 hook; very hard to find.

      I have a set of Boye and Susan Bates steel hooks that I bought as a set from either JoAnn’s or Michaels online. The smallest, 0.4mm I found on ebay.

      If you’re going to begin with #10 thread, as I did, there are a lot of colors and textures (perle, metallics, etc.) available onlin, most stores only carry a few colors in stock. Or, if you prefer white, as I do, maybe consider a Coats n Clark Big Ball of size 10.

      Best luck.

    • Danke . Ich sehe die internationalen Besucherzahl oder Tally und oft frage ich mich, wie es übersetzt für sie. Hoffentlich genug, um auch nur ein wenig zu helfen. Ich wünschte, ich sprach Deutsch sowie Klaus Meine speask Englisch (mein Favorit Scorpion Song ist “Always Somewhere “). Prost

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