Irish Crochet Tutorial for Beginners – Baby Bib

If you’re looking for something to do with all the thread motifs you’ve made, Irish Crochet is the answer. I know it looks intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it it seems. It’s definitely worth a try and I think you’ll find it’s very rewarding:

Instant Heirlooms!

This was my first Irish Crochet project, a baby bib… or ukelele cover 🙂  It uses twelve motifs (4 leaves, 1 rose, 2 wheels, 2 small flowers, 1 monkey face and 2 large Irish Crochet flowers). The bib is made with size 10 crochet cotton, but you can use 20 or 30, whatever your preference.


  Before you begin….

  1. Prepare a workspace
In Ireland the workers use a piece of finely woven cloth called cambric or “Emerald Cloth”, often paired with paper patterns to sew the motifs on.

I prefer to use both cloth and a padded workspace to pin everything down (less sewing).

A) For this project, I used a block of styrofoam; the kind typically marketed for silk flowers and left the manufacturer’s saran-type wrapping attached. This served as my pinnable workspace.
B) Then I took an old cotton dishtowel to draw the pattern outline on. Any piece of linen will do. I recommend something plain rather than a print.
C) I needed a stabilizer, so I took a thin piece of cardboard that was part of the packaging of my husband’s dress shirt (similar to the cardboard from a cereal box) and covered the cardboard with the cloth described above. I affixed the cloth to the cardboard with paper clips and then affixed it to the styrofoam with sewing pins.

Oops: I made the mistake of using a permanent marker on the cloth when I drew the outline of the bib. I recommend using a non-permanent, washable fabric pen to draw your pattern (trace an existing bib or design your own). This way, you can re-use your cloth.

2. Create the border
There are really several ways to do this. You can make a chain and pin it along the pattern you’ve outlined on the linen OR you can make a Romanian Point Lace Cord OR Irish Crochet Cord and pin it along the outline. The difference here is how thick the edge of the finished piece will be. I did a simple chain for this project.

Once, the border is pinned in place, sew it onto the linen with a basting stitch. This thread is non-permanent and will be pulled out when the piece is finished and ready for edging. You want to make sure your border will stay in place without the pins so keep the basting stitch long with intermittant crossings over the border.

3. Design the bib
Arrange your motifs so they fit inside the pattern in a design that is pleasing to you. Make sure the tails of your motifs are sewn in and snipped to keep the project clean while your working on it. Once you’ve found the design you like, TURN the motifs over so the front is facing down.  I forgot to do this. Next, pin the motifs in place, pushing the pins all the way into the styrofoam so they’re not in the way. The reason for having the motifs face down is so the netting will look like it’s coming from the back & pushing the motifs to the front, thus improving the finished look.

4. Create the netting
There is no easy to follow pattern for creating the netted background. It’s by far the most arduous task involved here and there are also several ways to do this. You can make chains with picots, clones knot, cluster stitches with chains or filet type mesh. You can even create the net with a needle instead of a crochet hook. You can also use a smaller thread (like if you used sized 10 for the motifs, use size 20 for the net).  I took the simplest approach and just did chains with sc and hdc once I figured out the rhythm. No matter what method you choose, you must start with a sl st somewhere. I recommend finding the lower corner of the biggest open space and work your way up and over. Ch 1, hdc (OR ch 2, dc for wider squares) to create the first square (in the lower corner you’ve already got 2 sides of the first square). Now ch 2 again, sk at least 2 spc and hdc (now you’ve got two (2) squares). Keep going. The hardest thing for some, may be re-learning how to hold your hook and position your hands.

As you make the squares, use pins to secure the stitches. And don’t worry, even the most mathmatical mind will work themselves into a dead end. When this happens tie off and start with a new sl st. Work in sections until you’ve completed the entire background of netting. Or, if you remembered to turn the motifs over and are working on the back side, it’s possible to sl st over the back of a motif to reach the other side.

5. Finishing
When you complete the netting, remove the basting thread and lift the piece off of the linen. Do a sc stitch around the border and add a decorative edging, if you like. Then sew on a button and weave in all tails. You can leave the color as is or dye it, even tea stain it, but definitely use a fabric spray guard to prevent stains.

7 thoughts on “Irish Crochet Tutorial for Beginners – Baby Bib

  1. Hello dear!My name is Ivelise and I’m a brazillian crocheter… I was making some research on the web about irish crochet, and then I found your work! I loved the instructions, and the way you write everyhting to your readers..I’ve got a blog, and I am starting on modern irish crochet, if you want, please come by..It will be a pleasure have your visit over there… Greetings from Brazil 🙂

  2. This is a very great tutorial–right to the point, including the don’t-do-what-I-did. I’ve been hesitating about getting started with a project because of the randomness of the mesh–but your description makes it clear what I need most is patience, not special new skills. Thank you.

    • Hi Ruth, Thank you very much. I do hope you give it a try. I remember being so hesitant and assuming the skill was beyond me, but it’s deceiving. I’ve grown comfortable with it now, and I’m working on a jacket where the mesh is alternating open/closed filet. Looking back, the hardest part was figuring out how to hold the hook and position my hands because the styrofoam and pinning down of the motifs limits movement. So instead of bringing the work to you, you have to accommodate the work. I like to sit on the floor with the foam pad resting on the ottoman and then I bring the bottom of it to my lap so it’s at a 45 degree angle as I do a row, then I pull my thread up, let go and turn it so I can do the next row, alternating like that. One row will feel comfortable going across and the next row will feel like you’re crocheting upside down and backwards… that’s why it’s harder because you have to re-learn how to hold your hands and position your hook. I’ve just found that I can stay in one place to do it. Initially, I was really tugging at the motifs to get them to come up a little, but you don’t want to do that.

      Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions, I’m happy to help. So often fellow crocheters have helped me.

      There’s a wonderful channel on YouTube called Lace from Ireland and Esha has some wonderful tutorials on intricate motifs.

      I think I’ve made just about all of Jean Leinhauser’s patterns in 50 Fabulous Crochet Thread Motifs.

      Best of luck to you.


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