Thursday, 27 May 2010

Full Circle - Irish Traditional Crafts

Chapter 4 - Irish Lace and Crochet

Its only when you start looking for information that you realise how much you don't really know. I would have said that I was fairly ok at crochet and assumed that Irish lace would only require a small adjustment i.e. using finer thread and a smaller crochet hook...... how wrong I was. But I go too quickly.

When I left you in the last chapter I had mastered the art of aran knitting and was looking forward to making a family heirloom for my DH in the oncoming winter months. In the meantime I turned my eyes to crochet.

While knitting is constructed using a pair of knitting needles, crocheters use a smaller needle with a hook at the end. More general information on how to get started can be found on the Internet e.g.

Every known method of making lace by hand has been used at some time in Ireland from bobbin, needlepoint and hooked(crochet). The earliest of these was bone lace, also known as bobbin or pillow lace where a design was drawn on paper, pins were put into the design at various points and thread, wound on small bobbins (the earliest of these were made from bone), was twisted or plaited in different ways round the pins to make the design. I watched a lady do this in Brussels last year and I was mesmerised. It takes months of practice to master the skills needed so i did not attempt it for this report. You can see how its done by going to utube here:

Tambour Lace was introduced to Ireland in the 1820s by Rev Charles Walker when he came from England to settle in Limerick. He started a lace workshop with his wife and produced what we now know as Limerick Lace. It uses a chain stitch to embroider on net with a special hooked needle and derives its name form the round frame in which the work is held. A sample of this lace can be seen here:

Carrickmacross lace uses another form of embroidery and can be made using applique and guipure. For applique fine net is tacked over a design drawn on paper and then a layer of muslin is placed on top. The design is sewn through both layers. The surplus muslin is then cut away and filling stitches are used to complete the design. For guipure the outline of the design is traced with threads on cambric and the surplus is cut away. A sample of this lace can be seen here:

Irish crochet lace is probably the most recognisable. Honoria Nagle who founded the first Irish schools in Cork brought this lace making skill to the children in the late 1700s. It is made by using a hook and thread and in earlier times hooks were sometimes made by removing one side of the eye of an ordinary sewing needle and sticking the point in a cork.

I have had a go at making a lace doily (see below) and I can safely say it was a labour of love - slow but satisfying. I would hope at a later date to do a course in one of the other Irish lace making crafts, and that is definitely something I will look forward to.

There are some crocheters in the CraftyIrelandTeam, go check them out under "crochet".
Further Information: .

Next month's report will be on Patchwork (and I haven't forgotten about the Cris I mentioned in last months report - I hope to have it with the weaving story in July - fingers crossed). Any patchwork people who would like to be listed/highlighted here just get touch by 20 June. Next report due on Thursday 24 June.

On a personal note I have my shop up and running again and am working on Organic Cotton Comfy Crochet hats.... check them out.. I also have a supplies shop where you can get Knitting Needles/Notions/Nonsense.... check it out

That's it for now - as always I welcome any comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading.



  1. Great Article !!!

  2. so cool, once to really start looking into something, it's amazing to learn it's rich history and intricacies.

  3. Very interesting post Mo. I was thinking of trying out lacemaking over the Summer - it's great to learn a bit more about it. Thanks :)

  4. Fabulous article! Most of my flowers and leaves are Irish-crochet-inspired and adapted from traditional patterns. Maire Treanor, of Clones lace fame (she also lives in Clones)runs a Summer School there in June, and again in July, for anyone who wants to learn the delicate art of crochet lacemaking. Cant find the link right now, but convo me for details:)

  5. What a great piece of knowledge imparted here, would make you want to try the hook yourself !!!!!!!