We move from France to Ireland in this article and while it may seem a natural course it’s actually going to separate what we’ve learned so far modern Crochet has its roots here. Something to remember about the evolution of crochet is that the needle work of china became knitting in the 11th century and modern crochet fabric emerged as part of the textile revolution in the 19th century. So if we get in our time machine and go back to 1590 you won’t see the crochet that you’re currently working on. Much like language you might not even recognize it.

Crochet in Ireland has a fascinating history. While knitting was popular, crochet is a unique art form there. You can identify Irish crochet pieces by their lacy, netlike backgrounds with applied or set in motifs. Irish crochet lace started as a way to easily produce lace that resembled the much-sought (and expensive) Venetian lace. Originating in France, it made its way to convents in Ireland as early as the late 18th century. In 1845 Irish lace was being taught in the Ursuline Convent in County Cork. And it is this artistry that emerged during the Potato Plight that quickly became a cottage industry for women. Church of Ireland philanthropic leaders taught crochet lace as famine relief projects in the north of the country and in Kildare and Cork. By 1851, approximately 16,000 women were working in crochet, thus saving Ireland.

Unlike most forms of crochet, worked in either rounds or rows, traditional Irish crochet (sometimes just called Irish Lace or freeform crochet) is made up of motifs that are joined with mesh stitches forming lace. Irish Crochet Lace was traditionally made with a very fine steel crochet hook and fine crochet linen thread, though modern Irish Crochet lace is made with mercerized thread or a cotton crochet thread, perle cotton in varying weights, and even finer weight wool or cotton yarns. It begins with an outline of the pattern on a piece of cloth. Each motif is then crocheted separately, using cotton cord for volume and shaping. The most traditional examples of this craft are so delicate that you may not even realize that they are crocheted. You can also make a more modern interpretation of Irish crochet with thicker materials and bold colors. The finer the thread, the more delicate your lace will be. Irish crochet motifs use stitches that even beginners are familiar with, and most modern patterns come in the form of charts. Check out our chart of symbols if you need some guidance. And if you want to play it back and save the homestead for yourself more traditional Irish crochet designs are available through the Antique Pattern Library.

A particular Irish style of lace Clones lace has been making a come back in recent years. There’s actually a great book about it that I flipped through last night (curtesy of my Amazon prime unlimited account…which sorry (not sorry) is an amazing place to be. Anyway the books is called Clones Lace and it’s by Maire Treanor. Clones lace was made in the Cavan/Monaghan/Fermanagh area. Clones lace is made with floral designs accented with picots or knots. Its really brilliant!