Freeform Crochet Irish Rose

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Irish lace is a wonderful dance between dense thread and open space. I’ve been working on my Irish rose designs. I’m really pleased with how this rose, leaf, and flower set is coming. The center has traditional Irish crochet padding cord to make the dense centers more pronounced.

The clones knots in the netting are wonderful examples of this contrast and how pleasing it is to our eyes.  I’ve also been experimenting with putting roll stitches in patterns where you don’t normally see them.  I like their unusual look, and the roll stitch is another stitch, like the clones knot, that is a high density stitch perfect for unique antique-style laces.

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Making Irish Crochet Lace

This is my first piece of Irish crochet lace. Irish lace is more free form than rigid in pattern. I had no idea when I started how fun it would be.  It’s also a little intimidating, because there are no instructions except in pieces.

The Irish people made their motifs from the things they saw around them from their windows and cottage yards and hills.  Leaves, thistles, roses, clover, briars.  The various motifs, thrown together and wrapped in picot lace, ARE Ireland.  Many of my ancestors were Irish, so I’ve always had a fascination with Irish lace.  I was determined to give this one a try.

The middle of the lace was made in pieces, with roses and a center, and then each motif was enveloped in stitching afterward.

Constructing Irish lace by sections

Constructing Irish lace by sections

Each flower was made first, and pinned to a section of paper in the shape of the finished lace. Filler stitches are then attached with picots and mesh to fill in all the areas between the roses until the circle form is complete.

The lacy center is complete, now for the borders

The lacy center is complete, now for the borders

There are several traditional borders that can be added to a lacy center to fill out the piece. This was a great project to learn on.  I love Irish roses, and have used several types of roses and other Irish motifs  in other projects, but this was my first complete Irish crochet lace.

Irish lace doily with roses, clones knots and traditional edging

Irish lace doily with roses, clones knots and traditional edging

Tatting vs. Crochet

Tatting shuttles on tatted lace.

Old Wooden Tatting Shuttles on Tatted Lace.

Tatting is very different from crochet in terms of how the laces are made. Both can be used to make temple altar cloths, so what is the difference?  Tatting and crochet lace can sometimes look similar, partly because crochet lace can so easily mimic other laces.  There are differences though.

The first difference is the tools used. In tatting, we use tatting shuttles, like these gorgeous wooden ones I saw once in a tatted lacemaker’s shuttle collection.  Crochet is actually named after the French word for “hook”, which is “crochet”. In crochet lace making, we use delicate steel hooks like these:

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Steel Lace Crochet Hooks

Between tatted and crochet laces, can you tell the difference? It’s tricky because crochet mimics so many different types of lace. There are bobbin laces, hardanger, reticella lace, needlepoint lace…. lots of old fashioned laces to mimic. Crochet mimics them all, and does it well because the mimicry can be done in a fraction of the time that the older style laces could be made. Less time to create meant more could be made, and time is money.  In those old days where lace was so closely tied to social status, lace was a big deal, and a large part of the European culture.  Irish crochet was the one instance I know of where crochet was sought after for its own beauty rather than speed. Speed and versatility are some of the main reasons crochet is still around, and the other laces faded first. The secret to the speed, is in the hook.

The second difference between tatting and crochet is how the thread is wound, looped and knotted.  Tatting is made with the shuttle passing in, out and around a loop of thread wound around your hand to tie a simple set of knots.  Those knots are then arranged in marvelous ways, with picots and a few other variations, but in general, strings, loops and picots are what tatting is known for.  Crochet is a series of loops pulled through other loops in a variety of ways. Crochet can look like cloth, or like lace, and everything in between because there are more ways to connect the threads than just picot connections.

You can see the difference between tatted laces and crochet laces if you study pictures of the types of lace.  You’ll soon see that tatted lace has a fairly uniform look, and crochet varies widely.

Lace Thread and Crochet Lace Edging

Tatting and crochet laces use the same thread sizes, and that makes them similar.  They also have similar designs with various styles of loops and picots, some look the same, but some look very different from each other.

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Crochet Lace Edgings

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Tatted Lace Edgings

In tatting, there are rarely any straight lines, everything is made of rows of curved stitches and picots.  Picots are those little loops that make it so frilly.  In french, tatting is called frivolete, for that reason.  People LOVE tatting because it is so frilly and delicate.

Crochet can’t replicate tatting precisely, but as a lace maker and designer, I use tatting principles in the designs I make, because they are so appealing.  I know my eye loves those picots, so I add them wherever possible, and covered chains are more appealing than uncovered ones.

There are many kinds of picots in crochet, especially Irish crochet.  People LOVE Irish crochet partly because of the picots.  There’s something about a picot that is appealing.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m smitten with it too.  They remind me of baby’s breath.

My favorite picot is very different from a tatted picot, it’s called a clones knot.  In this piece, you can see both crochet picots, and clones knots.  The clones knot looks like a little ball, where a picot is more like a frilly bump.

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Irish Crochet Lace with Clones Knots and Picots

Both types of lace can be plain, or intricate, depending on the design. The art of lace making is in the design. The rest is skill, but an eye for beauty transforms a useful skill into an art.