Unlike most forms of crochet, worked in either rounds or rows, traditional Irish crochet (sometimes just called Irish Lace) is made up of motifs that are joined with mesh stitches, forming lace. Irish crochet lace was developed in Ireland in the mid-1800s during the potato famine. The income that their sales provided was a lifeline for many families at this time. Crocheting was a simpler way to make lace using tiny hooks and fine yarns and the techniques were easy to learn.
As its popularity grew, key motif patterns became closely guarded secrets and were only shared by demonstration. Irish crochet still continues today, although beginners tend to use 4ply or DK yarn to start with. While some crocheters seek to preserve this technique, others take alternative routes, making items purely from motifs, or hooking the mesh background first and attaching the motifs with appliqué for speedier, freeform-style makes.
The motifs usually take the form of solid ribbons, leaves, shamrocks and flowers. The Irish rose is the most recognisable design. Some motifs were made around a cord for a bulkier look. Traditionally, the lace was worked in one colour using three different weights of fine thread in either cotton, linen or silk. The finer the threads used, the more delicate the lace. Thicker threads would be used for the motifs and the finest threads would be used to form the mesh. The mesh could be embellished with picots or tiny Clones knots.
Although the lace looks complex, as it’s just made up of motifs and mesh, it’s not too difficult to master. Originally, this form of lace was used to make collars, trims and gowns. Due to its more freeform construction, Irish crochet can in fact be used to almost make anything, from bags and jewellery to tops, dresses and shawls. It’s a really great way of working to make unique designs. We’ll show you the basics of how to Irish crochet, and keep reading below to see some more examples or Irish Crochet and some fantastic Irish crochet patterns.
You Will Need
- Crochet hook
How to make an Irish Crochet Foundation Cord
Irish crochet may look complex, but many motifs start off with a simple foundation cord. These help to give Irish crochet a raised, embossed look that’s more akin to lace than crochet. A foundation cord is where dc stitches are worked over a second ‘cord’ of yarn. It’s best to use the same yarn for both – we’ve used a contrasting colour in the images to help you.
Start with a slipknot in your working yarn. Take a length of your cord yarn, fold it in half once (or more) and place the halfway loop between the slipknot and the hook.
Make a slip stitch to secure the cord yarn.
Now work a double crochet stitch as usual, over the doubled-up cord yarn (treat the cord like a chain space).
Work more dc stitches along the cord, pushing them close together to cover the cord. You can join in a secondary cord of yarn at any stage of your work to form a foundation cord.
How to make an Irish Crochet Padding Ring
Padding rings are similar to foundation cords but are circular to begin with. They are often used to start flower motifs
and are an essential (but easy) technique in Irish crochet. Just like foundation cords, you’ll need a length of secondary yarn to work a padding ring – it’s best to use a matching yarn colour, but we’ve used a contrasting colour in the images below so that you can see the stitches more easily.
To start, wrap the secondary yarn around your finger two or three times, to form a ring.
Insert your hook into the centre of the ring, make a slipknot in your working yarn and place it onto your hook.
Pull the slipknot through the ring to the front and work a slip stitch: yrh and pull through the slipknot. This secures the working yarn to the secondary yarn of the padding ring.
Now you can work double crochet stitches into the ring, just as you did with the foundation cord.
Continue working double crochet stitches until you’ve covered the padding ring, then slip stitch to the first dc to join.
Once your padding ring is finished, you can cut off the secondary yarn, as close to the work as possible.
At this point, you can either fasten off the working yarn or continue with more rounds. If the following rounds of the motif also require padding, you can simply cut a new piece of cord yarn and hold it in line with the top of the stitches on the previous round and enclose the cord yarn within the stitches of the subsequent round.
Once you’ve practised making foundation cords and padding rings, you’ll begin to see how you can use them to create your own motifs. Try making simple, lacy flowers by making a padding ring and then working chain-length ‘petals’ around the edge. If you want to have raised ‘petals’, try working double crochet sts over a foundation cord and then attach it to the padding ring.
You can also try creating jewellery using connected padding rings. Just make one ring as above and then make more rings, joining each one to another one with a slip stitch – slip stitch in the back loop to help disguise the join.
Use different colours or the same colour to form a necklace or bracelet, or work them in a chunky yarn to make a belt – there’s plenty of creative potential.
How to make an Irish Crochet Clones Knot
A Clones knot is often used as a filling stitch or to add texture to the Irish crochet fabric. A Clones knot is made up of around 20 loops sitting over a chain length, adding bulk and texture to your Irish crochet fabric. There are many ways to work a Clones knot – this is just one method.
To practise making a Clones knot, use a hook with a straight shaft and a non-stretch cotton yarn. Chain 8 sts. Holding the end of the chain firmly, move the hook over and under the chain length, catching the yarn around 20 times. To do this, work as follows:
Move the hook under the chain to the back of the work.
Yrh, then move the hook under the chain to the front.
Now work yrh as usual. Repeat from Step 1 until you have 20 ‘loops’ on the hook. Try not to make the loops too tight.
Now work yrh…
… and carefully pull through all 20 loops. Gather the knot by gently pulling the loops over the chain.
Secure the knot by working one chain stitch. Then you can continue with the motif or mesh pattern, as required.
For beginners, the easiest way to use Irish crochet techniques is to make motifs to use as brooches or embellishments for cushions, coats, etc. When you’re ready to work larger Irish crochet pieces, you’ll find that they’re usually created in a freeform style, where you make various motifs and then arrange them onto a paper or fabric template. The motifs are pinned in place and then joined together with a lacy mesh of chain stitches (also called a ‘fill’ pattern) – this is also worked in a freeform way and you can decorate it with picot stitches, Clones knots and any other stitches you like.
Some vintage Irish crochet patterns include templates, but they’re not widely available for modern designs. Don’t worry though, it’s really easy to create your own. To make a shawl, for example, simply cut a piece of paper or fabric to the shape you want, then plan which motifs you want to put where. Make each motif and attach to the template with pins so you can move them around if you want to. When you’re ready, join the motifs together freeform style using a ‘mesh’ or ‘fill’ pattern.
The fill pattern you use can be as simple or as complex as you like, but very few ‘traditional’ Irish crochet patterns will tell you exactly how to join your motifs. It would be far too complex to give instructions on exactly which stitch to work into on all the motifs of a design.
Some Irish crocheters like to mark out the ‘fill’ pattern on their template and crochet to match it, while others prefer complete ‘freeform’ fills. Work the method that suits you, but either way, you’ll need to pin out your mesh as you work to stop it from springing back and pulling your item out of shape.
Every time you reach a motif, secure it in the closest point with a slip stitch, turn and continue with your chosen fill pattern. You may need to rejoin the yarn to continue the mesh on the other side of the motif, but the beauty of this technique is that each piece is unique.
Irish Crochet Patterns, Products and Resources
Now that you know how to Irish Crochet, here’s some of our favourite Irish Crochet patterns and resources for you to check out!
Although Natalya of Lace Clematis is from the Ukraine, she specialises in creating amazing Irish Crochet patterns. You’ll find a range of fabulous motif patterns in her Etsy store for beautiful Irish Crochet flowers, leaves and more.
Beth of FoxStitchDesign has some of the most stunning Irish Crochet patterns we’ve ever seen – from her super-realistic pansy flower pattern to her gorgeous Irish Crochet necklace patterns, there’s loads of impressive patterns for you to choose – plus she’s got some incredible beaded designs too!
If you’re looking for a few different motif patterns so you can really delve into the world of Irish Crochet, then check out some of the patterns by Olga from TulipOlgaShop. We love her collection of 4 Irish Crochet motif patterns – just what you need for if you want to get creative with Irish Crochet!
Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with the look of Irish Crochet, but realistically find it’s a bit too fiddly and intricate? If this sounds like you, why not treat yourself to some pre-made crochet creations by Doris Chi who specialises in Irish Crochet jewellery. Take your pick from her incredible range of necklaces, collars bracelets and more – even rings!
Here’s another incredible crochet producer that specialises in incredibly fine Irish Crochet motifs. Another designer from Ukraine, Antonina has a wide range of pre-made Irish Crochet appliqué motifs available, as well as stunning accessory and clothing designs all made in Irish Crochet!
This thorough lace guide has brilliant step-by-step instructions and pretty patterns for Irish, traditional, freeform and Bruges lace crochet. There’s a fantastic Irish crochet section that highlights the connection with freeform and has motifs and seven projects to hook – including some fab accessories and lovely lacy garments.
A group of international Irish crocheters share all their latest makes and antique Irish crochet finds over at www.irishcrochettogether.blogspot.ca You’ll find an index of free vintage patterns, details of workshops, and the group’s modern and traditional makes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on how to Irish Crochet, don’t forget if you need any help with your crochet stitches you can always check out our crochet for beginners guide. And if you’re looking to treat yourself, check out our list of the best crochet hooks and the best crochet kits for beginners.