November, 1912, page 8
By Lillius Hilt
A great many have written of having purchased one or another of the instruction-books on this class of needlecraft which are to be had, but the almost universal complaint is that “too much is taken for granted.” That is just what I want not to do; instead, as a little nephew says when begging for an oft-repeated story, I want to “begin at the very first beginning and not skip one little bit.” And I am going to imagine a big, pleasant room, with plenty of easy chairs, white curtains at the windows and vases of goldenrod scattered here and there, where we may all meet together and chat, and ask questions, and learn of one another. That is the real Needlecraft principle, you know. There is so much to say that I scarcely know where to begin; and if I miss anything, or if there is something you do not quite understand, I want you to ask about it. I will answer your questions to the very best of my ability. Then I shall expect you to bring any new idea that occurs to you and share it with our “circle,” and to send your very prettiest pieces of work, after you have learned to make them, for illustration.
First, let us have a little general talk about Irish crochet. It is not among the older laces, and perhaps you will like to know that its inventor or originator was a French lady, mademoiselle Riego de la Blanchardiere. She discovered that a certain kind of old Spanish needlepoint lace could be copied in crochet most effectively, and near the middle of the last century she printed instructions for several patterns. At the time of the great potato-famine in Ireland, and following this, her little booklet was used by many ladies of quality for teaching the work to the peasantry and to cottagers, in order to enable the poorer people to earn something toward living. About forty years later she prepared a more comprehensive work on the subject, spending upon it all her spare time for several years. The books are all out of print, unless classed among those to be found in the reference department of the large public libraries, and the name of its originator is doubtless unknown to the larger number of workers who delight in making Irish crochet; but the art has developed wonderfully in the last fifteen years. No longer confined to certain parts of Ireland as a domestic industry, it has spread to France, Austria, Germany and other countries of Europe, where large numbers of people are engaged in supplying the demand for it; in our own America, too, there are experts whose work is not put to the blush by the most expensive imported products.
The latter is worked in rows, across or lengthwise the pattern, while the former consists of motifs or separate worked designs, arranged upon a foundation and connected by means of a “filling” of picot-chains or “arches.” There are three varieties of the lace; one class is without padding, a chain serving to work on, and this is usually denominated “baby Irish,” although in point of fact the real baby or bebe Irish is like the other save that it is made of finer thread, with smaller motifs. The second style is lightly padded, and the third – which is considered by far the handsomer and more valuable – heavily padded. Indeed, the padding-cord is a most important factor. It is used as a foundation, taking the place of the chain in making rings, stems, or in commencing long leaflets, the stitches being worked over but not into it, so that the cord is left free to be drawn to any desired curve. Again it is held along the edge of the work, and the stitches are taken over it into the previous row, in which case it serves as true padding, and is thus carried from one point to another. For the cord the working-thread may be used, in as many strands as required; but the real padding-cord is coarser than the thread and made in different numbers especially for the purpose.
Rarely will two workers follow directions for a motif and have the result exactly the same. One, with the real artistic sense, will draw the padding-cord a little more tightly, or allow it to be a trifle looser, and so change the entire appearance of a spray or leaflet which, in the hands of another, equally interested and painstaking, seems very ordinary – lacking the lifelike, graceful curve that makes the first a genuine work of art. Indeed, the same worker does not always reproduce a design without variation, especially if the motifs are of a character in the shaping of which the cord plays a large part. With any change in the form of the motif, the filling or background must also be changed, since the picot-chains or loops must always lie flat and smooth between the sprays, leaflets or other forms. Explicit directions for the filling are therefore never attempted save in a general way; even if it were possible to give them, they must of necessity be so long and intricate that the attempt to follow them would result in failure – or in the giving up of the work at the outset. Simply remember that in Irish crochet the figures or motifs are first made and basted securely to a foundation. Suppose, for example, you wish to make a Dutch collar. Have a perfect-fitting pattern cut from cambric, and baste this on heavy, flexible paper or enamel-cloth – something that will bend easily, but cannot be drawn up or puckered. No allowance for the edging need be made when preparing this foundation, as that is worked beyond; while there are workers who direct that the edge be made and applied to the edge of the foundation, the writer has not found this plan the better one.
Again, there are workers who reverse this rule, claiming that the filling can be more easily put in if the motifs are right-side up; but experience has proven the contrary. You are now ready for the filling, which is largely a matter of practice. At first it will seem very difficult, almost impossible, to work on a foundation, because the crochet-hook always needs a free space to operate in; but if the foundation is folded back sharply, so that you are working at the edge, this difficulty is done away with. You will of course need to change the fold frequently, and to take care that the filling lies flat and smooth by straightening out the foundation to make sure; but all this comes with practise and perseverance.
A general principle which should be observed in making all fillings is, to have the holes or spaces as uniform in size as possible, even though they vary in shape. Nothing so detracts from the appearance of your work as to see one part filled closely and another with spaces nearly half as large again. The beginner will do well to lay her work down occasionally to see whether the filling is progressing properly, neither too tight nor too loose, and evenly proportioned. Often a treble or double treble may serve as part of a chain, by being taken into a certain part; indeed, a great deal is left to the worker’s discretion, and this very freedom is the chief fascination of Irish crochet, once the art is even partially mastered.
Another thing about filling that puzzles a beginner is “where to go next;” and coming thus to a standstill, it is the most natural thing in the world to “fasten off” and start somewhere else. This should be avoided all that is possible. When you don’t know what to do next, do it! Remember you can pull out a loop that is not what it should be, so pluck up heart of grace and “move on,” and the trouble is very apt to disappear. To avoid frequently breaking the thread, stems may be crossed with slip-stitch or single crochet, or one may make a chain from point to point where it will not show; this, however, should not be often done, since the slip-stitch shows less.
These stitches are so well known that it does not seem necessary to illustrate them, but a general description may be helpful, as the terms used in different publications disagree. Those given herewith are authentic, and in most common use:
Single crochet or slip-stitch: Having a stitch on the needle, insert hook in work, thread over, and draw through work and stitch on needle at same time. The true slip-stitch, it should be added, although generally applied to single crochet, is a close joining stitch, made thus: Drop the stitch on your needle, insert hook in work at the place where you wish to join, pick up the dropped stitch and pull through.
Double crochet: Having a stitch on the needle, insert hook in work, take up thread and draw through, making two stitches on needle, take up thread and draw through both stitches.
Treble crochet: Having a stitch on needle, thread over, insert hook in work, take up thread and draw through, making three stitches on the needle; take up thread and draw through two stitches, again and draw through two. Double treble, triple treble, quadruple treble, and other long stitches, rarely used save the double treble, are made the same as treble, putting thread over once, twice, three times, or as required (twice for double treble, three times for triple treble, and so on), inserting hook in work, drawing thread through, then working off the stitches two at a time. Half treble is like treble, save that thread is drawn through all three stitches at once, after having drawn it through the work. The chain, which is the fundamental stitch of all crochet-work, is simply a series of loops, each drawn through the one preceding it.
The honeycomb filling is also popular, especially for sofa-pillows and other large articles, upon a foundation of which motifs may be appliqued; it is less trouble to do this than to fill in around them. Simply baste the figure in place, lay the background over them, and sew securely. A machine-made net is sometimes used in the same manner; and if the work is neatly done, taking care not to pucker the background or motifs, the effect is excellent.
For the honeycomb filling, commence with a chain of the required length.
1. Miss 9, a treble in next stitch, * chain 4, a treble in 4th stitch; repeat to the end, turn.
2. Chain 8, a treble under 4 chain, * chain 4, a treble under next 4 chain, repeat from *, turn.
Repeat the 2d row as required.
Single-picot filling: 1. Having a chain of required length, or starting from a given point, chain 2, 1 picot of 6 chain, fastened back into first stitch), chain 5, fasten in 6th stitch of foundation; repeat.
2. Chain 3, (to turn), picot, chain 5, fasten under 5 chain of last row * chain 2, picot, chain 5, fasten under next 5 chain; repeat to end, and repeat the row.
Double-picot filling: 1. Commencing as before directed, * chain 2, picot (composed of 5 chain, caught back in 1st stitch of chain), chain 4, picot, chain 2, fasten in 7th stitch of foundation; repeat.
2. Chain 2, picot, (chain 4 picot) twice, this in turning – if using the ground in the usual way, as a filling, the loops will be uniform – chain 2, fasten under 4 chain between 2 picots of last row, * chain 2, picot, chain 4, picot, chain 2, fasten under next 4 chain, and repeat. All rows are same as 2d.
Other fillings or grounds shall be given later – the triangular, shamrock, and so on. Those presented are worked out in heavy thread to be the more easily followed, and they should be practiced until one can do them easily and well, almost without thought. From them, by adding little borders, one may fashion collars, cuffs, and other articles, or handbags upon which to applique some pretty motif, and thus one’s labor will not be lost while acquiring proficiency. Bear in mind that all fillings must be adapted by the worker to the particular shape of the space to be filled. Often, as has been suggested, a treble or double treble is used after a picot, so that one may start from the picot again without breaking the thread, or slip-stitching up – all of which comes by intelligent practice. When the thread must be broken the end should be fastened by a very tight chain-stitch and cut off carefully. The length of chains, and size of picots, must be determined somewhat by the design and the quality of thread employed; but by the design and the quality of thread employed; but the direction given may be followed, as a rule.
Several simple but very attractive motifs are also given – just as a beginning; and these, too, are worked out in heavy material. Singly or in combination, they may be used in making a variety of articles.
Picot-wheel: Chain 5, and join to form a ring.
1. Chain 4, (a treble in ring, chain 1) 11 times, fasten in 3d of 4 chain.
2. Chain 1, and over the cord (carrying it along close to the work) make 2 doubles in a space and double in treble; repeat around, join.
3. Chain 1, * make 2 trebles in 2 doubles of last row, working over the cord in back loop of stitch, chain 4, a treble in same stitch with last treble; repeat from * around, making a picot over each spoke of the wheel. If a smaller wheel is needed the last row may be of doubles instead of trebles.
Triangle: Chain 10, join.
1. Chain 3, 20 trebles in ring, join.
2. Make 5 doubles in 5 trebles, chain 10, miss 3 trebles, repeat twice, joining last 10 chain to 1st double, and making a three-sided form or triangle.
3. Make 5 doubles on 5 doubles, 18 trebles under chain; repeat, always working in back loop to make a ridge. Join last treble to 1st double.
4. Slip-stitch over next double, chain 4, miss 1, a treble in next, chain 1, miss 1, 1 treble, then on the rounded edge make a treble in every stitch, with 1 chain between; join last 1 chain in 3d of 4 chain.
Cloverleaf. Commence with the stem, making 30 doubles over the cord. For the leaf, I single, 24 trebles and 1 single over cord, joining last stitch to 1st to close the leaf, and drawing the cord to shape it nicely; repeat to form the 2d and 3d leaflets, and for the center ring make 20 doubles over the cord, turning so as to have the ring on wrong side. Now work a double in each treble of leaflets, catching each together with a slip-stitch to make them firm, and catch to the center ring in two places. Work back on the stem with doubles in doubles, taking over the cord into back loop, and fasten off.
Spiral Medallion: Over the cord work 27 doubles, pass the cord under to form a loop and fasten in 12th stich from needle; then make 15 doubles over the cord, and join to 1st stitch at beginning with a stich across the two; repeat twice, making three lobes with a spiral at the outer end of each. Work over the cord, making a double in each stitch of previous row; and taking up the pack part to form a ridge. Fasten off neatly and securely.
The Rose: No collection of motifs would be complete without the rose, which is a distinctive feature of Irish crochet, probably used more than any other. Chain 5, join.
1. Chain 6, (a treble in ring, chain 3) 5 times, join to 3d of 6 chain.
2. Make 1 double, 3 trebles and 1 double in each space.
3. Chain 4, fasten in top of treble between petals of last row; repeat around.
4. In each space make 1 double, 5 trebles and 1 double.
5. Chain 5, fasten between petals; repeat.
6. In each space make 1 double, 6 trebles and 1 double.
7. Like 5th row, with 7 chain instead of 5.
8. In each space make 1 single, 1 double, 8 trebles, 1 double and 1 single.
This completes the rose. Surrounding it is the center-picot filling, as follows: 1. Slip-stitch to 4th stitch of 1st petal, chain 4, picot (as in single picot filling), chain 4, miss 3 stitches of petal, fasten in next, chain 4, picot, chain 4, fasten in 4th stitch of next petal, and repeat around. After the last picot make a double treble in the stitch where the 1st loop started.
2. Chain 4, picot, chain 4, fasten at base of picot in last row; repeat.
And now, just as a bit of practise, we will have a dainty medallion which will be exactly the thing for a shirtwaist inset, jabot-ends, border, or any other purpose to which it can be adapted. For the pansy which forms the center, work 30 doubles over the cord and close in a ring, joining with slip-stitch: * over the cord work 20 doubles, chain 1, turn, droop the cord, make 20 trebles in 20 doubles, working in both veins of the stitch, chain 1, turn, a treble in each treble, slip-stitch down the side and draw the cord to curve the petal slightly, miss 8 doubles of the ring, make a double over the cord, in each of next 2, and repeat from * twice. Fasten ends of cord neatly, and slip-stitch up to corner of 1st petal. The filling is the double picot, a little more open than previously described; if the latter is used make 4 loops across each petal instead of 3. (Chain 4, picot of 6 chain, chain 4, picot, chain 4, miss 6 trebles, fasten) 3 times, chain 4, picot, chain 4, picot, chain 4, fasten in 1st stitch of next shell, and repeat. Next row, chain 5, picot, chain 5, picot, chain 5, fastening each loop between picots of last row, and in the next make each loop of chain 6, picot, chain 6, picot, chain 6. Straighten the edge with chains of 16 stitches, fastened between picots, making 18 chain to square each corner. Surround this row with a row of trebles, 2 chain between, and at each corner 2 trebles in one place with 6 chain between. Finish with 2 doubles in a space, double in treble, 2 doubles in next space, chain 6, for a picot, and repeat. Under each corner chain make 4 doubles, picot, 4 doubles.
Once more, because it cannot be too often reiterated, the stitches in Irish crochet must be firm, close and uniform, and the padding must never show through. If loose, uneven work is ever permissible, it is not so here. As to materials, any fine, well made steel crochet-hook is suitable, but that with cork handle will be found especially easy to work with, as it does not cramp the fingers nor become hot and moist as a steel handle is apt to do. Round meshes are needed for making rings of various sizes, but for these short lengths of wooden or bone knitting-needles answer, or one who can handle a pocket-knife can easily fashion from a bit of wood any size required. For large rings the tip of thumb or finger affords an ever-ready makeshift, or the thread may be wound around two, three, four or more matches, held together. A paper of fine sewing-needles, assorted sizes should also be at hand, with a pair of small, sharp scissors.
A receptacle should be provided for the work – a covered pasteboard box or a basket of medium size, lined and with pockets around the sides, serving well. A strap across the inside of cover will hold the crochet-needles, meshes, scissors, etc., while in the pockets may be kept the needles, cord, thimble, and the different sprays as they are completed, the center holding the work and thread.