Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Translation: Irish crochet

Since I was a little girl poring over my mother's copy of The Complete Guide to Needlework, I have loved the crisp, intricate, organic style of Irish crochet. About a year ago, Kristina showed me the Antique Pattern Library, making very old patterns available to me (and to all) in the form of gigantic PDF files. After excitedly printing two DMC Irish crochet books (circa 1900) and making a special trip to Busy Hands yarn shop for a #14 steel hook, I was all ready to plunge in and create beautiful lace of incredible delicacy. Except for the abbreviations. What the heck is a "d," anyway? Is it the same as a "plain?"  

Turns out, yes, a "d" and a "plain" are old names for what American crocheteuses know as "single crochet" or "sc." Apparently, in the Old Days, no standards existed for pattern abbreviations. Experimentation and careful comparison of my work with the photos in the DMC books showed that I knew much more than I had imagined upon my first reading of the patterns.

The photos in this post are themselves experiments, depicting the results of my Irish crochet experiments; I've not used my computer's on-board camera much. I yearn to fill this blog with beautiful photographs, but I fear that time is not yet come. I will, however, offer you my translations of antique Irish crochet motif patterns. You can read them in their original form at the Antique Pattern Library's site. The large motif (called "second wheel" in the book) is from DMC Library Irish Crochet Lace by Mme. Dillmont (c. 1900), and the leaves are from Priscilla Irish Crochet Book No. 2 by Eliza Taylor (published in 1912). The books are listed alphabetically by author last name.

Dixie Falls designed the mitts (free registration is required to get the pattern); I made adaptations to suit my chosen yarn and my own hand size. I arranged the motifs on a scarf I crocheted from my favorite silk/bamboo yarn; it's a plain, long rectangle executed in V-stitch, with 7 rows of hdc at each end.

The roses are among the easiest Irish crochet motifs to execute, and you can find many versions of them everywhere. I kept it simple and used Ms. Fall's instructions. The smallest roses on the scarf are made from the same pattern, but I only completed two rounds. I also omitted the last round from the larger roses; as written, the pattern yielded roses I thought were overwhelmingly large on my wrists. I substituted the antique leaf pattern for that given in the mitts pattern (they come out looking about the same, in case you prefer Ms. Fall's more complete instructions).

The crocheted balls were a popular embellishment in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and their instructions are included in the mitts pattern. I made ten of them to use as fringe for the scarf, and their weight keeps the scarf nicely in place. I decorated each motif with glass seed beads, and capped the end of each ball with a larger silver bead.

"Second Wheel" (topmost white flower on scarf) is a two-layer motif.
Main layer:
Wrap cord three times around your finger to form a type of magic adjustable ring. Leave a long tail (12") to use as a foundation cord while working the rest of the motif.
Round 1: Work 20 sc over cord, pulling the free end occasionally to nudge the stitches tightly together; sl st to 1st sc to close; ch 1.
Round 2: Pull up "tail" of adjustable ring and lay it over work. 1 sc in 1st sc and over cord; * 14 sc over cord only; sk 3 sc; sc in next sc (scallop made). Repeat from * 4 times, pulling cord to nudge stitches together and to help each loop lie flat. End with 1 sc in last sc of ring, sc in 1st 2 sc of petal, ch 1 (5 scallops).
Round 3: Holding foundation cord over work and working in back loop of each sc, * sc in next 2 sc, picot (ch 3, sl st in 1st ch), 3 sc, picot, 3 sc, picot, 2 sc. Sk next 5 sc. Repeat from * 4 times. Fasten off.

Top layer: Begin as for main motif, wrapping cord three times around your finger to form an adjustable ring.
Round 1: * 4 sc in ring, picot. Repeat from * 5 times. Fasten off.

Position top layer atop main layer, matching center holes. Sew them together with matching thread.

Ch 10. 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each of next 8 ch, ch 3. Continuing down other side of foundation ch, sc in each of next 7 sts, * ch 3, turn. Sc in each of next 7 sc, sc in 3-ch sp, ch 3, sc in 3-ch sp, sc in each of next 6 sts. *
Repeat between * *, working back and forth, until you have 6 "ribs" on each side (or until the leaf is the size you prefer). I chose to fasten off with a sl st in the 3-ch sp, in order that the leaf would be even, but you can fasten off wherever you think it will look best.

My materials:
Mitts, scarf ends, ball fringe, and leaves: 3 skeins Berroco Seduce in Verdigris; small amount of fiberfill to stuff crocheted balls
Scarf: 3 balls Patons Silk Bamboo in Sea
Small roses: 1 ball Patons Silk Bamboo in Almond (very small amount; I used leftover yarn from another project)
"Second wheel" and large roses: 1 ball J.P. Coats Royale Silkessence Microfiber in Natural (#2262)
Silver or silver-lined glass beads in two sizes (about five hundred seed beads and a larger silver bead for each crocheted ball)
Steel crochet hook, size 7 (for mitts, "second wheel," large roses, leaves, scarf ends, and crocheted balls)
Aluminum crochet hooks, sizes G (scarf body) and B (small roses)
Tapestry needle
Beading needle
Sewing needle and thread to match yarns


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