Olga Starostina & The Timeless Beauty of Irish Crochet
Crochet World|February 2021
Years ago, when I was new to crochet, I heard a woman say she stopped knitting “because there’s nothing new to learn.” I was shocked. With new techniques and stitch patterns emerging, there is so much to know about crochet and knit work.
Randy Cavaliere

Take, for example, the feature of last issue’s column, “Get Squared™ by Jenny King.” Jenny’s system uses age-old basic stitches to create unique sweaters based on the ever popular, enduring granny squares. Clearly, everything old is new again.

To see how far we’ve come, it’s important to begin at the root of the craft. Compared to other handwork, crochet is relatively new. In Ruthie Marks’ History of Crochet on the CGOA website (www.crochet.org), forms of crochet may have existed as far back as 16th-century Italy. But it is the much beloved Irish crochet that appears to be the hallmark of modern crochet work.

Borne out of the poverty of Ireland in the early to mid1800s, Irish lace, also known then as “guipure lace,” became a source of income for poor Irish and lifted them out of the potato famine that pervaded Ireland from 1845–1851. Men, women and children produced Irish crochet which commanded a high price. Famine survivors who made lace were able to save enough to emigrate to the United States and introduce their skills to American women.

According to Irish Crochet Lab’s The History of Irish Crochet (www.irishcrochetlab.com), “Traditional Irish Crochet lace is worked with three different thread weights: a fine thread for the crocheted motifs; a slightly heavier thread is used as a foundation cord; an even finer thread is used for the background netting. Irish lace pattern pieces are crocheted individually, using several basic crochet stitches over the heavier foundation thread, to form rings, leaves, flowers.”

The popularity of crocheted lace grew during the late 1800s to early 1900s, but the demand for this handwork was all but gone by the mid-20th century.

Thankfully, Irish crochet has been revived significantly. The late haute couture designer, Dublin’s Sybil Connolly, is credited with the revival of crocheted Irish lace by incorporating this handwork in her designs. And no discussion with lovers of Irish lace would be complete without Maire Treanor’s famous Clones lace designs and classes.

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