May 2009

History of Irish Crochet

As we discussed last month, needlepoint lace was difficult to make. From 16th century on, lace was very fashionable and people were on the lookout to find new ways to make it more affordable and easier to make.

In the 1800s, Mademoiselle Riego de Blanchardiere, who was the daughter of a Franco-Spanish nobleman and an Irish woman discovered that she could create crochet motifs that looked a lot like needlepoint lace. She printed her designs and taught women to make crochet motifs that could be later assembled into garments. At that time, the famine in Ireland left people with little income. Peasants were desperate to feed their families. As a result, they turned to crochet to supplement their income. This kind of crochet which mimics needlepoint lace is called Irish Crochet or Guipure Crochet.

This was the first time in history that mass production of lace was invented. Each person was fluent in making a certain motif. Women would take their thread home and work on their motifs whenever they had time. Then the motifs were taken to town and were put together with a mesh-like crochet pattern. The free-form nature of Irish crochet created the possibility of producing wonderful items. The person who assembled the pieces was the one who decided what kind of garment to make.

It is said that people did not like to share their techniques with others and always hid their pieces when a visitor entered the house. Irish crochet highly depends on the person who makes the motifs and their gauge. If two people follow the same instruction, it is very likely that the two motifs do not look the same because of the gauge difference.

Irish crochet had buyers in places like Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, New York, and San Francisco until World War I. Its production was challenged after the invention of machine-made lace. However, the beauty of Irish crochet lace is always inspiring.

For more information about Irish Crochet, check out:


Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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