CharacteristicsIrish crochet can be divided into two groups according to construction Irish guipures (Guipure d'Ireland) or Irish Point-sprigs/motifs are made individually and later connected with brides or bars. These have heavy padding achieved by working over a cord Irish baby laces (Bebe)-the motifs and ground are worked as one and are not padded Traditional Irish Crochet motifs include: multi-tiered rose, shamrock, spiked petal flower, four-leafed clover, spray of leaves. These are often stylised.
During the Great Irish Famine (1845-52), the women, seeking a new source of income, began to produce crochet versions of the expensive needlelaces and bobbin laces which were in demand in the western world at the time. Lace schools sprang up, a new industry developed and Irish crochet became the dominant Irish lace employing thousands of people until the industry began to decline around 1857.
In the 1890s, Guipure d’Ireland and Bebe laces were renowned in fashionable stores in London, New York and Paris for the French couturiers, especially Paquin, lavished it on their gowns, jackets and shawls.
Although Ireland was pre-eminent in the technique, raised crochet was copied widely in Europe, both as a hobby and on a commercial scale. Copycat industries, also activated by poverty, emerged in India and China, organized probably by missionaries. At first the produce was sent to Ireland for sale, but by 1900 exports were organized on an efficient commercial scale. In the 1920s, India exported to all British dominions, USA and South America and over the years, the work gradually lost its Irish character.
Work from the Far East can be identified by its looseness, for the workers economise on thread this way. Large pieces often betray signs of communal workmanship, and since speed is an important factor in earning a living at crochet, ends of threads are seldom finished properly.
Maidens, Ena, The Technique of Irish Crochet Lace, Batsford, London1986
Ballantyne, B. The Early History of Irish Crochet lace, self published, Australia, 2007
Ballantyne, B. Mademoiselle Riego and Irish Crochet Lace, self published, Australia, 2007
©Valerie Cavill, May 2008