Monday, 13 January 2014

Irish Crochet

Postcard of girl in Irish crochet 
The new Rowan magazine (number 55, Spring/Summer 2014)  has an article on the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and another on Irish Crochet by Katy Bevan, illustrated with wonderful photographs of some of the best pieces of Irish crochet from the KCG collection.  (Katy wrote about the photo-shoot on her blog, here.)

I don't crochet much myself, and Irish crochet is so fine and intricate that I am sure it is way beyond my skills.  But I do admire the things in the collection - they are just beautiful.  So since the Rowan magazine article was proposed, I have been keeping a look-out for Irish crochet illustrations in the Guild collection.

Although much Irish crochet was made commercially, there were also many Irish crochet patterns published in needlework magazines in the early part of the 20th century.  But the illustrations with the patterns are usually just the piece of crochet - they are rarely shown being worn. So it's difficult to get a sense of how Irish crochet was worn at the time.  (I don't think the Rowan model looks very much like an Edwardian lady - it's not a modern look.)  

I have recently been looking at the postcards and photographs in the Guild collection - they have all been acquired because they show knitting or crochet, and there are several from around World War I that show Irish crochet.  Here is a selection.  The postcard of a girl wearing an Irish crochet top (cape?  jacket?)  is postmarked March 1912.   (Postcards of pretty girls were popular at the time.)

Miss Julia Neilson at Home
Postcard published by Beagles Postcards,
from a photograph by Ellis & Walery
There are also two postcards of celebrities wearing Irish crochet.    Miss Julia Neilson, depicted at home next to the piano, was an actress.  She is wearing an Irish crochet blouse, and one of those nasty furs made from a dead fox.   Miss Marie Studholme, an actress and singer, is wearing an Irish crochet collar to her jacket/bodice, and possibly an Irish crochet blouse underneath (hard to tell - it's out of focus).   The card is postmarked 1906. 

Miss Marie Studholme
Postcard published by Rotary Photo Co.,
from a photograph by  Foulsham & Banfield
The three postcards show women wearing smart clothes, and probably the Irish crochet was bought - they did not make it themselves.  Ordinary women would not be able to afford to buy whole garments in Irish crochet, nor have the time to make them.   But we have several photographs of women wearing little crocheted collars or jabots.  I suspect that many such collars were made at home, but they might have been cheap enough to buy. 

The young woman wearing the large crochet jabot and stand-up collar (and huge hat) is evidently wearing her best clothes for the photograph. 

Little lacy collars to wear with a plain dress were also popular - not all are in Irish crochet, though I think that the one above is.

I also found an ad for Manlove's crochet cotton, in Fancy Needlework Illustrated from 1914. The "peasant girl" in the ad is making a set of motifs for a collar.  (When Irish crochet was made commercially, the more experienced and skilled workers made the motifs, which were passed to less experienced crocheters to join together.)  So if you were making your own Irish crochet collar, you could aspire to the standards of the professionals by buying the thread that they used.

"Irish Peasant Girl making Irish crochet Lace"
Fancy Needlework Illustrated, June 1914.


  1. Your articles are so informative. I had lots of Irish relatives, but only saw them knitting. Crochet seems to have eluded my family. I'm teaching it to myself very slowly.

    1. Thanks, Una. I suppose Irish crochet is not much use if you want to make practical garments for your family - maybe that's why your relatives preferred knitting. But I hope your efforts to learn crochet succeed.

  2. Loved this article. My mother was raised by her Irish-born grandparents, and her grandmother wanted her to learn to make Irish lace like a properly brought-up Irish girl from 50 years before, but Mum never had any interest in learning. Although I can crochet, I don't much care to, but I am fascinated by Irish crochet and feel I really must learn it eventually. I dream of someday making an entire garment of it.

    1. A whole garment in Irish crochet! I guess it could be a little jacket rather than a full-length dress like the one from the collection that the Rowan model wore. Or you could start with a collar... I suppose one of the advantages of Irish crochet is that as you accumulate motifs, you can reassemble them into larger and larger garments. Hope to read about your Irish crochet on your blog one day.

  3. I see above you have an image of Maniloves Irish Linen thread. We organise a summer workshop of Clones Irish Crochet Lace every June. This summer will be our 24th annual summer Workshop. We also invite a guest tutor from Eastern Europe, where modern Irish Crochet is very popular. This year we will have Galina Boltaynska. Last year we had Tonya Kuznetsova and Olga Krivenko came to Clones in 2012. We are the first group to invite these wonderful designers to the 'Western World'! We also have a part time tutor from Brittany France, teaching Picot Bigouden, another Irish Crochet. I have written a book, dvd and ebook on Irish Crochet! You can contact me at or visit my blog on Clones Lace Blog:) I enjoyed the Rowan 55 article, though I haven't had a chance to read it properly yet. Máire Treanor Clones Ireland

  4. 'When Irish crochet was made commercially, the more experienced and skilled workers made the motifs, which were passed to less experienced crocheters to join together.) So if you were making your own Irish crochet collar, you could aspire to the standards of the professionals by buying the thread that they used.' not correct.- the more skilled worker joined the piece. it takes a lot of skill to join Irish Crochet! The way the woman in the manilovs poster is holding her work is exactly how i hold my work and lace the template cut out. great to see this photo from june 1914:)

    1. Thanks for the correction - it comes from being a knitter rather than a crocheter. And now you point it out, the 'Irish Peasant Girl' does seem to be working on connecting together the motifs that have already been made and fixed onto a temporary background.


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