Sunday, 20 March 2016

Irish crochet

Irish crochet collar
On Thursday I spent a lovely evening visiting the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting and Crochet Guild for their monthly meeting. This month the topic was Irish crochet, something that I knew very little about. I was looking forward to learning more about it and excited to see some samples of work.

Some of the photos are a little shadowy, I was taking them with my phone camera, standing around a table with several others, casting our shadows all over the place. All the pieces are very delicate and have to be handled wearing cotton gloves so you can't mess about with them too much just to get a perfect photo!

Irish crochet developed in the early 1800s in rural Ireland which, at this time, was poverty stricken. The crochet was done in people's homes and sold as a way to make an income. This was especially true during the Potato Famine. The Ursuline nuns taught women and girls the skills they needed as they recognised that women needed a way to make an income.

These are the tools of the trade, very fine cotton or linen thread and crochet hooks with a hook so tiny that it is very difficult to see.

This is the first piece of work that was shown to us. It is an open coat/gown and we all thought it was very fine, until we saw the next few pieces which showed what really fine work actually looked like!

Irish crochet consists of motifs, like the bunch of grapes which you can see at the bottom centre of the above picture, which are then connected together by a mesh or net to form lace. The motifs may be made by many different people, collated and then joined together to form a garment.

Apparently, families kept close guard of their motif patterns, making sure that any crochet work was out of sight when visitors called!

Irish crochet differs from traditional crochet which is usually formed of rows or rounds.

This is an old and delicate pattern book. The front section explains how to make the motifs and gives some patterns for them. The back consists of patterns which fold out, showing how to put the motifs together to make the collar, cuffs, jabot, trims etc that are desired.

This is a photograph from inside the book of a cuff and collar set.

This is the pattern layout for the set, showing the motifs that is is made up of. The motifs would be stitched to the pattern and the spaces in-between filled with very fine crochet mesh. The finished item is then removed from the paper.

This is it in close up so that the intricate detail is clear.

This is the cuff pattern. You can see that it is simpler but is made of the same motifs as the collar.

This is probably a cuff, not the same as the pattern above. This is such a fine piece of work, look at the tiny bunches of grapes.

I enjoyed looking through this delicate French pattern book as it had lots of amazing motifs in it.

This pretty butterfly.

These lovely cyclamen.

Fabulous tennis rackets with tennis balls. I can see this on a 1920's or '30's tennis dress or cardigan.

Perfect for Spring daffodils.

There was also the pattern for this little chap, he is on a very pretty blouse. 

This piece is made up of floral motifs.

Some more examples.

This is a very fine bag with a drawstring top. You can see a central rose, a rose is a very traditional motif, surrounded by a floral design. Leaves, flowers and shamrocks are other traditional motifs.

This is a child's dress which has both inserts and trims of Irish crochet. The work is so incredibly fine.

The insert features the rose motif. Spot the lizard again!

This is a close up of the trim. When you stop to think of the conditions under which this work was created it becomes even more special and incredible. The makers of this work were poor, hungry, cold, worked in bad light and in unsatisfactory conditions.

Another child's dress with a deep edging of Irish crochet.

The cuffs and hem all end in this gorgeous bobble edging.

Bobbles and roses.

You can see how fine the mesh is between the motifs.

This is another view of the blouse that has the lizard on. It was felt that the lizard was a later addition to the original crochet fabric of the blouse.

I ended the evening being really amazed at the level of work and skill in these garments. In the 1900's   the Irish crochet industry declined as it could not compete with the speed and cost of machine made lace.

You can read more about Irish crochet, see more examples and find instructions to have a go at it yourself herehere and here. I think I would like to have a go and see if I can just make one, very very simple motif!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Currently knitting - Sirdar Lady's Jumper

I have decided to try and do some regular posts which will look at what is currently on my knitting needles. At the moment I can not knit as much as I normally do and I need a way of seeing that some knitting is still happening and that progress is indeed being made. Otherwise, I focus on how much I haven't knitted, that I could have knitted by now if only my neck and shoulder were up to it. Obviously, that is not a very positive way of looking at things so I need to fix that!

 I am seeing a brilliant and understanding Physio who is getting my neck and shoulder working again, there are great improvements already and I will spare you the details of the excruciating armpit massages that have helped to make that happen!

I started this pretty 1950's feather and fan pattern jumper on the first of January. I keep a little notebook in my knitting bag to keep track of these things, including row counts, changes or clarifications, number of balls of yarn used, sizing etc. When I finish a project I transfer that info plus a picture of the pattern into my knitting journal/scrapbook which I really should do a post on at some point.

I very much liked the original colour scheme but knew that it wasn't really me and that I wanted something with more of an autumnal palette. The original pattern was knitted in 3-ply but I figured a thin 4-ply should do just as well. This is where I admit that whilst I do tension squares and check sizing if I am knitting for others I don't do it as much if I am knitting for myself as I just want to get started. So if this turns out massive or too small I have only myself to blame!

I am in the unfortunate position of being a knitter who loves using real wool but who can not tolerate it against my skin. I go like a crazed itchy thing and need to rip off whatever I am wearing. I have found that a wool/silk blend can be ok as long as I wear long sleeves and a scarf round my neck (handily looking like I have styled in an accessory but actually just anti itch protection)!

When I went to Yarndale last September I was looking specifically for yarn to knit this jumper and another as yet unstarted jacket. I fell for the beautiful colours of this lovely yarn from Eden Cottage Yarns. It is Askham 4-ply in Walnut, Crocosmia, Air and Yarrow. It is a blend of baby alpaca (70%) and silk (30%) and it feels very soft indeed.

This is how it looked when I had got all the colours knitted in so it was the first chance to check that I did like them all knitted up together. Which I do. Phew!

This is less of a close up and I've spread the stitches out a bit so that it is possible to see the pattern a little better.

Here you can see that I have done the armhole shaping and the back of the jumper is on it's way to being complete. I tend to share my knitting progress, amongst other things, on Instagram so do come along and say hello on there.