My passion for fiber arts plus my half-Irish heritage equals Irish crocheted lace for me, and I have recently taken up learning and practicing more on the lace. I have crocheted for many year, though I can't claim any great proficiency, and that makes it easier to make a start. Irish lace uses packing cord, or padding, and managing that cord as you crochet around it is, I'm finding, not as easy as it might seem. In addition, the free-form nature of connecting motifs can be a challenge but these two characteristics are what make it Irish lace.
A padded ring, or "buttony" as Maire Treanor calls them, is made by winding thread around a knitting needle, crochet hook, or (as one of Ms. Treanor's students suggested) a drinking straw, and crocheting around the cord. Easy, you might think, if you crochet. Not so much, I discovered. (The straw suggestion is brilliant, however; I'm not sure I would have completed one yet without it!) My second was definitely better than the first. (Note that, in all the following photos, I am doing my practice crocheting with size 12 thread; in the end I'll be using 20-50, with packing cord in size 10 or 20. I'm waiting for delivery of smaller crochet hooks.)
The wild rose is a good motif to start with, as it uses most of the stitches and techniques used throughout Irish lace. I'm working on my first wild rose here, and getting better with each petal. (I'm sure you're all too kind to count, but the first petal doesn't have enough loops--mistakes are important to learning right?)
The packing cord is used when you crochet around all the petals, giving more body to the edging.
Did I mention that this is going to take some practice?
There are so many beautiful Irish lace antique pieces out there, and new ones being designed now. Check out the Sheelin Irish Lace Museum for a look at some antique pieces. And a search on "Irish lace" on Pinterest yields some beautiful examples.
Traditionally Irish lace was used for dresses, and for lace curtains and linens. Since I'm a quilter, first and foremost, I'm thinking about it for crazy quilting; I have been seeing some motifs that would be beautiful as lace embellishments. Some of the collars and jackets and tops are tempting though; I wonder how long it would take me to crochet a jacket....?
The finer thread has arrived from Heirloom Crochet, and the finer hooks are on their way from Earth Faire. Then we'll see how I do with finer work. Stay tuned.