Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Victorian Lace Photo Frame

This is the summer of lace work... I love how such a complex look can come from tiny needles, thin thread, and simple stitches.  Everything just combines into a beautiful piece.

I've done doilies before, so crocheting with a 1.7 mm hook and lace thread wasn't a big problem, but doilies, while intricate, lack dimensionality.  Then I discovered Irish Lace Crochet, a craft developed by poor, nineteenth century Irish women.  Unlike normal lace crochet work, Irish Lace Crochet is a combination of motifs and meshing.  You make the motifs first and then connect everything together with a crochet mesh.  It began in the mid-nineteen century as a great (inexpensive, portable) way to mimic expensive Venetian lace that only the wealthy could afford.  The really complicated ones look absolutely gorgeous.  Here's a nice Irish lady describing how it's done:

I'm not exactly talented enough to handle the crochet mesh for these designs... so that's something to work on, but what I love about Irish crochet is that the motifs can create more dimensionality, because they're worked on a "padding cord."  The cord is used to give weight and tension to the motif, so it can be manipulated before adding the mesh.  The result is more realistic looking flowers, vines, leaves, etc.  Here's my first time working with the padding cord:

A leaf motif, being worked around the padding cord

The motifs I used were from several old pattern books from the late nineteenth / early 20th century available here.  You can really see how modern patterns "spoon feed" us; it's often a language battle with the older ones:  "Make six times over a single cord foundation 1 plain on the 1st and 2nd and 2 plain on the 3rd of the stitches placed on the hind-loop of the stitches beneath; 1 single on the 1st plain, 1 chain."  Anyway, I perservered through and provisionally sewed my motifs onto cloth for working the mesh.... which I later decided to be just a simple (and crude) needle (Battenberg-esque) lace.

The purpose of the Irish Lace/Needle Lace project design came from one of the old pattern books:  a Victorian "frame."  Luckily, I have this bizarre hobby of collecting old photos of people I don't know, people I find interesting... wherever I find them.  So I headed down to the local antique store to see who I could find.  She is wearing a nice lace collar, which brings the lace theme more completely.  At first the non-straight meshing got on my nerves, but I think in the end I prefer the more "handmade" look.  And here it is, a nice way to revive some old photos:

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