Irish Crochet Cushion Cover - Part 3

Oct 9, 2015 10:12:49 AM

Progress so far

I'm back!

Progress on my cushion cover has been slower than I anticipated, but that's really not because the crocheting itself is slow. Working the clones knot background is actually fairly quick, and had I omitted the clone's knots to work a plain netting, this would have been an even quicker project.

Even though it is relatively quick, the clones knots really do take the bulk of the time in making this and they also eat up yarn. Keep that in mind if you choose to use them but are concerned that you may not have enough yarn to finish the project. I just think that the clones knots are so pretty and I love the dimension they add to the fabric - I'm happy I used them in this project.

My slower-than-anticipated progress is mostly due to the fact that life has been so busy with the move and the settling in and the dozens of other competing priorities right now that I need to juggle.  Which is really no different than anyone else - who really has the time to knit or crochet as much as they'd like?  Not even a crochet designer!

I've probably worked on this about 5 or 6 hours since my last update, and a good hour or so was taken up by hand sewing the padded rings together into clusters in the upper part of the design.  Had I had a definite plan on how I wanted to configure them, I could have just joined them as I crocheted them, but I kept them separate because I wanted the flexibility to change their configuration as I progressed.

burying the pin tips

Probably my biggest lesson learned since my last update had nothing to do with crochet at all but with how to properly pin the motifs.  Working with a fabric stuck with tons of pins is a bit like trying to pet a prickly porcupine. I suffered my share of pin pricks until I discovered a trick to bury the pin points.  

In the photo above I've inserted the pin as I had been doing previously.  But that sharp pin is just waiting to poke me as I work.

push the pin in

The key is to sink that pin tip BACK into the fabric.  With no pesky sharp points, the work is much more enjoyable! I think pins are the easiest way to position motifs or put the netting under tension as it is being built.

I should also add that I am placing my work on a hard surface as I work, either a table or a tray depending on where I am.  I think you need either a hard surface or a embroidery loop for this kind of work in order to keep things enjoyable.  So the pins poking out to the back are not posing any danger.

working the border

In my last post, I promised to talk about how I did the scalloped border.  As I mentioned in my first blog post in this series, I crocheted this border following a vintage pattern for Irish Crochet work, but used it with the scallops facing inward instead of outward.  I crocheted the inside grounding edge using the same basic pattern I'm using for the background:

  • sc to scallop picot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6)
  • work a clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6) 

As you can see in the photo, I'm attaching to the two outside picots on each scallop.

join to back of picot

As I worked around the edging, I crocheted to the BACK of the picot.  What this means is that I didn't insert my hook through the front to the back of the picot to join it to my background trellis. Instead, I inserted my hook through a thread on the surface of the BACK of the picot to attach my trellis stitch.

In this way, I assured that the picot stitches would retain their dimension on the right side of the work.

corners of the border

Working the corners of the border was a special case.

Here I chose to modify my basic trellis pattern by adding a tr stitch to attach to the middle picot as you can see in the stitch diagram overlay in the photo below.

corner stitch diagram

The corner is worked with a ch 3, clones knot (not on the diagram), tr to the middle picot, then a chain 3.

corner crochet

The snapshot above shows a completed corner and how I integrated in with that corner clones knot to create the corner fabric.

Because the border itself is such a structured pattern, this area of the background trellis was probably the most orderly.  I think that in crocheting the grounding of Irish Crochet work, the crocheter can make a decision about whether they want to go one of two ways with the background trellis:

  • Crochet a uniform background. These projects look as if the motifs were laid upon a uniform grid and then the grid was cut out of the fabric to accomodate the motifs.  This approach requires more skill and although I have done it in some portions of the work, I have not done it in others. What this means is that my result appears more like the next option.
  • Crochet a more freeform-appearing background.  This approach is much more forgiving and is a great choice for a first project.  Although this is the approach I went with, you can see that I followed general guidelines in creating the grounding and that I had a basic pattern that I was following.  It wasn't just a free-for-all.  I had a basic plan.

I'll talk more about both options in my next blog post and show examples of each.

In the meantime: don't be shy about asking questions or just posting a comment to let me know what you'd like to see in my next post.  I've gained momentum with the project and am closing in on the finish line, so I don't anticipate more than 2 more posts to share my progress and my insights as I complete project.

Comments | Posted in Techniques & How To By Jennifer Hansen

Irish Crochet Cushion Cover - Part 2

Sep 25, 2015 8:58:21 AM

Progress shot

I haven't progressed as much as I anticipated on this project in the last week.  Mostly because I just haven't put in the time.

First, I dropped tea on my project. Half a cup of hot, steaming tea. After drenching the affected area with cold water, I hung it for a day to air dry.  I'm happy I chose a colored yarn (Lucci Hemp in Brick). Although my background has a little discoloration - that's just a temporary backing.  I'm not sure a white crochet thread would have fared so well.

As the years go by, I find that the quality of light in my knit and crochet working area is crucial. Not being able to see my work well is just unfun. One challenge with a move is that it can take a while to fine tune a new living space and although I've got a great, comfy area to knit and crochet, I just haven't found the right lighting yet. I'm working with a head lamp.  It's not terrible, I can do it, and if it were a more autopilot type of project it wouldn't bother me as much. But lack of good light cramps my style just enough to dampen my enthusiasm for the project and sitting down to work.  It's just resulted in less time knitting and crocheting than I spent in my old house. Tools really do contribute to your joy of the craft.

First Progress PointIn this blog post I'll talk about how I started joining the motifs and some of the design decisions I've made. (Read my first blog post in this series for info on creating motifs, laying them out, working the clones knot and free resources for Irish Crochet online).  I'll be discussing the joining stitches that I did to get me to the point in the project pictured above.

Are my design decisions the best ones or the only ones that would have made sense?  Not at all.  The personal nature of this kind of crochet is what makes it unique and what makes everyone's work different.  My hope is that by seeing my process, and the way that I tackled the joining, you will gain insight into this craft and be inspired to explore it in your own way.

Progress 2-2

I started at the arrow (can you see my starting tail?) and worked to edge the main motif using the following pattern as a guideline: 

  • sc to the motif
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6)
  • work a clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6) 

When joining to the motif, I kept my join stitches to the underside of the motif with the idea of helping to preserve the hard motif edge definition.

I eyeballed things, and erred on working the netting a little too tightly than too loose.  Since this is going to be a cushion cover, I've had experience in the past that crochet cushion covers stretch over time, so I'm crocheting this one a little tight to compensate.

You can see above in some of the acute turns (circled), that I chose to just work a chain 3 to join nearby adjacent sides without working an intermediate clones knot.  I just made these decisions as I went based on what I felt looked good as I worked.

You can see a couple of points along the hightlighted path above where I chose to join to the opposite border as I edged around, and at the very end of this path, I joined the main flower motif to the main branch motif before finally hitting a point where I had to rotate the work and change direction.

progress 2-3

I continued to edge by rotating the work at the #2 arrow pictured above.  My stitch pattern along the upper branch limb at the beginning was a little different than what I had done up until this point since I was joining to the motif AND existing clones knots at the same time instead of just edging.  My basic pattern was:

  • sc to the motif
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6)
  • join with sl st to the existing clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6) 

I then continued around the tip of the first branch and edged the interior of the next branch limb opening in a similar way to the first. I then joined to the tip of a 4th branch limb to continue to work into the initial edging around the main motif. My basic pattern changed to the following:

  • sl st around existing clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6)
  • join with sl st to the existing clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6) 

An interesting modification to this basic pattern happens at the sharper turns around the motif, such as pictured above in the larger circled area.  Take a look at the detail shot below.

Detail Acute Turn

Working around an acute turn like this is similar to working a circle from the outside in: you need to decrease.  The challenge is that you need to preserve the trellis stitch pattern but connect to more than 1 clones knot at the previously-worked level of the grounding trellis.  This is done with long crochet stitches.  

Take a look at the stitch diagram overlay in the next image for detail.

Stitch Detail of Acute Turn

The stitch sequence starts out with a ch 3 (I worked this from right to left), a clones knot (stitch symbol not shown) and then a cluster of 3 tr stitches, each worked through the bottom back of the clones knots previously worked in the trellis. Then I worked the ch 3 to continue along with my established edging pattern.

In all honesty, as I have been working this piece, I've been varying up the length of my long stitches to do these turns. Some are dc, some are dtr, it really depends on what looks best in the particular case.  But tr is the average length of the stich. 

progress 3

I essentially went forward until I couldn't (end of the green), and then I rotated to fill in the hole that remailed.  My stitches for this portion start at the #3 arrow, I worked first from left to right, slip stitching around the clones knots previously made to build up the grounding, then turned to close the space by joining to the border.  The dot represents my very last stitch. Do you see my ending tail?

attach to border

I'll talk more about my approach attaching to the border in my next post, but will leave you with the detail shot of the stitches above. Can you see how I continued on with my basic grounding pattern to connect to the border scallops?

Comments | Posted in Techniques & How To By Jennifer Hansen

Irish Crochet Cushion Cover - Part 1

Sep 18, 2015 11:58:13 AM

Irish Crochet Cushion Cover


I've just moved from California to Florida. It's a new city, a new state and most significantly for this post, a new house.  My nesting instinct is in overdrive as we settle in to our new home and nearly all my free time right now is house-related.  One of my projects is updating our sofa cushions, and I was dreaming about a pillow in Irish Crochet.  

It's a project that I'm making just for me, but I decided to share my progress on the blog because this technique is just  so mysterious for so many people.  Although I teach a Craftsy class on crochet lace and even devote an entire lesson to Irish Crochet, we really only had time to present an introduction within the context of such a broad course that introduced so many different techniques.  It's not that Irish Crochet is crazy difficult, it's just that there's a lot going on with the technique and a lot of it is freeform.  Because so much of what you're doing is going by feel, it can't easily be reduced to specifics like a pattern with lines of instructions. That's what makes it difficult to teach.  

This series of blog posts about my Irish Crochet Cushion Cover will be an attempt to scratch a little deeper beyond my intro lesson on Craftsy.  I'll share my sources, my process as well as document and discuss my progress. If you have questions, please ask - they'll help me understand what you want to read about next time I blog this project.

Hemp in Brick

I chose Lucci Hemp in brick for the project yarn. It's a rich orange with a bit more texture to it than a crochet cotton would have, but not so rustic that the stitches lose definition.

Irish Crochet Motif

The first step in any Irish Crochet project is creating the motifs.  I decided to go with the more traditional approach of using padding cord and crocheting over it to make rather thick motifs.  Padding cord is just one or more strands of yarn that you crochet over to create a heavier and more textured border for the edge of your motif.  You can see the heavy edges in the crochet flower motif above.  For many of the motifs, I crocheted around 4 strands of yarn.

I followed old instructions that are in the public domain.  The Antique Pattern Library has an amazing collection of Irish Crochet resources, all of them absolutely free.  They are mostly publications from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  These old pattern books can be a bit vague, and some of the terminology is different today, but many of the photos are excellent, so it isn't too hard to figure out what to do. There are so many great books freely available there, but don't miss the book Irish Crochet Lace by Therese de Dillmont, it is one of the classic references for the technique.  It contains patterns for motifs, instructions for using padding cord and so much more.

I really had fun spending hours poring through old pattern books and selecting a collection of motifs that I thought would make an interesting composition.  What can be a big surprise is the size of your motif once you complete it.  In a lot of the instructions in those old books, they are using incredibly fine crochet yarns, so using the hemp, even though it is fingering weight, was almost like working with a bulky yarn in comparison, so a few of my motifs were much bigger than I expected.

Phase 1

By the time the thought had occured to me to blog about this project, I'd already laid out the motifs and started to join them. The photo above is a snapshot at that stage. But you can still clearly see the motifs that I chose and get a good idea of the way layout looks before I filled in with grounding stitches. I decided to make about 22 padded rings that could be inserted to fill the space between tight joins, or grouped together into grape-like clusters.

I used a border also from the old Irish Crochet books, although I'm using it in a way it was not intended.  Traditionally, the scalloped border was to be facing on the outside of the work, but I wanted a clean sillouhete for my pillow and opted to face the scallops inward. I have a specific cushion that I will be covering, so working that border was the most pre-planned part of the project. I had to make a gauge swatch and engineer it so that it would be the desired size.  It serves as the frame for the project.


I chose some muslin cloth to serve as my temporary background for the work and used very loose stitches with sewing thread and needle to temporarily attach the border to the muslin.  

I chose to use straight pins (and even some double-sided tape!) to position my motifs within the border frame.  I didn't want to sew the interior motifs down because I wanted flexibility to move them around later if I changed my mind.  It's also a matter of time.  In the photo below you can see a cluster of padded rings individually stitched to the muslin - I learned through doing that I didn't want to take the time to do that again.

I used double-sided tape with some of the groupings of padded rings for similar reasons: putting a pin in each ring before I had decided to join them in their final configuration was like handling a prickly porcupine every time I picked up my work.  As I finalize the configuration of each cluster of padded rings (I'm still deciding on their final placement, I might even whip out a few more), I sew them together with tapestry needle and yarn and use a single pin to affix the group to the fabric.

Edging the Main Motif

So, with motifs laid out and securely attached, it's time to join the motifs!  This is the real crux of Irish Crochet and I think the only real way to learn it is by doing it.

I've had the pleasure of taking one of Máire Treanor's classes at a past CGOA Conference, and I was so pleased to see she'd done a video workshop with Interweave so that anyone can purchase her class and watch it at home (it's even downloadable!).  I think her class is an excellent next step for those who take my class on Craftsy and want to delve deeper into the technique. Máire specializes in Clones Lace, which uses a Clone's Knot trellis pattern for the grounding (or background, she calls them "fill stitches") that fills the space between the motifs and also joins them together.  

You can see Máire doing a Clones Knot on YouTube, it's a very dimensional stitch that will take you a few minutes of practice to learn.  One key thing to keep in mind, however, is that there are all kinds of groundings you can use for Irish Crochet, so if you don't like the Clone's Knot, just choose another kind of stitch pattern. The Dillmont book, Irish Crochet Lace, has a lot of examples of groundings to inspire you.

I decided to start my grounding by edging along my largest motif.  The basic pattern of my grounding stitch is:

  • sc to the motif
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6)
  • work a clones knot
  • ch 3 (or more depending, up to 6) 

Can you follow that pattern in the photo above?

Next time I'll dive deeper into how I'm building up the grounding and some of the design decisions I've made along the way.

And don't forget, I'd love to hear from you.  If you have questions or feedback, don't hesitate to post in the comments below.

Comments | Posted in Techniques & How To By Jennifer Hansen

Little yarn balls & Tunisian Cowls


In my preparations for moving the studio, I recently came upon a little treasure trove of yarn samples.  Most were upper end yarns but none of the yarn quantities were enough to make more than a swatch.  What simple, fast project could I make that would combine them to result in a celebration of different colors and textures?

sandstoe cowl

My go-to technique for this kind of thing is 3-Color Tunisian Crochet as epitomized by the Stashbuster Blanket design I did several years ago.  No need to rethink things, I thought, so this time I just used the technique on a much smaller scale with a smaller hook and smaller quantities of yarn.


I wanted to make something small that would use about 12 mini-balls or so, and nothing made more sense than the ever-popular cowl. Using a P Tunisian Crochet hook, I started with 15 stitches and worked even in 3-color-Tunisian until my work measured about 22”, then whip-stitched my starting chain to my Tunisian bind-off stitches.  I finished the project by working single crochet in the round very loosely with the same hook around the vertical bars at each edge.

sandstone cowl on mannequina

For my Sandstone Palette Cowl, I just worked single-stranded for the entire project, even though my yarn gauges differed slightly.  With 3-color-Tunisian, the width of the work will vary if all 3 of your working groups of yarn are not the same gauge, but in the case of the yarns in this palette, the gauge variation was small enough, and the width of the project was narrow enough (less stitches in width = less total potential width variation), that the slight variations in width in the work are negligible.

hibiscus cowl

For my Hibiscus Palette Cowl, I had some pretty bulky yarns in the palette, so I needed to hold some of the finer yarns double-stranded to avoid too much variation in the cowl width.


Working the 3-Color-Tunisian technique really does feel like painting with your yarn stash. It can be a really fun and intuitive approach to crochet. It feels like you’re sketching with fiber! Just remember to keep that hook size large in relation to your yarn. Tunisian has a tendency to create a thick fabric and no one wants to wear a stiff fiber ring around their neck.


If you want to try this technique too, check out our free 3-Color-Tunisian Tutorial. You can get more details on mixing and choosing yarns in our Stashbuster Blanket pattern.  And if you don’t have the stash, or want help choosing a color palette, you might be interested in one of our Coordinated Yarn Palette Packs.  Although yardages in these packs are not guaranteed or specified, I had more than enough yarn (with leftovers!) in the 2 cowls that I made, and chances are that you have at least one yarn in your stash that coordinates with these packs in case you need a little more yardage to get to the last stitch.


Comments | Posted in Techniques & How To By Jennifer Hansen

Are you Color-Challenged?

Mar 3, 2015 2:32:12 PM

yarn color palettes


I'm just back from our show at Stitches West 2015, and as usual it was such a blast meeting and talking with the knitters and crocheters who came to our booth. It is always a thrill to see projects worked from our patterns and to demonstrate techniques one-on-one to those who come and visit us.

Probably the most common question I receive, after technique-related questions, has to do with choosing yarn colors. More often than not, a knitter or crocheter choosing yarn colors asks my advice on what colors go together, or they bring a friend that can offer advice.  

Or they just fall into the pattern of choosing the same colors, and they complain about it.  I can't count the number of times I heard that someone's stash was full of greens or purples or whatever the particular person's favorite color might be and that they are tired of always choosing the same colors but they just can't seem to break free of the pattern.  Or of course, there is always the person who has an almost-entirely black wardrobe and is always struggling to choose colors to liven it up.

I teach a Craftsy class on colorwork with Tunisian Crochet, and one of the video lessons is devoted to helping people choose their own color palettes using colors in photos that they love.  Although only tangentially related to the technique, I probably get more positive feedback on that lesson in the class than any of the other class lessons.  It's a very hands-on, practical method of choosing color that has nothing to do with theory or color wheels, just taking a look at what works in the environment around us and extracting the color elements out of these successful examples to use in one's own work.  It's about mimicking the beautiful color in the world around us.  And it's the approach to color that has helped me the most in my work as a designer.

So many of us just have a general lack of confidence when it comes to colors and how to combine them. 

If you consider yourself a color person, what usually inspires your to choose the colors that you do?  If you're not a color person - what color ruts would you like to break out of?

Right now, select colors of our DK Cotton Tape yarn are on sale (this yarn is available in cones as well!), and in an effort to help the "color challenged" in the crowd feel confident choosing a color palette, I've come up with 12 sophisticated palettes that I feel are wearable even for the more color-timid.  I hope they inspire you to combine colors in new ways!

palette 1

Palette #1:

(left to right) Rust, Mustard, Orange

palette 2

Palette #2:

(left to right) Navy, Grey, Brown

 Yarn Color Palette 3  

Palette #3:

(left to right) Cerise, Gallant Red, Fuschia Red

 color palette 4  

Palette #4:

(left to right) Chocolate, Cream Tan, Tan

 Color Palette 5  

Palette #5:

(left to right) Gold, Musty Orchid, Chocolate

 Color Palette 6  

Palette #6:

(left to right) Purple, Chateau Rose, Chocolate

 Color Palette 7  

Palette #7:

(left to right) Grey, French Blue, Lilac

 Color Palette 7  

Palette #8:

(left to right) Musty Orchid, Grey, Teal

 Color Palette 9  

Palette #9:

(left to right) Purple, Gold, Tan

 Color Palette  9  

Palette #10:

(left to right) Cream Tan, Chateau Rose, Gold

 Color Palette 11  

Palette #11:

(left to right) Tan, Brown, Cobalt

 Color Palette 12  

Palette #12:

(left to right) Mustard, Brown, Musty Orchid

Comments | Posted in Techniques & How To By Jennifer Hansen