Hairpin lace gets its name from the U-shaped wire hairpins used by ladies in decades past to create braids with fine thread and a crochet hook. Our very innovative predecessors removed the pins holding the hair buns on top their heads to push the boundaries of their crochet skills. Because of the tedious nature of using real hairpins, larger lace looms, also called forks or frames, were made to make the delicate lace. There are various sizes and styles to use with different weights of yarns. The newer versions are adjustable to make braid/lace ranging from 1/2 inch to 6 inches.
This technique may not be as familiar as some others to crocheters, but it is definitely an important part of our crochet education. It can be used to create stoles, scarves, afghans and dainty edges by joining the strips made on the hairpin loom. Hairpin lace making is a little awkward at first because of the hairpin fork that is added to the mix. Don't be discouraged; with just a little practice one develops a rhythm just like in any other type of crochet.
My first experience with hairpin lace was when I was required to make hairpin swatches and a project as part of earning my Diploma in Crochet from Crochet Design in England. I don't know if I would have tried hairpin lace on my own, but I'm glad I was introduced to this technique. Since then, I've made a few projects, and I've taught the technique and experimented with using the fork to crochet with wire and beads.
By following these specific instructions on how to get started, you will find that you enjoy the rhythm and the look of this technique. Grasp the hairpin with the thumb and index finger of your left hand (if you are right-handed). Hold the crochet hook in your right hand as if it were a pencil.
- Remove the bar that holds the prongs on the hairpin fork. Make a slip knot and then chain one stitch. Place the chain loop on the left prong with the knot in the center of the space between the prongs. Hold the yarn in front of your work and return the bar to both prongs. Tape the knot to the center of the bar.
- Pass the yarn behind the prongs. Insert the hook back into the slip knot loop. Bring the loop on the left prong to the center between the two prongs of the fork. Place the working yarn around the right prong and hold it in back of the fork.
- Insert the hook into the front loop on left prong and yarn over the working yarn, draw yarn through the loop to work a single crochet (sc).
- Place the hook in an upright position parallel to the prongs of the frame, with the hook pointing down. Turn the fork right to left. (This automatically wraps the yarn around the fork.) Bring the hook into position at the front of the work.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the lace is the desired length. Work last single crochet, cut yarn and fasten off. For a long piece, when the fork is full, remove the bar, release all but a few loops; replace bar and continue.
- Slide all loops off the prongs and used as desired.
There are many ways of joining the strips of hairpin lace. An easy way is to use a crochet hook to draw the tip of the first loop on the second side through the loop on the first side, and then pick up the next loop on the first side to draw through the loop from the second side.
Once you've gotten a little bit of experience doing hairpin lace, you will want to explore the many lacy trims and joinings that add to the uniqueness of this method. Stitch Diva Studios designer Jennifer Hansen is probably the single most influential designer when it comes to educating contemporary crocheters about hairpin lace. She has developed many exquisite patterns in this method. She also offers a fantastic video on YouTube.