Have you ever tried hairpin lace? It's a crochet technique that creates very beautiful and intricate looking fabrics. The results look so complicated, but the truth is that hairpin is deceptively simple to do. The technique is featured in the new Hairpin Lace Baby Blanket made with Bernat Softee Baby.
The basic idea of hairpin lace is that you create strips on a special tool called a hairpin lace loom using yarn and a crochet hook. Making the strip is really easy and meditative once you get the hang of it - and highly portable too. It's the kind of project that you can travel with or work on while you watch tv or chat with friends because zero concentration is required. The real creativity of hairpin lace comes into play once you've completed one or more hairpin lace strips and you start to work on edging or joining them. There are countless ways to join or edge strips, and the bulk of any hairpin lace crochet pattern are the instruction that you need to follow to do the joining.
So the first thing you need to get started is to buy a loom. (Looms are also referred to as frames, pins or forks.) I prefer the adjustable loom created by Jenkins Woodworking (Disclaimer: I'm pretty biased since I helped to design it!). There are several options for hairpin lace looms on the market. Just keep in mind when selecting one to look for the maximum number of holes for flexibility, as well as long prongs for a maximum length working area. If you are following a pattern, make sure your loom can adjust to the widths specified in the pattern that you are following.
Next thing you need to learn is how to make the basic strip. The basic strip is made on the loom by working single crochet stitches through the front thread of the uppermost loop on the loom. Below I show a photo tutorial on how to make the strips and provide some good close-ups. You might also want to see my video on how to make a hairpin lace strip to see the stitches in action.
Set up the loom by setting the prongs to the width for which the pattern calls. The width settings of hairpin lace looms vary between various manufacturers. Before working, make sure to orient the loom so that the frame side that can be slid off the most easily (for slipping off the work) is held towards the bottom.
Secure yarn with a slip knot to one prong of the hairpin lace loom. Wrap yarn from front to back over opposite prong and bring yarn to back of loom. The side of the loom to which you attach the loop is the side that you will work with the crochet hook for the entire strip. Most right-handers find it easier to attach the loop to the left-side prong, while left-handers prefer the right.
Golden Rule #1: The side to which your starting loop was attached is your "home prong". When working the strip, consistently work the upper loop on the "home prong".
(At this point, you should either attach guide lines to your work, or mark the starting loop so that you will later be able to identify the starting edge of your strip)
Insert hook from bottom to top through the front thread of the loop on the loom.
Pull through a loop then ch 1. This completes the first stitch of the strip: the first "setup" stitch of the strip is different than all the rest of the stitches of the braid.
Prepare to turn the loom by twisting hook so that handle side faces up and insert the handle end of the hook through the loom above the work. Keep the loop on the hook.
Grab hook from opposite side of loom, still keeping the loop on the hook.
Flip the loom allow yarn to wrap around loom as you turn (in the photo, side B has turned "towards the camera" and flipped positions with side A). You should be holding the hook in the front with one hand and keeping tension on the yarn in the back with the other.
Golden Rule #2: When working the strip, consistently flip the loom so that your "non-home prong" flips toward your home prong, passing towards you while your home prong passes behind.
Insert hook under thread of topmost loop on "home prong", pull through a loop, then pull through another loop (single crochet).
Flip loom. Continue doing sc in the uppermost loop of the "home prong" then flipping the loom. Most projects will require that you create a strip with more loops than can fit on the loom so you will need to move loops off of the loom as you work. When you feel you no longer have enough room to work comfortably, you will need to remove most of the loops from the frame. Please see our discussion about Managing Long Strips as You Work to learn about working with longer hairpin lace loops.
Tip: Keep the work as low as possible on the loom in order to allow as much room as possible to pass the crochet hook from front to back. Maintain tension on the yarn with your non-hook hand to control placement of the loops on the loom.
Continue working until desired strip length is attained. Tie off tip: To neaten up your last loops, insert your hook from top to bottom through the back thread of the loop on the prong opposite to the one just worked. Yarn over and pull loop through the loop on the hook. Now tie off.
Once you have mastered making the strips, it is time to join them together or to edge them to complete your project! Get started by checking out my book on Hairpin Lace, some of my hairpin lace designs (including FREE patterns), and of course, my free, online tutorials on hairpin lace so that you can start to make this technique your own!
About Jennifer Hansen
Jennifer Hansen lives in California's Santa Cruz Mountains where she is a full-time crochet and knit designer, teacher and writer. Her innovative crochet work has been featured in various books, magazines and television shows and she is currently teacing a class on Tunisian Crochet on Craftsy. She has been described as “One of the names that immediately comes to mind when thinking of the creative forces that have helped transport crochet from the realm of acrylic afghans to the sexy world of figure-flattering fashions.” (Yarn Market News)
Jennifer is passionate about the craft, and wants to contribute to the joy you'll find in creating beautiful things.