Ultimate Guide to Hairpin Lace Crochet
Hairpin lace is a beautiful variation on crochet, in which you combine a standard crochet hook with a certain type of loom to create lacy, openwork designs. Once you've seen hairpin lace, you will always immediately recognize it, because it has a very unique appearance that never fails to catch the eye.
Hairpin Lace Tools
Most crochet techniques don't require the purchase of any special tools, but hairpin lace is a little bit different. You will be able to use the crochet hooks that you already have, but you will also have to get your hands on a hairpin lace loom. You can purchase an adjustable hairpin lace loom, which basically looks like two vertical dowels held together by two horizontal dowels (sometimes called cross bars) that each have holes across them. You can place the vertical dowels into different holes in the horizontal pieces to change the width between the verticals; this is what makes it adjustable. A typical hairpin lace loom is about one foot long and can be adjusted to various widths between 1" and 4".
Fun fact: Back in the Victorian era, before hairpin lace looms, this technique was done on women's U-shaped hairpins, and that is where the name comes from. According to Stitch Story, hairpin lace may have been invented by Katherine of Aragon and was also once known as Kat Stitch. Over time it has also been called French Ground, Wire Ground and Six Pointed Star Ground Stitch. Cami at Crochet Spot says it may also have been called Turkish firkete, Staple Work, and Fork Work.
Understanding Hairpin Lace Crochet
Once you get a feel for what a hairpin lace loom is all about, it will help you to understand what this whole technique is all about. You are going to be crocheting around the two vertical dowels, with the space between them determining the width of your hairpin lace stitches. This creates very long open horizontal stitches, held together by a ribbing in the center, which you create with your crochet hook (making chain and single crochet stitches). Don't worry if this doesn't all make sense, yet. We are just laying the groundwork to help you understand it all but next we will look at the exact steps hairpin lace crochet work.
Here are a few other things to know about hairpin lace before we begin:
You work with a crochet hook and a loom, and you will be removing the crochet hook from the work at times, slipping it out of the loop, moving it to the back of the work and re-inserting it.
You will be rotating the hairpin lace loom towards you throughout the process. (This is why you have to remove the crochet hook, otherwise it gets tangled in the turning process.)
Hairpin lace is worked in strips; the strips are joined together to create bigger projects.
Finally, a note about gauge. Crochet designers use different guides to gauge in hairpin lace. Some will simply refer to the width of the strips, such as 2", which will generally work out fine assuming that you set your hairpin loom correctly. However, others will refer to gauge based on a vertical length. In hairpin lace, you use single crochet stitches at the center of each loop (which you'll learn how to do momentarily) so a pattern might say that the gauge is x sc = y in; (for example, 10 single crochet stitches = 4" vertically). If you are working with wearables where gauge matters, be sure to pay attention to the designer's way of describing it.
How to Crochet Hairpin Lace
Before you begin, you're going to need to get your hairpin loom ready. Set it to the proper width, which should be stated in the crochet pattern that you are using. Now, you need to get your yarn onto the loom. Remove one of the horizontal bars. Attach a slip loop to the left vertical bar. You should make this a loose loop, measuring approximately 1/2 the width of the loom; so,if you have your adjustable loom set at 4" then your loop will be 2". Replace the horizontal bar once you've attached this loop to your left vertical bar. You're ready to go. Note: These are instructions from right-handed crocheters. You'll simply reverse it for left-handed crochet, putting your loop on the right vertical dowel, instead of the left and reversing the instructions below similarly.
Basic Hairpin Lace Instructions
Instructions from Woman's Hairpin Lace Shawl free crochet pattern
Here are the step-by-step instructions to crochet hairpin lace. (Note that the steps here are numbered differently than the above graphic. Step one in the graphic correlates to the "before you begin" section above.
Bring the yarn around the right side of the loom, across the back.
Insert your hook into the loop, and pull up until your slip knot has moved to the center, between the two vertical bars. (Note that this is where your slip knot should clearly be half the width of the loom; you can adjust it now if necessary.)
Yarn over. Draw through loop. Chain one.
Remove your crochet hook from the loop. Re-insert your crochet hook into the loop from the back. Note: you can also keep the hook in the work, passing the hook to the back through the loom. This is easier to do once you've practiced the other method and get a solid understanding of how this stitch works. The point is that the hook has to be behind the loom now.
Rotate the loom from right to left (towards you), bringing the yarn around the back of the loom as you turn.
Single crochet in front loop, just left of the center stitches.
(The point here is that you are crocheting your sc into the loop, not into the previous sc), so you will insert your hook to the left of the center stitches inside the loop, yarn over and pull through both loops on hook.
Here is another look at all of the steps:
Instructions from Waverly Place Throw free crochet pattern
Finishing Hairpin Lace Strips
At this point, you've created your first hairpin lace loop. After that, it's just a matter of repeating the process until you have as many loops as you need on your loom (repeating steps 4-7). Let's summarize: Each time you will remove the hook from the work, moving it to the back of the loom to re-insert it, then you will turn the loom right-to-left. This means that you will always be creating new loops on the right-hand vertical (but it will alternate sides and grow accordingly from side-to-side because you turn the loom each time). After the turn, you complete the chain one and single crochet, remove the hook and begin again. Once you get the hang of it, this is a really easy, soothing, repetitive motion...and that's almost all there is to Hairpin Lace!
However, before you complete your project, you will need to finish the hairpin lace strips. Your hairpin lace loops are held together in the center by the single crochet stitches that you used to make them, but they are going to be pretty floppy so finished strips typically have an edging all the way around them that holds those loops together. The edging will vary from project to project, based on the designer's specifications. Typically, it involves joining several loops together with single crochet or other basic crochet stitches. For example, you might single crochet the loops together in batches of three, with chain stitches between each batch to maintain the correct length of thestrip. Your pattern will provide specifics.
When you get more advanced in the art of hairpin lace, you will learn that there are different ways that you can position the loops as you join them. In standard joining, you'll just join them as they are, but you can also make twisted loops with single and double twists in them, creating some really neat effects. Stitch Diva has some good photos of the different options.
Guideline yarn to hold the loops together before removing them from loom.
Note: Some patterns will tell you to leave the loops on the loom, removing each set only as you stitch them together. Others will have you remove them all off of the loom first, then stitch them together. Some will even have you remove all of them but not before running a long length of yarn (called a guide line) through them (on each side) to keep them in order and untangled. You can play around with different options to see which works best for you.
Learn better by video? Kristin Omdahl has a hairpin lace crochet video tutorial to help you get started.
Crochet Hairpin Lace Tips
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you continue to work with hairpin lace:
Each loop has a left and right side, so there should always be the same number of loops on the left as there are on the right. (If a pattern says that you should make 200 loops, that means 200 full loops so 200 onthe right, 200 on the left -unless otherwise specified.)
You will want to count your loops frequently, especially as a beginner, to make sure that you're on track, because it is easy to get lost and have less on one side than the other. If you are working a project with a lot of loops, you can use a stitch counter to mark off ever ten or twenty so that you can easily count them.
You usually want to avoid joining yarn in the middle of a strip. These loops are very open and lacy so it's just not that easy to hide your ends (unless you know how to do an invisible join). When possible, begin strips with a new ball of yarn or enough yardage to complete the entire strip.
If you are working long strips of hairpin lace, your loom will probably fill up with loops. That's okay; just slide all of them except the last three or four (by removing the bottom horizontal cross bar, sliding them off and replacing the bar). Then just continue working.
What if you want to work in the round? In hairpin lace, there's no "in the round" per se; you still just work your regular strips of hairpin lace. The "round" is all in how you do the joining, creating a circular or tube shape per the instructions of the pattern.