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Hairpin lace and tools.

Okay, I admit it. I started this one. But the response was great and showed the power that the Arachne list has.

Here is the original posting -
I just received a request from a lady in Arizona who is looking for a FORK for making hairpin lace. As this is totally outside of my knowledge, I am referring it to the list for answers.

Enjoy, Kenn
Hi Kenn,

I've never heard of a fork! Maybe for spaghetti lace?! :-) Actually it is just a large "hairpin". My great grandmother used to make this kind, when she wasn't tatting! Her hairpin was about 4 to 5 inches long and the prongs about 5/8 inch apart, but it might have been 3/4". I've seen these on ebay occasionally. I just know what they look like, I don't remember how to use one.

Unfortunately, I don't have Mammaw's. Her daughter inherited the house, and when Aunt Lucy died, her kids threw everything away (including all the needlework and lacemaking tools) but the furniture and, even though it was beautiful, hand made and hand carved by my Greatgrandfather, they sold the furniture to strangers. I'm still not talking to that small branch of the family, even though it happened when I was 15.

Pam Tobey

It's actually a u-shaped metal piece, I guess made of almost a wire. It's close to what a hairpin looks like, e.g., the name! I think they're about 5-6" long.

A hairpin lace fork looks like--a hairpin. Do you remember these? I have one that is really the size of a large hairpin, but they usually come in much larger sizes nowadays, because people use them to make afghans and other such large-wool items.

It is in the shape of a very elongated upside-down U, often with a removable bar at the prong ends. The work is done with a crochet hook of the appropriate size for the fork and the fiber.            Basically, you wrap the yarn once around the fork and hook it into place before turning the fork around again, wrapping and hooking, and so on. It makes a long strip which can then be sewn or crocheted to other strips to make a wider item if desired. It shouldn't be too hard to find information on this in older books. Hope this helps.

You can find the forks in most needle shops. Even Walmarts(g) Boye still makes them. The only problem I see with them is the metal rods that make up the fork are quite thick. So even if the place the rods close together the loops are still very large. I have seen some of the older types for sale on ebay and the rods seem to be more slender. I think the newer forks are mostly for yarn.

Suzann Welker
I have three hairpin forks that were given to me by my mother years ago. They are in three sizes and have the name "Boye" (as in crochet hooks and tatting shuttles) printed on them. Maybe your friend could contact Boye and find out where to buy them? I have not the slightest idea how to make hairpin lace. I use them for making doll hair. They work great for that.

Joanna, in Lenexa, Kansas USA
Hairpin lace is made on a two-pronged "fork" -- a loop is made over one of the prongs and, thereafter, stitches are made with a crochet hook. This forms a lacy band of loops (around the prongs) with different stitches in the center. The bands are then joined to form a bigger "fabric".

The distance between the prongs determines the width of the band, the thickness (diameter) of the prongs, the size of the loops (how's that for stating the obvious?).

All I've ever seen were the commercially produced "forks", sold at WalMart when the hairpin lace was in favour (some years back -- I don't know if these are still available). How they might differ from "something nice" made by a wood-turner, I don't know.
    The commercial ones consisted of two metal rods (ca 3/16" in diameter) and two plastic bars -- flat and pre-drilled at about 1/4" intervals, each hole wide enough to accept the rods. Thus, the width of the band was adjustable by inserting the rods closer or further apart.

You put one of the bars on the bottom of your work to stop the band from uncontrollably sliding down the prongs, piled up as many loop/stitch combinations as would fit (quite a few -- the rods are about 12" long), then released the bottom bar and the made band and continued for as long as you wanted to. One of the books I have (most *comprehensive* books on crochet will have a section on hairpin lace) suggests having the upper bar in place (thus making the whole into a sort of a loom rather than fork)but I found it to be a nuisance and never used it; if the prongs are stable enough not to bend under tension, it didn't seem necessary and interfered with the crochet hook's movements (then, too, I could have been doing it wrong).

At least one of the books describes the "fork" as being a "U-shaped frame" -- similar to a lucet, I'd guess, but with the prongs *round* rather than flat. I suppose, with those, you'd have had to remove the accumulated work through the top (the bottom being "barred" permanently). I have no clue as to how that might be achieved wihtout cutting off the accumulated band. Of course, if the prongs are long enough, the accumulation can be quite impressive, I suppose...

The diameter of the rods in a way dictated the thickness of the yarn (thick) -- big loops at the sides and tiny stitches in the middle just din't look 'right'. SInce big isn't exactly "my cup o'T", I made myself a mini fork (it was pre- "real" lace and I was "into" dollhouse "stuff") -- drilled some very fine holes in a relatively broad (ca 3/16") bone needle (picked up free in a friendly antique store) and used size 12 needles for prongs and sewing thread for yarn. Even using the finest hook I had (another antique, just a touch finer than the modern size 16 ie .4mm), the narrowest bands I could make *comfortably* were wider than 1/4" so, since I was able to purchase machine-made lace (French) which was both more interesting and narrower than that, I abandoned the experiment...
     If you wanted to replicate a hairpin lace fork *entirely* in wood, you'd have to remember that the rods need to be *very slick* (polyurethane?) -- the loops have to slide up and down with ease. Also, though that's my personal preference, the slenderer the rods, the crisper the look of the resulting lace -- the oversized loops around the rods (and they tend to be oversized, especially if you take your mind off the tensioning) look awkward most of the time, since they hardly ever are a real part of the pattern (much like a sewing footside in Milanese -- you *have* to have it but, most of the time, it only serves to interrupt the pattern visually). And, the finer the rods, the shorter they can be without bending inwards under tension (something to do with the laws of physics, I'm sure -- whenever things go against my wishes, physics is usually to blame) and messing up with the width of the band.

Though, I suppose, one could compensate somewhat by using especially tightly-grained (but not brittle) woods...
     My advice would be to contact the lady and ask her what width of band and what sort of yarn she had in mind and take off from there. And I would aim at the modern , adjustable loom version rather than the old-fashined, U-shaped fork.

If you want me to, I could try and find the old "fork" (from WalMArt) and send it to you for a model (I'd want it *back*, mind you -- I may not have done a hairpin lae *stitch* in 10 years, but that's not to say I never will).

Tamara Duvall, Lexington, VA, USA
I have an old 'Hairpin Lace Crochet Loom' (sorry, I don't want to sell it) that still has the label with it. It was put out by a 'Marcia Lynn' company and originally sold for $ .59. The label says they carried 1", 1 1/2", 2", 3" ones. It is not a fork but a U bent aluminum rod with a stabilizing bar which slips on the open end of the U.

I have also seen and have 'put away' someplace one that has 2 straight rods and 2 stabilizing/spacer bars (one for each end of the rods). These bars have matched sets of holes so the rods can be spaced at similar sized spacings.

I used to see this item at the same place one would find 'Red Heart' yarns, etc. I think I would look at one of the larger craft stores, Wal-Mart or ask at my local yarn store.

My father made my first one - some 40+ years ago. He took a firm rod (2.5 to 3.5 mm. thick) bent it to the desired U shape, then took a dowel and drilled holes at the same spacing to stabilize the open end. It worked great I made a Hairpin Lace stole which I wore to HS Proms.

Lorri Ferguson
It is so strange. Just yesterday I too was asked to make a fork. The lady is getting one for me to copy, meantime I have looked up Stillwells Dictionary of lace and this is what she says.

Hairpin (crochet) [so are we talking about the same thing?] A semi rigid U shaped implement with rounded ends about 13cm long with the prongs varying form 12 mm to several centimetres apart, for the making of hairpin crochet. The bend of the implement maybe semi circular or flattened, also called crochet fork and crochet prong It also gives instructions how to make it. Good line drawing illustration.

Gertrude Whiting talks about them on page 325 and 76. Sylvia Groves has a pic Plate 155 and 166 She write about it on page 102 - 103.

I plan to make mine with a wooden handle and two SS and really nice ones with bone prongs. (They would have to be set in well. But I await my sample!

BTW if anyone wants to sell their Sylvia Groves for a mere pittance (!) I am in. They are now a huge price on the open market. ( Like $200 or there abouts) I have mine out on almost permanent loan from the library! So if you want to get rich don't offer it to me!!

Brian lemin
The best place I have found to find hairpin lace forks is at thrift stores. They don't come in packages, but you can get them for about $1.00. If all else fails, I think I have a catalog where I can order them, but I have to place a minimum order or pay a service fee.

Debi, - Debi's Lace
Be advised that the new Boye 'lace forks' available currently at WalMart only do one size lace - large. They only have one set of holes.

Laura in North Carolina
Everything you wanted to know about hairpin lace but were afraid to ask.

I originally sent this to Jana, but then I thought everyone might like instructions on hairpin lace. I never thought of it as lace until Jana mentioned it because I used it to make an afghan.

Hi Jana
Have you ever done hair pin lace? It is quite easy!! And you might have a better time getting someone to do this. I made my one and only afghan using hair pin lace, it took me about 5 months and as it was also my first crochet project, I thought that I made good time on it. A former co-worker said that her mother could make an afghan in a day with hairpin lace.

Assuming you know nothing about it, I will give you complete instructions. (The blind leading the blind.

First, you need someone who can crochet fast. I did mine in single crochet because that was what the instructions were for, but you can do it in any crochet stitch that you want. So, anyone who can crochet can do hairpin lace even if they don't know it.

Your equipment is yarn, a crochet hook, and a hairpin pin. You can look at the ones that they sell at Wal-Mart, but don't buy one because they are basically worthless. You need to make one, or have someone make one for you. My DH did mine.

I got a length of steel rod at the hardware store. It was about 2 1/2 to 3 foot long. The length is not critical at all. The hardware people have them all in bins in the hobby section. Mine was about 1/4 inch in diameter, because my girlfriend's that I copied was, and I knew I would be working with yarn, it (the rod) would be easier to bend if it was thinner and not so heavy.

The one that you buy at Wal-Mart is too thin and bends as you use it and the legs fall out of the end pieces and it warps around as you use it etc. I could only use it for about 5 minutes before I gave up. It fell apart about 10 times in that 5 minutes.

Anyway, decide how wide you want the hairpin lace to be, mine was 3 inches wide, but I was working with yarn. For knit-cro-sheen you might want it to be a smaller width. The width of the lace is the critical dimension. Center that width on the rod, and bend the legs to almost parallel.

steel rod                                      3in

|                                                        2 - 3 ft                                              |

steel rod after bending___

hairpin                                     / \
                                                /   \
                                              /      \

the legs are going to be much closer to parallel though.

Then take a 4-5 inch wooden dowel, 1 inch in diameter (or other sturdy light piece of wood about that size) and drill 2 holes in it, the same size as the rod , 3 inches apart. Put the ends of the of the hairpin in the holes, and start making lace. The fact that the ends of the legs are slightly splayed will keep the hairpin in tension and keep the dowel on. I cleaned my hairpin with steel wool (to take off rust) and coated it with clear nailpolish. (didn't have any paint at home that day and I was eager to start.) Also mark one of the legs with a dab of red polish so you know which side you start work from. (I forgot to do this and wasted a bunch of time before I could figure out which was the correct side of the lace and which wasn't, it is important when you join pieces together)

       finished hairpin                           ___

|   |
|   |
|   |
wood dowel

To start making hairpin lace take off the dowel, make a loop with a slip knot ( a simple noose) and slide it over the starting leg. Put the dowel back on the hairpin. Slide the knot halfway between the 2 legs and flip the hairpin over so the yarn goes over the other leg, then make a single crochet at the knot, flip the pin, sc, flip, sc, etc.

Always flip the pin over before you make a new single crochet stitch. Add new stitches toward the bent end of the pin. When the pin is full, remove the dowel, slide off everything but the last 2 rows of stitches, replace the dowel, roll up the work you slid off and secure it with some string, (otherwise it will twist up as you flip cause you more work untwisting) then resume work. When you get the length you want AND you have the same number of stitches on both sides Put in a finishing knot (same knot you use in regular crochet) Slide your work off and roll it up and set it aside. Do the next row the same way. When you have the same number of stitches as the last time set it aside.

So, it is the same as crochet, except all rows are worked separately, and you do your work on a pin, so each row of crochet is 3 inches wide.

There are a number of methods used to join the rows together. I just looped each loop into the next one and tied a knot at the end with my fringe. They can also be crocheted together.

I used safety pins to mark each 25th stitch, so I wouldn't have to go back and count the whole thing each time I lost my place. There is a way to flip the crochet hook through the pin so you don't have to take it out of each stitch and put it back in. I discovered that after the 3rd row but have now forgotten quite how I did it.

There are 3 pages of Hairpin lace in the Reader's Digest Needlework. Mostly pictures on how to do a single crochet on the pin, and some ways to join rows, finish the edges, and a shawl.

It is worth looking at but don't buy it just for these instructions.

Wilda Moore
She should be able to get one in varying sizes from JoAnn's, Michael's, Ben Franklin's, or whatever craft store she has around her.

Alice Thomson - Tallahassee
In response to several questions I have seen posed I have looked in my Facsimile of the 1882 "The Dictionary of needlework . . ." by Caulfeild and Saward and offer the following information.

Tambor Needles. "These Needles resemble those employed for Crochet Work, and known also as Shepherds' Hooks. They are, however, smaller, and invariably of steel, and are very commonly made of the length of a medium-sized dewing needle. A small handle of suitable size is sold with it, intowhich it is securely fixed by means of a small thumb screw, and can be released at pleasure, should it be broken. This handle, which is made of ivory, bone, or wood, is hollow, and the opposite end can be unscrewed to supply a receptacle for a small stock of needles."

I did come across this interesting statement that I had never heard before. "The foundation of all crochet work is the chain, or tambour stitch. . . "

Afghan Hooks. Skipping about in the section on crochet tricot stitch I note this this hook may in the past have been refered to as a tricot hook. "The hook must be sufficiently long to take the length of th work upon it at one time, . . ." These hooks are approximately the same lengths as knitting needles. The Afghan stitch is/was also known as Tricot Stitch, Tunisian Crochet, Railway, Fool's, and Idiot Stitch.

Hairpin Crochet/Lace. "So called as the work is made between the prongs of an ordinary large hairpin, though bone imitations of the same are used. The crochet can be done with fine black purse silk, colored silk, and Arden's crochet cotton No. 26. When worked with silks it makes pretty mats, gimp heading, and lacey looking trimmings; when worked with thite crochet cotton, capital washing edgings, as it is strong. To commence: Hold the hairpin in the left hand, the round part upwards, twist the cotton round the left prong, pass it over the right prong to the back of the hairpin and lay it over the left forefinger. Take up a crochet hook and draw this back thread to the front under the first one and make a Chain by taking up fresh cotton and pulling it through. Take the hook out and turn the pin; *the cotton will now be in front; put it over the right hand pin to the back, hook into loop, and make a chain by drawing the cotton through, then put the hook through the twist on the left hand prong, and make a Chain having two stitches on the hook, make a stitch drawing cotton through these two loops, so that only on loop is left. Take out the hook, turn the work, and repeat from *. When hairpin is filled with wool slip it off; to steady the prong ends put them through some of the last loops, and continue to work as before."

I have a Variable Width Hairpin Lace Loom that I used for a project many years ago and did not enjoy working with the tool. I have come into possession of a 1" hairpin lace fork and shall try that. The l" fork I have is rather like a Size 1 (American) aluminunim double pointed knitting needle bent into a U shape; it has a small plastic bar with holes 1" apart (on center) to maintain a uniform distance between the two prongs of the fork. The variable width loom felt cumbersom to me. It consists of two plastic bars about 5" square by 4 3/4" long with holes drilled at intervals (on center) of 1/4", 1/2", 1", 1", 1", 1/2", 1/4". The aluminum rods to this seem to be hiding in a seperate place but the Size 6 (American) Knitting needles fit these holes perfectly.

I hope this answers some of the questions in a manner useful to or tool making members.

Betty in Tennessee
Hairpin lace is a crochet technique. The fork is just a piece of metal that is bent into a U. The one I have is a couple of inches wide by about 10 inches long. I think you can get one at most basic craft stores such as Hobby Lobby. I think I have event seen them at Wal-Mart. You wrap the threat around the sides of the U and crochet in the middle.

This little gizmo is two long but narrow aluminum rods held parallel and apart from one another by plastic rods. The plastic rods have holes in them, and depending on how big you want your hairpin lace to be, you put your aluminum rods through different holes. You can generally go from 1" to 3" in width, in half-inch increments. Your yarn is wound around the two aluminum rods, and you use a crochet hook to pull loops from one round to the next, up the middle. The result is a fancy crochet braid with long loops sticking out both sides. Then you take this braid and, crocheting through the end loops just as you would normally crochet through the loops of the row below, you fashion it into various products: doilies, shawls, whatever.

Hairpin lace forks used to be sold (in Canada anyway) just about anywhere you could buy knitting and crochet supplies - as they're fairly cheap it wasn't a big deal for the store to carry them. I know I've seen them recently in craft warehouses like Michaels, and in smaller knitting stores that have a lot of stock.

Back in the early eighties when I first became involved with lace making, there was a lady from New York, Evelyn Misner, who taught hairpin lace at every IOL convention. Looking at the latest IOL Directory I see she's still a member. For those who want more information, patterns, etc. I would suggest you contact her. If you're not an IOL member, email me direct and I'll forward her address, telephone # etc to you.

Marji Suhm
Hairpin lace is called that because it is made on a device shaped like a HAIRPIN. This is what women pinned their hair up with before 1920's when the style changed to BOB the hair and so BOBby pins were invented to hold to short bobbed hair.

HAIRPIN curves in a mountain road are also named this as they resemble the curve in a hairpin.

One can still buy hairpins in various sizes, which are necessary for those with long hair to put it up in a french roll, top knot, etc. I have an old one that is about 6 " with the wire tied into a decorative knot at the bend.

Hairpin lace is made by wrapping the thread around the prongs and then doing a stitch in the center with a crochet hook, sort of like doing up a ladder in knitting. One makes it in strips and then fastens them together to make the whatever.

Louise in Virginia
The commercially produced 'forks' in Britain are U shaped metal constructions, made of the same sort of thing as a knitting needle. In fact, imagine taking a double ended knitting needle and putting two right angle bends in it to give it a U shape, and that's almost exactly what it looks like. The smallest sizes are in stainless steel.

I work with mine prongs up, so the loops pile up beneath the work point down towards the bottom of the U. When it gets too full (and I can cram loads on) I slip all the work off the prongs, and then just put the top 2 loops on each side back on the prongs, no need to cut. I've seen a book which suggests working the other way up so loops can be slid off the bottom. However to do this meant taking the crochet hook out of the working loop, and I kept losing it, so soon gave that up. I used a half inch prong (bought from an antique stall for pennies) with Speciall Dentelles to make a hanky edging for the exchange, which I was quite pleased with. Having finished a set of loops they can be picked up along the edges and crocheted into to give lots of different effects, or the loops of one strip can be pulled through the loops of another strip.

Batsford had a book about it, now out of print, that may be obtainable from libraries. Has some interesting ideas in, despite the dated early 70's colours used. Sorry I can't remember the exact title, but it's something very simple with hairpin lace or hairpin crochet in.

I think you had better determine which this lady is expecting. I've also got one of the modern adjustable jobs, and it is not as pleasant to use as the simple U shapes.

Steph Peters - Manchester, England
I learned hairpin lace as a child. My mother had the old U shaped pins. When I wanted to make a hairpin lace baby blanket for my first child, 9 years ago, I had to buy the new fangled ones that Tamara described. I found them to be harder to use as the plastic spreaders kept getting in the way. I finally finished that afghan for my last baby, now 15 months old!

My mother passed away last year and left me all her crocheting stuff. (Any one want some books and magazines?) She collected crochet hooks and probably bought most of the remaining antique ones left in Texas and New Mexico. At least it seems that way. I look in the bags and there are an overwhelming number and varietyof hooks. She had also been doing some research for some time on the various patents awarded crochet hooks in the last hundred years or so. Among her crocheting things, I found some hairpins forks as narrow as 1/2 inch, one with some work in place. My father said that was how it was when she purchased it. There are also some of hers as large as 3 inches across. Patterns can be found in old magazines and books. Godey's Ladies Books have some, Therese de Dillmont's Encyclopedia of Needlework also have a number of patterns. Now used mainly for blankets and afghans, these patterns called for thread and made edgings and doilies. There are some very pretty ones.

Like Tamara, I haven't crocheted for a long time but that doesn't mean I won't again!

[Tamara wrote: You put one of the bars on the bottom of your work to stop the band from uncontrollably sliding down the prongs, piled up as many loop/stitch combinations as would fit (quite a few - the rods are about 12" long), then released the bottom bar & the made band & continued for as long as you wanted to.]

I must thank Tamara for her description - I have one and I didn't even know it!

Back in the 70's, Mum gave me some of her embroidery accessories. Amongst which were two 12" 3/8"metal rods. One end has a slit cut in, the over has a "ferrule" (?) with a 3/8" hole and a small screw for tightening. Also a 6 ½" x 3/8" metal rod and 3 flat rods 2 ½", 4 ½"and 6 ½" which have double dimples towards the rounded off ends. The round rod fits into the holes and you tighten the ferrules. The flat rods slide into the slots at the other end. I seem to remember she told me it was for making candlewick bedspreads? So it has never got used - although I have a cardboard box "full" of Candlewick cotton - approx. chunky weight - junk market find - Must have a look, the moth balls should need replacing by now ;-))). I must remember to ask Ma if she'd ever done Hairpin lace.

I "did" hairpin lace back in the 70's from the "Golden Hands" Encyclopaedia - very fashionable in those Hippie days. But with purchased Areo tools. For finer work I used a old "hairpin". The straight kind which are just made from a "sprung" steel (I think). I remember working with the loop at the top and the open section downwards, which means you don't have to remove the stitches, they fall off automatically from the bottom. I have one set of instructions only for working this way up. All other reference mostly magazine cuttings & extracts from part-works show the open prongs at the top of the tool or have the stitch diagrams open top & bottom.
the narrowest bands I could make *comfortably* were wider than ¼" so, since I was able to purchase machine-made lace (French) which was both more interesting & narrower than that, I abandoned the experiment)

Tamara - if you decide to get back to making for your dolls house - email me your snail address. I have a spare "hairpin" which has about 3/8" gap, to which you are more than welcome.

Sue Hanson SE London, England

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