Hairpin lace is a type of crochet project that produces lace-like strips of woven yarn that can be joined together to make shawls, blankets, and some articles of clothing. The "hairpin" name traces its origins to Victorian times, when women used rounded hairpins as a sort of loom, then crocheted the yarn after it was stretched. More modern looms are readily available now, but the name “hairpin” has stuck. Hairpin lace in its most basic form is relatively simple to learn and make, but there are many variations. Advanced crochet practitioners can often make elaborate and quite intricate patterns using the basic hairpin lace model.
A hairpin loom, often also called a fork, is an essential element of hairpin lace-making. Looms are usually looped, or else rectangular. Creating the “lace” is a matter of winding yarn around the loom’s two longest edges. Then, using a crochet hook, the creator hooks the yarn strands over and through each other, following a defined pattern. Virtually any gauge of yarn can be used, though thinner yarns tend to resemble lace more readily than thicker, woollier varieties.
There are many different patterns available, and the finished body of hairpin lace can be very diverse. A loose stitch performed with thick yarn usually yields a very open, pronounced pattern, for instance. On the other hand, a tight stitch using thin yarn or floss can yield a much more delicate, antique look. Similar differences exist with respect to pattern complexity.
Hairpin lace in its most basic form is simply a collection of joined loops. More advanced techniques incorporate patterns and twists, and use different looping and weaving methods to alter the look of the finished product. Crochet experts usually recommend that beginners start with a basic pattern and easy-to-handle yarn before advancing to more complex patterns, as much of hairpin lace technique builds on itself.
The majority of crochet projects are created all as one piece. Hairpin lace is an exception. Finished pieces coming off of the hairpin lace loom are necessarily in long strips. In order to create shawls, clothing, or other finished products, the strips must be crocheted or stitched together. Patterns for specific projects usually provide instructions on how many strips will be needed, as well as more precise directions on how strips should be joined.
Most hairpin patterns call for the loops on one side of a finished lace strip to be re-mounted on the loom, then woven into the beginning of the next strip. This often gives the impression of one continuous piece of crochet work. Building from one strip to the next often takes practice, but the results are usually more durable and long-lasting than if the strips were sewn or later tied together.