Irish Crochet is the original freeform crochet. It's amazingly versatile. The process is simple to understand once you learn the techniques. Basically you make various leaves, flowers and motifs, sometimes called 'sprigs' and then they are joined with a 'ground' or 'background' crochet technique. There are several different stitches that are used to make the background. Which one you use depends on the look you want the finished piece to have.
Working this 'ground' was such a mystery to me. I just couldn't imagine how they did it and kept all the little leaves and flowers straight. I read somewhere that you pin the finished pieces to a cloth or piece of heavy paper and then crochet the background. But since I hold my crochet hook like a pencil I just couldn't imagine how you could do and keep all the motif's straight. And how could you crochet with with cloth or paper behind the flowers and leaves? I couldn't imagine how you'd crochet the background if you held the crochet hook 'like a knife' either. It just didn't make sense. How could you crochet with the motifs pinned or sewn down to cloth?
Over the years I've asked several people how to do it and no one knew how. The book wasn't that clear on how to work the background and it remained elusive until I found the most wonderful video by Ira Rott. It actually shows her working the ground and crocheting the motifs together! I was in heaven! It 'clicked' and I finally understood the concept. You can see her video on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGy1QrtFIdc
She has two videos, one shows her working from a distance, but this one shows her hands up close as she works on the ground.
Now that the mystery was solved I could start learning how to work with the padding cord. Now that was a different story! Whew. It's not as easy as it sounds. Basically, you carry a thread, or several threads along and crochet over them. The cord can be pulled tight to create curves and other looks in a motif. At first it was so awkward. It took me a long time to get just a few inches finished.
Fortunately I found a wonderful yahoo group called Irish Crochet Lovers. They also have a sister group on Ravelry by the same name that has many of the same people in it. The Irish Crocheters there are all so nice and helpful. I've learned so much from these crocheters. I'm forever grateful to them. Roz, Eileen, Maire, Lori and Lily along with the other crocheters on Irish Crochet Lovers have all been so wonderful to help me along.
Lily has a blog spot where she shows some of her Irish Crochet work along with beautiful doilies and other crochet work. Her blog is Ms. Crochet. I've added a link to her site in the Links To Blogs section. We often do the same motifs and encourage each other to learn more.
I've done several single motifs and now I'm attempting my first multi-motif piece. I almost have all the parts finished now and all I have to do is make the vine and sew the motifs to the vine. I can't wait to get it finished. It will be great fun. I use size 10 crochet thread, which is very large for Irish Crochet so my finished product is going to be huge! But that's just fine with me. :) The books recommend size 70 thread. Yikes! But a lot of the crocheters I've met on the net use size 20 or size 40. I'm not brave enough yet to use such small thread. LOL