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How to Make Hairpin Lace

When I was a kid in Kansas, I learned how to crochet hairpin lace from my grandma. Though my mother discouraged such pursuits, the kindly next door neighbor man, who was a welder by trade, made me a hairpin lace loom from a welding rod, which was sturdier than the store-bought one I had. (Terminology–this is also called a hairpin lace fork–same thing.)

This organza jacket has a trim that is hairpin lace, crocheted from 1/2″ wide double faced satin ribbon.

Through the years, I’ve experimented with the potential of this crochet technique, so I thought I’d show you some of my research. I’m not going to burn through space with a tutorial on crocheting the hairpin lace, because there are some good videos on the internet showing this. One is here, another here, and yet another here.

The photo here is one of my binders of lab notes, where I record experiments.

Once I discovered the potential of making a nice trim from the hairpin lace, I had a machine shop make me large looms–I have several, 30″ long, and different widths, from 6″ all the way to 10″. This way I can work very wide ribbon.

Here’s my very first hairpin lace loom from all those years ago. The width, measuring outside to outside is 3 3/4″ wide, and it’s 15 inches long. I’ve worked a length of the crochet on it, using 7/8″ wide grosgrain ribbon.  

To figure yardage for this kind of trim, you’ll want to test your ribbon and loom, but you can estimate that the ribbon will be eight times the finished trim length. So, for one yard of trim you need eight yards of ribbon to make it.

After working, remove from the loom.

Now the fun begins!

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  1. fergus4 | | #1

    Kenneth - This is very interesting. I had never seen hairpin lace before. Is it possible to purchase a loom commercially to try before having to have one made? I would like to try this out!

  2. User avater
  3. Nannysc | | #3

    Another incredible design by Kenneth King! Thank you for the detailed instructions for this gorgeous creation! <3

  4. SaraZoe | | #4

    Kenneth, you're a very talented person! I learned from my mom in Cuba, but never though of anythings potential, way to go! Thanks so much for sharing from the bottom of my heart.

  5. User avater
    Yumjo | | #5

    Hi Kenneth,
    Such creativity! ! ! All these years I've crocheted (including hairpin lace) and never once thought of using more than crochet thread or yarn. Ribbon...so much fun and potential. One question...where can I purchase large yardages of wider ribbons? Local fabric stores have phased out by-the-yard ribbons and only sell in 3 yd spools...so I must buy the spool and then I only get 3 yards. I guess I can buy tons of spools. But, the price per yard is ridiculous and the cut edges don't always fall in a place I want them to be, thus creating waste.

    Thanks again for your advice and willingness to share your inspirations.

    Sincerely, Ymana Johnson

  6. user-369615 | | #6

    Note for Yumjo: Great place for any trim is M&J Trimming in New York City - check their website for just about anything you can think of: http://www.mjtrim.com

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    sewingdenise | | #7

    I have made a few samples of hairpin lace in the past, but have never really done anything with it. I never thought of using ribbon.Thanks for the idea.

  8. User avater
    sewingdenise | | #8

    I have made a few samples of hairpin lace in the past, but have never really done anything with it. I never thought of using ribbon.Thanks for the idea.

  9. abcameo | | #9

    Thank you for your cleverness and for the inspiration you provide in each new article. I was curious to try hairpin lace and created a "Neck-cessory" about a year ago using a multi-color yarn and mesh-wire gold ribbon, but that was the extent of it.

    I love your concept of using ribbons and different widths to truly make the edging, or perhaps an insert, distinctive and striking.

  10. suesells | | #10

    Memories! I had a made a dress in the early 1970's, burgundy colored bodice with mock wrap skirt in a gray & burgundy abstract design. I worked burgundy yarn into hairpin lace, used as fringe to outline the mock wrap skirt edge and bottom of skirt. It looked like a thicker version of the line on Mr. King's left notebook page.

    But look at that pale green ribbon worked so tight that the loops can be cut and the piece holds together.

    Think about hairpin lace made of 1/2" bias stips of chiffon weight print fabric. It could make a boa effect to trim a neckline or other places you would use a ruffle instead.

  11. hanksews | | #11

    Greetings, Kenneth --

    Please follow me home some day so that I can tell my mother, "But he followed me home -- can't I keep him?"

    Your continue to inspire all of us, even though there aren't enough hours in the day to try everything you suggest.

    Thank you for being one of the torchbearers for the "Sewing Olympiad."


  12. wendyiris | | #12

    Brilliant. thank you for sharing your talent with us!

  13. gailete | | #13

    I remember the first time I ever saw hairpin lae being made and that was at a high school I moved to in 11th grade. All the er, academically challenged girls got to take extra hom-ec and they were all working on hairpin lace afghans that year. In any and all classes they would pull their projects out and awa y they would go. I was fascinated. I was also jealous that I didn't get an opportunity to take extra home-ec myself and make afghans!

    This however is the first time I have heard of doing it with ribbons to make trim for clothing. I've only ever seen examples using crochet cotton or yarns. Thanks for the ideas.

  14. lei739 | | #14

    More inspiration from the master of inspiration. Thanks so very much!

  15. MaxineP | | #15

    Wonderful ideas Kenneth - thanks - I'm always looking for ways to combine sewing with other needlecrafts.

    Our local crochet guild (Crochet Twin Cities - Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota) just had a class on hairpin lace a few weeks ago so this will be an interesting article to share with them. If anyone is interested, here is our recent blog post that explains a easy and inexpensive method of making your own loom:

  16. happylamb | | #16

    Hairpin Lace has to be one of the most beautiful forms of needlework. I first did this a couple of years ago and thoguht it would be lovely to do using ribbon. So, I bought a load of ribbon at a nearby ribbon outlet, but never got around to doing it. This article is inspirational as I can see a finished product. I see that the ribbon is held flat when wrapping the post and not allowed to twist. I think if the hairpin lace was crocheted in circles it would be nice, or crocheted together using a coordinating hard twisted thread or yarn would add another element. A belt would be nice made out of this, too. Oh, my imagination is wondering.... Thanks for posting this inspiration!

  17. Oceanpeg | | #17

    Making this out of red, green, silver, blue, or gold ribbon might make an interesting garland for a Christmas tree in any of the above shown ways to make it up. Check eBay for larger rolls of ribbon, including some that are about 25, 50 or 100 yard rolls.

  18. CrystalPgh | | #18

    That's neat. I never learned how to crochet or make hairpin lace. A few years ago I di buy a nice loom. I'll have to go find that think.

  19. User avater
    kennethdking | | #19

    The "Sewing Olympiad"--funny, and a compliment!

    As for purchasing a loom--they can be got from knitting suppliers or some art stores. They are readily available...

    For purchasing ribbon in quantity--try Daytona on 39th Street in New York, or Fashion Company in San Francisco--buying by the roll makes it less expensive per yard as well.

  20. sewingheaven888 | | #20

    Wow..looks a super creative. I will give it a try:)

    Thank you.

    Apologies if my comment comes up three times...some service error:(

  21. jokevelema | | #21

    I really like this. I am going to try it out myself.

  22. User avater
    Sewista | | #22

    Another tool for my too box! Thanks,Kenneth!

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    SmilingCatDesigns | | #23

    This is new to me & looks like great fun! I've book marked this for later. Thanks-

  24. User avater
    Stitcher75 | | #24

    I've never found hairpin lace attractive when I've seen it made with yarn, but with ribbon (particularly the royal blue) it's very pretty. Maybe I should look into a loom after all!

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