When the technique of Hairpin Crochet was developed is uncertain - however in a publication dated 1890 it is referred to as 'Old Fashioned Hairpin Lace' so it was regarded as having a history even then!
The technique of Hairpin Crochet produces long strips of crochet which can either be used to form edgings or joined together in a variety of ways to produce different types and textures of fabric. When worked in extremely thin and lightweight yarns very lacy fabrics can be made and the work will also vary depending on the 'fork' size.
Different Hairpin Forks
Traditionally the hairpin referred to in the title would have been a real hairpin and would have been worked using extremely fine yarns and tiny bone crochet hooks. In instructions found in Victorian publications it would not be unusual for the reader to be told to use a piece of wire and bend it into shape with the prongs a specified distance apart. Later, around the turn of the century dedicated tools were made and special pins and forks made. These would have been in a variety of sizes and styles. Besides hairpins and forks made with a view to the work being central, also forks would have been made with specifically for edging (see illustration from a Victorian needlecraft book).
Today there are a variety of Hairpin looms and forks available, specifically make for the modern crocheter. These range from high quality wooden looms through to adjustable plastic models - and don't forget the DIY option! The main requirement of a Hairpin loom or fork is two parallel prongs and these can be made from any rigid material ie bent wire, two knitting needles held in position in a polystyrene block or wood with holes drilled in it. The Boye Adjustable Hairpin Loom is available from Amazon here
Hairpin Lace is an extremely versatile technique and worth a try! The strips of finished Hairpin lace are joined together in a variety of ways and then can be used as they are, or incorporated into more extravagant designs. The edges can be left frilly or they can be crocheted to give a more firm finish. The centre of the Hairpin lace strips can be varied by the addition of different stitches, or by using more or less stitches to give a different effect.
A very easy scarf using hairpin crochet can be found here
Instructions for making a simple fork from a coat hanger can be found here. This is an easy way to practice the technique before purchasing a Hairpin loom.
For ideas on how to use Hairpin Lace take a look at some of the online free pattern directories for instance Crochet Pattern Central, or for some interesting designs and equipment have a look at Stitch Diva
Interweave Crochet Magazine have a free Hairpin Crochet pattern on their website Interweave Crochet Magazine (free Hairpin Lace pattern pdf)
An interesting range of accessories including Hairpin Lace looms can be found at Lacis