Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Non-needleworkers Shouldn't Write About Needlework

I recently completed Laced, by Carol Higgins Clark. On a scale of 1 to 100, I'd give it a "meh". Not bad, not good, but had the virtue to not take up too much time to read (if you're not going to be a great book, you can at least be a fairly brief book).

The title of the book, of course, appealed to the lace knitter in me. The stolen object is this magnificent handmade lace tablecloth featuring a castle as either the focal point of the design, or the main design element. But what irritated the hell out of me was that readers were never told how the famed tablecloth was made. May Reilly made it by hand, we are told in the novel. But how? The reference to shamrocks not being part of the design made me think Irish crochet (and the novel takes place in Ireland, so this makes sense). And that would indeed be some fancypants needlework to create a castle in Irish crochet and make it look good. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure it could be done, but nutty needleworkers from the world over would trek to Nowheresville Ireland to see such an incredible thing.

So then I pondered whether it was knitted, or if some other method of lacemaking had been used. One could knit a castle design in openwork, using yo's and the like to create the shape. This sounds more like a Shetland textile than an Irish, though. Not that the Irish can't knit Shetland, etc. My logical (?) mind, however, thinks that a novel set in Ireland should feature needlework for which Ireland is famous. For example, the Irish Lace Museum lists the following as the five main Irish laces:

Irish Crochet Lace, Youghal Needlelace, Inishmacsaint Needlelace, Carrickmacross Lace and Limerick Lace.
If you visit their lovely site, you can see photos of the various types of Irish lace. What was most interesting about this, though, was that in seconds (thank you, Google) I found an Irish lace museum with examples and discussions of the main types of lacemaking done in Ireland. I gathered enough information from one site to give some description of how a famous tablecloth with a castle as the main design feature could have been made.

Not that I think a writer needs to become an expert in every topic that comes up in their books. Not at all. In the age of the internet, though, it's extra-inexcusable to not spend an hour researching something that's pretty easy to research.

So if anyone out there is inspired to crochet/bobbin/knit/hook/otherwise make a lace castle, please send me photos!


Miss T said...

Could be filet crochet, I suppose. But I agree--I hate books that have needlework as a plot device without really understanding anything about it.

Viviana said...

I vaguely recall a Barbara Michaels' novel, "Shattered Silk", about vintage/antique clothing, and she seemed to have done a fair amount of research.

Being lazy, I wouldn't expect a writer to do quite that much...but with Google and Wikipedia, I expect a writer to at least search those and read for an hour. Hell, I do that with things that barely interest me.