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Meet Eleonore Riego de la Branchardière, the Mother of Modern Crochet

She published her first book on needlework at 18 years old—one of 72 in total.

A close-up of Irish lace crochet.
Photography by: Sarah Anne Ward

Eleonore Riego de la Branchardière published her first book "Knitting, Crochet and Netting" in 1846. Her book revolutionized the world of crochet and influenced the fashion of the Victorian era. Women wanted to wear their own homemade lace, based on her designs. 

 

Branchardière, born in 1828, was only 18 at the time she published her first book, but she had already been doing advanced needlework in her youth. Her mother was Irish, and her father was French. This straddling of cultures could be how she so easily fit into English society and became a needlework star in the fashion world. But she never forgot her Irish roots.

 

Her book presented the first time that Irish crochet patterns had ever been published. Irish women were able to use her patterns to create in-demand fashion for England's ladies, and this proved a reliable source of income for many Irish families during the Great Famine in Ireland, which began in 1845 and ended in 1852.

 

[LEARN MORE: Meet the Women Who Revolutionized the World of Arts and Crafts]
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Photography by: Bryan Gardner

Over the course of her life, Branchardière published 72 books on needlework. Most of the books were crochet patterns and knitting techniques, but she also published 13 books on the art of tatting. Some of her most notable books include "Golden Stars in Tatting and Crochet," "The Knitting Book," "The Crochet Book" and "The Point Lace Sampler."

 

Tatting lace became all the rage during the Victorian era, and no wonder! The lace was both beautiful and durable. Her books on the subject established her as the "mother of modern tatting." In 1851, she entered the Great Exhibition and won the Prize Medal for her exquisite imitation of Spanish lace and other needlework. Her laces were considered to be the finest of the time.

 

Eleonore Riego de la Branchardière passed away at the age of 59 years old. It was the day after Christmas in 1887, and she had lived a wonderful life pursuing her passion in crochet and needlework. Many of her crochet patterns are still available online in the public domain and can provide inspiration for other crochet crafters.

 

Feeling inspired? Watch and learn how to master the crochet slip stitch: