Day 3- Carrickmacross, Ireland

Ireland has a rich history of lace-making, including several distinct styles:

  • Carrickmacross lace
  • Irish Crochet lace
  • Krnmare kace
  • Limerick lace
  • Youghal lace

Knowing this, I wanted the chance to see some of this beautiful needle art!  Driving North from Dublin, we made our way to the little town of Carrickmacross.

Christina with talented lacemaker and member of the The Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative at the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery

Carrickmacross lace was introduced into Ireland in about 1820 by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who taught it to local women so that they could earn some extra money.  During the famine years in the mid-1840’s, a lace school was set up by the managers of the Bath and Shirley estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their starving tenants, and the lace became known and found sales.

A beautiful rare sample of a Carrickmacross Lace priest’s vestments. Most vestment pieces were buried with the clergy for whom they were made.

The lace is made on a base of cotton net (similar to tulle, but much softer and pliable).  A lightweight soft white muslin (sheer enough to see a pattern underneath) is appliquéd onto the net.  Additional embroidery stitches create edgings, patterns and cutwork.

Here you can see areas where the Muslim has been appliquéd to the net, as well as designs embroidered into the net.

The meaning of this Irish Gaelic saying is “a hundred thousand welcomes”- quite apt in our experience- the people are so friendly and welcoming here!

Christina Fairley Ericksonand Mom Nan outside the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery.

After the worst of the famine years, through the last half of the 19th century, the lacemaking declined. Then in the 1890’s, the Sisters of St Louis founded their own lace school to revive the craft, and this was quite profitable for several years. Although the outbreak of the 1914–18 war marked the virtual end of commercial production of hand-made lace in Europe, the lace school kept the technique alive throughout the 20th century. In 1984 the St Louis Sisters assisted in the formation of The Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative, which maintains the tradition to this day.

Display of some of the pieces that the Carrickmacross cooperative members have made and are available for sale.

Piece available with incredible miniature stitches in patterns

Detail of tiny stitches!

The lace cooperative also has some little kits and supplies if you want to try your hand at making your own Carrickmacross Lace.  Their kits are available via their website at: https://www.carrickmacrosslace.ie/

I couldn’t leave without bringing a little souvenir of this lovely technique From the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery!

Here in the 21st Century, the most famous use of this beautiful historic form of lace must be when Kate Middleton incorporated Carrickmacross lace into her wedding to Prince William.  I highly recommend you make the time to come visit, if you’re ever in Ireland!

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