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The History & Beauty of Irish Lace Crochet

Updated on December 14, 2009
Clones Irish Lace Crochet
Clones Irish Lace Crochet
Cork, Irish Crochet Lace
Cork, Irish Crochet Lace
Cork, Irish Lace sample
Cork, Irish Lace sample

The History & Beauty of Irish Lace Crochet

In Ireland during the potato famine of the 1800's, Irish Lace became very popular and profitable. The Irish tradition for making this type of lace dates back to the sixteenth century. At that time it was known as "Nuns Work", because it was developed in convents. It was adapted from European needle lace-making. Mlle Riego was born in England to a father of Franco-Spanish nobility and an Irish mother, she was born in 1820. She discovered that Spanish needle lace, which looked like Venetian needlepoint lace, could be adapted to crochet. It was easier and took less time to make, than spanish lace. Crochet itself was adapted to the life of the Irish peasants. Cotton was cheap and easy to clean. It only required a crochet hook, which was also handmade. Crocheting a piece became a family occupation. Everyone in the family chipped in to create the motifs that would go into the finished piece, which consisted of crocheted motifs sewn into a filigree mesh or crocheted bars of double crochet stitches over foundation chains. The motifs were a family secret, and fiercely guarded. Most of the patterns went to the grave along with the family. However, some did get reproduced and enhanced by artists in the USA and in England. During the potato famine, it was the only source of income, and worth everything to the families. After all the motifs were made (flowers, shamrocks, insects, and grapevines), the family members walked (sometimes miles) to a lace-making center in town, and the motifs were crocheted together and on to mesh skeletons to form collars, cuffs, bodice's, dresses, coats, etc... The industry flourished for a time and fed an entire country. Clones Irish Crochet Lace, was named after the town were it was first made and sold. It was developed and had its own characteristics for over 150 years. It was introduced by Cassandra Hand in 1817. Fvery family in Northern Ireland were involved in making it. They supplied markets in Dublin, London, Paris, Rome and New York. Another form of Irish crochet lace was developed by and brought to Ireland in the 1830's by Ursuline nuns in Blackrock Cork, Ireland (hence Cork Lace). It was brought from France, and came originally from pieces of Venetian Rose Point. It consisted of very large motifs joined by thick bars. Cork was the leading center in Southern Ireland. There was 12,000 to 20,000 girls being employed in its production from 1847. Adelaide School for Crochet, in Cork, became the place where lace was made and sold. Making Irish Lace Crochet is fascinating, because it gives the artist the freedom in design and shows their artistic and creative abilities. It's not like regular crochet that is mostly done in rows. It's many motifs crocheted and sewn together to create a work of art. If more than one person (which was usually the case) is working on the piece, each person can use their own idea's and creativity to make a very unique piece, a one of a kind piece. In the 1900's Irish lace was known as the true Irish Crochet Lace. The style changed and developed in Ireland and in 1850 it was sought after by the fashion conscious in Paris, Vienna, Brussels, London, and New York. There was a decline in production and sales of this type of lace after 1850 because of the machine lace that was available. By late in the nineteenth century there was a change in fashion and lace was again in vogue. By 1904, Paris couturiers were using Irish Crochet Lace in their summer creations, and the lace was in demand again. Today you can find all types of Irish Lace in bridal gowns, christening outfits, home decor, and many other things. The question is will this beautiful handcrafted vintage lace, ever be as popular again?


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    • profile image


      6 months ago

      4th picture down from the top! Where can I find this dress? I want it for my wedding!

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      i want the patterns

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I want the Irish wedding dress! Any idea on where to find it???

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I absolutely adore the third dress from the bottom. Do you have any information about who designed/made it, or any info that would help me track down something similar? Love, love, love!

    • chspublish profile image


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Are these pieces in your collection, because they are really beautiful and delicately worked.


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