Limerick lace: hand embroidery on net


A Limerick Lace Bertha Collar.


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Limerick Lace is a form of embroidery on net. There are two varieties, one is Tambour Lace, a chain-stitch done by hand with a Tambour Hook while on a Tambour ring or in a frame. 

This very wide Bertha Collar is Limerick Tambour Lace, the design is Flower Garlands, Ribbon Bows & Dots…      The design is done in a cord thread in a chain-stitch with a Tambour Hook and then filled in with a sewing needle and thread in a darned stitch.  

It is a very Beautiful & Elegant example of Limerick Lace. It probably dates from circa. 1880’s-1890’s…ImageImageImageImage 

Black Mourning Limerick Lace Collar.


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Black Lace was only ever made for Mourning in Ireland, whereas it was very fashionable to wear Black Lace in the rest of Europe and was very widely made.

Limerick was the main producers of Black Mourning Lace.

This little Collar is the only piece of Mourning Lace in the whole of the Chantylace Collection of Antique Irish Lace…

It’s a very small Collar of Floral design, done by hand in a needlerun stitch darned onto net, it dates from about circa. 1880’s-1890’s…


Limerick Lace


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Limerick Lace

T he making of this type of lace became possible when machine-made Net became readily available. Limerick Lace is a form of embroidery on net. There are two varieties, Tambour Lace, a chain stitch done with a Tambour Hook while on a Tambour ring or frame. And Needlerun Lace, which is worked with a sewing needle and darned on to the net, in a range of different fancy stitches. Both techniques can be used in combination for a certain piece or within a design. Flower Garlands, Baskets, Shamrocks & Dots are regular features.

In 1829 Charles Walker, a native of Oxfordshire, set up a Lace factory in Limerick. He brought with him twenty-four young women “skilled in the art of Lace embroidery” as teachers.

It was the first Irish Lace-making venture set up on a purely commercial basis. Charles Walker had married a “lady who was mistress of an extensive lace manufactory in Essex”. He did a short tour of Ireland before choosing Limerick to set up his first factory which was in Mount Kennet, beside the river. There was a large population of unemployed women and there had been a thriving Glove-making industry in the previous years and a tradition of factory work.

The Lace industry in Limerick prospered & the numbers Mr. Walker employed were amazingly high, it was reported in about 1840, that he employed 1,100 Girls, about 800 of whom were apprentices working in the factories at Limerick & Kilrush, while about 300 were employed at their own homes in the counties of Limerick & Clare.

He had invested a very substantial amount of money into setting up the Lace factory, and ran a very successful business. He marketed and sold very well in England, and had his own outlet in London.

A Mr. Lloyd made annual trips to the Continent, visiting Brussels & many Lace-making parts of France to collect new designs to keep up with the fashions. There were many other names and partnerships within the Limerick Lace Industry, one such partnership to note was Lambert & Bury, who employed another 700 girls. There were a total of 3,000 employed within the Limerick Lace Industry in the mid. 19th Century. This must have added a considerable amount to Limerick’s economy.

After Mr. Walkers death in 1843, there was still large quantities of Lace being made, but sadly many of his best teachers returned to England and the standard seemed to fall over the next few years, and there was no attempt to change or improve Designs.

In the 1880’s a revival took place. The Good Shepherd Nuns of Limerick had started making Lace, but mainly, it was due to the work of Mrs. Florence Vere O’Brien. Her achievements and contributions are so important. She was an amazing designer, a very influential person and set a very high standard for quality, design & craftsmanship. She also set up the Lace-training school in Limerick in 1893.

Mrs. Florence Vere O’Brien worked with Mr. James Brenan, R.H.A. Master of the Cork School of Art, which later became the Crawford School of Art. Their aim was to make it easier for women to undertake artistic & technical training.

Carrickmacross Lace


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Carrickmacross Lace

T he first Irish Lace to be made using machine-made Net as a base was Carrickmacross. It was made with a sewing needle & very fine cotton muslin embroidered & appliquéd onto the net. There are two types – Appliqué & Guipure.

Appliqué is made by tacking fine net & very fine muslin. The muslin has to be fine enough to allow the pattern to be seen through it, over a design drawn on paper. The design is then outlined with a thick thread & couched down into position, through both layers of fabric with a finer thread. The excess muslin is then cut away around the outline of the design. The exposed net is then decorated with different filling stitches, very similar to those in Limerick Lace.

Guipure is made by tracing the outline of the design with couched down cord on cotton or cambric (a very fine Linen cloth), no net is used, and again the excess is cut away.

The finished Lace is always edged with tiny little loops & then when complete it is detached from the pattern. Flowers, Shamrocks, Pops & Dots are the main features of its designs.

In 1816 Margaret Lindsey married Rev. John Grey Porter of the Church of Ireland at Donaghmoyne in County Monaghan, just about two miles from the town of Carrickmacross. The couple went to Italy on their honeymoon in the year of 1816. In Italy she saw Laces & Appliqué, and saw many local Lace-makers making  the craft. She brought many beautiful examples back to Ireland with her.  Inspired, and with the help of her sewing maid, Anne Steadman, to figure out the Appliqué techniques, she decided to take the Lace apart to see how it was made. From that they tried to replicate it, but instead of replicating it, she created an entirely new type of Lace. It was just called Appliqué.

Mrs. Grey Porter, like other ladies of her class, saw in the craft a way to provide much needed employment for young women in rural Ireland.  In about 1820, they established an Appliqué Lace-making class which soon attracted a number of young women. Mrs. Grey Porter and her family (six children), lived in the Carrickmacross area, first in Kilskeery and then later in Clogher Park. Rev. Grey Porter was very affluent and owned a very large amount of property around the North of Ireland.

When he died in 1873 he left his whole estate to his son and heir, John Grey Vesey Porter. His Landed properties consisted of Clogher Park, Belle Isle Castle & Kilskerry. The condition of his will stated that his widow Mrs. Grey Porter should enjoy Clogher Park for the rest of her life, together with the very large annual sum of £3,000 a year. She lived there until her death in 1881.

After her Introduction, the Lace-making craft prospered, though there was a small decline in production in around early 1840’s.

T hen in 1846 the Lace-making schools made a great contribution to the survival of many families. In the period of the Great Famine, the Monaghan area around Carrickmacross was particularly affected. It was the contribution of Miss Read who set up Lace-making classes on the Rahans Estate. She established it in an outhouse first, with the classes confined to tenants on the Estate. She used copies of Mrs. Grey Porters patterns for the classes and as the venture proved successful and profitable, they eventually had a special building built for the Lace-making Classes at Cullaville, nearby.

Other very important undertakings were achieved at the Lace Schools in the Bath and Shirley Estates, also established in around 1846 by Tristram Kennedy (1805-1885, Layer & Politian, MP for County Louth, and responsible for the Revival of Irish Legal Training in1835). He also managed the Bath Estate for the Marquis of Bath. He obtained a Privy Council Grant of One Hundred Pounds to assist in building seven Lace-making Schools on the Estate. He was in partnership with Captain Morant the Agent of the nearby Shirley Estate. The Shirley’s were absentee Landlords and spent most of their time in Ettington, Warwickshire in Engalnd.

They set up the Central School in a house in Carrickmacross town from which the Designs, Instructions and orders for work were sent out to the other seven Schools.

This type of Lace was only known as either Appliqué or Guipure up until the Dublin Exhibition in 1872, where the type of technique was named after where it was made. Thus it became known as Carrickmacross Lace.

Carrickmacross Lace would have been sold in The Royal Irish Industries Depots and other Lace Outlets, one to note was Robinson & Cleaver of Belfast and London, they were Linen Manufactures, it was reported that at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, Robinson & Cleaver had a large array of Carrickmacross Handkerchiefs.

Irish Crochet Lace


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Irish Crochet Lace

I rish Crochet Lace is probably the most common and the most widely made Lace around Ireland. It is broadly similar to ordinary crochet except for its fineness. It is worked with a very small fine steel hook with a handle of bone, cork or wood. The best results are made with a hook & thread of the same thickness, Cotton & Linen thread is used. The hooks are known to be very small indeed, they were sometimes made by removing one side of the eye of an ordinary sewing needle and sticking the point in a cork as a small handle.

The design is drawn on glazed Calico and the motifs are worked individually and then tacked in place on the Calico. Then they are joined by Crochet Bars & Picots. The complete piece of Lace is then finished off with one of the edgings characteristic of Irish Crochet Lace. Designs for the motifs are Flowers, Roses, Shamrocks, Horse Shoe, Fern, Wheel & Cross. For raised motifs they are worked over a cord padding, which is formed from two, three or four strands of cotton cord. The cord is a very important element in the Lace as it allows movement within the motifs when it is being joined by crochet bars & worn as a Garment.

T here are many center-points for Crochet Lace around Ireland such as Clones, County Monaghan, Blackrock County Cork, County Kildare & Lisadell County Sligo to name but a few. The History of Crochet Lace made in Ireland is a little unclear. It could date back to the 16th century when it was known as ‘Nun’s work’ developed in Irish convent communities & relating to continental European Lacemaking styles.

In 1743 Lady Arabella Denny introduced Lace-making to Workhouses for the poor in Dublin, & it is thought that it was an early form of Crochet, imitating the appearance of Venetian Gros Point.

It is also suggested that a group of Ursuline Nuns brought the skill of Crochet back to Ireland from Paris in the 1790’s.

It is recorded that one of the first Irish Crochet Lace Schools was held at the Ursuline Convent, Blackrock in County Cork and it was established in 1845. There the Nuns held classes and trained teachers in the art of Crochet Lace.

It can also be associated to Spanish & Venetian Needlepoint, such as Venetian Gros Point which can dates back to the 16th& 17th centuries.

D uring the Famine years of the 1840’s the Irish Lace Industry contributed to the survival of many Irish families. Though Famine relief schemes and by giving employment they relieved starvation in communities. The ‘Crochet centers’ were established in Convents around the country and became a symbol for the Irish people of life, hope & pride. In the years immediately after the Famine, Crochet became a practical subject in the curriculum of Convent schools.

The Rev. Thomas Hand’s (1805-1874) wife, Mrs. Cassandra Hand (1809-1868), of  Bishopscourt,  County Monaghan was largely responsible for establishing Clones as the main Irish Crochet Lace center-point in Ireland. Within a few years of the Clones School opening in 1847, there were about 1,500 workers employed, directly or indirectly and Mrs. Hand successfully turned the image of Crochet Lace from ‘Nun’s work’ to an attractive Cottage Industry.

The fashions at the time created a great demand for Lace and Crochet Lace was a fine player, as it was perfect for Blouse Bodices, Cuffs, Ruffles, Trimmings and  even whole Dresses. Men wore Crochet Lace in the form of Jobots, Lappets & Cravats.

Mrs. W. C. Roberts, of Thornton, Co. Kildare, had a large Crochet Lace class in Kilcullen, under a Famine relief scheme and was very successful in training Crochet Lace teachers that then traveled & worked all around Ireland.

In 1879, another Lace school was started by Lady Gore-Booth in Lisadell, County Sligo. The Gore-Booth School was held in a large square building on the grounds of Lisadell House, and employed workers from the Estate. They made Crochet Lace, White Embroidery & Drawn Tread-work. The Design teacher was Miss Elizabeth Flanagan, a graduate of the School of Art in Dublin.

County Cork was recognized as the main center-point for Irish Crochet Lace in the South of Ireland. With the work of the Ursuline Nuns in the Convent in Blackrock, County Cork, in 1845.

Mademoiselle Riego de la Blanchardiere, must also be mentioned. She is generally credited for being the “Inventor” of Irish Crochet Lace but this is by far not the truth. She contributed largely to the Crochet Lace industry. She published at least 70 Pattern Books, and on the title page of her first book she describes herself as a ‘Teacher of Fancy Works’. This was published in 1846.  She also recieved Royal commissions from Queen Victoria & other European Princesses.

Youghal Needlepoint Lace


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Youghal Needlepoint Lace

Youghal Lace is the finest Irish Needlepoint. It is created entirely with a Needle & Thread. The pattern is transferred on to a dark coloured material by using a hot iron. The material with the pattern is then tacked on to several layers of cloth to give it strength. A foundation cord is couched down with a fine thread outlining the whole pattern. Once this outline cord is in position, the spaces can be filled with a range of different fancy stitches to form the Lace. Most of the stitches are derived from old Venetian & French Needlepoint Lace’s, but some are completely original to Youghal. The distinctive feature of Youghal Needlepoint is the tiny knotted border edging that completes each piece. By snipping through the tacking stitches of the backing cloth the finished Lace can be removed from the pattern.

Youghal Needlepoint Lace was so sought after for its Delicacy.

Mother Mary Ann Smyth of the Presentation Convent in Youghal, County Cork, set out to help the people of the town during the hard times of the Famine. By unpicking some antique Venetian & French Needlepoint Lace’s, and examining the stitches she created a method of her own, and a truly original characteristic style of perfect workmanship.

As the girls in the Youghal Convent were not trained in Art so many designs for patterns were adapted from pieces of china.  It was only a matter of time before a drawing master was employed and then soon after the Lace School was set up in about 1852. The making of Irish Needlepoint soon spread to other Convents in places such as Kenmare, Killarney & New Ross, all thriving industries in their time.

Kenmare became a large centerpoint for Needlepoint. The main difference being that Kenmare is worked in a Linen thread and Youghal is worked in a Cotton thread.

This fine & delicate Needlepoint was extremely expensive, mainly bought by Royal Families & many pieces went to the Vatican.