+3531 6313822 nationalich@chg.gov.ie

Carrickmacross Lace Making

Location Carrickmacross, County Monaghan
Categories Social practices, rituals and festive events
Traditional craftsmanship
Keywords Crafts, lace
Contact organisation Carrickmacross Lace Co-Operative Society

Carrickmacross lace making is a distinctive style of lace making unique to Carrickmacross that is rooted in its history and cultural heritage.

In Carrickmacross lace the design is appliquéd on organdie to a ground net using close sewing stitches on a thin thread. Unwanted organdie is cut away leaving an elegant design. The work is further embellished with a variety of decorative filling stitches, guipure, pops and the very distinctive loop edge.

Background information

Carrickmacross Lace was introduced by Mrs Grey Porter (a rector’s wife) in 1820. Introduced as a way of providing some much needed employment for young women in rural Ireland, Carrickmacross Lace design is inspired by Italian lace she collected while on honeymoon.

By the late 1830s hand lace making declined due to industrialisation and mass production of other lace types. However in the 1840s a revival was initiated by a Miss Reed who was distressed to see local young women doing heavy field work. She started lace making classes in an outhouse on the family estate. This continued until the end of the 1800s.

In 1846 Tristam Kennedy, who managed the Carrickmacross estate of the Marquis of Bath, established the Bath and Shirley Lace Schools. From this central school, instructions and designs were sent to seven other schools. This was during the Famine, and the lace making schools made a great contribution to the survival of many families. The Shirleys continued their support for over 40 years. Towards the end of the 1890s patronage ended and demand for lace declined.

In 1888 the St Louis sisters founded a convent in Carrickmacross and took an interest in local lace making. This was taught to primary school children who could use it to make a living after leaving school. They later set up the St Louis Lace School. Without this dedication lace making in Monaghan would have died out. Among their customers was Queen Victoria. The revival saw a return to prosperity for lace makers in the area. Unfortunately the great age of Irish lace making ended in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I.

In 1984 the Carrickmacross Lace Co-Op was established to revive, support and pass on this tradition.

Many international designers have used Carrickmacross lace in their designs, including Sybil Connolly, Pat Crowley, and Vonnie Reynolds. The lace has featured in a number of royal weddings, including for the Emmanuelle wedding dress for Princess Diana and more recently the technique was featured in the Alexander McQueen royal wedding dress for Kate Middleton.


Practice and practitioners

The Co-Op makes, teaches, exhibits and sells locally produced lace. They now have a well-established lace gallery as their hub, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations for the county.

Development, transmission and safeguarding

A dedicated group of master craftspeople provide training in the skill to newcomers. It is particularly important to maintain the craft, style and heritage so that this training and growth continues and to encourage the youth to carry on the tradition. As a very technically skilled craft it is vital to pass on these skills on a one-to-one basis. This continues the way the skills were learned traditionally.

Contact organisation

Carrickmacross Lace Co-Operative Society