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Irish Crochet Lace

Short summary

The artistry of Irish Crochet Lace involves the construction of separate motifs which are positioned in whatever unique design that either appeals to the practitioner or is dictated by the functional use of the finished article. These separate motifs are then joined together with a variety of background netting or mesh stitches which are constructed using different styles of linking chains. These backgrounds, by virtue of their different dimensions and patterning, also act to provide additional texture and visual interest to the overall creative process.

Due to the individuality of the artist and their choice of motif and mesh styles, each created item is unique, recording the flair, the innovative vision and the technical skill of the creator.

Background information

Centres for Irish Lace-making and Irish Crochet Lace-making were once established throughout the island of Ireland from the 18th to the early 20th Centuries e.g. Cork, Limerick, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin, Borris, etc. Many of these centres operated as cottage industries for the production of Irish crochet and lace, the distinctive design of which was highly valued on the world’s fashion markets.

Both Irish Lace and Irish Crochet Lace became significant items of export from Ireland in the 19th Century. Cottage industries were established throughout the country to meet the world demand for Irish Crochet Lace and earnings for individual girls were often key to a family’s ability to survive difficult economic times. The teaching of the craft spread particularly during and after the Great Famine of the mid-1840s, as a means to provide an income to distressed families.

With the mechanisation of lace production in the late 1800s and early 1900s, coupled with the erosion of world trade routes during the 1914-1918 War, the world demand for handmade Irish Lace and Irish Crochet Lace fell into decline. Since then, apart from a brief revival of interest by Irish Fashion designers such as Sybil Connolly in the 1960s, it has declined from its height of a world industry to the level of hobby craft.

Today, small creative hubs still survive in Dublin, Cork Limerick and Monaghan, where the making of Irish lace and Irish Crochet Lace survives, although more as a craft hobby today. The style of Irish Crochet Lace is still recognised across the world and crochet practitioners in Eastern Europe and Russia in particular have adapted and incorporated many of the designs and motifs into their local creative art form.

Practice and practitioners

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, different creative hub locations throughout the country resulted in the emergence of different locally recognisable styles e.g. Clones crochet lace, Youghal and Kenmare Lace, etc.

Many practitioners of Irish Lace and Irish Crochet Lace continue their craft as a hobby and are individual lone workers. Others have seen and have joined in with the recent revival of Irish Lace in particular in centres such asYoughal, Kenmare and Headford, Co. Galway.

The Guild of Irish Lacemakers was founded in 1987 to assist practicing lace-makers, especially those making the traditional Irish laces. Today, the guild encompasses all the laces known in Ireland, including Irish Crochet Lace, and many forms also from abroad. The objective of the Guild is to further develop lace and lace design in Ireland through workshops, lectures, exhibitions and other activities of interest to lace-makers. Maintaining and developing the unique individual styles of the different regions is encouraged.

A corresponding movement to revive and support Irish Crochet Lace-making specifically has recently started in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, where a small group of practitioners have formed the Clondalkin Irish Crochet Lace Group.

In general, as many practitioners in Irish Crochet Lace continue to work individually on their craft, much of the advanced skills and the creative styles of the earlier practitioners who worked in creative hub situations are in decline and old designs appear outdated to some in the modern world.

The Clondalkin Irish Crochet Lace Group aim to revive interest in this craft by drawing together remaining practitioners in Dublin and linking with other remaining groups and individuals around the country. Workshops and training events are scheduled for 2018.

Many of the existing Irish Lace-makers and Irish Crochet Lace-makers are likely to also be members of organisations such as the Guild of Irish Lacemakers, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, the Design and Craft Council of Ireland, Kenmare Lace Makers, New Ross and St Louis Stitches Group (Wexford), and other more informal local craft groups.

Development, transmission and safeguarding

Irish Lace and Irish Crochet Lace is a distinctive form of handmade artistry that first began to develop in Ireland during the 18th Century when religious Sisters returning from continental Convents brought the basic skills of French, Belgian, and Italian needle lace to Ireland.

As the needle lace craft grew in Ireland, different centres of operation around the country developed different distinctive lace styles e.g. Youghal, Carrickmacross, Limerick, Borris, and Clones laces etc.

The craft of Irish Crochet Lace developed from Venetian lace, using very fine hooks and cotton threads instead of needles to create items of clothing, fashion embellishments or household furnishings. During the 19th Century, as Irish Crochet Lace developed in Ireland, a very unique Irish style began to emerge which is still recognised and referred to across the world today as ‘Irish Crochet’ or ‘Irish Crochet Lace’.

The Guild of Irish Lacemakers, along with the various other groups mentioned above, support the upskilling and teaching of lace and crochet lace to both new and experienced practitioners.

The Clondalkin Irish Crochet Group (C.I.C.G.) was established in 2017 with the objective of drawing together interested individuals from the area to help resurrect the skills of the cottage industry that had once existed in this area of Dublin in the 19th century.

Irish Crochet Lace skills have been handed down within families in the old Clondalkin and old Lucan areas, so efforts are being made by the C.I.C.G. to draw these practitioners together and to reinvigorate the teaching of the craft, bringing new life to old designs and constructs.

Workshops have taken place, inviting nationally recognised practitioners to attend and advise on how the Group might develop into the future.


Contact organisation

Irish Crochet Lace Revival’

Location Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Monaghan, Kerry, Galway
Categories Traditional craftsmanship
Keywords Crochet, lace
Contact organisation Clondalkin Irish Crochet Lace Group