Friday, February 22, 2008

On the finer points of Irish lacemaking

No, I'm not actually going to explain to you how to do fine lacework. It would be hard for me to find the time and the patience to gain proficiency at that amazing craft.

However, I would like to share some of the finer points of Irish lacemaking with the regard to Irish history: namely the fact that it supported thousands of families during the decades after the Great Famine, providing a way for women to make money to help feed their families.

I enjoyed reading the Irish Family History blog's post about the topic entitled Irish Crochet Lace and Muings Lace School and following their link to the website for the 2005 ‘Irish Crochet Lace - 150 Years of a Tradition’ at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in California. Thanks to the Irish Family History blog, I enjoyed viewing the slide show and reading the exhibit brochure, which gives a nice history of Irish lacemaking in Ireland along with details about the craft itself.

Speaking of Irish lace, ever heard the term "lace-curtain Irish"?

This term was not so much an Irish term as an Irish-American term. It was often used to refer to the more "settled" Irish immigrants - those that were no longer "just off the boat", so to speak.

Kate Marin's comment on the Wicked Good Guide to Boston English site sums up the term "lace-curtain Irish" very nicely:

Lace was an industry that poor women in Ireland were able to pursue whilst doing everything else required to run homes on no resources. However, like the produce and livestock raised during the Irish Famine, lace wasn't made for home use. It was only for export and the tourist trade. Thus, "lace curtain Irish" were doing well for themselves, & might well be lording it over those a rung or two lower on the immigrant ladder.

The home page for the exhibit at the Lacis Museum has a beautiful poem that honors those women who used every bit of their spare time to help support their families through the beautiful craft of Irish lacemaking:

A tribute to the human spirit.
Beauty born of necessity.
Conceived from lowly beginnings,
With a dream of higher aspirations,
It grew out of patience, perseverance and ingenuity,
To stand in majesty,
To feed a nation.

Muings Lace School in County Mayo is currently slated to become a heritage center and museum. For more information on the project please visit Fís na Muingi-Iorras's website: Save Muings Lace School.

Images of the Irish lace and instruction books from Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley, CA.


Faith said...

I've tumbled upon your blog...I'm in search of...and was happy to find you. My great grandparents are of Irish decent, and came from dream is to visit there someday... I am a crocheter, but by no means am a lace maker..but love the look of the crochet done with thread and small hook. I'm hoping that the interest I have in this came from my Irish great Grandmother....who may have very well created things of beauty not for her own home, but for the joy of others to sustain her family...

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Thanks for your comment, Faith. I just inherited an assortment of intricate needlework from my husband's side of the family. Wish I had stories to go with each one!

Anonymous said...

I found your site while researching Irish Crochet, and I enjoyed reading your blog very much about Irish Lace Making.
My ancestors were all from Ireland, and my husband and I just visited Ireland for the first time, and I met a lady who does the Irish Crochet named Maire Treanor. It was wonderful learning more about it from her.
I am a Kennedy, too. Our Kennedy family settled first in Iowa from Ireland, and my grandparents ended up in Kansas.


Related Posts with Thumbnails