The History of Irish Crochet Lace – How it started
Irish Crochet Lace began around late 1700. Four Irish girls In 1769 sent to an Ursuline Convent in Paris to study the craft of crochet. Once they return to Ireland, they started teaching other girls. It did not get popularity then. It reintroduced in the 19th century.
Irish Crochet Lace – during Irish Famine, 1846-1850
During the mid-1800s, Ireland suffered from the potato famine. More than a million people starved to death over the next few years as a result. Since a large part of the population were farmers, the country’s economy crashed hard. Many rich people paid to send people to emigrate to America and other English-speaking countries.
All this cause Ireland’s population dropped from 8 million to 5 million after the Famine. This situation could be much worth if not for Irish Crochet.
Crochet schools in Ireland
One of the first schools opened in the Ursuline convent at Blackrock, near Cork in 1845. Amazing woman Cassandra Hand, first introduced Irish crochet lace to Clones. The wife of a Church of Ireland minister travelled to Clones from England decided to promote crochet as a famine relief measure.
The craft of Irish crochet and lace bring in some much-needed income to help hunger and starvation. The techniques were easy to learn, and a simpler way to create lace. It was easy to store since lace was made from cotton wich can be easily washed. Irish crochet lace was adopted by many poor Irish people who had no other means of supporting themselves.
The schools widely copied after the potato famine. The one established at Clones in Co. Monaghan became one of the most successful of the Irish crochet centres.
When Craft saved The Nation
The lace making industry saw thousands of women, man and children being taught the skills, and the resulting crochet lace was sold all over Europe.
It was common practice for each person to become highly skilled in just one design. It could be a leaf or a flower. The crocheters kept their patterns and design a closely guarded secret from each other so that no-one could steal another’s lace motives.
Irish Crochet was made in a variety of styles mostly imitating 17th-century Venetian lace.
Irish Lace hit its peak in popularity around the late 1800s and early 1900s. Once the machine-made lace was introduced during the industrial revolution, a popularity of handmade Irish crochet lace began to decline until it almost died out.
Today we can appreciate the skill and dedication that went into those original designs from back in the mid-1800s. And some of this early work can still have be seen in many museums in Ireland and around the word.
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