Carrickmacross lace was originally inspired by some Italian appliqu‚ lace which Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the Rector of Donaghmoyne, a small village northeast of Carrickmacross in County Monaghan, brought back from her continental honeymoon in 1816. Her interest in this lace led to an exploration of the craft with her sewing maid, and by the following decade she had evolved an individual style and established a cottage industry in her home parish, training young women as lacemakers. These in turn spread the craft to other areas in the northern counties of Ireland. In the 1840s a school of lacemakers was established to create gainful work for women after the Great Famine, but overproduction and economic depression led to a decline in the lace industry. The survival of Carrickmacross lace into the twentieth century is due to the nuns of the St Louis order who established a convent in the town and set up a lace-making class in 1897 which still continues the tradition.
There are two varieties of Carrickmacross lace - appliqu‚, where fine cotton is applied to a machine net base, the design outlined with a thick thread and the unworldly cotton outside the area of the design motif cut away, and guipure, in which there is no net base and the outlined design motifs are joined by `bars' or `brides' worked out in needlepoint stitches. Both varieties of work are sometimes found together in more elaborate examples of this beautiful and distinctive lace. In Carrickmacross Lace, Mrs O Cleirigh tells the story behind the craft and outlines its historical development. Fine examples of the work are illustrated and the book also has a practical section which explains the stitches and procedures used in the craft. There is also a selection of full-size patterns drawn from historicexamples in Irish collections.
Nellie O Cleirigh was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary. At the Ursuline convent school in Waterford she was encouraged to further her artistic studies. Embroidery classes at the Dublin School of Art were part of her training. She worked as a civil servant in Dublin until her marriage, when she established a handicraft business which she still continues. She also formed a collection of old Irish lace which has been exhibited several times in Ireland and abroad, and which led to her study of the history of lace-making in Ireland and of the people who contributed to its development. Carrickmacross Lace is her first book and was originally published by the Dolmen Press in 1985.
A4 Paperback 0-85105-436-6 fully illustrated £8.99