Ireland’s lace tradition stems mainly from efforts to mitigate the economic catastrophe that followed the Great Famine in the nineteenth century. Nuns of the Ursuline order brought samples of Venetian rose point lace from their French convents, and crochet versions of many lace designs were created. It’s estimated that up to 20,000 girls throughout Ireland were trained to produce the lace in the years following the Famine; rural cottages were the site of most production, and entire families were engaged in crochet work. Several styles and motifs were developed by talented needleworkers, including the ‘coarse’ Cork lace and the finer Clones lace.
Particularly in the northern counties, the delicate art of Irish Crochet is kept alive and celebrated by fiber artists and crochet lovers. Patterns and techniques preserved by the original families have been handed down to modern crochet workers.
Máire Treanor of Clones, County Monaghan, is a keeper of the flame for Irish Crochet, particularly Clones Lace. She has not only helped preserve the traditions and handwork of the past, but is instrumental in disseminating knowledge about the craft as it evolves in non-traditional directions.
Máire’s book on Clones Lace is a great introduction to the history, development and techniques of Irish Crochet.
Máire directs the annual Clones Lace Summer School in Ireland, and is a frequent guest instructor throughout the U.S. and Europe.