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.