Since the early 20th century, Irish lace has intrigued many, not just because of its beautiful designs but also the history behind it.
Irish lace began due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. The majority of women back then were handy with needles and needle craft. So with all their crops dead and people starving to death, women decided to make beautiful lace patterns to feed their families. A lot of success was down to the Ursuline nuns, they had seen the popularity of Venetian lace and decided to set up crochet schools. These schools taught young ladies how to make lace. The added benefit to making lace patterns was that the equipment the women needed to use was readily available as well as being simple. The women of Ireland were all soon picking up the needle.
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As lace started to take off, the patterns became more secretive. Most lace patterns were kept a secret to the outside world and the patterns being passed on through the maternal line. Obviously this was sometimes a disadvantage, as families died out, so did the patterns.
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The lace revolution did not last long. With the potato famine ending in 1851, by this time, fashions had changed, and demands rapidly declined. Lace was not as popular as it once used to be. This was not helped also by machinery being made and lace being able to be mass produced rather than hand made.
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Antique Irish lace is very collectible among people who appreciate its history. This is for a number of reasons. The lace was made into beautiful designs and patterns. Also there is not a long history, meaning, genuine mid 19 century antique Irish lace is very hard to get hold of. Especially when there was a brief time in the 1880s when lace did come back and it started being made again, however most of these pieces are in museums and not for sale.
So as you can see, Irish lace was made in a time of starvation and death, when women had to do all they could to keep their families alive. This is why the history is magnificently interesting and the lace is highly collectible.