During the latter half of the 19th century, Ireland became well established and recognised for its production of superior quality handmade lace. This was a direct result of the devastation caused by the Great Famine. Lace making schools were set up around the country as a means of providing employment for the poverty stricken and starving population. European samples of Lace were brought to Ireland and unpicked in order to reveal the techniques used in the delicate handwork. Irish women quickly excelled in this area and before long, they had adapted the stitches and created their own unique style of Irish Lace. A number of different varieties emerged including Kenmare Needlepoint, Youghal, Carrickmacross, Limerick and Clones Lace. At the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of women were employed in the schools around the country, with hundreds more working from home. After agriculture, lacemaking at that time was the second largest industry in the country!
Following World War 1 and the arrival of cheaper machine made designs; the industry experienced a sharp decline. It would have completely died out had it not been for a number of revivals which occurred throughout the 1980’s. These revivals occurred simultaneously in the towns and villages which had a strong history of lacemaking. Today, it is practiced only by pockets of women scattered around the country. These women however, are adamant that the beautiful tradition of Handmade lace in Ireland will be protected, preserved and practiced for many years to come.