Friday, 29 April 2011

Irish Lace

People who know me will be very surprised, and some may laugh very heartily when they hear me confess that I – with my political views – did watch the Royal Wedding today. But I do have a sister who is a bit of an expert in European Royalty, and therefore I certainly know my Williams from my Willems and my Harrys from my Haakons. I am a bit weak on royal protocol though, and would probably break every rule in the book ;)

To be able to hold a conversation with my sister, and also to see if I could spot the Labour leader in a Morning Suit (I did!), I settled myself in front of the TV in the morning, and scrutinised the attire. I love hats and frocks, and the more outrageous, the better. Sadly, Elton let me down on that occasion, but there was still plenty to see.

Kate’s dress by Sarah Burton was stunning, and I particularly loved the lace and neckline; also the way the dress fell so beautifully from the waistline. That was a gorgeous design, and I can only imagine the craftman- and womanship that went into it. If there is a big designer heaven in the sky, Alexander (McQueen) must have smiled proudly down from above – that dress was really it!

Apparently, the lace on Kate’s dress was hand-stitched in the Carrickmacross technique. Years ago I worked as a researcher on a project about women’s work, and my job was to collect information on Irish laceworkers. It was such an fascinating task. I learnt about crochet lace, Carrickmacross, Limerick lace, Youghal needlelace, Inishmacsaint needlelace, bobbin lace, as well as sprigging…and I so wanted to learn it – still do. Irish lace became world-famous, and Ireland was a much sought after lace producer at the turn of last century and beyond. And that when the laceworkers still worked by candlelight and oil lamps. If you look at any of the lacework from that period, when it played a huge part in fashion, you’ll be amazed at the skill and precision of the stitches. Isn’t it a shame that we might be losing the skill now, when we have far better lighting?

One day I will get down to learn lacemaking, but in the meantime, I am sticking to my knitting needles and really want to knit more intricate lace. I can knit basic lace patterns, and at the moment I am working on two lacy summer wraps, but it’s the really intricate lace I find so…intriguing! I’m very inspired now to look through some of my patterns, especially the vintage patterns, and find some exciting old lace.

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