A Clones Lace Heirloom

Apr 28, 2014

The story of Irish crochet lace is well known. Its popularity in the mid-1800s saved the lives of Irish families devastated by the drought. What many don't know is how close we came to losing this incredible crochet lace technique.

 
Máire Treanor's family Clones lace christening robe. Irish crochet. Linen. Twentieth century. Ireland.
 

Here is Máire Treanor to tell you how she learned this amazing technique and turned it into a family heirloom.

A Family Tradition

In 1987, I came to Clones as a young woman and met Mamo McDonald, a vibrant personality in the town, who introduced me to the beautiful heritage lace of the area and told me how the lace industry had saved thousands of local families during the famine. I was hooked. Although I began my research into Clones lace in 1987, it wasn't until after the birth of my eldest daughter, Máiréad, in 1989 that I began crocheting it. About the same time, we, a group of ­fifteen local people emulating the old way in which Clones lace was made, formed the Clones Lace Guild, a workers' cooperative.

 
  Máire Treanor's Clones lace christening bonnet, adapted from the original she crocheted for her own children, showing the Clematis, Small Vine Leaf, Grapes, and Small Rose motifs.

A year later, and aware that the people who made Clones lace in the past had no heirloom pieces in their own families, I decided to make a linen christening robe with inserts of Clones lace for my growing family. In 1990, I was the proud mother of a second daughter, Aine, who wore the christening robe and a Clones lace christening bonnet that I also had designed and crocheted for her.

 
The Clones lace bonnet pattern in PieceWork May/June 2014  

The following summer, I added 2 inches (5.1 cm) of Clones lace around the bottom of the skirt of the christening robe, and my godson, Seán, wore it. In April 1992, my third daughter, Cáit, wore it. I had by then added lace to the bodice and sleeves and a lace inset down the middle of the dress. In the traditional fashion, I had hand-rolled the edges of the linen and attached the lace to it with crocheted slip and chain stitches.

-Máire Treanor, PieceWork May/June 2014

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Best wishes,

P.S. Do you have a crochet heirloom you have passed down?


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Comments

PianoJanet wrote
on Apr 28, 2014 1:53 PM

I have a large collar made for/by (?) my grandmother (1877-1966).  The collar has 2 layers and the front  ties can be flipped one over the other to make 4 rows of lace stacked on each other.  Because it is breaking in places, I had my daughter-in-law frame it.  As my grandmother was a much larger woman, I could not wear it anyhow. I also have quite a few doilies, but unfortunately do not know who crocheted them.  I am very blessed to have these pieces.

wendygoerl wrote
on Apr 28, 2014 4:10 PM

"What many don't know is how close we came to losing this incredible crochet lace technique. "

I still don't.  It's true Irish lace isn't exactly the most popular form of crochet, since-even though it's much faster than the bobbin lace it competed with--it's a pretty slow form. But  I have several books that have chapters on Irish lace, most of which I acquired in the late '80s any many having copyright dates in the early '80s and '70s.  I haven't heard mention of the Clones.  What is so distinctive about Clones lace?

Oh, and to answer the question, I have several doilies made by ancestors, but I couldn't tell them from my own, as they're fairly classic (i.e. indistinguishable from common modern) designs. The only things I'd count as "heirloom" are a pair of pillowcases with elaborate (5-6 inch) edging.

Toni Rexroat wrote
on Apr 29, 2014 11:38 AM

I will agree that it is hard to completely loose techniques as we can always look back at examples or possible written patterns. But that separation makes it very difficult to replicate. Sometimes we need to watch how a stitch is created.

Clones is a location in Ireland. Many of their designs were not written but were handed down in families. As children stopped crocheting, these unique designs and techniques were being lost. One of these techniques is the Clones knot which I would have great difficulty creating without watching someone crochet it.

Char55 wrote
on May 1, 2014 8:47 AM

I must say that the baby bonnet pictured in this article looks more like it was made with needle tatting than with crochet. I notice the magazine that is being promoted says that it contains needle tatting patterns.

Toni Rexroat wrote
on May 1, 2014 1:32 PM

Char55, I was actually able to see this gorgeous bonnet in person. It is in fact crocheted by Marie Treanor. She creates some amazing and delicate Irish crochet pieces. The technique she uses to join the motifs is called the Clones knot.

Char55 wrote
on May 2, 2014 10:15 AM

I found some "irish crochet" videos on YouTube, but for the most part they don't tell you what they are doing, their hands obscure most of the stitching, and some have a bunch of people talking in the background. It looks beautiful, but wish there were better videos...will keep searching.

on Jun 10, 2014 9:13 PM

This is really the most exquisite work.  Wouldn't I just love to be part of that guild keeping this type of lace making a living craft.  I am thinking that if I start learning now, should  my children now aged 18 and 21 ever present me with grandchildren, I could aspire to making the Christening bonnet. Keeping these skills alive helps to maintain our connections to bygone times which is so important.