Collar, Carrickmacross guipure, cotton, maker unknown, probably Australia, 1900-1910
This collar worked in Carrickmacross guipure lace is part of a collection of lace begun in Ireland in the early 1800s and added to by successive generations of a family with a heritage in traditional lacemaking. As a treasured heirloom, this collar symbolises the intrinsic value and emotional connection that becomes imbedded in an object over successive generations. Lace in particular, evokes important memories connecting one generation to another to become part of a family's cherished heritage.
The collar exemplifies how important the skill of needlecraft was to the nineteenth century woman. Young girls across all strata of society were taught needlecraft from an early age, generally by their mothers to prepare them for their duties as a young woman. For lower or working class women, needlecraft provided a means of earning a living. For the genteel woman, skill with a needle was a leisure activity and in the privileged classes of society, needlecraft was ornamentation and a skill that was part of the social graces expected of a young woman. A daughter skilled in needlework was also a reflection of a mother's excellent training.
This collection of lace characterises how new lacemaking techniques were introduced to colonial Australia through the many English and Irish emigrants who made Australia their home and articulates the importance of material culture in providing people with a powerful sense of identity and belonging that is anchored in a fuller understanding of the past.
Carrickmacross lace is a traditional applique lace technique named after the town of Carrickmacross in the county of Monaghan, Ireland where the technique first originated in the early 19th century. The introduction of this technique is credited to Mrs Grey Porter, who was inspired by examples of appliqué lace she collected on her honeymoon in Italy in 1816. Mrs Grey Porter and her maid learned the appliqué technique by copying the Italian work and in about 1820 they established an appliqué lace making class which attracted a number of young women eager to learn an income producing craft.
In the depression of the 1830s demand for Carrickmacross lace decreased but the industry was revived during the potato famine of 1846-1848 when the managers of the Bath and Shirley Estates promoted the commercial value of Carrickmacross lace as a way of helping their starving tenants earn an income. The managers established the Bath and Shirley lace school where both Carrickmacross appliqué and Carrickmacross guipure were taught. The potato famine was the catalyst for the founding of a number of lace cottage industries in many parts of Ireland as philanthropic members of Society sought to alleviate the effects of the famine.
The term Carrickmacross was formally adopted to describe the lace in 1872 at the Dublin Exhibition. In 1904 according to the 'The Times', Carrickmacross lace was 'in the greatest demand', sharing the accolade with Brussels, Honiton and Irish crochet laces.
Carrickmacross lace has survived periods of fluctuating popularity. The survival of Carrickmacross lace in the 20th century is due to the nuns of the St Louis Order who established a convent in the town and set up a lace making class in 1897. Carrickmacross lace continues to be made today. The nuns of the St Louis order supervise outworkers making wedding veils, communion veils, christening robes, table mats, jabots, albs, collars and cuffs. Carrickmacross lace is most commonly associated with wedding dresses, for instance the sleeves of Princess Diana's wedding dress were trimmed in Carrickmacross lace.
Carrickmacross imitates the old point laces that were made with appliqué on net or bride grounds. Carrickmacross appliqué is produced with net inserted between a printed pattern and a fine cotton fabric. A fil de trace outline is couched over the outlines of the motifs drawn on the muslin and then closely overcast with care taken not to catch the cloth base into the stitching. Openings may be cut into motif centres and fancy fillings or picoted bars worked into them. The completed lace is removed from the frame and the net behind the fillings is cut with special scissors. The remainder of the net functions as a reseau (general term for the mesh base in any lace) for the lace after the excess cambric or muslin is cut away. If the net as well as the fabric is cut away, the lace is called Carrickmacross guipure.
A pointed and strong needle is used for basting the fabric and net to the pattern and supporting cloth with a smaller and pointed needle for couching the outlining cord. A fine needle with a blunt tip is used for the decorative fillings. Scissors with rounded tips are used for carefully cutting away the excess fabric.
The design motifs most popularly used in Carrickmacross range from simple pieces decorated with shamrocks to sophisticated formal designs of flowers and scrollwork.
This collar worked in Carrickmacross guipure lace is part of a collection of lace that has been added to by successive generations of a family of lacemakers. Elizabeth Bayly (d.1808) from the county of Monaghan in Ireland where Carrickmacross lace was first produced, was the first in a family of lacemakers to teach the skill of lacemaking to her daughter. This tradition was perpetuated through several generations and continued when family members emigrated to Australia.