This week I attended an author lunch at the Textile Center. The library hosts one every month but I’ve usually had a conflict and so haven’t been able to go until now.
The featured author was Maire (pronounced like Myra) Treanor, author of a lovely book entitled Clones Lace: The Story and Patterns of an Irish Crochet- available at Lacis. Clones (pronounced in two syllables- KLOHN ess) lace has its beginnings in the mid 19th century when Ireland was experiencing The Great Hunger. This lace was created and sold as a source of income for families who had no other means.
Maire has amassed a collection of Clones lace that is in wonderful shape. Many of her pieces are sales samples. They were used by the various lace traders to show to prospective buyers. Because they were not used in homes and were stored out of the sun, they are in excellent condition. She brought along several of her pieces. What an opportunity to hold a little bit of history in your hand, even if for just a few moments! Below is a jabot from her collection.
In addition to her book, Maire has been published in several crochet magazines including those from Russia and Ukraine. She is in the current issue of Interweave Crochet where she is beginning a four part series that leads you through a Clones lace wrap. She had the project in progress to show us. Here it is being modeled by her host.
The motifs are created first and then basted onto a backing material (the green you see in the photo). The motifs are then connected using the Clones knot. Once connected, the backing fabric is removed. Maire told us that each family had their own motif that was unique to them. If neighbors came to visit while they were crocheting, they would hide their motif under the table so it couldn’t be seen. I love that!
One of the problems with Clones lace is that it was made by many people in other countries. It is sometimes difficult to know whether the lace is really from Clones. There were also many people who left Ireland in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere. Sometimes they had to rely on their skills in Clones lace to provide an income in their new country. For example, you can find lace created in Appalachia that has its origins in the lace created by the Irish immigrants who settled there.
Maire told of some lace makers from Poland who created “sexy” lingerie in lace and were threatened with excommunication. This story from history was borrowed and used in a novel The Lace Makers of Glenmara. Maire told us it was a good read, but it is fiction so some of the details aren’t historically accurate. That will be added to my growing list of books to read. When I do read it, I’ll post a review.
Below you can see Maire holding a lovely christening gown she made for her daughter. My photo doesn't show well, but you can get the general idea. She tells us that it had been loaned as a sample at one point, but the person she loaned it to called her and said someone had actually sold it! As you can imagine she was heartbroken because this was something she had created for her own family. She tried several times to contact the new “owner” explaining the situation, but received no response. She finally had a solicitor send a letter and the gown was sent back within the week. Once she had it back she embroidered on the underskirt the names and dates of the children christened in the gown.
Maire has a nice blog on Clones lace. She has a number of links, including a You Tube video that shows you how to make a Clones knot. As I was reading I found a brochure on her Clones lace workshops that she holds in the summer. Do you think it’s unreasonable to fly to Ireland next summer to attend? I do have a wee bit ‘o the Irish in me, so perhaps I can claim it as a trip to seek out my ancestry. We just won’t tell anyone that my family comes from the opposite side of Ireland!