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What is Carrickmacross Lace?

Irish Carrickmacross Lace

Irish Carrickmacross Lace (Photo:irishcarrickmacrosslace.com)

I’ll admit that before the press release from the Royal School of Needlework’s about the lace on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, I’d never heard of “Carrickmacross lace.” So, kudos to Kate Middleton’s wedding dress; the resurgent interest in sewing and the needlearts; and the public’s interest to know details about every minutia, that schools such as the Royal School of Needlework and the type of embroidery and lace detail was mentioned right alongside with wedding dress designer Sarah Burton’s name.

Map of Carrickmacross, Ireland

(Image source: Wikipedia)

Carrickmacross lace is a type of needle lace. Originating in the 1820’s in Carrickmacross of the County Monaghan in Ireland. It evolved from some of the appliqué lace acquired by a Mrs. Grey Porter, the rector’s wife, on her honeymoon to Italy in 1816.

“Mrs Grey Porter, like other ladies of her class, saw in the craft a way to provide much needed employment for young women in rural Ireland. She and her maid Ann Steadman, learned the appliqué technique by copying the Italian work and in about 1820, they established an appliqué lace-making class which soon attracted a number of young women to apply this potentially remunerative craft.” irishcarrickmacrosslace.com

Carrickmacross lace sample

(Photo: lace.lacefairy.com)

During the famine it became an important source of rural family income  which was common with lace production everywhere. It was “made by the poor for the rich and famous.”

Fortunately, this technique did not die out as other art forms did, due in part to the local St. Louis Convent. The nuns still teach this needleart today.

The lace is worked by tacking fine muslin onto machine netting. The design is outlined, the unwanted muslin is then cut away and the open areas are filled in with needle lace. When this process is complete the excess organdy is cut away revealing the design. A further effect, called “guipure,” also a feature of this lace, is achieved by linking areas of the pattern, creating a very intricate design of open work. Colorful terms are used to identify the extensive range of stitches which enrich and embellish the pattern  bars, pops, cobweb, etc. Carrickmacross lace is sometimes confused with Limerick lace, which does not use the cutwork.

Princess Diana wedding dress sleeve detailWhat we weren’t able to see in the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding ensemble was her three petticoats of hand-embroidered lace and embroidered shoes, also embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework craftsmen and craftwomen.

Princess Diana’s wedding dress sleeves also featured Carrickmacross lace, which was handworked by the Royal School of Needlework.

Carrickmacross Lace Demonstration

Here are a couple of videos demonstrating this intensive handwork. I love the woman on the right in the second video when she shakes her head at the camera in disbelief. I have a feeling she’s going to have a UFO. 😉

This next link is a wonderful video with close-ups of Carrickmacross lace samples from The Virtual Textile Museum. The narration is in Italian, but pictures speak a thousand words.

Lace Gallery Interior

(Photo: Carrickmacross Lace Gallery)

If you’re in County Monaghan and interested in seeing more Carrickmacross lace, then a visit to the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery will surely be on your must-see list. Send us a postcard if you do visit the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery!

What Goes Into Embroidering A Royal Wedding Dress

Button back of Pippa Middleton's dress

Button back of Pippa Middleton's dress (Image: Glamour.com)

We’ve seen the dress. Well, maybe not in person, but I’m sure by now, you’ve seen the replay of the wedding at some point. Even if weddings aren’t your fancy, as a sewist, the dress would surely peak an interest. Here are a few things about the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress.

So simple in its line, the dress designed by Alexexander McQeen talent Sarah Burton is finished on the back with  58 gazar and organza covered buttons fastened by Rouleau loops. Pippa Middelton’s dress had the same buttons on the back of her simple, but chic dress.

And, be honest, who doesn’t wish they didn’t look as good as Pippa did and rocked that dress? If you’re going to have to walk behind your sister carrying her train for four minutes, you might as well be able to look your best from that view. Am I right?

Royal School of Needlework

The beautiful lace and embroidery on Kate Middleton’s dress was the meticulous and studied handwork of the Royal School of Needlework (RSN). The Royal School of Needlework is a self-funding educational charity dedicated to keeping the art of hand embroidery alive in the 21st Century. The skilled embroiderers of England’s Royal School of Needlework contributed their technical embroidery expertise to create the bespoke lace on the wedding dress, veil and shoes.

Detail of Kate Middleton's wedding dress

(Photo: Getty Images)

The design on the lace was a meld of England’s Tudor’s rose, Scotland’s thistle, Ireland’s shamrock and the daffodil of Wales, a nod to the countries of the United Kingdom.

The lace design and process was influenced by traditional Carrickmacross lace which originated in Ireland in the 1820s. Carrickmacross lace uses an embroidery technique called appliqué – the lace is worked by applying organdie fabric to a delicate net background and edging each motif with fine cord-like thread. Sarah Burton sourced a series of lace motifs to create a unique design, applied by the RSN and arranged to fit each part of the dress perfectly following her creative vision. Each lace motif (some as small as a 5 pence piece) was applied with minute stitches every two to three millimetres.

One of the hallmarks of the RSN is that our embroiderers can work collectively on a project yet it will look like the work of one person. The team for this project comprised RSN Studio staff, former staff, tutors, graduates and current students…

Famous for its high standard of technical hand embroidery, since its founding almost 140 years ago, the RSN’s mission has always been to keep the traditional art of hand embroidery alive. Essential to the RSN’s work is its attention to detail. Hands were washed every 30 minutes to keep the lace and threads pristine; needles were renewed every 3 hours and only short lengths of thread were used, each no longer than 30 cm. Also, to maintain an even appearance, no securing knots were used and it was important that the back of the work looked as neat as the front, another RSN hallmark.

Royal School of Needlework press release

Kate Middleton Wedding Dress front & back view

(Photo: Getty Images)

Another secret about Kate’s dress: Pads were added to the hips to give her a more hourglass figure. Lucky girl to need additional padding on her hips. One secret about Princess Diana’s dresess that was likely added into Kate’s is that all the undergarments were sewn into the dress. Underskirts are sewn tight; bodice and bust boning are snug to prevent shifting or movement of any fabric. [edited/added]

More about the Royal School of Needlework.

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