Carrickmacross Lace is one of the most famous of the laces of Ireland. It has been the Irish lace of choice for top designers for wedding dresses and wedding veils. It originated from an adaptation of applique needlework brought back from Italy by Mrs Porter, the wife of Reverend John Grey Porter, Rector of Donaghmoyne, Co. Monaghan in 1820. While it predates the Great Famines of 1845 to 1847 by twenty five years, even then it’s development as a lace was promoted to alleviate the poverty in the area.
Mrs Porter and her sewing-maid started lace making classes, which helped increase the quality of the lace. Demand for the lace was beginning to decline when the Great Famines occurred. To try to improve the conditions and incomes of the local people, buildings on the Bath and Shirley Estates were made available for teaching lace making and a number of lace making schools were started. This led to a formal structure for designing patterns, developing variations in the needlework of the original lace and fulfilling orders.
For a period of time the schools attracted good teachers and standards were high. Towards the end of the 19th Century standards were declining as schools had closed down. Fortunately the nuns of the Saint Louis Convent came to Carrickmacross about this time and not only started teaching how to make Carrickmacross lace but also obtained good designs for their lace makers. This kept the lace making alive and it is still made to this day. While making of Carrickmacross Lace is now usually a leisure activity for crafters, there are some people making it on a commercial basis but larger commissions are expensive due to the time involved for making it.