|Location||Clones, Co Monaghan|
|Keywords||Clones, crochet lace, motifs, Clones knot, craftsmanship|
|Contact organisation||Ulster Canal Stores Visitor Centre|
Clones lace is an Irish crochet lace characterised by use of a crochet hook with the motifs joined by a distinctive ‘Clones Knot’ – a ball made by turning the hook ten to twelve times around the thread.
Mrs Cassandra Hand, from Losely House, Surrey, and wife of the local Clones Church of Ireland rector, introduced crochet lacemaking to Clones at a time when the area was suffering great deprivation following the Famine. Based on a variation of Venetian Point Lace, it was time consuming, and the Clones makers found that by adapting the crochet they could achieve the same effect in a much shorter time and therefore Clones Lace was created. The Clones workers made their own hooks out of sewing needles, with an eye cut out, stuck into a piece of softwood, with a bale cord wrapped around it to soften it to the hand. These hooks later became known as ‘Famine Hooks’.
Clones lace makers reflected their own surroundings with motifs of shamrocks, ferns, thistles, wild roses, marigolds, all joined by the distinctive ‘Clones Knot’ -a ball made by turning the hook ten to twelve times around the thread, hundreds of such ‘rolled dots’ having filled a piece of lace, joining the motifs. Some travelled to teach their craft throughout Ireland, setting up centres in Counties Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Donegal. In the past it was possible to recognise each family lace by the motifs used, many of which the patterns were kept secret. Families such as the ‘Lily Quigleys’ were known by the motif they made, and in many cases, the males in the family often made lace also. The precious pieces were then sold to agents who sent it to the fashion houses across Europe.
The Clones work, because of its padded motifs and Clones Knot was known as ‘Heavy Work’. Over time, the knowledge of the how to make the various motifs once so popular unfortunately began to die out, as lacemaking families immigrated and passed away.
Thankfully, it was reinvigorated by a small group of ladies, including Mamo MacDonald (President of I.C.A) in the early 1990’s. Today the lace is still made by locals in the traditional manner and sold worldwide.
The Ulster Canal Stores Visitor Centre (a renovated canal store house on the banks of the former Ulster Canal) today houses a dedicated Clones Lace Museum, which contains beautiful examples of lace and is free to visit Tuesday to Saturday. The museum contains a ‘Wall of Fame’- people who have made the lace over the decades. The Museum is compiling a database of makers from its inception to today, for genealogy purposes, and continuing research into the lace and its makers.
Practice and practitioners
Roslea or Irish Crochet Lace is also common to the area, but is made by an individual, whereas Clones Lace involves several workers. Shamrocks and Rose squares are joined in tablecloths, table centrepieces, and collars. The Clones work, because of its padded motifs and Clones Knot is known as ‘Heavy Work’.
In the 1990’s Clones Lace Guild was set up. Local woman Máire Treanor, an authority on Clones Lace, travels worldwide to share its story, and each summer teaches in Berkley University, California. She also writes and researches the subject extensively and is compiling her second book on the subject. Ms Treanor also organises the International Lace Summer School, and other classes throughout the country.
Development, transmission and safeguarding
The staff and management of the Ulster Canal Stores, alongside Clones lace makers, endeavour to increase the knowledge and practice of Clones Lace continually. Maire Treanor, one of the worlds foremost authorities on Clones Lace, organises the annual Clones Lace Summer School, which takes place in the Ulster Canal Stores Visitor Centre each June. Demonstrations, talks and special exhibits held at the museum aim to educate and engage both the public and local community. Visitors to the museum can immerse themselves in the story of this craft, which began as a social enterprise which whole families played a part in. Our aim is to continue this legacy by including all ages, backgrounds and abilities; inviting them to learn about this distinctive form of crochet, inspiration for which can be viewed in the nature of the surrounding Co Monaghan countryside.
Working closely with other Government and community agencies, Monaghan County Council, Failte Ireland in order to share the Clones Lace Story, in 2019 a program was devised to introduce new members of the community to the tradition. With support from Monaghan Integrated Development, Syrian refugees and other nationalities joined Clones lacemakers to learn the process in order to create a connection with their new hometown.