‘Funky’ Carrickmacross

Even though I’ve been making lace for most of my life, it’s always good to expand and learn new techniques when you get the chance. So last summer I took part in a workshop  run by Janet French from Janet and Sandra’s Craft Shop, called Funky Carrickmacross.

Carrickmacross lace originated in Ireland in the 1820s and is a form of needlelace or decorated net.

Image source: The Lace Guild

Image source: The Lace Guild


There are a couple of methods of making it- one is to cut motifs and sprigs from machine-made lace and then appliqué them on to net; the other is made by stitching organdie to a net with a pattern underneath and then cutting away the surplus organdie and finishing it with further stitching. This is the technique we used.

Kate Middleton’s wedding veil was made in the style of Carrickmacross, but the workshop I attended wasn’t so ambitious as to attempt to make a wedding veil in two hours (Kate’s apparently took many embroiderers many, many hours to make – they had to change needles every three hours and wash their hands every 30 minutes!). Anyhow, this Carrickmacross was ‘funky’ as it used different colours and textures, but with the same traditional techniques. I’ve never made needlelace or decorated net before so this was a great bite-sized introduction.

To start we chose a template and covered it with clear sticky-back plastic. Over this was layered a piece of net then a piece of organza. These layers were then all tacked together.

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We used a strand of embroidery cotton to couch a thicker thread round the template. Some people used metallic threads and some used coloured.

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Once the outline was complete you could embellish it with beads, french knots or other techniques. I used beads; Janet’s sample (shown below) had French knots.

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Then we removed the tacking thread from the three layers and cut carefully around the organza so that only the petals had organza on them.

It probably took a couple of hours to complete this but the length of time would depend on the complexity of the design. You could use it on a card or even as a clothing decoration. A technique I enjoyed learning and I’m sure to do again. What new techniques have you learned recently? And have you ever tried proper Carrickmacross?



Torchon butterfly

My aunt recently brought me a small Torchon lace butterfly in a frame which she had found in a charity shop. It measures around 8cm x 7cm and is worked in a variegated thread.


The techniques used include spiders, half stitch fans, whole stitch fans and Torchon ground. There was no name or details inside the frame so I was left in the dark about its origins or maker.
A few days later I was searching through my lace patterns and books for a pattern and came across a booklet called The Romance of Lace which accompanied the 1984 exhibition of the North West Lace Makers (of which I’m currently a member).


I had a flick through to see if there was anything of interest and there on page 28 was the very same butterfly pattern as the one in the frame. The only slight variation is that the photograph in the booklet contains two tallies on the butterflies wings which are not there on my version. Perhaps then the maker of my version had only the pattern grid to work from- or perhaps they just didn’t like tallies! It was designed by someone called Kath Wurbacher.


So of course I decided to make my own version of the butterfly. I used a DMC 80 Special Dentelles thread and a silver gimp thread. There’s probably not a real butterfly in the world with these colours but I like them together! Unfortunately I had a break between doing the two wings and there is a different stitch at the top of each wing, and in the picture below the antennae look a bit drunken, but nothing in nature is perfect, right?!? 😉


I took the booklet, the framed piece and my version to the April meeting of the North West group to see if anyone knew anything about it the original or had been at the exhibition but unfortunately nobody did. But 30 years after the pattern was published I’ve at least been able to bring it back to life.

How to attend a lace group… and make no lace

So it was the monthly meeting of my lace group on Saturday- in theory, 5 hours to spend getting on with making lace, visiting the supplier and seeing what everyone else has on their pillow. Except it didn’t quite work out like that. Most of the usual organisers were on holiday so I ended up having to get people signed up for a workshop, introducing and thanking the speaker (a very funny and slightly risqué vicar…) and keeping the lovely suppliers topped up with tea. So I managed about 10 minutes of lace, but it was just enough time to finish the Wild Rose:


Ignore the slightly leaf-shaped leadworks in the middle- if I aim for leaves I get leadworks and vice versa…. And here it is next to a paper clip so you get an idea of scale:


I can’t quite believe that something so small took near enough two months- but at the rate of 10 minutes every session, it’s perhaps hardly surprising.

I was also surprised, and slightly depressed by the supplier saying that we are one of the younger lace groups she visits. There were around 30 of us there on Saturday; I’m in my mid-thirties and was the youngest by at least ten years. And at least 20 of the others were over 65, with many now being too old, or their eye-sight is too bad to even do any lace anymore. She said most groups she visits are all in their 80s- so what does that mean for 10 or 15 years time?? There was such a big resurgence of lace-making in the 1980s but it seems to have tailed off again now in most areas- with some notable exceptions, like Devon and Japan (yes, really). So come on, get your bobbins out! Give it a go if you’ve not tried it before- I’ll shortly be posting some tutorials to get even the novice started off. Lace-making may be quite old-fashioned and not exactly the hippest craft on the block, but it’s part of our heritage and a great way to spend some time- even if you’ve only got 10 minutes…