Lace Encounters of the Lovely Kind

Recently at the Melbourne Craft & Quilt Fair I had the pleasure of meeting Zara Maleky who brought with her some amazing examples of her lace work to show people. Zara is from Persia and has been in Australia for around seven years. Zara told me her work is Irish crochet lace;  it’s pretty and it’s all handmade.


A little research shows that this kind of lace making came to Ireland in the mid 1800s when the country was stricken by poverty at the time of the potato famine. Irish crochet lace apparently imitated Venetian needlepoint lace, which was more labour intensive.

Zara’s work departs from traditional all white by using a lively colour palette which gives a fresh contemporary look to her lace.


Lace making in Ireland seems to have been a way for poor rural women to earn some money as only a few tools and materials were needed. These women sold the lace, or sold lace motifs to someone who joined them together, and then the lace was worn by wealthy women.

Reminiscent of fishing villages in England where each region had its own knitting pattern, individual families would design their own motifs and specialise in leaves or flowers, guarding their patterns carefully.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, making lace by hand could not compete with machines that became available, and the cottage industry diminished.

Recently, at the Newcastle Stitches & Craft Show, we had the pleasure of hosting a display of lace from Joyce Needham’s private collection. Her collection includes a piece of the lace from Kate Middleton’s wedding gown and a length of the lace which was cut by Queen Elizabeth and French President Mitterrand to open the Channel Tunnel; it was a length of red, white and blue lace which was used instead of the usual ribbon.

Joyce grew up in Nottingham when lace was still a major industry, and started a small lace factory in Sydney more than 35 years ago before relocating to the Gold Coast. Her family-owned company, World of Lace exhibits frequently at our craft events.

Tell us if you do Irish Crochet Lace – we’d love to see your work!

More reading:

Click here for the History of Irish Crochet Lace and some fabulous images

Visit for tutorials and how to information

More how to information can also be found here on Ann Reillet’s website

To find a lace making guild in Australia click here

To find a lace making guild in New Zealand click here

To see the picture of the lace used in the Chunnel opening ceremony click here


Words and pictures by Judy Newman

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One thought on “Lace Encounters of the Lovely Kind”

  1. I just received this from a reader:
    Hi Judy,
    I have just read your interesting story on Irish Lace. We have recently arrived home from a visit to the U.K and went to a couple of places where lace is made. The first place we went to was to the Cluny Lace mill in Ilkeston England. We went there because I had Cluny Lace on my wedding dress 52 years ago. As a special favour we were shown all over their mill as they don’t do tours there owing to the insurance risk. After our tour I was given some lace samples including a piece of the lace which was on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress as well as a book on the History of Nottingham Lace dating from 1760’s – 1950’s.

    Whilst in Ireland we went to Kenmare Lace. Here the skills and traditions of lacemaking were preserved by the sisters of St. Clare’s convent. In the 1800’s the sisters of the Poor Clare convent introduced needlepoint lace to the women and girls of the locality. This was in response to the poverty that followed the Great Famine.

    I hope that you have found this to be of interest following your article.

    Kind regards,


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