• A flat needlepoint lace with no cordonnets
  • Ladder like buttonhole stitches around each motif
  • Edging decorated with 'Venetian Stitch' or knotted border
  • Bars/brides in shape of rounded hexagons with small picots
  • Designs-bold natural flowing flowers-roses, fuchsias, anemones
  • Shading of petals by varying the closeness of the buttonhole stitches
  • Leaves-spiky in shape
  • Used for fans, flounces, collars and cuffs, cravats, fichus, lappets, and ecclesiastical trimmings



In 1846, the Irish potato famine caused great distress and hardship. Several significant women, wives of ministers, and nuns in convents, aimed to give employment to women and girls by teaching them lace making techniques. In Country Cork in 1846/47, Mother Mary Ann Smyth at the Presentation Convent of Youghal, picked apart a piece of old Venetian needlepoint to work out its construction and in 1852 established a lace school. To begin with, the lace emulated Venetian raised point, but Youghal needlepoint soon developed its own characteristics.

At first this cottage industry lacked co-ordination and direction and designs were basic. With no training in art, the young girls adapted patterns from pieces of china. Through the work of James Brenan, Headmaster of the Cork School of Art, and Alan Cole, Department of Education and Science, schools of design were established in Dublin in 1847 and Cork in 1849. This had a great effect on the lace industry and lifted the manufacture from a philanthropic affair to an organization properly run on industrial lines. Sister Mary Regis of the Presentation Convent, Youghal, and Emily Anderson of Cork School of Art were early designers.

Youghal lace was also made at other convent school; New Ross, Waterford, Kinsale, Kenmare, Killarney and Clonakilty, with Cole and Brennan promoting and encouraging better workmanship and design. Many new stitches were invented by the lace makers themselves. A lot of this lace went to royal families.

By the 1940s the industry died due to lack of patronage


Earnshaw, P. Needlelace, Merehurst, London, 1991
Earnshaw, P. Youghal and Other Irish Laces, Gorse Publications, Surrey, 1988
Earnshaw, P. Youghal Lace: The Craft and the Cream, Gorse Publications, Guildford, 1990
Gwynne, J.L. The Illustrated Dictionary of Lace, Batsford, London, 1997
Toomer, H. Lace: A guide to identification of old lace types and techniques. Batsford, London, 1989

© Valerie Cavill, August 2010