Monday, April 1, 2013

Antique Irish Lace

Exterior and Interior of the Sheelin Lace Shop and Museum in Ireland

In addition to tasting a countless assortment of whisky drinks and taking in the Irish countryside with my honey, one of the highlights of Ireland is the Sheelin Lace Shop and Museum in Bellanaleck, County Fermanagh. Inside, a massive collection of vintage jewelry, crocheted trimmings, textiles and lace-infused apparel from the 1850's to 1920's is carefully arranged to dazzle anyone who walks through the gate. As the perfect complementary touch, there's a tea shop adjoining (The Sheelin Tea Shop)--unfortunately it was closed during our visit.
Large assortment of lace vintage trim and doilies

Around Ireland, most of the ingredients are 100% organic...and advertised as such. With everything coming straight from the countryside, meals taste fresher and specialty items possess a distinct charm. Aside from the intricate handiwork and fascinating attention to detail, just about everything at Sheelin is one-of-a-kind. The shop boasts Ireland's largest collection of lace, all made by hand domestically.

Victorian style lace wedding gowns, a headpiece and a child's dress

Shop owner Rosemary Cathcart has been collecting Irish lace for over 30 years! Antique wedding dresses, shawls, headpieces, christening gowns and more are meticulously merchandised in a serene shop space. Oversized glass cloches uniquely display their contents with an air of mystery. Victorian grandeur spills out of jewelry boxes, across tables and are modeled on a variety of mannequins and statues. Lace styles include Carrickmacross, Limerick, Youghal, Irish Crochet and more. Adding a modern twist, Carthcart uses some of the antique lace to create a variety of handmade merchandise under the Sheelin label.

Treasure trove of jewels!

In the mid-1800's, lace-making became a prevalent cottage industry. When the Great Famine hit, Irish lace became the lone source of income for many families. Traditionally viewed as nun's work, sisters familiar with Venetian lace began teaching women and girls how to crochet Irish lace during hard times. Cotton was affordable and a crochet hook was easy to produce. Irish lace patterns were closely guarded and passed onto each generation. Though originally much sought after by fashion houses in Europe, Irish lace production waned after machine manufactured lace became readily available.

Stacked shawls and veils

7 sunny days met countless hours driving cross-country, with a couple dabbles in Brown Thomas, many photogenic mountainsides and three distillery tours. Like most things I encountered in Ireland, there is a hint of patriotism, romanticism, simplicity and the maker's identity apparent in the Sheelin Lace Shop and Museum. While not a whole day ordeal, I definitely recommend stopping in on your way to tea. Oh, and stay tuned for a bit more on my trek of Ireland!

Lace bonnets and a pair of shoes


  1. Love the post! As a teenager, I learned how to make bobbin lace - and I always love to see how the art of lacemaking hasn't died off (at least, not everywhere). Gives me hope for the craft!

    Thanks for sharing with us -must put this on my to-do for the next trip to Ireland.


    1. Thanks! Ireland was beautiful (partially because it didn't rain at all the whole week) and I definitely recommend a visit!

      Wow-Impressive! I have yet to learn to knit and doesn't involve the intricacies of lace!


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