Lace making in Limerick is traditionally associated with the potato famine years of the late 1840s, even though it was introduced to Limerick a decade or more before the famine. However, it was during the famine years that a number of attempts were made to widen the traditional Irish dependence on agriculture and potato crops in particular. A number of craft initiatives were introduced, lace being amongst them. Although lace production did tend to be limited to the female population, a number of regions of Ireland did become associated, if somewhat briefly, with a relatively high standard of lace hand production.



Illustration: Limerick lace design, 1888


Much of the lace design work produced in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century onwards tended to be copied more or less directly from examples found in Europe, particularly those produced in Belgium. It has to be said that not all of the Irish lace was hand produced, as machine lace was often included in at least part of the process. Limerick lace in particular often used industrially manufactured lace netting on which workers then produced hand lace patterns. It was this unhappy combination that some critics saw as a compromise too far for the lace craft industry, even though Limerick lace did see a relatively stable production during at least part of the latter half of the nineteenth century.