Victoria Frank, Inc.

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Ireland: Lace, Linen and Art Embroidery

October 21 – 27, 2018

Optional Lace Making Seminar, October 29

Whitework Sachets

There is no question that Ireland is a center of extraordinary textiles and this trip will provide in-depth learning of linen and lace. And, as a bonus, we will have Lynn Hulse with us to share her knowledge of the beautiful Art Embroidery.

The in-depth itinerary that you will find on this page will provide a close look at what we will see and do. There are some wonderful experiences that were on my original trip to Ireland but my new Irish friends have opened doors to many sites and vendors that were not included in 2015. For instance, the opportunity to learn from Ms. Alex Ward about Irish lace and see the extraordinary examples she cares for at the National Museum of Ireland is included again but this year we will see the altar frontals at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (that will be taken out of storage just for us). And we will again visit the amazing textile collection at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum but this year we will take a class on Mountmellick embroidery from Lynn Hulse on the afternoon of our visit. And who wouldn’t want to return to Ballywalter Park to dine with Lord & Lady Dunleath? “Experiences that can’t be arranged on your own” is always my mission and you will find such on each day of the trip.

Concerned about the weather in late October? Well, it won’t be suitable for bathing suits but Ireland is an island nation that doesn’t experience the extremes we have in the states. The weather is regulated by the Atlantic Ocean, specifically the warm ocean current, the “Atlantic Drift”. The coldest months are January and February. I visited in February of 2015 and can assure you that it was tropical compared to the weather I returned to in Chicago.

The trip will include the usual on a VCF, Inc agenda (the special museum visits, lovely hotels, fine dining, chartered transportation) along with the extraordinary knowledge of experts in the field of study (more information on Lynn Hulse and Fiona McKelvie below).

As always, the group will not exceed 15. Because we are traveling with me and sometimes, two experts, I won’t sell to more than 13. If you are interested, call me at 847.784.1212 or send me an e-mail at

The Itinerary:

Georgian Doorway in Dublin (Attribution: Tourism Ireland)

Day 1 – Arrive Dublin, Welcome Dinner

You will be met at the airport and driven to our hotel in a private car, chartered to accommodate your itinerary.

The program will officially begin as we gather to meet one another and head out to a celebratory welcome dinner.

Embroidered altar fronts from St. Patrick's Cathedral

Day 2 – An Introduction to Irish Lace and Irish Art Embroidery by Two Scholars and Visits to two of Dublin’s Treasures

Our day will begin with a presentation by Alex Ward, Textile and Costume curator at the National Museum of Ireland, who will share the fascinating history of lace in Ireland and introduce us to the many techniques used to make the lace. A presentation on Irish Art Embroidery by Lynn Hulse will follow the lace presentation.

We will enjoy lunch at the hotel.

In the afternoon we will visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to see the altar frontals for the high altar and lady chapel designed by Sir Ninian Comper and embroidered by the Royal Irish School of Art Needlework. (These embroidered masterpieces will be taken out of storage just for us. This opportunity alone might be a reason to join me.)

We will then make a “pilgrimage” to Trinity College where we will visit one of Ireland’s cultural treasures – The Book of Kells. It is a true masterpiece of the 4th century and the library it’s in isn’t too shabby either.

Day 3 – National Museum of Ireland and Carrickmacross

After checking out of our hotel we will travel to Collins Barracks (the building that housed the British soldiers before they traveled to the “new world ” to fight in the Revolutionary War) to meet Ms. Ward at the National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts & History. She will guide us through the public galleries and we will have the unique opportunity to closely inspect some of the museum’s lace treasures taken from the archives and organized by technique.

Happy group at Carrickmacross Lace Gallery in 2015

When our museum visit is over we’ll head north to Carrickmacross, the charming village where the eponymous, delicate lace is made. We will lunch with the ladies who keep the tradition alive and visit their lace center, steps away from lunch. At the lace center you will see some historic pieces and be able to purchase a treasure or your own. (The local lace makers were alerted to our visit and should have some truly wonderful pieces completed by the time of our visit.)

Then we’ll board our chartered luxury coach and continue the voyage to Belfast. We should reach our hotel, located in the center of the city in a short hour and a half.

Fragment of Mountmellick embroidered cloth from Lynn Hulse’s personal collection

Day 4 – Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and Mountmellick Embroidery Workshop

The Folk Museum houses a variety of old buildings and dwellings which have been collected from various parts of Ireland and rebuilt in the grounds of the museum. You will enjoy your visit to the re-creation of a typical Ulster town of the early 20th century called “Ballycultra”, featuring shops, churches, and both terraced and larger housing and a Tea room. (Have you ever visited Greenfield Village outside Detroit? It is a bit like this.)

There are also buildings devoted to exhibitions and one of these will be the focus of our visit. The textile curator, Valerie Wilson, will show us her favorite pieces from her large collection which includes lace, linens, embroidery and needlepoint. It’s a spectacular collection and I suspect that you will be impressed and inspired by the works of art she will share with us.

We’ll enjoy a light lunch in the Tea Room in “Ballycultra” located on the museum grounds.

In the afternoon we will learn the fundamentals of Mountmellick embroidery under the guidance of renown teacher, Lynn Hulse. Three hours with Lynn, working with hand-spun linen thread on linen woven in Northern Ireland for our class will start you on your way to complete the piece she has designed for us – and should give you the skills to re-create a beautiful whitework masterpiece when you return home.

Pastel Napkins

Day 5 – A Private Collection of Vintage Linens and Visits to Two Working Linen Factories

We will start our day with a visit to Ms. McKelvie’s home for a look at some of the treasures from her remarkable collection of fine antique Irish linen. Bring your pocketbook as some of these beautiful pieces are for sale.

We will have lunch at F.E. McWilliam Gallery, a small museum devoted to the sculptures of Mr. McWilliam.

Then onto Thomas Ferguson’s linen manufacturer, established in 1854 and still creating “the finest linen jacquard in the world.” We will take a factory tour and have time for some personal shopping afterwards (in 2015 I practically had to lasso the attendees back onto the bus – loads of goodies here and you won’t want to miss the bargain room!)

We will end the day with a visit to McConville’s, a working water powered scutch mill. We will see the water wheel working and observe the process of hand scutching as would have been done years ago.

Beetlewing applique dress

Day 6 – Springhill House, Lunch at Ardtara with Bruce Clark, Visits to Gorteade Cottage and the Flax Visitor’s Center

We will start our day at the National Trust’s Springhill House, a 17th century Plantation home. The costume and textile curator will give us a “behind the scenes” tour of the costume collection which will include linen pieces and some of the other collection treasures that are either not on display or that are too delicate to put on display. Following our visit to the costume collection, there will be an opportunity to take a tour of Springhill House and hear more about the ten generations of the Lenox-Conyngham family.

Then on to beautiful Ardtara Country House for lunch with Mr. Bruce Clark. Mr. Clark is the direct descendant of Jackson Clark, who established his linen manufacturing plant in 1736, making it the oldest of its kind in Ireland. Now the online religion editor of The Economist, Mr. Clark has a strong interest in the local history of his corner of Northern Ireland, especially its linen heritage and its early American connections. He will share his knowledge and then take us to his lovely home, Gorteade Cottage, the boyhood home of one of the American founding fathers, Charles Thomson, which contains a treasure trove of artifacts and memorabilia.

And then onto The Flax Visitor’s Center in Upperlands, Ireland’s oldest linen village where we will see their permanent display on the heritage of the linen industry.

Embroidered cloth

Day 7 – Lisburn Linen Museum, Mossley Hill and Farewell Dinner

This morning we’ll drive down to Lisburn and visit the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum. Their permanent exhibition, Flax to Fabric, The Story of Irish Linen enables you to see each step of linen production, from flax to finished goods.

We will enjoy lunch together and then on to Mossley Mill, which began as a water mill that bleached flax in the eighteenth century, expanding services and products, finally closing in 1995. The museum is housed in what was originally the wet spinning floor and tells the story of the mill and the people who worked there.

This evening we will celebrate our week together with dinner at Ballywalter Park, the ancestral home of the Lord Dunleath. Not only is it a beautiful location but the family was in the linen business and has treasures to show us before we retire to the home’s beautiful dining room for a sumptuous dinner with the Lord and Lady of the Manor

Day 8 – Return to Dublin

This morning we will return to Dublin as a group, a drive of approximately 2 hours. You may opt to stay in Dublin for a day or two and take advantage of the group negotiated rates at the hotel, or stay and enjoy the lace workshop (details to come) or travel home.

As always, arrival and departure airport transfers based on your personal itinerary, luxury hotels and delicious (and healthy) meals are included.

The Experts

Dr. Lynn Hulse

Dr. Lynn Hulse

Lynn Hulse is a trustee of the Brangwyn Gift at the William Morris Gallery, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and Co-founder of Ornamental Embroidery, which teaches and designs historic handmade needlework inspired by objects from museum and private collections. She is the editor of May Morris: Art & Life. New Perspectives (2017) and author of the forthcoming publications The Embroidered Furnishings of the Lethbridge Sisters, c. 1899-1922 (OE Publications) and The Art of Needlework: Projects
from the Nineteenth Century (Crowood Press)

Ms. Fiona McKelvie

Ms. Fiona McKelvie

Fiona McKelvie has worked in textiles for most of her career and during that time she has been involved with companies such as Nina Campbell, Liberty of London and The White House (a UK specialist in fine linens). During her 14 years at Liberty her role was that of Export Sales Manager, working closely with overseas customers, agents and distributors.

More recently, she has launched a website sharing her passion for antique and vintage Irish Linens McBurney & Black.

Comments from Guests who took a similar trip to Ireland in 2015:

Trip Includes:

Cost: $6,290.00 (based on single occupancy/contact me for double occupancy pricing)

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