Victoria Frank, Inc.

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Ireland: Linen and Lace

November 1 - 7, 2015

Optional Lace Making Seminar, November 7 - 9

Lace Collar - Carrickmacross with Needlepoint Embellishment (Attribution: Museums of Northern Ireland)

The linen industry was prevalent in Ireland for hundreds of years and deserves a look as linen is the very foundation for fine embroidery and needlepoint and the major component of lace. I’ve been doing my homework as I have worked on this trip and find myself amazed that lace is made using so many different techniques in this small country including:

The variety and the role it played in the mid 19th century economy combine to make a truly fascinating story. If you have ever wanted to learn about lace, there can be no question that Ireland provides the perfect location.

Merchant Hotel Dining Room

We will have time in Dublin where we will see lace from the museum archives retrieved especially for our group and learn from the curator who cares for them. Then we’ll head up to Belfast, the home of the linen industry. We’ll stay in a particularly lovely hotel in Belfast, The Merchant, converted in 2005 from a Victorian bank building. Our sleeping rooms are decorated in a style of the time when linen was king and you cannot imagine the grandeur of the room where you will have your daily breakfast.

Northern Ireland is a small country filled with interesting linen-associated destinations that are on our itinerary. And there is some free time which will allow for a “Black Cab” tour, if you want to learn more about “the troubles.”

The trip will include the usual on a VCF, Inc agenda (very special museum visits, lovely hotels, fine dining, chartered transportation) along with the extraordinary knowledge of an expert in the field (more information on Kathleen Curtis Wilson below).

Concerned about the weather in early November? 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 and can assure you that it was tropical compared to the weather I returned to in Chicago.

As always, the group will not exceed 13 persons per week. 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, Introductory Lecture, 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 with a late afternoon lecture on the History of Linen in Ireland given by Kathleen Curtis Wilson, author of Irish People, Irish Linen. Kathleen will give us the essential background of the topic so we can best appreciate all of the beautiful sites and objects we will share in the next days together.

Shortly after the meeting adjourns, we will head out for our welcome dinner which will take place in the very room where the Constitution for the Republic of Ireland was drafted in 1922.

Trinity Library (Attribution: Rob Durston)

Day 2 – An Introduction to Irish Lace and a Peak at 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. After a morning of learning, we will head out for the ultimate Irish lunch – at the Guinness Brewery.

In the afternoon we will visit two glorious tapestries, hanging in the Bank of Ireland which was originally the House of Lords. The opportunity to see tapestries hanging in their original location is rare and these are lovely.

Close by is Trinity College where we will stop in to see 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, Carrickmacross and Lisburn

Today we’ll meet Ms. Ward at the National Museum of Ireland to see some the treasures she protects. She will guide us through the public galleries and we will have the unique opportunity to see some of the museum’s lace treasures taken from the archives, especially for us.

Lisburn Linen Museum

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 in the early springtime and should have some truly wonderful pieces completed by the time of our visit.)

Merchant Hotel, Victorian Sleeping Room

Then we head further north, to the town of Lisburn to visit the Linen Center. This is the perfect destination to begin our exploration of linen because their displays and demonstrations will take us through the process of making linen, from plant to woven article.

We will check into The Merchant Hotel in the early evening. What a delight it will be to sink into their luxurious accommodations after our busy day!

Silk Embroidered Skirt from Springhill Costume Collection Skirt with Beetle Wing Appliqué (!) from Springhill Costume Collection

Day 4 – Wellbrook Beetling Mill, Springhill and Thomas Ferguson’s

In the morning, we’ll visit Wellbrook Beetling Mill, the last working water-powered beetling mill of its kind in Northern Ireland. Have a go at scutching, hackling and weaving, learn the importance of the linen process and hear the original hammer machinery, used to beat sheen into cloth.

We’ll then make our way to Springhill, a 17th century Plantation home in Moneymore. 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. After that Helen will give us a curatorial tour of this years’ exhibition. Following this, 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 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.

Mount Stewart

Day 5 – Castle Ward and Mount Stewart

This morning we will visit the magnificent Mount Stewart House. This family home reopens its doors in 2015 after a three year, £7.5 million restoration with never before seen rooms accessible to the public. (The Royal Oak Foundation, the American support group of the National Trust, contributed heavily to this project). Home of the Stewarts, Marquesses of Londonderry, this Irish Country House is loaded with beautiful objects, including a collection of linens.

After lunch at Mount Stewart, we will head over to another National Trust property, Castle Ward.

A mix of gothic and classical styles make Castle Ward intriguing for architecture buffs and its role as the film location for HBO’s Game of Thrones marks it as a must-see for pop culture enthusiasts. (Kathleen Curtis Wilson specially requested that this destination be included in the itinerary because of the remarkable linen collection which will be on view, especially for our group.) It sounds as if there will be something here for everyone.

Embroidered Linen Cloth (Attribution: Museums of Northern Ireland)

Day 6 – Ulster Folk (& Transport) Museum and an afternoon on your own

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 will show us a great deal of 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 have a light lunch in the Tea Room in “Ballycultra” before we head back to Belfast where you will have the afternoon on your own.

What can you do in Belfast for the afternoon? You might chose to relax in the comfort of our beautiful hotel or chose to tour. A “Black Cab Tour” to take you to see the physical remains of the “Troubles” and you will learn how a truce was negotiated. Or you may wish to visit the remarkable landscape at Giant’s Causeway. We will happily put you in touch with reliable suppliers if you chose to have an active vs. restful afternoon.

The week will conclude with a memorable Farewell Dinner.

Day 7 – 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 airport transfers based on your personal itinerary, luxury hotels and delicious (and healthy) meals are included.

The Expert

Kathleen Curtis Wilson

Kathleen Curtis Wilson

A nationally known researcher, writer, editor, speaker, and program developer, Kathleen is the author of four books, the latest being Irish People, Irish Linen, published in 2011, a seminal study of the globalization of linen produced on the island of Ireland for over 400 years. During her tenure as visiting scholar and honorary fellow at the University of Ulster, Wilson interviewed linen makers and owners, uncovered the finest examples of linen in private and public textile collections, and consulted with the foremost textile authorities on the subject to write a book that is lavishly illustrated and engagingly written. Each chapter tells of art, social and economic history, design, fashion, architecture, technology, and cultural traditions that celebrate Ireland’s linen industry.

Her knowledge of both the subject and the locale makes her the ideal guide and travel companion for this program.

Comments from Guests who took a similar trip to Paris recently:

Trip Includes:

Cost: $5,475 (based on single occupancy/contact me for double occupancy pricing)

Optional Lace Making Workshop

Contemporary Carrickmacross Lace by Therese Kelly

In late March of this year Nora Finnegan from Kenmare offered a truly wonderful lace festival that included fashion shows, an exhibition, a competition, lectures and workshops. I met this tireless woman when I visited Ireland in February and we are working together to offer a weekend of classes on lace making that will include hands-on workshops on Carrickmacross, Crochet, Limerick and Kenmare lace techniques. These classes won’t make you an expert but they will offer you a chance to improve your needlework skills by exposing you to new ways to use your needles, new ways to embellish your work. Plus, there’s no better way to appreciate an art form than trying it out. Details below...

Lace Workshop

November 7 and 8, 2015 (After Linen and Lace Tour)

Carrickmacross Lace – $80 per person

In this class, taught by award-winning lace artist, Theresa Kelly, you will learn to use the couching and guipure techniques and create the loops that make this (Queen Victoria’s favorite) lovely Irish lace. You will learn adequate skills to complete a little flower brooch on your own.

Ms. Kelly’s award-winning piece is featured above, across from the general description of the lace workshop

Irish Crochet

Irish Crochet Lace – $80 per person

Kathie Earle will teach the Irish Rose square, a standard beginning project for crochet lace makers. She will also inform the class in how to combine the squares. A basic knowledge of Crochet Stitches would be required if the student is to get much benefit from this three hour class.

Kenmare Lace

Kenmare Lace – $160 per person

Nora Finnegan, organizer of the Irish Lace festival, will come to Dublin (200 + miles south) to introduce students to the techniques used for this needlepoint lace (needlelace). Based on the buttonhole stitch this lace is one of the most beautiful of all the laces and the technique is easily transferable to needlepoint embellishment. At the end of this class you will have your very own small, but beautiful, piece of Kenmare Lace made by you using a couple of the basic stitches.

Limerick Lace

Limerick Lace – $170 per person

If you have ever wanted to give a Tamberhook a try, Toni O’Malley’s class on Limerick lace might be an ideal option. Materials include tamberhook material and thread with the required hoops provided by this experienced teacher, within and outside of Ireland.

If you are interested in participating in any of these lace workshops, please send email to Victoria Frank;

All workshops will be held in a private room at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, are three hours in length and include materials. The workshop prices vary because of the distance the teachers will travel and, in the case that a teacher can’t make the round trip in one day, include a sleeping room for her. Prices do not include sleeping room or lunch for the student. Feel free to inquire about negotiated group sleeping room rates at The Merrion Hotel with Victoria Frank A minimum of 7 students is required for each class.

You won't have to lift a finger...