Over lockdown, Borris Lacemakers and the South Armagh Lace Collective launched a Common Threads – Laces Across the Border project.

The cross-border collaboration began in April from different areas of the country with the two groups making lace patchwork wall-hangings in their respective styles.

“It has been a great achievement for the two lace groups in light of the fact that much of the project was carried out remotely, certainly a learning curve for many of us. We had to embrace technology and focus on keeping everyone in the loop,” says Helena McAteer, treasurer of Borris Lacemakers.

Borris Lace was first introduced to south Carlow almost 175 years ago and south Armagh is currently celebrating 200 years of a rich Carrickmacross lacemaking tradition.

“Borris Lacemaking was started in Famine times by Lady Harriet McMorrough Kavanagh to help relieve the hardships of the time. The women who started this craft created a heritage and we hope to continue this heritage and pass it on to the next generation,” says Brigid O’Regan, chairperson of Borris Lacemakers.

Each group created a wall-hanging consisting of 19 lace squares on a quilted background with one square dedicated to the other groups’ lace. Each square of lace is different and has their own significance for the individual lace maker.

John Hume

The Borris wall-hanging includes a tribute square to the late John Hume. “The piece is called The Beacon and depicts a lighthouse which seems an appropriate symbol of the hope and guidance he offered in the darkest days of The Troubles,” says Brigid.

A series of short films Stories from Home has also been produced about the heritage of lace-making, the group of people involved and carrying on the craft while adhering COVID-19 restrictions.

The Common Threads – Laces Across the Border unveiling of the two wall-hangings will be livestreamed on the shared project’s Youtube channel at 3pm, Saturday 24 October.

The project was funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Co-operation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme. The project also received support from the Newry Mourne and Down Council.

All information about the Common Threads project is available on the Irish Laces Facebook page.

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