Book Review of Elizabeth Kurella's book on Youghal needle lace

Elizabeth Kurella's new book Youghal, Irish Needle Lace for Connoisseurs and Lacemakers (Published by The Lace Merchant, 2014, 155 pages) has just come out. She sent me a copy and asked me to review it. The book contains many very good photographs of Kenmare and Youghal laces, with line drawings of motifs abstracted from the laces and suitable for modern lace makers to use.

She starts with a very basic description of the parts of a lace (aimed at collectors), and a description of the characteristics of Youghal and Kenmare which allow one to identify it. I am not an expert on Youghal so I cannot speak to the accuracry of her description. But one of Elizabeth's persistent strengths is that she urges lace makers and collectors to look at all the little details of a piece of lace, differences in stitches chosen, differences in thread sizes, density variations, and variations in how a design or motif is executed. In part she encourages collectors to look very closely at a piece of lace to enjoy it more by attention to the details. And in part she encourages lace makers to discover the possible, and historic, ways of varying a particular motif or element of the lace. She explains differences in how the lace industry was organized in Ireland and on the continent, and how this may account for the far greater variety in execution that is seen in Irish needle laces.

There are several sources for the examples. 
1,  One source was a folio book of photographs (with expired copyright), the Plauen folio, ("Kenmare Arbeit Spitzen aus dem Museum de Konigl. Kunst-Schule fur Textil Industrie zu Plauen).. 
2.  Another source is also a collection of photographs in a folio by Alan Cole, dating from around 1900. 
3.  But there are 2 laces depicted which are currently in Elizabeth's own collection. One is a small scarf end, and another is a truly glorious large flounce 12 inches by 6 1/2 yards.
4.  Considerable attention is also given to a flounce in the collection of Anne Swift. But since the photos are fairly small and without as much detail I would have preferred, and since the piece was also part of the Cole folio of Irish lace, I think the photos of this piece may have been photos or scans of the folio photos. It would have been theoretically possible for the photos to have been made from the actual lace, but it is not clear whether this was done. Along with the Anne Swift piece are a few more smallish examples from the Cole collection of photographs.
5.The book ends with the entirety of Irma Osterman's book on Youghal technique (included with the permission of Irma's heirs). This is very useful, not only because the book is out of print, but because it gives the lace maker concrete ideas about how the photographs might be interpreted. (Irma explains how she learned Youghal, so the reader can judge the reliability of her explanations.)

Elizabeth searches through each piece, identifies the repeats, and isolates each group of sprigs. She then points out how the same sprig is not worked the same way each time it reappears in the lace as a whole, with photos of the same motif worked several different ways. Many of the photos are very good with considerable detail. This is especially true of her own large flounce. There is enough detail to see how the shading was achieved, to see fairly well how various parts of the motif were executed differently. With Irma's explanations at the end the lacemaker can make a very good guess on how to interpret the photos. The variety of interpretations is amazing and delightful. She has made line drawings of many of the sprigs incorporated in all of these laces, with variations in which leaves, buds and flowers are included. The whole thing becomes a gold mine of ideas for the lace maker.

I had never intended Youghal and Kenmare to be part of my needle lace journey. But Elizabeth has changed my mind about that.

Lorelei Halley


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Comment by Lorelei Halley on May 20, 2015 at 5:03pm

Christiane - Her book includes a small booklet written by an American lace maker, Irma Osterman (recently deceased). The booklet is an introduction to this type of lace, and gives some elementary stitches. It is useful, but is not complete. There is so little written about Youghal lace that anything, however small, is useful.  I think Elizabeth Kurella's book is useful to lace makers, as well as collectors, because the Osterman booklet explains the working methods, and the photos show examples of those methods used in real lace. The photos of all the lace examples give the lace maker ideas about how to use the techniques explained in Osterman's book.

Son livre comprend un petit livret écrit par un dentellière américaine, Irma Osterman (récemment décédé). Le livret est une introduction à ce type de dentelle, et donne quelques points élémentaires. Il est utile, mais est incomplète. Il ya si peu écrit sur la dentelle Youghal que tout, même minime, est utile. Je pense que le livre d'Elizabeth Kurella est utile de dentellières, ainsi que des collectionneurs, parce que le livret Osterman explique les méthodes de travail, et les photos montrent des exemples de ces méthodes utilisées dans la dentelle réel. Les photos de tous les exemples de dentelle donnent les dentellière idées sur la façon d'utiliser les techniques expliquées dans le livre de Osterman.

Comment by Christiane Machabée on May 20, 2015 at 10:14am

J’ai trouvé sur Internet des photos de dentelles magnifiques présentées par Mme Kurella. Savez-vous si ce livre dont vous nous parlez contient beaucoup de références strictement techniques pouvant intéresser davantage les dentellières que les collectionneurs? Comme Liz, je dis humm!

I found on the Internet pictures of beautiful laces presented by Ms. Kurella. Do you know if this particular  book you are referring to us has a lot of strictly technical references that can be more attractive for lacemakers as for the lace collectors? Like Liz, I say Hmmm!

Comment by Elizabeth Ligeti. on May 18, 2015 at 9:38pm

Really good review, Lorelei. thank you. Hmmm! A book worth getting, I think!!!!!!

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