When the Poor Clare nuns established a convent in Kenmare in 1861, not long after the end of the Irish Famine, they could see that the local people were in dire need of employment. Lace was first made in a workshop at the convent, and at first was typical Irish Crochet lace, but later the fine needlepoint lace that became associated with the area evolved.
Initially this was primarily sold in a local hotel much frequented by wealthy visitors from England and Dublin, who flocked to this fashionable area during the summer. Later it was exported to Paris and London. The lace also became very popular on ecclesiastical gowns and many bishops and cardinals from all over the world commissioned work from the nuns.
Extremely intricate, Kenmare lace is created by first tacking the outline of a design onto two pieces of cloth, one a fine netting, the other a more robust backing cloth. The patterns of the lace are then stitched by working from the tacked on design, but with the stitches attached to the finer cloth only. When the pattern is complete, the tacking stitches are cut and the background cloth falls away leaving the completed lace.
links to related sites:
THE HISTORY OF KENMARE LACE
Kenmare Lace School
Definition of Kenmare Lace (article)