Weaving, needlework and embroidery were handicrafts practised by women throughout Ireland since the Middle Ages. Crochet-work became more widespread in the nineteenth century when it was commonly taught in national schools. Armagh County Museum has a number of fine examples of this type of local craftwork.
Weaving, needlework and crochet-work were practised by young and old in even the humblest cottage, to make and mend clothing, bedsheets, pillowcases, cushions, curtains and handkerchiefs. If the work was particularly skillful, an item could be sold for some extra income. Many the poor old widow in famine times whose only source of income was from the sale of half-penny hemmed and embroidered handkerchiefs.
In Ireland as in the rest of Europe, fine needlework and embroidery were skills taught to chieftains' daughters and other well-born young ladies from early times and into the twentieth century. They became trade skills, too, for many women, sustained by a demand for embroidered cloth in successive periods.
Elizabeth Boyle, The Irish Flowerers (1971)