This is a piece of Irish needle lace. It has a distinctive flat style and an 18th-century pattern, although it actually dates from about 1886.
Lacemaking was set up in Ireland in the mid 19th century as a cottage industry. The aim was to help the population, who were suffering from the famine caused by the failure of the potato crop. In 1852, nuns established the Youghal lace school, which became well-known for its needle lace. Lacemaking went through periods of success and decline. In the 1880s, Alan Cole of the Department of Science and Art set up a committee to help revitalise it. There were design classes in lacemaking centres, prizes, new lacemaking schools and commissions for important patrons, including Queen Victoria. The main centres were all based around convents at Youghal, Kenmare, New Ross and Inishmacsaint. Youghal needle lace had its own distinctive flat style and patterns, which you can see on this piece. Alan Cole collected it during one of his annual tours of Ireland to report on progress and encourage further endeavours.