By the early nineteenth century, the British were successfully producing machine-made laces with the production of a knitted net. As the machine-made laces became more common, the hand lace-maker could not compete with the low prices of the new laces and the craft waned in popularity. Astonishingly, some old machine made lace imitated the handmade laces to a remarkable degree and sometimes can only be distinguished from the handmade lace by its relentless regularity of pattern (handmade laces incorporate human flaws).
This machine net could then be embroidered or appliqued by hand. By 1870, several other machine-made lace machines were in production, supplying Americans as well as Europeans with relatively inexpensive lace, including lace curtains. Nottingham lace curtains, with their characteristic square mesh ground, were imported into the United States by at least 1870. By the 1880s, it was affordable and considered a mark of good taste to purchase curtains for the Victorian parlor. By the early 1900s, lace curtains had peaked in popularity and fell from favor—they were a commodity that many had tired of and were associated with those of lesser means who wanted to appear ostentatious.
Today, lace curtains are popular once again. Still prized for their airy beauty, lace curtains permit light to filter through the window, while still providing privacy. Some lace curtain companies offer patterns that have been in machine production for 140 years.
Wish I could have had my Grandmother's Irish lace curtains. My Mom had them and they were washed, starched and hung on curtain stretcher to dry.