There are many many types of lace and
lace comes under
the classification of non loom textiles.
Lace is the most recent of traditional textile
techniques to come into being. Lace in the form we know today is thought to have originated
in Europe in the Adriatic region in the 1400s. Methods of working
spread far and wide rapidly. Soon lace making was an art craft
done by both professionals and amateurs and
found throughout Europe from the outermost parts of Russia to England
and Ireland. Hand made lace was a fashion item which spoke volumes
because it was always expensive.
By 1818 machinery existed to make lace, but
handcrafted lace was still practised in Eastern Europe especially in the
Baltic region. Lace is often combined in pieces with whitework
embroidery or drawn-thread work and the combinations often make
wonderful articles for vintage enthusiasts to collect.
Identifying lace is a field in itself and many vintage
sellers often take their lace or send photographs to experts for
identification of difficult pieces. The best advice I can
give you, is to obtain a modern book on lace naming such as that by
Helen Toomer which gives a very clear identification of old lace
techniques and types. You can also browse a few of the excellent
website pages I suggest here.
terms some descriptions can be
arrived at by these classifications below.
Tape laces, Tatting,
Knitting, Crochet and Macramé are classified as minor techniques that
create openwork decorative fabrics. Whitework is frequently
bundled together with lace goods as cutwork and openwork, since both
lace like effects. There is no point in my duplicating what I
believe to be the best pictorial reference illustrating the main
varieties of other work which interests lace collectors already here at
lace sets out to imitate hand made laces. Because of this books on
lace identification concentrate on hand made laces and distinguishing
between bobbin made lace and needlepoint lace. To complicate matters
further some lace is made using a combination of the two hand methods
and also may incorporate whitework and perhaps Irish crochet. You
can only hope to begin to identify lace and therefore develop experience
by using good reference books and/or museum study for comparison
purposes. An online explanation with good diagrams showing
the difference between bobbin and machine lace is at this page link
lace deliberately sets out to deceive and one place to see original
pattern books and examples for machine made lace is in the fine
converted Church now known as the Lace Hall in Nottingham city.
The Lace hall Museum is at High Pavement, Nottingham, England UK.
Lace is made entirely with a needle and thread and developed in the
1400s whereas bobbin lace is thought to have developed in the 1600s.
lace in brief is made when foundation threads are secured to a paper
pattern which is already tacked to 2 layers of foundation fabric.
The foundation threads are couched into position with further threads
through every layer of the paper and the fabric. When the pattern
is in position the excess fabric is removed and the real build up of the
lace with needlework begins. Using mainly buttonhole stitch,
design motifs are filled in with needlework stitching, including short
linking bars, picots and loops. The huge variety of open or
closed stitch work and filling stitches is what gives such a range of
individual variation within needle made lace. It is much, much
more complex than this, but this is sufficient explanation here.
To add further
complication sometimes bobbin made grounds or machine made net grounds
are used as a base for the needle made motifs.
An openwork style
includes Reticella whereas a Guipure style includes Punto in Aria, Flemish
needlepoint, Venetian needlepoint and French needlepoint (Point de
France). More mesh like needlepoints are Alençon, Argentan and the
net grounded needlepoint lace called Burano.
Brussels Lace a
popular lace in vintage terms, is a needlepoint lace, but uses several
various base grounds including a bobbin made net ground. This
application of needle made motifs to a net based ground, meant that when
machine net was introduced the Brussels workers adapted to working with
the new material better than the French workers, developing mixed skills
to a high art form thus staying in employment.
This beautiful lace collar from contentmentfarm antiques is hand made Brussels lace, one of the
most sophisticated and loved laces in the world. This collar
is exceptional in detail and workmanship featuring floral and
scroll motifs. Each motif is beautifully outlined in heavier thread
giving a three dimensional effect
net started to be manufactured by the 1820s and by the 1850s bobbin net
grounds had been superseded by the lighter point de gaze ground nets,
which generally changed the look of the lace, combined with the fact
that less area was covered with clothwork. As the Victorian era
progressed, the Brussels workers of the 1850s and 1860s produced more
assured designs in the new style creating a sought after lace type. The
lace continued to develop and change often being used for wedding
trousseaux, but began to wane as the century ended. By the 1920s
the fashion for this type of lace died out as simpler less ornate more
stylised art deco forms of decoration on dress, particularly beading and
appliqué became the rage.
de gaze lace was often produced as parures or sets of lace especially for a
Victorian wedding trousseau. A wedding lace parure might contain
some flounces ten and eight feet in length, matching edge pieces, cuffs
and sleeves all with obvious matching pattern elements giving a harmony
to the set. Typical
depth of the widest flounce might have been 11 inches.
This dress from contentment farm is a lovely early Edwardian era, mixed lace wedding or
dinner gown. The laces are handmade and the embroidery is hand
done. It has a feature high stand up dog collar of the Cluny lace.
Bobbin lace probably began as a simple flat straight
plaited woven braid made by interlacing threads in geometric patterns.
The threads were manipulated from the bobbin pins made of carved bone,
ivory or wood, to which the thread was wound. As time moved on so
the pattern formation became more complex, creating more and more
There are many types of bobbin lace including Flemish,
Milanese, Venetian and North Italian varieties and imitations which are
accepted in their own right. In the case of lace, imitation is
often inspiration for another land and frequently the fresh idea is then
reworked by the original source land creating even more variations. Within these
bobbin lace types are specific styles such as
Italian Baroque and Flemish Baroque, Brabant, Honiton and even a Russian
style which developed from Northern Italian bobbin laces. Brussels
also mixed needlepoint with bobbin lace to exquisite effect making it a
much prized lace.
Those from Britain include Honiton lace of Devon as well
Midlands lace which includes Buckinghamshire Point and Bedfordshire Guipure.
In addition there are other continental varieties which are wonderful
such as Valenciennes,Maltese, Mechlin, Le Puy and Lille lace. Most
famous of course is Chantilly lace with its related Blonde laces
(sometimes worked in black) being very important. The beautiful
lace is so marvellous that it has been immortalized in well known love
exquisite Victorian handkerchief from Contentmentfarm Antiques is tissue thin cotton batiste with a bow and flowers embroidered in one corner.
It is surrounded
with a 1.25" wide border of hand made Valenciennes lace, then
a hand embroidered band edged with a 3" wide hand made
Valenciennes lace flounce. The work is so fine that it is almost
impossible to tell the front from the back without close study.
One aspect of old lace making that is hard to reproduce
today even by skilled amateurs is the fineness of the thread used.
It is the fineness of the threads which gives lace its delicacy.
In the Victorian era the threads used were just a few fibres thick with
a count of over 1100 enabling up to 800 bobbins to be plied to create a lace
just 4 inches wide. The count of the finest threads used today is
a much coarser 320. To understand this take two reels of modern
sewing thread and note the count number printed on the reel label, so
that one reel is 40 or 50 and the second reel has a count of 60.
You will notice how much finer the thread with a count of 60 appears.
So imagine how much finer a thread of 320 might be and even far finer
than that, a thread of 1100 or 1200. Far finer than a human hair or strand of a
yarn from modern pantyhose I suspect.
By the 1840s machine made lace was making inroads into
the hand lace making industries. By the 1880s chemical lace which
mimicked guipures was being produced at an affordable price and by 1914
less fancy clothing altogether became the norm.
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