Where do you begin when trying to understand a piece of lace?
There are many ways to begin, but my favorite path begins with first identifying the method of construction.
|Early lace began with woven cloth and some threads were drawn out and
the remaining threads bound together to achieve a lighter lacey look. Hardanger
is a direct descendant of this technique.
Threads were also “cut away” from cloth and the resulting holes were bound and embroidered. Cutwork, Broderie Anglaise and eyelet are are a few versions of this early beginning of lace.
Later on threads were woven widely spaced with openings specifically
allowing for needle weaving a design into the fabric.
|These early laces were followed by needle-lace like Reticella and Punto in Aria. (See previous article) These developed into Point de Venice, Point de France, and my favorite, Point de Gaze, among others. These laces are based on the buttonhole stitch.|
||About the same time another lace was developing that used bobbins.
Bobbins, usually made out of wood or bone are wrapped at one end with thread
and crossed and twisted to form cloth-like stitches, netting, mesh, and
bridges. These laces include Duchesse,
among others. This was done over a pillow. The bobbins were different
in each country and lace form. The pillows also varried depending on the
type of lace made.
(See more about Pillows here)
|Knotted lace was developed around the Mediterranean area as a direct descendant of fish net. Today Armenian lace and Lacis/Filet lace are among the only knotted laces made.|
|Crochet, knitted and tatted lace are more modern laces with only 150 years of history, compared to the 500 years of lace history. Crochet uses a hook to make a chain stitch. The most popular crochet lace is known as Irish Crochet. Tambour and Limmerick also use a chain stitch and hook to make lace but they both use a ground of fabric or net.|
|Needlelace "Buttonhole stitch"|
|Tatting upon close inspection,
more closely resembles needle-lace buttonhole stitches.(see above left)
Notice the one thread down and one across,of needlelace.
Tatting has 2 threads down and one across (see picture left.
|Knitted lace has the traditional look of knitting but with much finer threads being used.|
Now there is machine and chemical lace. For most people that is it hardest lace to differentiate from handmade. Some people say that these laces have a “fuzzy” look to them. Others point out the “ribs’ in the cloth stitch area. The more modern machine made lace is easier to spot with only a few minutes study by the untrained eye. But the older machine laces were more faithful to the process and thus harder to spot. There are a number of wonderful books that help you to “see” the differences. The Secrets of Real Lace Elizabeth Kurella is an easy to understand favorite.
Once you have determined the way the lace was made the way the stitches are formed and combined is the next step. For this it is important to have a strong magnifier. One known as a linen tester is popular. Another with a light found at Radio Shack is another and my newest acquisition. When you can see the actual thread you can see the paths they travel across the lace.
All handmade lace has a discernable path. If you can’t follow the path with a powerful magnifier, it could be machine made. Chemical lace is usually made with a zigzag satin stitch over a fabric which is desolved away. It actually looks more like embroidery if you look closely.
It takes lots of research to determine the particular lace you are studying. Many regions of the word have similarities and subtle differences between the laces. But that’s the fun of it. A good book like Guide to Lace and Linens by Elizabeth Kurella is a great way to start. But nothing works as well as seeing the lace up close and personal. Many museums have lace collections but few allow access. Here is a list of some museums who dispaly lace. It's always best to contact them ahead of time just to be sure the collection is on display.
I can now spot some Lace at a glance and I feel like an explorer of sorts. It gives me great satisfaction to have unlocked some of the secrets in the thread.