During the days of my youth, ladies, at least the immediate world of ladies surrounding me, were always busy with their hands and minds mending, sewing, embroidering or creating lace of some kind or another.
To several today, the mention of lace would bring to mind a yesteryear or parlor window hangings, side boards and tables adorned with starched doilies.
Presently there is a trend developing to return to lace tiered window curtains, of course these are manufactured not homemade. Not only curtains but mantel covers and other items are available.
I can remember sitting down on the over-stuffed living room chairs, the ladies hurrying to remove the antimacassars laid across the backs and arms of the chairs and the sofa.
Possibly others will think of lace of handkerchiefs, a head covering such as the Mennonites and Amish use or even borders of their lingerie. As to historical facts lace is one of the oldest and versitile of articles, a jewel of fabrics.
Lace is an open work created by braiding and interwoven threads of several materials – i.e., silk, cotton, flax or even metallic stuffs. Fish nets are a coarse example of lace work.
Lace type material was made as early as 4000 B.C. by Sumerians. “Lacis” a primitive lace is also an ancestor of today’s lace.
During the 1500s Venetian artisans introduced a wide variety of lace. Designs originated from classical Greek and Roman motifs, these patterns also influenced the Renaissance painters.
Two procedures of creating lace was employed by the Venetians – the needle and the bobbin. The needle work, considered by some as true embroidered lace, utilized one continuous thread into the pattern. One outstanding example is termed “stitches in the air,” created by joining free-standing ornamentations with threads. Diverse variations were developed over the years employing different needles and threads.
Bobbin lace, also named “pillow lace,” has its ancestory in weaving. This
method is made by braiding, interlacing or twisting numerous threads through pins pierced into a design on a pillow. Macrame is a modern method of bobbin lace.
The Roman Catholic Church employed bobbin lace to decorate their many ecclesiastial vestments and cloths.
Bobbin lace was later introduced to the French churches and then to the ladies there in who had it imported to be used in large quantities for personal items. As a result vast amounts of monies flowed south to Italy and France’s financial minister brought Italian lace makers in to teach the French to make it.
By the mid-1600s lace industry grew in France sufficient to be competitors with the Italian market.
French lace makers also devised their own patterns and became a household name for fashion.
Slowly, as was true of many industries, other European countries had to join the crowd.
Each country developed their own distinctive designs and market.
By the mid-1700s America began to make their own lace and home fashions. More European lace was made than in America due to the fact few ladies had the time to make lace or the time to learn the delicacies required to create it.
England invented the lace-making machine by 1808, about the beginning of the Industrial Revolution lace, like many other articles, became available to the many laborers as well as to the affluent citizens. Also similar to other mass-produced articles, the machine made less attractive or desirable lace.
Lace making by hand or machine remained a low profile interest until after the Spanish-American War when the government recognized the lack of mosquito netting caused quite a few casualties to the troops. The government then encouraged the import of lace-making machines and the industry.
Of course the vast majority of lace today is machine-made; however, at craft shows, flea markets and gift outlets older items from households can be found.