{take me away № 25 | the enchanting world of lace}


An ancient legend claims that the origins of lace lie in the so-called “trina delle sirene” – mermaid’s lace – an aquatic plant given by a sailor to a beautiful Venetian girl. She was so struck by its beauty that she wished to recreate it, thus giving rise to the art of lace-making.


Though the art of creating fine lace has nearly vanished, we may still hold onto those who treasure their craft, and continue to help create and shape an incredible and beautiful part of history. Lace can be found in many different forms, whether a sweet vintage handkerchief, a stunning gown from the runway, beautiful bed linens that have been passed down for generations, lacy undergarments, or a custom wedding gown, each stitch drawn in love.


And so, today we celebrate a history delicately woven of lace, as seen so beautifully in tales, memories, signs of love and life, embedded lovingly into each and every thread; we will discover secrets of lace making, intriguing moments in history, and close with a few lovely places around the world to find the perfect lace pieces . . .


The process of creating and executing lace is certainly not an easy feat: there are hours and much skill involved, though the end result is so beautiful, it is very much worth the extraordinary effort.

By definition, lace is a net-like ornamental fabric made of threads, either by hand or by machine. The holes may be formed by the removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric; the lace is then created when a thread is looped, twisted or braided to other threads, independently, from a fabric that backs. At present, lace is often made with a cotton, linen or silk thread, but when it was first invented, was originally made of primarily linen, gold, silk, and even silver [some artists today still enjoy making lace with a fine copper or silver]. Though perhaps not as favorable as cotton, linen or silk, today lace can be purchased in synthetic fibres as well.



Though its definition may be different, some claim that lace [in some form] was made long, long ago by the Pharaohs, who had used flax cloth decorated with colored threads, and worked them into geometric-style designs. Some claim that the ancient Romans and Greeks also created their own variation of lace, as they often added decoration to their togas with different colors or with gold. As the garments became worn and frayed, they would twist the threads and then stitch them together. Because lace as we know it is derived from such twisting, we might connect some methods back to the these first days.

The craft of lace making as we know it today may have first begun in the 14th century in Flanders—an area right between Belgium and France, but was Belgium previously. It was said that lace was used by the clergy of the early Catholic Church as part of vestments in religious ceremonies, but its popularity and widespread use did not come about until the 16th century. And as popularity spread, mainly throughout Europe, each county, including Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, and other countries have all have developed their very own distinct and unique heritage of lace making.


The origins of lace indicate that Charles V ordered lace making to be taught in convents and schools of the Belgian provinces. It was during this period of renaissance and enlightenment that the making of lace became very much a part of fashion. In fact, it was designed to replace embroidery, as dresses could easily be transformed to follow what was in fashion at the time. For unlike embroidery, lace could be un-sewn from its material and replaced on another material.

A great deal transpired from that point on: lace was introduced into costume, interior decorating, and within different areas of dress, including collars. By 1643, lace making became an established industry. In France patterns became increasingly more detailed and delicate; the light, flowery point de France was used for every conceivable decorative purpose. Later the laces of Alencon [an example of alencon lace here], Argentan, and Valencienne exemplified French style and design. The making of bobbin, pillow, or bone lace, which is mentioned as early as 1495, passed from Italy to Flanders, reaching its height of production there in the 18th century. Machine-made lace first appeared circa 1760, and by 1813, a bobbinet machine was perfected for modern lace making. All in all, it is said that the chief modern centers of lace making are France, Belgium, England, Ireland, and of course, Italy.



01 | Bobbin Lace [weaving] : This lace is made with bobbins and a pillow; the pattern is drawn on paper or parchment, and pins are inserted along the course of the pattern, through the parchment into the pillow. The loose ends of threads wound on the bobbins are looped around selected pins, and the bobbins are then passed over, under, or around one another, plaiting, interlacing, and twisting the threads as desired. The patterns may be connected by brides or a reseau.

Some examples include : Chantilly, Croatian, Maltese, Milanese, Point de Paris, Rococo, Rosaline, Slovenia, Valenciennes, etc.

02 | Buttonhole
[needlelace] : This lace is created using a needle and thread, and is the most flexible of laces. Many purists of the tradition regard needle lace as the height of lace-making. The most delicate and precious type of needle lace is known as “Rosepoint lace“. To create the lace, the pattern is designed on paper first, and typically represents a rose or other flower. The creator elaborates the outline with a thicker thread, and then in the interior of the flower, designs with much finer thread, a variety of different stitches. Interestingly, a certificate from 1922 states that the veil made for Queen Elizabeth is made up with 12,000,000 stitches.

Some examples include : Argentan, Burano, Gros Point de Venise, Punto in Aria, Venetian, etc.


03 | Crochet [knit/crochet] : This lace is considered to be simple and quick, and is created by a chain technique, made by catching loops on one another with a crochet hook. Each loop is pulled through another so the entirety becomes a chain of sort; the chain is then worked into more loops, one at a time, and a fabric forms as the chains build. The pieces can be worked into one continuous thread interlocking itself and forming a fabric made of chains. These looping assemblies can be doubled and trebled, thus creating areas which are more solid or loopy, and lace-like in effect or raised, creating areas of texture.

Some examples include : Irish Crochet, Filet Crochet, Hairpin Lace, Romanian Point


04 | Knotting [filet lace] : made with a shuttle or a tatting needle [including Macramé and Tatting]. Interestingly, Macramé is actually an ancient knotting technique that came into Europe in the 8th century. From Europe, sailors took the this special craft all over the world. However, it was not until the 19th century that it gained such popularity—and has been in and out of fashion since. This technique can be used to create tassels, bags, fringes, and more.

Some examples include : Armenian [video], Macramé, Punchetto, Sols, Tatting, Tunisian, etc.

05 | Sewing
[needlerun/applqiue/tape lace] : this type of lace often includes placing a tape in the lace as it is worked [comparatively quicker than many other methods]. The lengths of tape are joined together with connecting hand stitches, worked on in an open manner. Through the centuries, tape lace has had several names including, MezzoPunto, Renaissance lace, and more recently, Battenburg.

Some examples include : Battenburg, Branscombe, Broderie Anglaise, Dresden, Normandy, Renaissance, Princess, etc.




A handmade bobbin lace named after its city of origin, Chantilly, in France, this tradition dates back to the 17th century and through famous silk laces in the 18th century; this lace is also made in Belgium. Chantilly lace is recognizable by its fine, outlining pattern and abundant detail; the pattern is outlined in cordonnet, a flat untwisted strand. Chantilly lace is created by the use of a half-and-whole stitch [as a fill] to achieve the effect of light and shadow within the pattern. It was most popular to produce the lace in either black or blonde, and was made of Grenadine silk [a non-boiled silk], which is very fine and a deep, deep black. A good way to distinguish French Chantilly from Belgian Chantilly is that Belgian Chantilly is not as deep in color.


Dating back to the mid-18th century, Valenciennes lace is one of the most famous of all bobbin laces, first made in Valenciennes, France and later in Belgium. The lace distinguishes itself by having no cordonnet [raised outlines] and is consequently flat and rather even in texture. It was quite favorable when used for bedlinens, lingerie, fichus, and the like, particularly by those at court. Valenciennes lace is made on a lace pillow in one piece, with the réseau being made at the same time as the toilé. Also, in Flemish Valenciennes lace, there are no twisted sides to the mesh; all are closely plaited, and as a rule the shape of the mesh is diamond but without the openings; the réseau ground is made of four threads braided together, with eight threads at the crosses, making it stronger.



Duchess Morosina Morosini, Doge Morosini’s wife, was so fond of Burano lace that, at the end of the 14th century, she established a workshop employing 130 lace-makers. The lace produced in part, found its way into the Duchess’ personal wardrobe, but much of it was presented as a gift to her friends in the greatest courts of Europe. Long outliving the Duchess, and in due time, the fame or Burano lace spread throughout Europe, and was very much in demand, despite being more on the pricey for lace. It can be differentiated from Alençon by looking closely at the mesh. Burano lace has been worked more tightly the mesh appears more square, as it is made using a needlepoint pillow. Also, with Burano, the outline stitch is whip stitched.

An interesting note : On his coronation day, Louis XIV of France was said to have worn an original and very precious lace collar, made by the Burano lace-makers, that took two years of patient needlework.



This lace appeared at the same time as the laces of the eastern Mediterranean, but experienced a very different development. The traditional costume of the island of Pag confirms the interpretation that the needlepoint lace making is an autochthonous cultural treasure of the Croatian Adriatic. First the circle is defined, within which little holes are made several millimeters apart, and then thread is pulled through them, creating the base for Pag lace; eight thread sticks are then spread diagonally across the circle. When the base is ready, small circles and triangles (mendulice) are made from the center. When the lace is created, it is firm, as though it has been starched. Pag lace, unlike the other well-known Dubrovnik and Lepoglava laces, can be washed without losing its firmness.


{where to purchase new heirloom pieces}

Bella Notte : online & in stores /// Kenmare Lace : Ireland /// Lollia : online & in stores /// Pitti Vintage : Italy /// 120% Lino : online & in stores /// Martina Burano Home collection : online & in stores /// Sophie Hallette : a wonderful lace maker


{where to purchase vintage & antique heirloom pieces}

A touch of Dutch : online /// Didier Ludow : France /// Antique Dress : online /// Maria Niforos : England /// Heritage Lace : online /// Paris 1900 : U.S.A /// Mint & Vintage : online

* and lastly, for something fun, a pretty lace heart tutorial . . . —sarah

{p.s.} editor’s note : french chantilly lace was used, alongside english lace, on one of the most famous wedding gowns today—roséline xo[images: detail & napkins, scan by sarah from victoria magazine, may 1995, by photography by chris mead, with the permission of clarkson potter/publishers /// dessert on the terrace, scan by sarah from victoria magazine, february 1999, photography by guy bouchet /// bed linens, scan by sarah from victoria magazine, may 1998, photography by jeff mcnamara /// cake, via a previous post /// all gowns by delphine manivet]