Handmade lace was the ultimate status symbol of
the Sixteenth Century. This beautiful handwork was highly treasured
by reigning monarchs and nobles. The passion for lace was so strong
that it was valued over gold and silver. Master lace designers were
revered and their patterns highly protected. A single lace collar might
have taken a skilled Lacemaker months or even years to complete.
Great care was taken even though the Lacemaker labored long hours under
difficult conditions. At the height of the lace period, almost 30 percent
of the work force was engaged in some part of its production. At one
time, laws prohibited Lacemakers from wearing the lace they created.
In 1813, a machine was invented making it possible for lace to be made
quickly and cheaply. This practically eliminated the livelihood of the Lacemaker.
Although machine-made lace can be quite lovely, it cannot compare to
hand crafted laces for workmanship and intricate design. To a skilled
lace collector or Lacemaker, the difference between the two is like comparing
paper plates to china.
How is "real lace" made? First a pattern is drawn on sturdy parchment.
The parchment is then "pricked" and arranged on a firmly stuffed "pillow"
(see main page photo). Threads, usually fine
linen or cotton, are wound onto wood or bone bobbins. Pairs of bobbins are
twisted and crossed to create the lace. Pins are inserted during this
process to aid in the shaping of of the piece of lace.
Tatting is a type of lace that is very portable
and was often used to help pass the time on long journeys for 18th century
women. Tatting was also popular in the 1920's-1940's. This kind of lace is
formed by making double half hitches over a thread with the aid of a shuttle.
These knots are then shaped into rings or chains. This is a very sturdy lace.The
trickiest part of tatting is learning how to "flip" the knot. Once this is
mastered tatting can become a life time love.