I’ve been interested in lace ruffs for many years and have a collection of photographs of them, many from portraits like this lovely miniature in the V&A collection. It was painted by Nicholas Hilliard and depicts his first wife Alice Brandon when she was 22. It also includes the year in which it was made, 1578, which is useful for dating the lace. She wears a very full lace ruff with a wide edging of bobbin lace, generally referred to as ‘bone lace’ at the time. Gilian Dye has done a lot of research into these early laces and her series of books explain how the lace was constructed. The main stitches were plaits, cloth stitch and a lock stitch, which is less familiar today. The lace would have been attached to fine linen gathered onto a band which required starching and goffering to form the loops of the ruff. Janet Arnold’s book ‘Patterns of fashion 4’ explains the process with beautiful drawings and illustrations and even gives instructions for making a ruff.