Wednesday 26 April 2023

Crochet filet lace

Filet lace was originally made in the sixteenth century mainly for ecclesiastical use by making a base net, using a netting technique, and then skilfully embroidering it with a form of darning to incorporate the design. It underwent a revival in the early twentieth century and at that stage was being made in a variety of ways. It could be made in the traditional way or more rapidly by working the darning onto machine-made net, or even more rapidly by making the entire piece by machine. However it also became a popular hobby and many ladies magazines included instructions for making the net and working the darning stitches.

As this style of lace became popular, many of these magazines also included instructions for making ‘filet lace’ using crochet techniques and this is the way the tablecloth edging in the main image was made.

Crochet is made with a hook and thread and the stitches are a combination of chain stitches that can be combined to form columns, which can be spaced to form a solid fabric or, as in this case, are separated to form a lace. As with so many types of lace, one technique is being used to imitate another that is fashionable at the time.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Renaissance lace designs


This lovely lace design comes from the collection of patterns compiled  by Federico Vinciolo, a leading Venetian lace designer, in the sixteenth century. The first edition of the book was published in Paris and dedicated to Catherine de Medici who was Queen of France at that time. These designs were very popular and the book was reprinted at least 17 times between 1587 and 1658. There may also have been earlier editions, but 1587 was the date of the version first printed in Paris. This pattern is designed to be worked in cutwork and would form the edge of a cuff, collar, ruff or handkerchief. It is thought that ladies would tear out sheets of patterns to use themselves and would also send them to their needlewomen for working. The entire design would have been worked by removing threads from a base material and then securing the remaining threads using tiny buttonhole stitches. The needlewoman would also use free needlelace to work the picot edgings and some of the filling stitches. The number of times the book was reprinted indicates how useful it was to the sixteenth century needlewoman and how popular the designs were.

Wednesday 12 April 2023

More smugglers’ tales from the world of lace


Last time we heard about lace smuggled into England in coffins, this time we have tales of lace being smuggled across borders by dogs. In the early nineteenth century there was a great demand for Belgian lace in France and one way to get lace across the border without paying customs duty was by using dogs. The dog would be kept at a home in France where it was well looked after then taken to Belgium where it was badly treated. Once the dog had thinned down, lace was wrapped round its body and it was then covered with the skin of a larger animal. As soon as it was set free it would make its way back to France to the home where it had been well looked after and the lace was unwrapped. However, once the French government discovered this method of flouting the law a reward of 3 francs was offered for every dog captured and sadly between 1820 and 1836 over 40 thousand dogs were captured and destroyed. It seems a rather strange method of transporting delicate white lace to me so I’m sure the dogs were carefully selected. I know our dog would have been distracted by rabbits, waded through dirty puddles and rolled in mud before any lace would have been delivered!

Friday 7 April 2023

Draught for a Nottingham lace curtain


This is a draught, or lace pattern, for a Nottingham curtain machine. It includes all the coded instructions that the card puncher required to punch the jacquard cards that instructed the machine. This draught would have been made by a draughtsman whose job was to convert the pattern produced by the designer into these coded instructions on graph paper. It is printed with the name Edwards and Richardson, and tells us that they were designers and draughtsmen in Nottingham. Many of the larger lace companies designed and draughted their own patterns but it seems that Edwards and Richardson specialised in designing and draughting for a range of companies and did not actually make any lace themselves. The squares on the draught are coded red, green and blue and these colours usually indicated back spool ties, Swiss ties and combination ties, respectively, although there was no fixed system and manufacturers chose their own colour code. 

As well as the coloured squares the draught also includes information on the quality of the lace, 12 point in this case which is a medium to fine lace. It also marks the pattern repeat with two extravagant capital letter Rs and tells us that the type of lace is filet and combination. This type of lace curtain, mimicking filet lace of an earlier century, has the appearance of a square grid with blocks of solid work forming the pattern and was popular in the late 1920s.