This is part 3 of our Sumptuous History of Lace. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
Alençon – A fine, needle-point lace, so called from Alençon, a French city, in which its manufacture was first begun. It is the only French lace not made upon the pillow, the work being done entirely by hand, with a fine needle, upon a parchment pattern in small pieces. The pieces are afterward united by invisible seams. There are usually twelve processes, including the design employed in the production of a piece of this kind of lace, and each of these processes is executed by a special workwoman; but in 1855, at Bayeux, in France, a departure was made from the old custom of assigning a special branch of the work to each lacemaker, and the fabric was made through all its processes by one worker.
Schweitzer Linen offers the Tavola Bella Runner (below) — a most decorative topping for tables, sideboards, dressers or wherever you want a delightful touch. Intricately flowered and scalloped Alençon lace, these beautiful imports also make marvelous hostess and holiday gifts.
This is part 2 of our Sumptuous History of Lace. Read part 1 here.
Irish needlepoint lace began at the Presentation Convent in Youghal, County Cork, where Mother Mary Ann Smith had unpicked some Italian lace in order to learn the technique of making it. She began to teach the local women and a lace school was established. Initially, the lace looked very much like the Italian Laces but, with the help of an excellent designer, the Irish Lace soon developed its own characteristics. The lace was a flat type, without a raised, outlining edge and solid areas of the design were opened up with holes to form diamond shapes which were a feature often found in Venetian laces. The open fillings were in single or double Brussels ground, sometimes decorated with tiny rings, sometimes shamrocks and flowers which were either stylized of naturalistic and the leaves were always serrated, like rose leaves.
Youghal edging with a variety of fillings, early 20th century (GHR.2.2004)
Image retrieved from The Lace Guild (www.laceguild.org)
Detail from a Youghal collar showing the loops of stitches around the motifs and outer edge and the ground of picot-decorated bars, c. 1900 (JPO.1.2002). Image retrieved from The Lace Guild (www.laceguild.org)
Princess Alice (1843–78) 1861
Painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–73)
Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Lace, a decorative openwork web, was first developed in Europe during the sixteenth century. Two distinct types of lace making—needle lace and bobbin lace—began simultaneously. Needle lace is made with a single needle and thread, while bobbin lace entails the plaiting of many threads. Lace thread was typically made from linen, and later silk or metallic gold threads, followed by cotton in the nineteenth century. Needle and bobbin laces were often named after the region or town where they were made. Preeminent lace making centers were established in Italy, Flanders, and France. The finest lace involved the talents and skills of three distinct specialists: the artist who created the designs on paper, the pattern maker who translated the designs onto parchment, and the lace maker who worked directly on the patterns to make the lace.