The elegant web...

by - Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lace trims pinned, ready for me to hand stitch onto sweaters
"Adulated, criticized, copied, faked, bartered, torn apart by war, resuscitated by peace, lace has survived for three centuries with a fragile confidence whose secret is known to it alone." 
~Marie Risselin-Steenebrugen, curator of Brussels' Musees Royaaux dÁrt et d'Histoire
Art or industry? Frivolous or necessary? One might surmise that lace is simply a costly trimming flaunted on runway models as a current fashion trend. You would be correct. But with a closer look at the history of this artistic craft, it is actually all of the above and then some! 
Irish lace

Crochet and lace
Way back three hundred years in the land of the Pharaohs, flax cloth was decorated with colored threading in geometric motifs. Ancient Greeks and Romans were attired in beguiled togas edged in golden threads. It is suspected that as these garments became worn and frayed on the edges, the fringed threads were twisted and stitched creating a new decoration. First recognized as such in Flanders and Italy, lace was called "kant", meaning border or edge. The popularity of lace making advanced rapidly, spreading throughout Europe to most European countries as a cottage industry. Used by clergy on the early Catholic Church vestments and in gold bands sewn onto the sleeves of military uniforms to indicate rank, lace has expressed a unique artistic heritage from all parts of the world.
During the Irish potato famine of the 1800's, Irish lace became prominent and proved to be quite profitable. Often referred to as "Nun's Work" because it was developed in convents,cotton was typically used since it was inexpensive and easy to clean. Irish peasants adapted crochet skills and it became a family effort.Motifs were created and kept as family secrets, fiercely guarded for  the risk of reproduction would reduce a family's income.After all the motifs were made, they would be assembled at a town lace-maker to create bigger trimmings of collars, cuffs, dresses and coats. The Irish lace industry flourished and was said to have fed the entire country during the trying time.
Bobbin lace being made
There are numerous types of lace, but divided into two general classifications. Thread alone, pulled along by a needle, defining the pattern of work with a toothed edge was first referred to as punto in aria (stitching in air), but today is called needle lace. The second classification is accomplished with the use of small weights to pull the threads or an army of pins all resting on the support of a pillow or frame. This type is called bobbin lace. Though requiring tedious hands with nimble fingers, today most of the lace is produced on machines and computers.
Chantilly lace
Venise lace
Lace in the Spring 2012 runway collections
Color rich or a bleached beauty, lace has many faces. Cut-work, macrame, guipure, tape, knotted, knitted or crochet, lace can become casual or regal, warm or crisp, tight or loose. No matter the look or technique, fibers seem to be magically spun creating quite the elegant web... xoxo-Sonya

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