|TRABEL : The history of Lace|
Map of Belgium
Verschueren Lace House in Brussels
origin of lace is difficult to locate in both time and place. Some
authors assume that the manufacturing of lace started during Ancient Rome, based on the discovery of small bone cylinders in the shape of
bobbins. The Middle-Ages is a period of history where little is known
about the manufacture of lace. For firm evidence we have to look back to the
fifteenth century when Charles the Fifth decreed that lace making was to be
taught in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. During this
period of renaissance and enlightenment, the making of lace was firmly based
within the domain of fashion. To be precise, it was designed to replace
embroidery in a manner that could with ease transform dresses to follow
different styles of fashion. Unlike embroidery, lace could be unsewn from
one material to be replaced on another.
Since these earlier times, many styles and techniques of lacemaking have been developed, almost all of them in the Belgian provinces, which thus deserve to be named the cradle of lace. Today, two main techniques are practiced in the Flemish provinces of Belgium. The first, a needle lace, is still manufactured in in the region of Aalst. It is called Renaissance or Brussels lace because it is mostly sold in Brussels. The second type, the Bobbin Lace, is a speciality of Bruges, a magnificent city located in the west of Belgium. This is a very expensive type of lace to make and is therefore no longer manufactured for commercial purposes.
Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs about one thousand lace workers, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age. Do not expect to find lace factories in Brussels or Bruges, they do not exist.
There are four different techniques of lacemaking, two of which are no longer practiced today and therefore come under the heading of antique laces. There are important differences between embroidery and lace: the latter is worked on the basis of a paper pattern, on a net (tulle), or on a combination of both.
TYPES OF LACE
1. DUCHESS LACE
This type of lace
is manufactured on a "carreau" or cushion - taken from the Flemish word
"kussen"-, on which the paper pattern is pinned. This pattern is the design
to be realized in lace. The lacemaker generally works with 22 bobbins, two
of which are called The Conductors.
2. THE ROSEPOINT LACE
This type of lace is made with a needle. It
is considered to be the most delicate and precious of all laces. The pattern
is first designed on paper, often reinforced with a piece of tissue, on which
the design is realized. The design usually represents a rose or some other
flower. To start, the lacemaker elaborates the flower's outline with a
thicker thread, so to add relief to the work. The next stage is to fill in
the interior of the flower design with much finer thread and a variety of
different stitches. A fine handkerchief medallion takes three days' work.
To produce larger pieces, all the medallions are sewn together with a thread
so fine that it can only be detected by the eye of an expert. A certificate
dating from 1922 states that the veil made for Queen Elizabeth required 12,000 of
work and is made up with 12,000,000 stitches.
3. PRINCESS LACE
This type of lace is still manufactured today and is mainly used for wedding veils, christening dresses, mantillas, and other ceremonial occasions. Nowadays, the net is made by machine. The flowers, stalks, and leaves are applied on the net by hand with a needle. In former times the net was also handmade, either by needle or by bobbins. This handmade net was given the Dutch name " Drochel ".
Lace is also called Brussels Lace or Ribbon Lace. This is the lace that
today is manufactured on a larger scale. It is a very strong lace used for house
linen, such as, tablecloths, napkins, place mats, doilies, runners etc...