Featured A bit about "Modern Lace History"

Discussion in 'Textiles, Needle Arts, Clothing' started by Northern Lights Lodge, May 11, 2020.

  1. Northern Lights Lodge

    Northern Lights Lodge Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much Antidiem... your suggestion is well taken. In fact, I have pondered the idea from time to time...however, it is unlikely, as I have other fish to fry, as it were. Honestly, there are others who have published excellent books on the subject; Elizabeth Kurella's identification books and others come to mind.

    There are numerous books on specific laces. The pitfall with these is that there is a small audience and so the printing and distribution is small...and they become obscure and very expensive; not to mention, very time consuming to write!

    As for personal antidotes... LOL... yes, I suppose!
    The upshot is that; I'm enjoying posting my knowledge here in the hopes that it is appreciated and that it will benefit some.

    I know that as I have posted my own query questions; that I have been generously supplied with answers which I appreciate and feel that I can give back what I know in return.

    Understanding various laces and lace history is a HUGE undertaking. (Yes, there are some historical books published about that too). Ultimately, LITTLE was actually written about lace/lace making until the 1970's.

    Previously, each countries "specialty" lace making was largely handed down from mother to daughter as trade secrets. So any specific lace information prior to 1970 was very limited. After machines smashed the hand industry in the mid-1800's; (which meant there was little profit from handmade lace) it largely became a parlor art.

    Ladies magazines of the time (1860-1900's and later) often featured patterns - largely knit, crochet and tatting, which could be pleasantly worked on in the evening and on Sunday afternoons. Even occasional bobbin lace patterns could be found in magazines of the day; sometimes featuring a bit of bobbin lace or needle lace history. BUT, "how" it was actually done was missing from those articles! It was assumed that you knew, I guess.

    Then there is a BIG void! From the 1920's to 1970 there was virtually NOTHING written about bobbin or needle laces; only knit, crochet and tatting. An article here or there might surface; but really nothing.

    In the 70's there was the big naturalistic hippie movement; "back to the land", "make it yourself" attitude across the country. There was a big resurgence in knitting, crochet, tatting, macrame, spinning, weaving, embroidery...etc.

    And then a few books and magazine articles started to appear. The first I recall was one by Kathy Kliot - a "thread bender" from California who introduced the U.S. to the fact that bobbin lace even existed. She was very modern about it; and did pieces on a grand, colorful scale - more like 70's macrame art. But, it got the ball rolling!

    By the early 70's, small groups of people with lace interest were popping up around the country. The few souls around the country who had learned from their grands, or had other opportunities abroad... came out of the woodwork to share what they knew.

    Supplies were IMPOSSIBLE to find in the U.S. Lace makers had to make their own bobbins or find something that might work (chicken bones, nails, dowels with beads, etc); invent their own patterns; make their own pillows and relied on things like sewing thread and tatting thread to make lace.

    The next big development was the re-publication of a D.M.C. early instructional book from France; translated by Mary McPeek in 1979, (La Dentelle aux Fuseaux) and fondly called "The Lace Bible" by many in the lace making community.

    The book had basic lace making instruction on a pair by pair basis (ie: pick up pair one and two, twist, cross, twist, lay down pair one, switch pair two to your left hand; pick up pair number three in your right hand, cross, twist, cross...etc). It also had well drafted - patterns based on grids.... meaning it translated to precise lace if executed well. A God-send...but it was very difficult to follow without an instructor.

    Through the 70's and 80's, slowly, the small groups of interested lace makers joined forces and lace makers across the globe became connected. This resulted in not only formal classes being resurrected around Europe and the U.S; but small businesses flourished providing supplies (bobbins, threads, patterns, pins, etc) and more and more books were published. This included a much more modern way to follow patterns using "technical drawings"; rather than stitch by stitch directions - more like a map than a reading project....some even color coded!

    Groups flourished as more people became aware of bobbin lace and needle lace through demonstrations, lectures and books on shelves in libraries and bookstores. In the 80's, numerous countries produced stamps featuring the art of lace making. In 1987, the U.S. followed suit issuing a block of four stamps featuring bobbin lace making as part of their "Folk Art Series".

    Since the 1990's the lace making groups still have some popularity. These groups continue to provide an opportunity for persons interested in learning lace making by offering convention courses and local classes. They offer demonstrations, lectures and exhibitions featuring lace. Instructional video's have become available; both on YouTube and privately.

    Another late 90's development was that within various lace organizations; groups of peers gathered to create "lace certification" courses. This gave some credence that a certified person had enough knowledge and skills to be a lace instructor. A perhaps, unnecessary effort on the part of all involved (because there is no requirements that one must be certified to teach)...and yet, has some merit in terms of accomplishment.

    However; as we enter the 2000's; lace interest again has been in decline. It is a very time consuming skill and has become expensive to take classes and buy supplies. The market for actual hand made lace is almost nonexistent. What is sold, is generally for pennies on the value of time spent producing it. Most modern lace makers won't sell their hard labored work of art...instead, it is often given as a gift to someone who may appreciate it.

    Most people still seem to have the need for an over the shoulder instructor. Our home decor has moved out of the fru-fru Victorian Renaissiance of the late 1980's and early 1990's; the fussy, frothy lace trimmed bridal gowns of the 80's and 90's have taken a much more slender, simple, sleek silhouette; as has our everyday wear. No one wants to fuss with table linens, lace trimmed pillowcases ... or frankly, has time.

    What has happened in the 2000's, however; is that (as throughout lace history) lace is evolveing. Innovative lace makers are creating NEW 21th century forms of lace. Building and combining new techniques to create totally new forms of lace! One that comes to mind is Withoff Duchesse. (I will address that in a lesson). The concept that lace is a "craft" for home decoration and attachment to wearing apparel is changing... lace is being pulled, kicking and screaming into the 20th century more as an "art". Wearable "art". Jewelry. Frameable "art". Art!

    This is NOT a sour grapes attitude! But more one of reality. Laces' popularity has risen and fallen throughout the centuries... and currently has fallen a bit out of favor. That's ok. I doubt it will disappear forever into the annals of time. I am enjoying the ride...

    And in my dissertations; if I can educate someone who now thinks twice about a bit of lace that they picked up at a sale... then I shall have done my job! Happily!

  2. antidiem

    antidiem Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Leslie, and I quite agree with what you've mentioned about the rise and fall of lace over the last 50+ years. Even I learned to "tat" a little circular design in the early 1970s. ;)

    I love lace and don't want it to disappear from ordinary life! :joyful:
  3. Northern Lights Lodge

    Northern Lights Lodge Well-Known Member

    That's cool that you did some tatting! Do more!!! Portable! I don't want it to disappear from ordinary life either. To me; lace is a very romantic thing. "Nothing save a bit of thread." It is amazing to me; that so many lives were spent involved with some aspect of lace through the centuries...designing it, making it, wearing it, vast sums of money spent on it, painting it, yes, even occasionally stealing it! The ultimate creation of "making something from nothing"!

  4. Houseful

    Houseful Well-Known Member

    Well I certainly think twice about lace now, thanks Leslie. I want to frame up the Maltese collar and probably the bobbin piece that came from the tray in the hope that will preserve them better than just keeping them in with my linens as this says this is a piece of art, worthy of display. Sadly when I find these at the jumbles it’s because they have just been donated along with sheets and pillowcases.
  5. Northern Lights Lodge

    Northern Lights Lodge Well-Known Member

    That sounds lovely! And at least by finding them at a jumble... they have found a new happy home! :)
    Houseful likes this.
  6. antidiem

    antidiem Well-Known Member

    Now, I wish I'd never sold so many of my beautiful and artistic lace pieces. I may still have older lace pieces somewhere, now I am inspired to find them. I will post them when I do. Thank you, Leslie.
    Northern Lights Lodge likes this.
  7. Northern Lights Lodge

    Northern Lights Lodge Well-Known Member

    That would be lovely!
    antidiem likes this.
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