I wonder how our great-grandmothers found time to keep house, to sew, to knit, to embroider and… to weave. Every house was decorated with table-napkins, curtains, spreads and table-clothes made by skillful hands of lace-makers. Thanks to woman’s fantasy all articles were adorned with numerous traceries and became unique examples of lace-making art.
Threads for the laces could be flax, cotton, woollen, silk, silver or gold. In Italy lace-makers used even aloe threads.
There were 2 kinds of laces. Some laces were made on the special round pillow with the help of bobbins. At first, a lace-maker put a pattern down on the pillow, then she fixed the end of each thread with a pin, stuck all pins in the nearest lines of the pattern’s crossing and threw the bobbins over each other in such way that the threads, which twined round the pins, crossed. Lastly, the lace-maker took all pins out and stuck them in new places according to the pattern.
Some laces were made by means of a thread and a needle. At first, a tracery was drawn on the oil-paper. Then a lace-maker basted the lines of the tracery with a thick thread and stitched it. After that she stitched the middle and made salient outlines. Finally, she cut the basting, which joined the lace with oil-paper, and thearticle was ready.
Lace-making art appeared many years ago. It was so long ago that it is impossible to fix the day of its birth. A lace curtain and the clothes of Aaron made of blue, purple and dark red special threads are mentioned in the well-known book “Outcome”. Laces were the favourite decoration from time immemorial, but its flowering is connected with the costume of the 16th century.
Italian artists of the 16th century wrote about 22 books with traceries for lacearticles. Some authors are well-known: Niccolo Zoppino (1527), Bugato (1527), Paganino (1527), Tagliente (1534) and many others. Lace-makers from Venice, Genoa and Milan were famous for their skill in Italy. Since the end of the 15th century Venetian lace became very famous for its geometric pattern, which was gradually complicated by animalistic depictions and human figures. Lace-makers manufactured complicated guipure by means of a needle and flax threads and created coloured, gold and silver laces, using the bobbins. Flandre wasn’t less famous for its laces than Italy. Particularly, it was famous for its guipure with plant traceries, which was made of extremely soft and thin flax threads.
There were a ban and limitations on wearing laces of foreign production till 1735 in England. Import of the Flemish lace was forbidden by English Parliament in 1662, and home-produced lace production was encouraged. However there wasa great demand for the Flemish lace, and it was imported in the underhand way and sold as an English one with a new name.
In Scotland lace-making art reached its flowering under Mary Stuart, who was a skillful lace-maker herself.
In is known that peoplespent too much money on laces in Spain; that’s why Philip III issued a law, which forbade wearing laces.
Other European countries also tried to keep pace with fashion.
The French also spent much money on laces. In 1613 Louis XIII issued a law to change that situation. The way out was found, but not by means of bans. It happened thanks to the development of lace-making business and lace centers in France, such as Arzhantan and Alanson. Early French guipure differs from other laces; it has complicated traceries and thousands of fantastic details. In France laces were popular till the French Revolution. After the revolution laces were fashionable only at Napoleon’s Court, but not for a long time.
In Germany the first book for lace-makers was published by Iogann Shartsensberger in Augsburg in 1534.
In Swedenlace articles are connected with the name of St. Brigita from Vodsten, who taught nuns this art.
In the 17th century the costumes of rich people were decorated with laces. It was used for production of ties, collars, scarves, gloves, shoe tops, decorations for carriages, beds, thrones, furniture and altars.
In the 18th century thin lacewith flower garlands, bows and pigeons was the most popular one. Traceries on religious theme were also wide-spread; they were created only by professional artists. In the times of Empire style the most favourite lace was a thin silk lace, which was called “blond”. In Russia the word “lace” appeared in the chronicles of the 13th century. It is mentioned in Ipat’ev chronicle that Prince Daniil Galitsky was dressed in the clothes with laces on meeting Hungarian King in 1252. In the documents of the 15-16th centuries we can read about different things decorated with laces, such as a lace shirt made of silk and gold threads and a casket with laces.
Laces were an obligatory part of a trousseau. They are mentioned in the documents of the betrothal of Mavra Suvorova to Sila Pushkin from Tver’ (1694) and in the trousseau of Glikeria Zadonskaya from Vologda Region. The peasants also used laces. A woman’s hat with pearl lace is mentioned in the documents of the betrothal of a peasant Mark Skorovsky from Vologda Region to Milava Okinfieva.
All these examples were taken from the wonderful book of Sophia Davidova “Russian Lace and Russian Lace-makers” (1892). It is written there that she met a lot of lace-makers when she moved from one place to another. She listened to their stories and memories and learned much about their traditions and customs. So, she lived their life. As a result of a hard research work, a book with a very useful supplement (an atlas of lace history in Russia with 77 tables and 270 pictures) was written.
Lace history in Russia is rather long. It begins in the 13th century when laces were characterized as “plane” laces. In the 16th century a lot of other kinds of laces were known, and in the 17th century a lot of tracery descriptions appeared: “cubes”, “bushes”, “trees”, “crests”, “bows” and many others. Sometimes a pattern was considered beforehand – this lace was called “Russian preliminary pattern lace”, sometimes a pattern was repeated, as in the braid, and the figures were weaved into lattice-work – such lace was called “coupled”, and if a master just counted threads in the process of work, a lace was called “numerical lace”.
At last, in the 1930s lace machines appeared, but it is another story.