Welcome to Lace For Study. Apologies for the site being off line for a few weeks from October 10th 2016. Hopefully the technical problems are all sorted now.
There are currently just over 2300 pieces of assorted lace, crochet, knitting and textile examples published. There are only a few more pieces to be added and the project from our point of view is coming to a close but we hope that our viewers will continue to make use of the site for some time to come. Your comments and amendments to what has always been an amateur offering are still most welcome.
This is an amateur offering, to share with lace enthusiasts some lace items of varying qualities, from some being very poor, to some from the highest achievements of lace makers. It is offered in homage to the countless numbers of our lace-making predecessors, especially to those who spent their lives making endless lengths of only one pattern. Items are NOT for sale.
How to find your way around.
When one first goes into the site it will show the latest ten or so posts. These are all described in words, under headings of Type; Purpose; Date (a best estimate); Colour; Width; Length; Notes; Catalogue number. A tape measure in centimetres is included, the colours of which denote each 10 cms. section. Hovering over any photo will give any further information such as reverse side, the position of this shot in the whole piece, a close view of some point of interest such as a mend. For example, on post 1042 of a single Brussels lappet, the final photo shows the difference in width between the top and the bottom. (Please note that due to updates by WordPress that captions appear instead on posting 1098 onwards.)
Each week’s postings has an arrow at the base, pointing back to Older Postings, with a continuing arrow back at the base of each set.
At any point one can return to the Categories Section. If one were to choose, say, ‘Bed lace’, this takes you to Nos. 103, 102, 719 and 1029 with a brief description of each. By clicking onto ‘continue reading’, it brings up the full details and photos of that item. If you wish to see any of the other items, repeat the choice of Bed lace, and repeat the process.
If one wishes to search for say a country, or a particular style, simply enter this in the Search box at the top. A search under ‘Honiton’ pointed to over 60 entries, including where an item is in that style, but likely made elsewhere.
The following link is to the OIDFA Translator (see article in OIDFA Bulletin nr2 – 2014 by Jean & David Leader) to assist in translating lace terms between different languages.
Your comments are sought and appreciated.
These are pieces that will not normally feature in Museum collections, as not being of a high enough quality. However even the poorest of specimen has been made by somebody, purchased by somebody and worn by somebody. The eventual inheritors have thought it of sufficient interest for it to filter through the second hand or antiques markets. Many of these pieces were purchased for modest sums about forty years ago in the spirit of ‘rescue archaeology’ since often they were not being recognised as being hand made; other better pieces were acquired more recently as gifts from family. They all illustrate aspects of social history, especially the collars worn by the wealthy middle classes. A Victorian lady would be able to assess a collar from across the room, its style, its quality and its likely cost, much the same way that once one gets ones eye in, one can appraise the laces used in costume dramas in film or on TV. When looking at period collars, one often notices a stain around the neckline at the back. This illuminates for us just how hot dances must have been at the time, between the dancing and the heat from the candles or oil lamps. It is not realistic to attempt to remove these stains from 100-200 years ago, as it would cause too much damage to the fabric. Many pieces (excepting only the never-used ones) have been carefully washed to remove the dust and possible remnants of the last previous washing; and then finished in distilled water, and carefully pinned out to dry naturally.
Lace is, by definition, an artefact without provenance. Many pieces were used and re-used by succeeding generations. In many cases it is possible to recognise the style of construction, although since many lace makers were copying each other’s techniques, one cannot be certain that for example a piece in the style of Bedfordshire was actually made there. The reverse of some pieces has also been shown. Again, dating is a mixture of luck in finding in some reference book a well recorded piece with a date, which is significantly similar to the piece one is trying to date; and failing that, one uses close guess work, from the style. If anyone has better information, perhaps from some local Museum, or from some member of their ancestor family having made something similar, we are interested to learn from them. Please quote the catalogue number. Comments at the time they are made are limited to the specific item being looked at. You may wish to sign up for automatic e mail alerts but again this will only relate to the items that you have commented on. No details of personal e mail addresses will be published.
We have used a very wide selection of sources for dating, many specialised by district style or by period, and now out of print. The most helpful currently available has been Antique Lace: Identifying Types and Techniques by Heather Toomer, published by Schiffer [web site www.schifferbooks.com], or direct from the author at £39 including P&P in UK; £35 + postage + bank charges elsewhere. The retail shop price in UK is £39.95. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Another very helpful source was the catalogue from the Bruges Museum, which unfortunately is now out of print. – Catalogus Van De Kantverzameling (Bruges Gruuthusemuseum – Bruges 1990) – St. Vandenberghe, F. Sorber, L. Van Damme-Ketele en P. Verstraete. There is also another page on the site giving a list of books and other publications used as research material for the site.
A visual impression is given as to the colour; some pieces are clearly white; these are mainly the cotton items, but there are also some of the earlier pure linen items. It is unlikely that they were actively bleached before circa 1900, when white was the fashion look. However, one must remember that before more modern equipment for laundering, washing would normally be done on a good drying day with the items spread out on the grass or on a bush to dry in the sun. The sunlight is a very active bleacher, so an edging on a robust domestic item may have been washed and dried in the sun many times over its lifetime. Others cannot be other than black; these are few, and are mainly made in silk. They would have been favoured for use in mourning, but also for splendour on, for example, a strikingly coloured ball gown. Unfortunately the dye itself eventually rots the silk, and gives off an unpleasant smell before ultimately the lace disintegrates. The main bulk is described as Natural; the colour tones vary widely, and any significant variations are noted. For some of them the threads were dyed before construction, to give them the ‘antique’ look that was very fashionable around the 1880, so there the overall look is darker than the initial natural colour of the thread. Some items were tea-dyed for fashion, to make a piece look more ‘antique’; this is discernable when the item is wet, as there are darker and random spots where the actual tea leaves have touched the threads. These are noted. The main period for this was around the 1880s.
Some items, particularly collars, show the damage suffered during repeated wearings. They are included as they cast light on our forbears who wished to look fashionable, even on a small income. The repairs themselves are interesting. It has become apparent that it is now possible under the very high magnification to see the many early repairs, which were not visible in the hand with a magnifying glass.
The high period of lace splendour was from the mid-1500s, the 1600s and 1700s until the changes in attitudes which led onto the French Revolution brought a different perspective on conspicuous display. Most of these early pieces are of course in museums and thus are looked after in excellent conditions. There remained some early items in continuous use, particularly ecclesiastical, and economy forbade them to be replaced with simpler styles. The change did not happen until the Second Vatican Council which permitted the expenditure on simpler styles, and this was enthusiastically embraced by the Clergy. As a consequence some interesting early items came onto the market around 1970 onwards.
In using the website, one can click on the Tags for the styles of construction, the size of the Tag reflects the number of entries. Hovering over the tag will indicate the number in that group. To return to the main menu, click back as often as needed. One can also use the Search option.
These photos are done by an amateur using a simple digital camera in natural daylight; nevertheless, the enlargement facility in the website allows one to see the structure in sufficient detail to remake the piece, if one is so minded. Just click again for maximum enlargement.
Further items will be added occasionally. It is striking that within the whole gathering, there are rarely two pieces alike. There will be eventually further items of costume and furnishing items that those interested in fashion may hopefully enjoy.
Copyright is waived for personal and small group study. Of course, if anyone were to wish to use these photos for commercial purposes, application should be made to the web master.
Finally, thanks go to Dan Bennett, who was a vital member of this project and who offered voluntarily his essential technical services. Our thanks must also go to the many individuals with specific IT expertise, who have contributed voluntarily to the development of this site. We hope they feel rewarded that it is being used gratefully by non IT specialists.