A Historical Guide to European Laces
What is now regarded as lace originated in the sixteenth century — where is uncertain, but it became known through the great trading centre of Venice. It spread rapidly across Europe, and, as a fashion item, underwent numerous and continuous changes in style. The advent of machinery for lace-making in the eighteenth century led to the decline of hand-made lace, with the social and fashion changes following the first world war marking its final demise. Today hand-made lacemaking only really exists as a hobby in which individual lacemakers may indulge their own preference for different historical styles.
This website reviews these historical styles, organizing them first by type of lace, and then by geographical region (although some of the latter — Flanders and Britain, for example — do not correspond to contemporary political divisions). In addition to the menu of types of lace, you can select named styles of lace or grounds directly from the pop-up list below, when you will be taken to the page on which they are mentioned.
The material here was written by Jean Leader, who has studied and written about lace since the 1990s. She has her own website — www.jeanleader.net — to which occasional reference is made under ‘Related Material’, and where you can find further information about her.
This survey of lace styles was originally conceived as a project for the The Lace Guild, and was on their website for a number of years. Following changes in that organization Jean and her husband decided to create a dedicated site for the material so as to continue to make it generally available.
Many of the illustrations here are of items in the Guild’s collection. However, copyright of both text and photographs belongs to the author. If you wish to reproduce part of this material in any form you must apply for permission.
Likewise, you may e-mail the author with queries or to suggest any corrections or additions that you think may be necessary.
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The author and her husband have also produced a modestly-priced iPhone app, entitled Lace. The app addresses the same topic as the website, but is organized differently — by individual lace style or ground, rather historically or geographically. It is available from the Apple App Store, where there is a video preview. Purchases will help to fund this site.