Saturday, January 07, 2012

Module 5 Chapter 1–Researching Stitched Laces

When I said that this would be my next post, I meant in the next day or so – still what’s six weeks between friends?  I have gathered images and notes onto  four A3 sheets – the photos are not clear enough to read the notes (despite several attempts) so I have cut and pasted them underneath.

Sheet 1 - Punto In Aria

Made in buttonhole stitch supported by a grid of threads left after cutting squares out of the linen ground (about 1/4 to 1/2 “ apart). You can see the grid in photo 2 giving a tiled effect. This developed into punto in aria in two ways 1) by replacing the cutwork grid with threads laid on parchment, which frees the lace from the grid structure and 2) by using raised work. This example of Venetian gros point has padded borders made by laying down thick threads and working buttonhole stitch over them – this type of lace has a right and a wrong side.
Captions for  photos clockwise from top right 
1) Venetian needle lace, 17th century, linen thread. Probably a border for eg a tablecloth. Note the edges are different – the footside is bobbin lace.
2) Italian early 17th century, cutwork and needlelace across the spaces of the linen ground. This type of work was used especially for collars and cuffs, so this may be part of a collar.
3) Venetian gros point.
4) Italian early 17th century, linen thread, border for fine furnishing.

Sheet 2 – Needlelace Designs by Federico Vinciolo 1587


A selection of designs from the 16th century (see references for full details) and my drawings of some of the details.

Sheet 3 – Stitches for Needlelace

The most common stitch in needlelaces is detached buttonhole with a straight return. Loops are made in one direction and the thread returns in a straight line underneath to become the support for the next row. It makes no difference to the final result if the loops are worked left to right or right to left, or if the motif is worked from the top or the bottom. The stitches may be left with gaps or worked tight together.
For a firmer texture, a knotted stitch is used – this is seen on lace from the 17th and 18th century. The return can be straight or whipped, in which case it twists over each loop.

Captions clockwise from top right -
Needlelace in tudor fashions. Portraits of Elizabeth I and Lady Mary Sidney show how collars and cuffs were worn.
Worked sample of variations of buttonhole stitch supported on black felt and to the left, diagrams of these same stitches.

Sheet 4 – Lace effect from punched or stamped patterns.


Decorating fabrics using these techniques is considerably quicker than making bobbin or needle lace and so relatively cheaper. 
Captions from left to right -
1) Detail of silk waistcoat stamped and embroidered, English 1785-1790.  Compare the pattern with this pricking of a traditional Bucks point bobbin lace design. 
Holes made by stamping, probably using a wheel to get the repeats. The fabric would be starched before stamping so that the holes keep their shape. The stamp pushes aside the threads without breaking them.
2) A large scale, contemporary use of punching by Piper Shepard for Lost in Lace at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Based on a piece of point de gaze lace in the BMAG collection.
3) Top right -  Detail of yellow silk gown, English 1760s. This shows pinking – making decorative holes with a metal punch. To do this, the folded fabric would be put on a block of lead and the punch struck with a hammer to make a pattern of holes.  Below -  My sample of pinking using a hole punch on folded calico, trying different size punches  - hard on the hands.

Historical Fashion in Detail 17th and 18th Centuries, Avril Hart and Susan North.
A Dictionary of Lace, Pat Earnshaw, Shire Publications 1984.
Bobbin and Needlelace Identification and Care, Pat Earnshaw, Batsford 1983.
Lace pricking taken from Bucks Point Pattern Pack, Pamela Nottingham, Batsford.
Lost in Lace Transparent Boundaries, Lesley Millar , BMAG 2011.
A Walk Through the Beginnings of Lace, copyright Robin L Berry 2004, rev.pdf
French National Library – I Singolari E Nuovi Disegni Di Federico Vinciolo, 1909 Italian facsimile of 1606 editions of pattern books first published in Paris 1587, available at
Chats on Old Lace and Needlework, Emily Lowes, London 1908 – Project Gutenberg ebook 2008,
Portrait of Elizabeth I from the National Portrait Gallery, London
Images of punto in aria from Victoria and Albert Museum,


Heather said...

Lace really is the most exquisite fabric. I especially like what I call the 'crunchie' ones, with a bit of dimension to their designs. Even these have some very fine areas which give a lovely contrast.

Jane Greiner said...

This is really interesting and informative, Jane. I like the texture of lace and the variations are fascinating. Hand-made cotton lace is my favourite, especially if it is vintage and a bit ragged!