Detail of Portrait of Maria van Trip, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1639 - Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
International Lace Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature."
~ Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the handmade lace industry played an important part in the economies of many European countries. Members of royalty, the aristocracy, and the Catholic Church were the main consumers for fine laces. Men and women competed to display the most exquisite lace on their fashionable clothes - King Charles I of Great Britain, for example, bought 1600 yards of lace to ornament his shirts! The mechanization of lace-making, most notably in Nottingham, from the late 18th century onwards, gave rise to the generic term "Nottingham lace" for all machine-made lace. In the 17th century, St. John Francis Regis helped many country girls avoid the cities by establishing them in the lace making and embroidery trade, which is why he is often named the patron saint of lace making.
The word lace is from Middle English, deriving from the Latin "laceum" or "laqueus" for noose.
The late 1500s century marked the rapid development of lace, as both needle lace and bobbin lace became dominant in both fashion as well as home décor. Lace was used by clergy of the early Catholic Church as part of vestments in religious ceremonies but did not come into widespread use until the 16th century.
Lace making began by hand using a cushion, pins and small bobbins.
There are many types of lace, including:
Needle lace, such as Venetian Gros Point, is made using a needle and thread.
Cutwork, or whitework, is lace constructed by removing threads from a woven background, and the remaining threads wrapped or filled with embroidery.
Bobbin lace (also known as bone-lace), is made with bobbins and a pillow. The bobbins, turned from wood, bone, or plastic, hold threads which are woven together and held in place with pins stuck in the pattern on the pillow. Chantilly lace is a type of bobbin lace.
Tape lace makes the tape in the lace as it is worked, or uses a machine- or hand-made textile strip formed into a design, then joined and embellished with needle or bobbin lace.
Knotted lace includes macramé and tatting.
Tatted lace is made with a shuttle or a tatting needle.
Crocheted lace includes Irish crochet, pineapple crochet, and filet crochet.
Knitted lace includes Shetland lace, such as the "wedding ring shawl", a lace shawl so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring.
Machine-made lace is any style of lace created or replicated using mechanical means.
Interestingly, some historians believe that St. Catherine of Alexandria is incorrectly reckoned as the patron saint of lacemakers, a result of a relatively modern erroneous conflation of several historical facts. It was actually Catherine of Aragon who was said to have burned all her lace so that the poor lace makers would have more work to do, giving rise to the namesake St. Cattern cakes, a mixture of dough, egg, sugar, lard or butter, and caraway seeds.
See below for a video performance of this dance.
For a recipe for Scottish lace cookies, click here! Or click the painting of Thomas Gainsborough's Portrait of Mary Countess Howe, 1760 for an essay and visual exploration of painting of lace in the fine arts.