The Antique Art of Lace-Making

Once upon a time in a land of ornate beauty, and probably still in homes, small shops, and ateliers, lace-making was a highly regarded and rather time-consuming hand-woven art.  Beginning in the 15th century in Flanders (France/Belgium), linen, silk, gold, and silver threads were looped and twisted or braided to other threads, leaving a fabric with decorative open spacings to be used in religious clothing, home decor, and trims and gowns.  Since its inception, numerous methods of lace-making have been developed, but needlepoint lace and bobbin lace methods remain both traditional and popular.

1954, Venice, Italy — Women making lace on the island of Burano, Italy in 1954. (Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)

Vintage lace-making

Lace-making in Belgium (

Lace making women

Women making lace in India (smithysteads on flickr)

Vintage Lace making

Women in Bessarabia making lace (

Possibly dating as far back as the Roman times, lace bobbins have been used throughout history to weave thread into lace.

Lace bobbins

Lace bobbins (

And my, oh my, do these ladies have it down.  Watching them reminds me of Spanish classical guitar players who effortlessly glide up and down multiple guitar necks.  Check out this incredible video of Lace Making in Croatia that demonstrates traditional methods of both needlepoint lace-making and bobbin lace-making.

And, of course, the beautiful examples of this finely woven art.

Reticella lace

Regarded as the finest lace-making method, needle lace can achieve a delicacy and intricacy that machine-made or even bobbin-made lace cannot.  An example of needlepoint lace (handwoven with a needle and thread):

Point de Gaze needlelace

Late 19th century Point de Gaze needlelace (

antique lace tablecloth

Antique lace tablecloth (

Chantilly lace, an ornate and highly coveted handmade French lace popular in shawls and gowns, is a type of bobbin lace also known as “bone lace.”

Chantilly lace antique

Antique 1830’s silk chantilly lace (timespentlaces on Etsy)

vintage lace wedding gown

Vintage Brussels lace gown (myweddingplace.blogspot)

Grace Kelly Wedding Dress

Grace Kelly – lace wedding gown

For a detailed history on lace and an amazing series on lace in portraiture, check out Venetian Red.

Have you or anyone you’ve known tried your hand at lace-making?  It’s such a meticulous and awe-inspiring art!




  1. Goodness! It is all so beautiful and yes I agree ‘awe inspiring’ is certainly the right phrase!

  2. mothcaterpillar says:

    Gosh! The lace is such an elegant and beautiful material!
    I do crochet, but making lace could be absolutely amazing… go for it! :-)

    • Oooh, I am envious of your crocheting talent!! I’ve always wanted to learn…I knit, but I feel like crochet makes more intricate and ornate designs…almost like lace! :)

  3. What a lovely post. I also do crochet and are looking to do crocheted lace, but I don’t think this could produce anything as detailed as the above.

    • I really need to learn how to crochet (and then maybe move on to lace-making, haha). It seems that crocheting is very similar. And although it seems quite difficult to make anything as delicate as needlepoint lacework with a hook or knitting needle, I’m betting your crocheted lace will be just as lovely :)

      • yeh I think it’d be worth you looking into if you’re interested. The lace probably won’t be as fine, but you can get very small crochet hooks. The smallest I’ve got is 0.7mm, which I haven’t tried yet, but would produce some quite fine lace. I’m jus not sure how well my eyes would last working with stitches that small!

      • I didn’t realize they made crochet hooks that small; that’s awesome. I’ve really been meaning to look into it – I love knitting, but everything I knit is so…chunky, haha. I think maybe I’ll start somewhere in the middle and work my way up/down to 0.7mm. Let me know if you try it; I’d love to see the results!

      • yeh I will do! It’s on my to do list along with many other projects! Will post whatever I do on my blog!

  4. I am a lacemaker. My tutor has taught me how to do Torchon, Bucks point and Bedfordshire lace. I like to specifically make it in 1/12th scale for my Georgian dolls house. The history of lace making is fascinating, I found the video regarding lacemaking in Croatia very good. I think lacemaking should be taught in schools along side other needlework classes. For me the art of Honiton lace next. It’s addictive.

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