Some Lace History

Italy: Renaissance   -  Milanese Lace                       

Numerical laces: Hinojosa

Russian Laces:  Origin and evolution

Laces in Spain: Origin and evolution

Renaissance: 17th. and 18th. cent.

Detail of "Presentation in the Temple"

Painting has been perhaps, the most important witness in the course of time in the life of man, probably because of its visual nature. Thanks to the painters, who have managed to capture the detail of embellishments and accessories of the costumes that protagonists wearied in portraits, sometimes in a completely reliable way, it has been possible that have nowadays privileged information to establish its history. 

Thus before the 16th S, we can appreciate decorative ribbons made with metallic or colored threads onto the fabric (braid), making us think that they have been forerunners of bobbin lace. It is likely to the influence of changes made in the shape of collars and garments and decorative bands lead to an evolution in the way to be carried out, passing from needle to the bobbins which meant a faster implementation and lower cost. In addition, changes made in the manufacture of metallic threads probably contributed to this evolution.

Andreas Mantegna picture(1431-1506) “Presentazione”, is a good sample of this transition:

Or this other from Pala Sforcesca, dedicated to Beatrice d’Este, wife of Ludovico Sforza:

The invention of the printing press, benefited the diffusion of the lace, and although during the 14th S, it was not common that wealthy families had printed books in their homes, things changed from 15th century, resulting in greater quantity, and hose dedicated to female education had a great reception (literature and home crafts), overall those dedicated to needlepoint.

Artur Lotz, arrives to write down up to 111 books printed between 1523 and 1600, although only 2 of them were dedicated to lace: “Le Pompe” and “Nuw Modelbuch”.

There was a great difference in the implementation of both techniques: needle and bobbin lace, among the population. Although with a totally distinct origin,both used a common decorative aim coming to have a certain similarity in their appearance during some periods, and it seems that only that later the 16th cent. evolved together.

Between 1530 and 1560, needle lace drawings are composed of repetitive elements, except those of larger laces. The motifs, in the beginning geometric, change to other forms: scrolls, naïf characters, animals, or stylized plant motifs. The appearance of the lace changed too, which was light and ethereal becomes dense and opaque. However since1560 geometric drawings came back into fashion and the bobbin lace, secondly always with respect to needle lace, seemed that it had not tapped even with all its possibilities. However, since 1560 geometric patterns were time back in fashion, and the bobbin lace, always behind needle lace, seems that it has not tapped even with all its possibilities. Its appearance is very simple, as we have seen previously, and only in some countries of the Mediterranean like Crete and Spain, some points are already somewhat more elaborate. The used materials are gold, silver, and linen thread.

The manufacture of woven silk and metal bands used to decorate clothing, gave thrust to the development of bobbin lace, while the clothes of home decoration contributed to the development in parallel of lace worked with linen thread. Silk and metallic threads, very expensive indeed, came from Italy and the most antique bobbin lace was almost certainly made there, manufactured in trimming factories, such as Milan or places of a great commercial tradition of luxury as Venice.

Evidence of the importance of the development of lace in Italy can be seen in the book “Nu Modelbuch”, printed in Zurich by Christopher Froschower, but written by an “anonymous” lacemaker with initials R.M. So she explains in the prologue have been teaching for the past 12 years, the craft had been introduced in Zurich by merchants of Venice and elsewhere in Italy since 25 years before.

It enlarged the information commenting that even though the first band laces were straight and narrow, applied in shirts and skirts, these soon evolved the working technique, using linen thread, and a speedy execution represented a low-cost compared with the hardworking embroideries. Also explains how it

expanded rapidly by Switzerland, due to the acceptance that had its development among the female world, for its relative ease and the posed earnings. While middle-class women worked in their fine embroidery to adorn their houses, the lacemakers were part of the poor strata of society. It was the occupation of the poor,, since they not needed investment in materials and instead, the value of the final product was important. From the 16th cent, extended across Europe and R.M. described the establishment of the manufacturing of the lace in prisons and orphanages. 


“Le Pompe”, published in Venice by the brothers Giovanni Battista and Marchio Sessa to Matia Pagano, was published for the first time in 1557 and subsequently republished in 1558 and 1559. In 1560 was edited the number II, which, in turn, was reissued in 1562.

Those who bought and used these pattern books should be experts in this technique.

The drawings represented the patterns without any instruction. They were not simple and it was sometimes impossible to perform them without being sewn. This situation changes when at the end of the 16th century, bobbin lace is used in conjunction with needle lace. They are references to bobbin l ace in samples of embroidery and needle books as the “Corona delle nobili et virtuose donne” (1591), whose designs claimed to be valid for both techniques, but the truth is that only one of the drawings could be performed. 

It was not until 1595, that Isabetta Catana Parasole, published the appropriate fine lace patterns then fashionable. These drawings were, far from seeming to those so dense seen in Le Pompe and Nuw Modelbuch published 50 years earlier.

Anyway, during the 16th century: needle lace, cut work, embroidery and bobbin lace coexist and published books compete with very similar motifs to be carried out in the different techniques trying to adapt to changes of the fashion of that time. Thus we see a drawing of the Nuw Modelbuch in its page 4 showing an already highly developed bobbin lace, but without reaching the perfection of the needle. In the page 7 the pattern is a clear copy of the works of cut threads and the geometric needle point that were made at that time while the last one, page 25, reflects the beginning of the lace band technique. 

By means of the pieces that have survived to the present day, it has been established that Le Pompe book contained patterns that, reflected the advances of the industry of bobbin lace in Venice at that time, however, we cannot compare it with laces worked with linen, hard to find today, among other things because being used as decorations of underwear or household objects they were discarded by their low value when they broke. Nor have survived many of the lace made of silk or metallic threads, the firsts, ran the same fate as dresses when they deteriorate, and the seconds, the metals were melted for retrieving their value such as gold or silver.

Bibliography: “Le Pompe, 1559”  -Santina Levey- 1983-

Punto in Aria

Punto in Aria



Bolillos - Genova


Hilos cortados

Hilos cortados