Bobbin lace


Early bobbin lace in gold and silver thread, c. 1570.

Contemporary hand made woollen bobbin lace articles, Wool Expo, Armidale NSW. Pale green lace is made of 2 ply wool.

Lacemaker, 1664

Bobbin lace evolved from passementerie or braid-making in 16th century Italy. Coarse passements of gold and silver-wrapped threads or colored silks gradually became finer, and later bleached linen yarn was used to make both braids and edgings.

The making of bobbin lace was easier to learn than the elaborate cutwork of the 16th century, and the tools and materials for making linen bobbin lace were inexpensive. There was a ready market for bobbin lace of all qualities, and women throughout Europe soon took up the craft which earned a better income than spinning, sewing, weaving or other home-based textile arts. Bobbin lace-making was established in charity schools, almshouse, and convents..

In the 17th century, the textile centers of Flanders and Normandy eclipsed Italy as the premiere sources for fine bobbin lace, but until the coming of mechanization hand-lacemaking continued to be practiced throughout Europe, suffering only in those periods of simplicity when lace itself fell out of fashion..


Bobbin lace may be made with coarse or fine threads. Traditionally it was made with linen, silk, wool, or, later, cotton threads, or with precious metals. Today it is made with a variety of natural and synthetic fibers and with wire and other filaments.

Elements of later bobbin lace may include toile or toil (clothwork), rseau (the net-like ground), braids, picots, tallies, and fillings, although not all styles of bobbin lace include all these elements.

Contemporary laces

The advent of machine-made lace at first pushed lace-makers into more complicated designs beyond the capabilities of early machines, and then eventually pushed them out of business almost entirely. The resurgence of lace-making is a recent phenomenon and is mostly confined to a hobby status. Guilds of modern lacemakers still meet in regions as varied as Devonshire, England and Orange County, California[citation needed]. In the European towns where lace was once a major industry, especially in Belgium, England, Portugal and France, lacemakers still demonstrate the craft and sell their wares, though their customer base has shifted from the wealthy nobility to the curious tourist.

Bobbinet is the name for the machine-made bobbin lace, made by machinery designed by John Heathcoat in 1806.


Many styles of lace were made in the heyday of lacemaking (approximately the 1500s-1700s) before machine-made lace became available. Some well-known types of bobbin lace are:

Honiton – A very fine English lace with many flowers

Torchon – Well-known for its variety of beautiful, often geometric grounds

Cluny – Flowers, braids and picots (tiny loops of thread) make this light and delicate

Bedfordshire lace (Beds) – this has flowing lines and picots (to foil the machines)

Bucks point Buckinghamshire lace – very “lacy” with characteristic hexagon ground and often with a gimp thread (a heavier thread worked through for emphasis)

Mechlin, a fine, transparent Flemish lace known for its floral patterns, fine twisted-and-plaited, hexagonal ground, and outlined designs

Valenciennes, a French bobbin lace with a net-like background originating in the 18th century


Bobbin lace near Schlettau in 1936

Bobbin lace in progress

Valenciennes lace

Mechlin lace

Lace making beaver in The Hunting of the Snark


Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bobbin lace

^ Oxford English Dictionary definition of “bone lace”

^ a b c d Levey, Santina M.: “Lace in the Early Modern Period c. 1500-1780.” In Jenkins, Cambridge History of Western Textiles, p. 585-580

^ Montupet and Schoeller, 1988, p. 16-18


Jenkins, David, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-34107-8

Montupet, Janine, and Ghislaine Schoeller: Lace: The Elegant Web, New York: Abrams, 1988, ISBN 0-8109-3553-8.

Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM, Oxford University Press, 2002.

External links

Lace Identification

Virtual Museum of Textile Arts

Video of lacemaker making bobbin lace

An animation and explanation of various lace stitches

v  d  e

Lace types

Needle lace

Punto in Aria  Point de Venise  Point de France  Alenon  Argentan  Argentella  Armenian  Hollie Point  Halas lace  Point de Gaze  Youghal  Kenmare Lace  Limerick

Embroidered: Reticella  Buratto  Filet/Lacis  andut  Needlerun Net  Tambour  Teneriffe

Cut Work: Battenberg  Broderie Anglaise  Carrickmacross

Bobbin lace

Ancient: Antwerp  Ecclesiastical  Freehand  Torchon

Continental: Binche  Flanders  Mechlin  Paris  Valenciennes

Point ground: Bayeux  Blonde  Bucks point  Chantilly  Tnder  Beveren  Lille

Guipure: Genoese  Venetian  Bedfordshire  Cluny  Maltese

Part laces: Honiton  Bruges  Brussels

Tape: Milanese  Flemish  Russian  Peasant

Tape lace

Mezzopunto  Princess  Renaissance  Romanian point

Knotted lace

Macram  Tatting

Crocheted lace

Broomstick lace  Irish crochet  Hairpin  Filet crochet

Lace knitting

Lace knitting

Machine-made lace

Warp Knit  Bobbinet  Leavers  Pusher  Barmen  Curtain Machine  Chemical

Hand-finished: Hand-run Gimps

Categories: LaceHidden categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements from May 2008 | Wikipedia articles incorporating text from the 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica

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