Nicole Kipar
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17th c. Lace
Gallery & Identification

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Please note that I generously received permission from Pat Earnshaw, the copyright holder, and from Shire Publications, the company which published the book these images are from, to display 8 photos of lace, where indicated, on this website from her book The Identification of Lace. This means that the permission is exclusively for display here, and you may not use these images elsewhere. The remaining photos on this website were taken by B. Levick in the V&A Museum, London in June 1999. You may not use them elsewhere without my expressed written permission. Thank you for your understanding.

Pat Earnshaw:
The Identification of Lace. Shire Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7478-0237-8
Lace in Fashion: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. Gorse Publications. ISBN 0-9513891-3-0
Furthermore, please take a look at Shire Publication's official website, who so generously gave me permission as well.

Needlepoint Lace

 Early Needlepoint Lace

The most important characteristic of all needlepoint laces is the buttonhole stitch, and therefore the appearance of needlepoint resembles embroidery. This lace was worked with a very fine flax or linen thread. Needlepoint lace was the one exquisite lace of all which was most fashionable throughout the 17th century.
The earliest needlepoint are Reticella and Punto in Aria. Both show a characteristic geometrical design.

Reticella developed from open-work embroidery by discarding the woven linen and replacing it with needlewoven strands, laid over a pattern, Reticella took the step from embroidery to lace. The designs, executed with closely worked buttonhole stitches, remained mainly geometrical.

Punto in Aria was primarily used for edging, not being connected in the process of making to the material it decorated. The edges were more or less sharply pointed, as can be seen on portraits (ruffs and cuffs) of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Reticella Reticella, late 16th century
V&A Museum
Punto in Aria Punto in Aria, late 16th century
(I'm not 100% certain that this is Punto in Aria. Sorry.)

V&A Museum


Venetian Needlepoints

Venetian needlepoints can be divided in six different types (from the early 17th to the mid 18th centuries), the first three being raised, and the second three being flat.

Gros Point motifs can be bigger than 50 mm, with a wide cordonnet padded with picots.

Rose Point shows smaller flowers and the cordonnet was less raised. Although Gros Point and Rose Point seem to be very different, many intermediate examples existed as well.

Point de Neige is the peak of the trend to make flowers smaller, while being built up in delicate layers, together with increasingly decorative brides.

Point Plat was a closely worked lace in a similar scrolling design of the raised points, but the flowers, instead of being padded, were filled with many different designs. It was mainly used for edging linen aprons.

Coralline names a simpler form of Point Plat, where the fillings are limited in type.

Resau Venise was a flat needlepoint with a very fine texture and an elaborate design of formalised lilies, filled with a multitude of ornaments.


Venetian Gros Point Gros Point, second half of 17th century. Flax thread, padded. Detail of a male lace collar, a Rabat. V&A Museum Venetian Rose Point Rose Point, middle of 17th century. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission
Venetian Point de Neige Point de Neige, second half of 17th century. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission Venetian Point Plat Point Plat. Italian (Venetian). V&A Museum
Venetian Coralline Coralline. Detail. A degenerate form of Point Plat. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission Point de Venise Point de Venise. End of 17th century
V&A Museum
Female lace collar, worn like a bertha around the low collar of the mantua, on top of the bodice. Made from Venetian Gros Point, second half of 17th century. V&A Museum. Male lace collar, a so-called Rabat. Made from Venetian Gros Point, second half of 17th century. V&A Museum.


French Needlepoints

Point de France developed in Alecon and in Normandy from 1665 on. Louis XIV gave this superb needlepoint the name Point de France and it was adopted by the entire French court, not only decorating garments but also towels and dressing tables. The motifs were relatively small, with only a slightly raised cordonnet, with its most distinctive feature being a ground of brides picotées arranged in a series of hexagons.

Point de Sedan was a more free-flowing and less symmetrical form of Point de France, produced at the border between France and Flanders.

French Point de Sedan Point de France. Cravat, detail. Second half of 17th century.
V&A Museum
Point de France Point de France. Cravat, detail. Late 17th century.
V&A Museum


The Making of Needlepoint Lace

Making of Needlepoint The pattern was drawn on a strip of parchment, and then the outlining threads were tacked along the design. All spaces between them were then filled with buttonhole stitches, to be linked as a last step with brides to hold the toile together.
Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission


Tape-based Lace

Mezzo Punto was made during the 17th century in Italy. It used a woven or bobbin tape of even width which was folded and then fixed. It imitated the fine needlepoint laces, but never came near to them. The example below has needlepoint fillings.

Mezzo Punto Tape-based Italian lace.
V&A Museum

Bobbin Laces

The characteristic of bobbin lace is, naturally, the use of bobbins to pull the threads taut and facilitate handling while they are twisted, crossed or plaited, to form a more or less woven material. Pins are stuck into the pillow according to the pricked design, to hold and guide the threads during the process of the lacemaking. The number of bobbins varies from about a dozen to several hundred depending on the width and the complexity of the design.

Italian Bobbin Laces

Genoese lace developed in the 16th century, imitating in its rigid tooth-like triangles the contemporary needlepoint lace Punto in Aria. When the fashion of collars turned towards soft falling bands, Genoese changed accordingly, being scalloped edged now and made of thicker thread, densely worked. By the mid 17th century Genoese lace went out of fashion.

Milanese lace was made from the 17th century up to the late 18th century and was made mainly as flounces or entire collars or apron edgings rather than as narrow edging like Genoese. Milanese was, in contrast to Genoese, boldly flower patterned and free-flowing.

Venetian bobbin is a very rare 17th century lace, which looked in its closely worked pattern like an imitation of the needlepoint lace Point Plat, with myriad of tiny flower buds.

Dutch and Flemish Bobbin Laces

Dutch lace is very rare and only known from the 17th century. Its look is very thick and strong but in no means clumsy or rigid. Very fine flax was used, thickly spun and closely worked. The formalised design appeared like rounded, bunched bouquets of flower heads.

Flemish, 17th century. This lace is known in several forms,one of them resembling Genoese collar lace, in its repetition of shallow scallops which dissected into fan shapes. Another form had deep scallops made of filled circles.

Flemish, 18th century. This lace is strikingly different from the earlier lace. Toile and reseau were separately worked, very similar to the contemporary Milanese lace, so that they sometimes became indistinguishable.

Brabant was mainly made into wide flounces in the 18th century of a bold, extravagant design, but the thread which was used was inferior to other laces' threads.

Binche was a very fine straight-edged lace with a design of scattered spots.

Valenciennes was similar to Binche in its translucent texture but greatly advanced to it in its design of gently curving flowers sweeping over a snowflake ground.

Antwerp lace is mostly characteristic for its design of a two-handled vase overspilling with flowers in the form of tulips or lilies with long stems.

Mechlin, or Malines lace is already recorded from the middle of the 17th century, being an almost transparent lace with a complexity and richness of design resembling early Valenciennes lace. During the reign of Queen Anne, in 1713, Mechlin lace was the favourable lace of the English court.

Point d'Angleterre or Brussels bobbin lace dates in its earliest form from the late 17th century. Its design represented flowers, people and animals, sometimes even biblical scenes in a quite realistic fashion.


Genoese bobbin lace Genoese bobbin lace,
early 17th century. 

V&A Museum.
Milanese bobbin lace Milanese bobbin lace, late 17th century. Detail. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission
Peasant bobbin lace Flemish 'Peasant lace'
17th century. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission
Valenciennes bobbin lace Valenciennes bobbin lace,
part of a lappet, ca. 1700. Copyright © Pat Earnshaw. From The Identification of Lace, by Pat Earnshaw. Shire Publications Ltd. With permission
Flemish bobbin lace Flemish bobbin lace. 17th century. V&A Museum
Note the difference in design and execution to the later Flemish bobbin lace below.
English bobbin lace edging Italian Milanese, part of a flounce, second half of 17th century. Detail.
V&A Museum.
Flemish bobbin lace Flemish bobbin lace, part of a flounce. Detail. Late 17th or early 18th century. V&A Museum


Lace for Clothing

Lappets Different lappets from caps and Fontanges. Late 17th century to early 18th century. V&A Museum. Stomacher Stomacher made from lace, to be worn with a Mantua. Early 18th century. V&A Museum

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Contents © N. Kipar 1997