Learning About Lace
In this section, you will find very brief tutorials based on visitors' questions sent to me and my personal answers back to them. It will be an interactive, on-going project, building over time.
To submit your questions about lace, click HERE for the contact form.
1.) How do hand-knotted filet lace and handmade Buratto lace differ?
Burrato lace is hand-embroidered lace made on buratto cloth. Buratto cloth is an even-weave cloth with single warp threads and double twisted weft threads. This cloth has square, loose, open mesh on which lacemakers embroider their designs in running stitch. Handmade buratto is classified as an embroidered lace.
Filet lace, on the other hand, is fashioned on handmade net, not cloth. The net is made of single threads by the lacemaker. Each corner of the net has a handmade knot. After completing the net, the lacemaker “darns" or weaves in designs. Handmade filet lace is classified as knotted lace.
2.) What is the difference between drawn-thread lace and pulled-thread lace?
Drawn-thread lace is made from woven linen or cotton cloth. In drawn-thread lace, threads are actually removed from the woven cloth by the lacemaker to form patterns of open spaces. Then embroidery is done around and through the spaces where the threads have been removed. Drawn work is classified as embroidered lace.
Pulled-thread lace is made on very loosely woven, rustic linen cloth. No threads are removed by the lace-maker. It is made by hand-embroidering under tension, pulling the embroidery thread tightly to create an open, lacy effect in the woven linen. Pulled work is classified as embroidered lace.
3.) I don't find my lace anywhere on your pages. May I send you some photographs?
If you do not find lace on my website that compares to your own, I invite you to send two or three photos to me. Often I know. Sometimes I don’t. I am always willing to help if I can. The photos must be very close up and very focused. Click on the “Contact The Rookery” button and request to send photos. I will tell you where to send them. Please don’t send photos of crochet. There are thousands of examples on ebay.com or etsy.com for comparing the asking prices of crochet lace.
4.) Can you tell me how much my lace is worth?
The value of your lace depends on age, type, rarity and condition. It also depends on the market where you plan to sell it. I cannot put a value on your lace, but I can usually say which laces are common and which are unusual or rare. The first step is to identify your lace so you can begin researching current prices on various online venues and reference books.
5.) How should I store my lace?
Very valuable, fragile antique lace (17th - 18th century) is safest when stored flat, uncleaned, unstarched, and wrapped in archival tissue. But, to put things into perspective, nearly all of the laces you see on my website are laces I personally have bought and sold in the US, and, though they are beautiful, they are all 19th and 20th century laces and not rare. I, personally, handwash all my laces before storing or selling them, unless they are already falling apart and can’t be cleaned. I block most laces while they are drying, rather than ironing. Some laces are lightly ironed. I fold them loosely and store them in bins, unwrapped.
6.) What is the best way to clean my old linens and old lace?
PLEASE NOTE: Some lace is very very delicate, especially if it is quite old or if it has been used or stored for a long time in sunlight and dust. It must be laundered with the greatest of care or left as is. There are many, many different kinds of antique and vintage lace and linens. If you have pieces that you believe to be very valuable - especially those with delicate, fragile lace, always consult an expert. Do not rely on my general information! Very old, very valuable lace, especially that in distressed condition, can be easily destroyed, and is best left alone or taken to conservators.
Here is a website that I found to be quite rational and helpful for cleaning more common lace in general:
Here are my own personal suggestions for cleaning linens and / or lace.
With a little diligence, I usually get my antique linens and laces stain free and sparkling here at my home. I am not a professional launderer and I am very cautious. It is not difficult, and requires mostly 1.) water, 2.) time, and 3.) patience. I use an enameled canning pot.
Here is what works for me with average sturdy lace, linen tablecloths, and bed linens.
In a large bowl, tub, pot or sink make a mixture of cold water and an oxygen-based laundry product. Don’t use bleach, lemon, vinegar or any acidic cleaner. Don’t mix oxygen-based products with any other cleaning product like clorox!
Put the linen or lace in to soak. The longer it soaks, the whiter it becomes – be patient. I often leave very stained linens soaking for six days. But check every day, as sometimes it doesn't take so long. The handful of stains that are stubborn, I treat with Spray and Wash and soak a day longer.
Rinse very well – at least three different rinses, until all traces of cleaner are gone. Squeeze the water out - no wringing or twisting. Roll it in a large towel to get more of the water out. Plain, unadorned linen or cotton can go into the dryer. If it has delicate lace inserts or edging, don't chance it! Line dry, or drape it over the ironing board to dry.
I personally prefer no starch, as I like my linens to have a billowy, soft, pliable hand. If you prefer a stiffer look and feel - or if you just want to add body to a rather worn, thin, droopy set of napkins, use Niagara spray starch. Easy to use.
Caveat: Though I have been laundering linens and lace for years. I have never been able to entirely remove black ink, colored candle-wax stains, motor grease or rust stains. I steer clear of buying any linens with these stains. But the process outlined above nearly always removes pasta sauce, tea, red wine, espresso, blood. ( We Italians...ahem.. have rather wild meal times...)
And remember: A few pale yellow stains left over are not necessarily a bad thing! They attest to age and authenticity. What is the point of having antique and vintage linens if they do not show their age and history? A little worn spot, a snagged thread, a bit of missing edge lace, a tea stain or two – it is only a little added charm.
7.) I have just been given a box full of lace collars, gloves, shawls, and cuffs. Is lace worth anything?
Good question! Some lace is worth a lot (antique needle lace from Italy, as one example) and some is worth very little (crocheted doilies, for example.) A good place to start: Try to find your lace on this website so you know what kind of lace you have and then see what people are asking for the same on online sales venues or in shops. Caution: Do not rely on ebay or etsy traders’ to label and describe their listed laces accurately! I believe well over seventy-five percent know nothing about lace and have to resort to making up things, sometimes to comical effect! Below I will list other fine, authoritative lace identification web sites.
In general terms:
Handmade lace sells for more than machine-made lace.
Lace and linens in good, readily useable or displayable condition sell for more than those in poor condition. Lace that is full of tears,holes, and broken threads, are hard to sell, with a few exceptions.
Lace that has been carefully laundered and lightly pressed or blocked, sells for more than lace that is offered “as is” - dusty, stained, musty smelling, right out of a chest after long storage. Lace that is stained with black grease, ink, rust, or candle wax are very hard to sell. Many will not buy it.
8.) Are there other good lace identification websites in addition to The Rook and The Raven?
Oh yes, there are some that are quite nice!
Textile Research Center https://trc-leiden.nl
Lynx Lace http://www.Lynxlace.com
Joachim and Betty Mendes, UK http://www.mendes.co.uk
Some knowledgeable lace dealers for high end laces on eBay are:
9.) What is the difference between tatting and reticella?
I am not a lacemaker, so I cannot say much about the execution of tatting and reticella. But I recognize it when I see it, and so can you! Both seem to be very tight, very precise, single-thread lace-making techniques. Tatting is classed as a knotted lace, made with a small tatting shuttle. Some times it is very simple - just one row of circles, but can also be very complex. One clue is that it always has picots - tiny decorative loops on the edge. Reticella, on the other hand, is classed as a needle-lace, and is made with a sewing needle. It is primarily made with the button-hole stitch. It has no little picots, but often it has solid little nubs or lumps. When you scroll through the reticella entries here, you will see it is usually characterized by straight geometric patterns - nubby straight lines, crossed lines and triangles. A similar kind of needle lace, a slightly more advanced version of reticella, is called punto in aria. It is very like reticella except that it is created differently and features more curved lines, flowery circles and loops. There are several samples of both punto in aria and of reticella in the Needle Lace folder here. This answers your question in a rather incomplete way, but it is a start.
10.) How long has lace been made by machine? What is the difference between all the machine-made laces?
Big question! I can give a small answer. The first machine-made lace was as early as 1812. You will find a simple history of machine-made lace:
Here you will find an entire free ebook comparing handmade with machine made. It may be far more more information than you want, but it is a fine pictorial resource
You will see at The Rook and The Raven, the five most ubiquitous types of machine-made lace:
Pusher - begun c. 1812, in England (New Radford)
Leavers - begun c.1813, in England (Nottingham)
Barmen - begun c.1890, in Germany
Schiffli - begun c.1890, in Switzerland
Quaker - begun c.1894 as Lehigh, in the USA
After a while, one begins to recognize on which machine the laces were made. Study the photos. All five produce different qualities of lace and different patterns of lace. Some is thin, irregular, crude. Some is so fine it is nearly impossible to tell it from handmade. If you are a lace-maker, however, you can follow the trail of the thread and know instantly. Some machines can produce lace that beautifully mimics scores of different handmade lace – especially Schiffli. They are masters of replication.
11) I am confused! What is the difference between tambour lace, needle run lace and Limerick lace?
Tambour is a type of embroidery stitch done on commercial netting. It is a chain-stitch made with a tiny tambour hook, which reaches through the holes of the netting to draw the working thread through to form designs.
Needle-run is also a type of embroidery stitch done on commercial netting. It is an “in and out” running-stitch made with a sewing needle, going over and under the holes of the netting to form designs.
Limerick lace is a specific kind of embroidered lace made in Ireland. It is made on commercial netting and utilizes both tambour stitches and needle-run stitches. These two types of embroidery stitches are used in laces from many other countries as well. i.e. Limerick lace uses tambour and needle-run stitches, but not all tambour or needle-run work is Limerick.
12.) My ancestors traveled extensively around the world and were great collectors of lace. They purchased lace in Belgium, France, England, Italy, and everywhere they went in the 1920s. How can I learn the value of what I think may be very expensive pieces?
Expensive lace is not my area. If you feel you have very important, valuable lace, you might contact a professional lace appraiser - either a private consultant or one at an auction house. You might, for example, contact either of these two women. I do not know them, and have not worked with them, but they certainly seem to have good credentials. See what they have to say?
Also, there is a lace museum in San Jose CA, and there are other museums in San Francisco, Detroit, and I am sure other cities with large textile departments. Possibly a museum lace curator could help you? I don’t know. Google “Lace Museum”. Perhaps you could email photos?
You could email a few very close-up, clear photos to me to see if I can at least identify them for you. I, personally, am not qualified to appraise fine lace, but identification is a starting point.
13.) You show many examples of Bosa filet lace. What is the difference between Bosa filet and filet made in other countries?
Bosa is a small town in the northwest of Sardinia in Italy. It is known for its distinctive handmade filet lace. The primary difference between Sardinian Bosa filet lace and the filet lace that is common in other countries are the stylized and ritualized motifs of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, griffins, dragons, winged lions, and vines. They are very fanciful and a delight to the eye and the heart. They are quite recognizable.
The stitches used are distinct as well. The Bosa lace-makers utilize the more ubiquitous darning stitch and dove’s eyes, however, in Bosa filet you will find heavier use of the cloth stitch and the double running stitch that outlines the animal, mythical, and botanical motifs.
Historically Bosa filet was embroidered on either loosely-woven Buratto linen or on Modano knotted netting. Today Sardinian Bosa filet is done principally on netting.