All of our Farmhouse friends know that one of our favorite things is lace. We love the many different kinds, the vintage weaves, and the many different uses. But most of all we love the stories behind the lace. Throughout time people have enjoyed beautiful things and have wanted to make themselves beautiful-and so the art of garment creation has existed literally for ages. It would be really interesting to know when the art of lace making originated, but probably that’s unknown. However, what we can learn is how different types of lace came to be: where they originated, how they spread, and how they are used today!
Because there are so many different kinds of lace there are also many different origins. We have already written about Maline lace (also called “Mechlin” lace-named after a town in Belgium where it was manufactured). Maline is known to be the most delicate of all the laces. The gossamer net base with its delicate designs makes that lace perfect for sweet baby clothes and other delicate garments. Today we are moving to the other end of the lace spectrum and we are talking about Venise lace: the heaviest and most luxurious lace of them all.As you may guess from the name, Venise lace originated in Venice, Italy. Throughout the periods of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Venice was the capital of fashion in Europe. Not only were they the major producers/importers of luxury textiles such as silk, satin, and lace, but they were also the trend-setters. They dictated the fashionable use of those textiles-from garment design to specific embellishment. Wherever Venice led, the rest of Europe followed. So when Catherine de Medici moved to France, she set the new fashion of heavy “Venise lace” embellishment. The Venetians had introduced Europe to needle lace. Some people get confused about the spelling of Venise lace…if it is named after Venice, Italy then why is it not spelled the same? Well after the lace moved throughout Europe it became known by its French name: “Point de Venise”. Today we shorten that to simply “Venise”-that’s what gives it that French pronunciation (phonetic spelling of the word would be ‘Venees’ rather than ‘Venis’)
The “needle lace” classification that Venise lace belongs to tells us something about how it is made. Whereas pillow laces such as Maline lace are created by arranging and pinning thread on a pillow (again, the giveaway is in the name), needle laces are made using a different method. The oldest and purest forms of making needle lace involve only a needle, thread and scissors. However, in the 16th century the Venetians slightly altered the technique. Their new method involved loosely stitching guide threads in a design on heavy cloth or parchment. The guide threads then would be encapsulated with embroidery stitches, and then when the entire piece was finished the “backing” would be removed. Impressive, complicated patterns were formed by simply using a buttonhole or blanket stitch to follow the stitched design. (There is an good post about the process of making needle point lace on howdidyoumakethis.com and it has lots of pictures!)
We can see examples of the work of the Venetians in many antique portraits. A common fashion among courtiers and the wealthy was heavy Venise lace collars or cuffs. Venise lace was also very popular as embellishment for high-ranking clergy.
So how is Venise lace used today? You might think that Venise lace would have disappeared with the extravagant court fashions of the Renaissance. Actually, Venise lace is now very popular in the bridal industry. Especially since the royal wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate, lace-embellished wedding gowns are all the rage. What better occasion for luxury and rich embellishment than a wedding?! Because it is so obvious as a trim, Venise lace is also often used in costuming. So you may wonder why Farmhouse Fabrics carries it…don’t we specialize in supplies for children’s clothing? Well, the wonderful thing about Venise lace is that it now comes in all shapes and sizes. If you’re using the widest kinds, it makes such an incredible statement and you don’t need very much of it. A Venise lace around the hem of a skirt or dress can “fancify” the entire outfit. Or, if you’re feeling really fancy, you can make an entire skirt out of Venise lace…it actually looks extremely sweet and elegant; Miss Sally has made several for her grandkids! (Find the one on the left here and the one on the right here)
Today, you can see how our modern taste has had a bit of an influence on this historical lace. Venise lace can now be produced in many different colors and widths-from little 1/2 inch wide pink flower chains to 5 inch wide ivory rose borders. We don’t let the Venetians have all the fun 🙂