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Lace has a long and fascinating history. To learn more about this subject there are many books and online resources available. It is, however, a vast subject, with many varieties of lace, originating from numerous countries, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
Here are just a few suggestions of where to start, plus some of the books I have found useful over the years.
For complete beginners to this field Wikipedia may be a good place to start.
Follow the links from this article to discover some of the main types of lace. These brief articles will give you have an idea of the main techniques of lace making, and examples of some of the most prominent laces of each type.
Sites like Pinterest are then very useful for viewing images of lace. If, for instance, you search for ‘Brussels lace’ you will find hundreds of images of the lace, plus examples of costume featuring the lace. It’s a lovely way to start learning how to recognise various laces.
It is also a good resource for viewing costume. Search for ‘18th century costume’ and so on, in order to see how lace was worn historically.
Another invaluable online resource is Youtube. Increasingly people are adding videos of lace being made, even teaching the techniques. Here, for instance, is one showing how quickly Belgian bobbin lace can be made by an expert-
There are also many people who write online about needlecrafts, so if you search for a specific subject you will unearth lots of information from websites, blogs, articles etc as well as links to books.
If you prefer to read a book then there are many excellent authors on the subject. I started with Pat Earnshaw and read her book ‘The Identification of Lace’ so many times that the spine fell apart! But there are many other authors whose books I have also enjoyed, and whose works currently sit on my bookshelves, including Heather Toomer, Emily Reigate, Judyth L. Gwynne, Patricia Wardle and Margaret Simeon. I must also make special mention of 2 other authors-
In 1865 Mrs Bury Palliser wrote what could be considered the first comprehensive book on lace. It's a vast tome, and not all of the information contained within its pages would be considered entirely accurate in light of more modern research into individual laces, but it is a wonderful book to dip into. It is available online -
Santina M Levey wrote ‘Lace: a History’ in 1983. This huge, scholarly and lavishly illustrated volume is a definitive work on the subject, from the former Keeper of Textiles at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Its expensive to purchase but can often be found in specialist libraries, and is well worth browsing.
Finally, I am often asked how to identify individual laces, and how to tell whether an example is made by hand or machine. Here are two wonderfully clear and informative documents that give a wealth of information on these subjects-