August 25, 2014

1208 BELGIUM (West Flanders) - Lacemakers in Bruges


The origin of lace is difficult to locate in both time and place. Some authors assume that the manufacturing of lace started ever since the Ancient Rome, but firm evidence there are only since the 15th century, when Charles V decreed that lace making was to be taught in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. Actually the lace was designed to replace embroidery in a manner that could easily transform the dresses, the lace could be unsewn from one material to be replaced on another. In the late 16th century there was a rapid development in the field of lace, used in both fashion and home décor. Flanders maintained an active exchange with Italy, so that it wasn't unnatural that, at the time, laces were known and made in Flanders. Its linen was superior to other countries of Europe, so the Flemish exported great quantity, and finer then any other part of Europe. Spinning flax threads and weaving fine textiles is closely associated with the early commercial history of this region, and when the progress of manufactures was endangered by the religious persecutions of the 16th century, is said that  the linen trade have saved the country from ruin.

Over time, many styles and techniques of lacemaking have been developed, almost all of them in the Belgian provinces, which thus deserve to be named the cradle of lace. The fineness of the thread used affected the lace designs when the early twisted and plaited merletti a piombini (laces made with lead weights) after the Italian models began to give way to scalloped laces in which flattened, broader tape-like lines forming some sort of floral ornament, were prominent. Bruges made bobbin lace in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and the name of Bruges is given to a lace of a scrolling character. There are four different techniques of lacemaking, two of which are no longer practiced today and therefore come under the heading of antique laces.

Today, two main techniques are practiced in the Flemish provinces of Belgium: a needle lace (named Renaissance or Brussels lace and manufactured in in the region of Aalst), and the bobbin lace (a speciality of Bruges). This is a very expensive type of lace to make and is therefore no longer manufactured for commercial purposes. Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs about 1,000 lace workers, all of them ladies aged between 50 and 90 years of age. Don't expect to find lace factories in Brussels or Bruges, they don't exist. 

About the stamp, depicting a Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio Machaon), I wrote here.

References
Lace - Wikipedia
Bruges Lace - A Textile's Lovers Diary
The History of Lace - Trabel

Sender: Marius Vasilescu
Sent from Bruges (West Flanders / Belgium), on 28.07.2014

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