Lace Palace - Brussels
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One distinguishes two types of lace: lace made with a needle and lace made with spindles.
It is thought that weavers were originally responsible for lace making using spindles or bobbins. They braided wire of chain with fabrics to carry out pretty completions. Lace making with spindles probably developed from the improvement of this braiding technique.
Needle-point lace is a natural evolution of embroidery. At the beginning increasingly fine fabrics were woven. Then embroidery was added to decorate these fabrics. To carry out prettier embroideries the fabric was first cut and then threads were drawn out of the fabric. And finally embroidery was performed without the support of a fabric. One carries out `points in the air' or `indented edges', from which the word lace is derived.
The advantage of lace compared to the embroidery is that one can very easily take off the lace from dresses and clothes in order to transform the clothing and reuse the lace.
Little by little the demand for lace grew in Europe. Gradually schools were established everywhere and each area developed its own style of lace making design and technique.
It was in the 17th and18th centuries that the production of lace reached its apogee. Lace became a sign of richness and refinement. It decorated clothing, the underclothing, the accessories and even religious and military costumes. Lace became an accessory of luxury. Its price increased and it was primarily used as trimming. All through the 17th and 18th century lace was extremely appreciated to decorate collars, cuffs, caps, aprons, trimming of shoes, wedding veils, mantillas, and scarves…. Household linen did not escape this fashion and thus tablecloths, mats, and others fabrics were decorated with lace.
With time and especially in the 18th century the middle-class grew richer and also started to buy lace. At the same time lace became so much appreciated that the less fortunate families used coarser laces or imitations with the hook.
The creation of the most beautiful laces requires an extremely fine linen thread of exceptional quality. The most beautiful flax occurs in Flanders and it is thus natural that the needle-point and the bobbin lace of these areas are the most appreciated. Thanks to the exceptional linen thread one can carry out designs with smoothness and delicacy never equaled elsewhere.
The Belgian provinces exported their laces all over Europe. To the price of lace one must add the transport and the custom charges. Several countries (eg France and England) imposed taxes and very high custom charges in order to promote the production of lace on their territory and to limit importation of lace from Flanders. Regulations were even issued to limit lace on clothing or simply to prohibit the importation of lace. But the passion for Belgian lace was such that all these constraints did not manage to decrease the demand for lace. The merchants simply became more inventive in order to circumvent these regulations.
Today there continues an important production of lace in Belgium. Lace continues to be made by needle in the name of `Renaissance' and `Princess'], this being produced by the traditional method of workers working at home.
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