My Belgian Lace Experience 2008

My September 2008 trip to the low countries included visits to 16th century canal houses, many art museums, a chocolate museum, a brewery and the lace museum in Bruges, Belgium. here are some musings on the state of handmade linens and lace in the world today. In one museum, I saw a filet lace panel that was dated 1599.

Outrageously Beautiful Brugge (Bruges)

Bobbin lace was invented in this gorgeous region. You can hardly walk half a block in the old city center without passing at least one linen and lace shop. Unfortunately, most shops sell the same kinds of things and most of the things have been imported from China. (really) Some are pretty, (but mundane,) pieces. But they have nothing to do with the superb tradition of handmade linens and laces.

Several years ago in Venice, I did a double-take when I saw on display a very expensive Point de Venise tablecloth that looked to me as though it had been made in China. When I went into the shop to get a closer look, the Chinese shopkeepers confirmed my suspicions. There is nothing wrong with selling or buying Chinese-made lace but selling Point de Venise in Venice implied that it had been made in Venice. Most people who visit lace shops in Bruges would assume that everything had been made in Bruges.

Some shops displayed older pieces in their windows or inside. (at prices that were expensive, even with the very weak dollar) The vintage Duchesse lace handkerchief in the next photo costs over $200.

This hanky costs approx. $450 USD.

This lovely Rose Point (or Point de Gaze) Hanky is nearly one thousand dollars.

This “rosaline perleé” bobbin lace-edged embroidered round tablecloth is over $2,000.

The lace shop “Irma” sells only items that have been handmade in Belgium, both modern as well as antique. The shop sells lovely bobbin lace items that are made by area lacemakers. The shop also has some amazing antique laces including a 16th century handkerchief with a pricetag of Euros 5,000. (about $7,500.) The owner of the shop guessed that it had taken six or seven years to make that handkerchief.

Lacemaking today is a cottage industry that is a labor of love. The shop owner estimated that, when all is said and done, that the lacemakers earn about an euro an hour for their painstaking work. He also told me that, because there are no young lacemakers working today, within 10-20 years there will be none left at all. If you have an opportunity to travel to Brugge, please do so. I know you will enjoy it.

Items in Churches

I found the following (random) items to be interesting. Although there were plenty more that were on display in places that did not permit photography. The maroon velvet banner on display in a cathedral is embroidered with gold and silver metallic threads.

Close up of the embroidery

This photo shows a statue garbed with ornate fabrics, embroidery, brocade, gold and lace. Forgive my blurry photos but I hope they give you a taste of how richly decorated and beautiful she is.

I loved seeing the altarcloth in the next photo in use. It caught my eye because it was completely worn through with holes.



Tags: , ,

2 Responses to “My Belgian Lace Experience 2008”

  1. Jet Says:

    Seems to me as though almost all “modern lace” looks like the one in the lower right-hand corner of photo no. 2; I could be gravely mistaken (and indeed I am not the lace connoisseur that you are), but that just looks fake. (The other most common modern “lace” is the sort that was so popular in the ’60s, and usually synthetic…not sure how they made it, but it looks awful, blocky, and always the same!)

    • linenmaven Says:

      Modern “lace” isn’t really lace… the real stuff is far too time-consuming, intricate and difficult to make. Many kinds of laces have not been made for centuries!
      A really great little reference book is by Elizabeth Kurella. The Secrets of Handmade Lace. It’s short, sweet and easy to follow! and, you can learn a lot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: