According to the Lace Guild, what we think of as “lace,” a delicate fabric with a web-like pattern, probably developed in 16th-century Europe. That’s when techniques for stitching the openwork fabric became more advanced, as European hand-sewers came up with “needle lace”—made with a needle and a single thread—and “bobbin lace”—made with a needle and multiple threads.

Both Italy and Flanders claim its artisans actually created lace in the late 15th century. The first known lace-pattern books were published in Venice, Italy, in the 1550s, a city that was central to the development and spread of the craft. Within 50 years, England, France, Spain, and Flanders had their own hotbeds of master lace craftswomen, who made the fabric from linen, silk, gold, or silver threads.

Tudor-era royal fashion required ruffs and standing collars made of needle lace in geometric patterns. In the 17th century, collars became softer, created from linen bobbin lace while gold and silver laces were employed to trim jackets, sashes, gloves, and shoe roses. Wearing flat, intricate lace became popular in the middle of the century, when lacemakers developed stunning Venetian Gros Point needle lace and Milanese bobbin lace. During the 18th century, lace makers continued to improve their techniques, making dainty lace from slender linen thread and mesh. To flaunt their status and elegance, the elite wore cravats and lappets adorned with French needle laces like Argentan and Alençon, as well as Flemish bobbin laces like Mechlin, Binche, and Valenciennes.

The British Industrial Revolution brought about the first lace-making machines in the late 18th century. However, the lace these early machines produced would unravel when cut. In 1809, John Heathcoat invented a machine that could produce a wide net fabric that didn’t come apart, and new patterns like Tambour and Carrickmacross—which are now considered “decorated nets” rather than actual lace—were embroidered onto the fabric, which was used on lightweight dresses. While some fashionable laces like Cluny, Bedfordshire, and Yak remained difficult for machines to reproduce, by the 1870s machines had become so facile at making lace that they put the esteemed hand-stitching lace artisans in Devon and the East Midlands out of business.

Other forms of lace seen today include cutwork, tape lace, knotted lace, crocheted lace, knitted lace, and chemical lace.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

LACMA Luxury Textiles

LACMA Luxury Textiles

Textile collectors shouldn't miss this microsite from the LA County Museum of Art, a great reference on European an… [read review or visit site]

Sewing Machine Collector

Sewing Machine Collector

Geoff and Norma Dickens' reference site on vintage toy sewing machines from the late 1800s. Browse the images alpha… [read review or visit site]

Sense & Sensibility Patterns

Sense & Sensibility Patterns

An extensive collection of photos and ephemera illustrating changing fashion styles from 1795 to 1959. Includes por… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique French Hand Embroidered Tulle Lace Wedding Veil - Original Shop LabelMixed Bag Of Unsorted Vintage Lace And Broidery AnglaiseAntique Italian Cantu Hand Lace Banquet Cloth & Naps Animals & MythologicalA Beautiful 360 Cm Antique Victorian Brussels Applique Bridal Lace. C1880* Vintage Lace - Long Stole/shawl - Cream - Embroidered Tulle [a]* Vintage Lace - Deep Bertha Collar & Tails - Cream - Embroidered Tulle [c]Sweet Antique French Linen & Silk Coil Lace Curtain Border Edge Valance 1930sLarge Remnant Of Antique Tambour Lace Skirt Cape Shawl (4708)Divine Antique French Linen Lace & Richelieu Window Panel Cherubs & Roses C1900 2 Lengths - 385cms - Antique Victorian Embroidered Tulle Wedding LaceBeautiful Antique Vintage Bolero Collar Beige Lace (4569)Antique 19th Century Cream Lace Collar Bertha (4571)Collection 19 Vintage Cream White Hand Crochet & Lace Table Centre Doily MatsSublime Antique French Chateau Lge Lace Drapes C1850 Timeworn Cutting Or RestoreGiant Estate Lot Lace Trim Edging Embroider Crochet Vintage Antique Scrap CutoffAn Antique Victorian Silk And Lace Collar, BlackVintage White Embroidered 60" Round Tablecloth W/ Crocheted LaceVintage Linen & Crochet Lace Doilies Lot (15 )Pretty Lot Early Vtg~antique Lace~trim Pieces~long~short~nice Variety~all Old!Lot Antique & Vtg French Valencienne Lace, Honiton Braid, Hand Made Bobbin Lace2 Pairs Antique French Handmade Lace & Embroidered Baby Or Doll Shoes BootsAntique Vtg Lace Lot Trim Remnants Maltese Bedfordshire Cuffs Collars Yoke L41Antique - Vintage - Laces - Trims - Silk Ribbon Roses & MoreAntique Floral And Bow Pattern Valenciennes Lace TrimRare Table Runner Antique Reticella Lace Floral Hand Embroidery L. 59 1/2" LongTwo Antique White Irish Linen Huckaback Guest Towels - Hand Embroidery & Lace #aVintage Maltese Lace 38'' RoundVictorian 19th C Hand Made Tambour Lace Ruffled Cape For DressTwo Antique White Cotton Pillowcases With Deep Hand Crochet Lace To The OpeningSmall Bundle Fine Antique/vintage 19th Lace - Dolls/projects140" (3.58 Metre) Length Of 18th Century Alencon Needle Lace - Horsehair PicotsFragment Of Fine Antique/vintage White Tape Lace Border Beautiful Vintage Hand Worked Lace Edge Large White Bolster Cover CaseA Pretty Pair Of Victorian Tambour Lace Tulle Wedding Sleeves, C.1860Stunning Antique Battenburg Lace Table Cover ~ Drawn Thread/embroidery5 Yards Antique/vintage Unused Valenciennes Lace Border Huge Mixed Lot Vintage Linens Italian Filet Lace Embroidery Tablecloth Napkins +Beautiful Vintage Cotton /lace Whitework Embroidered Tablecloth3 Pcs. Antique/vintage Valenciennes Lace Border Vintage Cotton Pillowcase With Hand Crocheted LaceStunning Early Vtg~antique White Lace~embroidered Tablecloth~bedspread~96x70~gemAntique Vintage Lace Trim Ribbon Lot #1Antique Belgian Lace Tambour Lace Net Tablecloth StunningExquisite Vintage Quaker Lace Banquet Tablecloth W/ Picot Loops & Tag 6210Antique French Tambour Lace Net Runner 45" Long2 Pretty Vintage Hand Embroidered & Lace Edge Small White Huckaback Guest TowelsVintage French Lace Doily Panel W Ruffles 9x14" + 2" Mop Button Basket Of RosesBeautiful Vintage White Battenburg Lace Tablecloth / Bed Cover 87 1/2" X 83 1/2"Job Lot Of 10 Vintage Table Napkins ~ Lace And EmbroideryValentines Heart Pastels Lace Crocheted Doily By AeshagirlA 3.12 Metre Length Of Mid 18th Century Hand Made Mechlin Lace -with Provenance A Fabulous 290 Cm Of 18th Century Brabant LaceAntique Gold Metal Lace Trim And Six Gold Metal Passementerie TasselsFloral & Lace On Aqua Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Fabric Antique Appliqued Flowers & Vines Cotton Net Lace Pillow LayoverTwo Antique White Irish Linen Huckaback Guest Towels - Hand Embroidery & Lace #bBeautiful Antique Baby Doll White Cotton Dress Lace Embroidery (4667)Nice Lot Vintage Mixed Lace Trim..antique Doll Clothing..white & Ecru3 Beautiful Vintage White Huckaback Hand Worked Lace Edge Large Guest TowelsAntique French Lace Tea Towel Handmade Point De Gaze Needlelace Monogram