BRUGES LACE

Characteristics

  • Motifs - open circular flowers, leaves are like elongated trefoils, looped scrolls.
  • Separately worked parts of the pattern are held together by brides not reseau (net ground)
  • Motifs are often connected with plaited brides arranged like interlocking circles OR with single thread zig-zagging irregularly from point to point
  • Sometimes there is a flat outlining gimp

History

In the 18th century, Bruges bobbin lace followed the Brussels technique, but with a softer thread, a looser cloth stitch, and more numerous half stitch areas. At this time, Bruges specialised in trimmings for church vestments, especially albs and surplices. It was not until the 19th C that the lace of Bruges developed its distinctive features of bold floral form (Bruges flower lace) made in a mixture of cloth stitch and half stitch with no raised work, and a flat outlining gimp.

The 1840s saw a boom in the lace trade. Manufacturers had close links with Paris, where the French court under Louis Napoleon and, more specifically his wife, Eugenie, led the fashion in Europe. Laces were particularly required in wide flounces for the crinoline dresses of the 1850s and 1860s and as large squares, of up to 2 metres (2 yards), for wedding veils and shawls.

By the latter part of the 19th century many of the Belgian lace manufacturers had moved their main premises out of Brussels to smaller towns such as Bruges and Ghent which had long lace-making traditions of their own. The collapse of the French Second Empire in 1870 and changes in fashion were not disastrous for the better quality Brussels laces, but they did affect the cheaper guipures. The First World War effectively brought an end to the Belgian lace industry but lacemakers can still occasionally be seen in the streets of Bruges and the thriving lace school attracts new pupils every year.

References

Earnshaw, P. A Dictionary of Lace, Shire publications, 1982
Earnshaw, P. The Identification of Lace, Shire publications, 1994
Gwynne, J. The Illustrated Dictionary Of Lace, Batsford, 1997
Toomer, H. LACE: A Guide To Identification Of Old Lace Types & Techniques, Batsford, London, 1989.

© Valerie Cavill, May 2009

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