CharacteristicsUsually dull black silk: occasionally "blonde" when made of silk and a creamy colour Thick gimp outline Shading using areas of cloth stitch and half stitch Scalloped edges Designs - naturalistic floral, soft delicate fillings, curling tendrils Grounds: hexagonal mesh (net) (a) Chantilly ground (kat stitch, point de Paris) (b) Fond simple (East Midlands point ground, Lille ground)
In the 17th C, the town of Chantilly in France was producing a narrow and mainly black bobbin lace.
In the 1840s, northern European fashion turned away from cream laces and towards the black laces. Chantilly workers used a dull black silk thread known as ‘grenadine’. Sometimes motifs were appliquéd onto machine made net.
Naturalistic floral designs worked in the light texture of half stitch created a delicate fabric displayed to dazzling effect over the pale or richly coloured dresses of the period – huge flounces and shawls were needed to cover the full skirts worn over the ever-expanding crinoline frame. Such large pieces could not be made whole but split into smaller, manageable pieces for working. Used also for fans, fichus, veils and, mantillas especially for the Spanish market.
By the 1850s the manufacture of Chantilly lace had spread across northern France and to Belgium but Chantilly kept the reputation for the highest quality and much was exported. In the late 1850s and 1860s Chantilly was one of the favourite laces at the French court, particularly of Marie Antoinette. However, production ended in 1789 with the French Revolution as lace makers perished on the guillotine. Production resumed with Napoleon (1804-1815) who encouraged the lace industry and again in the 1890s but these were often slightly stiffer versions of earlier designs, using a coarser thread.
In late 19th C, machines emulated the hand-made bobbin Chantilly lace. The machine made pieces would often have the ‘cordonnet’ (gimp) stitched in by hand. The distinguishing feature was an added picot edge.
Earnshaw, P. 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 and Techniques, Batsford, London, 1989
© Valerie Cavill, 2009