A bobbin lace A continuous tape meanders through design Connected with a lattice work of brides or other elements. Originally white linen or cotton thread. Coloured thread introduced later.


Idrija is an old mining town and municipality in Goriska region of Slovenia, known for its mercury production. Czech and German families who came to work in the mines brought their lace making techniques. The men worked long hours in the mines and their wives made lace to supplement the meagre family income.

Earliest historical records dating back to 1696, give an account of lace making and lace trading, commonly referred to as ‘peddling’. Merchants, who travelled from village to village peddling small goods including lace, were permitted to sell the lace as Idrija Lace, which at that time was known as “Idrianische Spitze”.

In 1764 Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, established the first lace school in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia which lasted for four years. In 1876 the first official lace making school was established in Idrija, and remains active today. Practitioners’ work must be juried and accepted before it can be sold as “Idrija Lace”. By early 20th C, Idrija had become the lace making centre of Slovenia: other lace centres are Železniki and Žiri.

Between the World Wars, demand for less elaborate designs and as a result of mass production, complicated patterns were replaced with simpler designs which could be made faster and required only five pairs of bobbins, compared with up to several hundred needed for complex patterns. New patterns were more versatile and allowed for more variety in design such as circles, squares and ovals. Motifs included the carnation, the national flower, hearts, garlands, mushrooms, crowns, the swallow and religious symbols such as the cross, angels and Madonna.

Bobbin lace was made primarily for the domestic market-everyday linen, clothing, ecclesiastical robes, church linen, bride’s trousseaus, national costume and head dresses, even earrings, necklaces and gloves and for lords and wealthy farmers and as business gifts.

A permanent exhibition, “The Idrija Lace: History Written in Thread” is housed in the Idrija Municipality Museum located in Gewerkenegg, the 16th Century Renaissance castle.


Idrija Lace: The Gentle Art and Craft of Slovenia, article by Vishna Collins, article in Australian Lace magazine, Vol 31 No 2, Summer 2009
Web site:

© Valerie Cavill 2010