CharacteristicsStraight bobbin lace Usually black silk, but also in blonde or white silk or in cotton Designs of small clothwork areas and trailing lines defining areas filled with other stitches giving contrast of density Rows of long, narrow wheatears, usually with pointed ends Grounds: various well-ordered arrangements of plaited and twisted brides forming large-scale, often complex meshes Uniform threads except where insertions of finer Chantilly lace. Often indistinguishable from simpler guipure laces of England and Europe, such as Maltese, Chantilly and Brussels. (N.B Guipure=motifs linked with bars/brides as distinct from a mesh background.)
Le Puy in France, has a long lace-making tradition, stretching back to the 17th C. In the 18th Century with a decline in demand for lace, the regions of the Auvergne produced simpler, cheaper types of lace.
In the 1820s and 1830s, there was a revival when various manufacturers re-organised the industry. Workers were trained in more skilled techniques, new designs were supplied and new ideas tried and tested. One of the innovations was a black silk guipure which was closely followed by a white guipure imitating the Maltese lace which was becoming popular. These were the laces for which Le Puy was to become famous.
Many lace making areas of Europe took to copying the Maltese laces since they were quicker and cheaper to make than the net-grounded laces and their bold designs were fashionable at the time. A major advantage of the Le Puy region was that its more influential manufacturers had Parisian bases with access to the latest fashions and best designers.
The fall of the French Second Empire in 1870, brought a decline to the lace industry which declined even further after WWI. Today the shops in Le Puy are filled with machine-made lace.
Toomer, H. LACE: A Guide To Identification Of Old Lace Types & Techniques, Batsford, London, 1989.
Earnshaw, P. The Identification of Lace, Shire publications, 1994.
© Valerie Cavill 2008