• Narrow tape - hand-made bobbin or machine made
  • A wide variety of forms of tape are available
  • Spaces filled with bars and needle stitches - buttonhole variations, spider webs
Characteristics of good quality work
  • Tape or braid is subservient to the design
  • Contrast of 'light and shade' with dense and open fillings
  • Connecting bars - firm and flat
  • Tape appropriate to design - least amount of puckering on curves
TECHNIQUE Over a base design on glazed cloth or suede, the tapes, braids or cords are folded, cut and tacked down and then the spaces between filled with hand sewn decorative embroidery stitches. Today these are often connected with a sewing machine. Once complete, the tacking stitches are removed, releasing the completed piece. Tapes come in various forms - straight with plain or ribbed edges, decorative centres, and a scalloped tape sausage-like shape called Princess tape. The better tapes have a thread on the rim which can be pulled to allow the tape to be gathered for curves. The aim is to have as few joins as possible in the design.


Early tape lace was made in Italy in the 17th C where it was called ‘mezzo punto’. It was regarded as a quick method of imitating the elaborate Venetian needlepoints. Tapes of various shapes were made by hand using bobbins or needlelace techniques. With the advent of machines in the early 19th C, a huge variety of tapes were produced cheaply. Very popular in the Victorian era, the technique, popularised in women’s magazines and pattern books, was called Modern Point Tape Lace. Gradually tapes and designs became progressively coarser, thicker threads were used and the simpler stitches used with less variety of fillings.

During the 1990s, tape lace had a revival and many household items were imported from China. The quality had declined, using thick threads and mainly Cretan stitch used to fill the spaces.

Different names emerged in different areas. Each had certain characteristics:

Battenberg (USA) used wide tapes and buttonhole bars with picots, also called Raleigh bars, which connect the tape and frequently include cords and rings.

Branscombe (Devon, England) used many different closely worked filling stitches, spider formations, and picot edges oversewn with buttonhole stitch.

Renaissance (Italy) used narrow tapes with simple filling stitches of twisted bars called Sorento bars, spider wheels and flat stitches. This created a lighter, less rich effect. Many of the designs were based on 17th C style and hence the name ‘Renaissance’.

Princess or Duchesse (Belgium) used scalloped edged tapes or Princess tape made into medallions, flowers and leaves which are then applied to machine made net.


Battenberg and other Tapes Laces by The Butterick Publishing Co.
Clarke Brown, Nellie, Battenberg and Point Lace book edited by J & K Kliot
Needlelaces: Battenberg Point and Reticella. Edited by J & K Kliot. Lacis publications
Toomer, H. Lace : A Guide To Identification Of Old Lace Types & Techniques, Batsford, London, 1989.

© Valerie Cavill 2012