Choosing Lace for SCA Garb (1500-1600)
How to learn to distinguish types of lace:
- Look at lots of pictures of lace from your period, pay special
attention to obvious distinguishing features. What makes this different from
what you normally think of as "lace"? Where and how is it worn - on cuffs,
collars, ruffs, edgings etc, or is this only seen on tablecloths?
- Look at photos of surviving pieces in museums, learn to
distinguish bobbin from needle laces. Looking very closely at the
photos you will be able to see how the threads run many threads woven
together is characteristic of bobbin lace, solid areas appear to be
woven. Needle lace is made with only one thread looped over itself in
variations of the buttonhole stitch. Solid areas appear to be knit.
- Learn to make the stuff - you will soon find yourself able to recognize
period lace from across a crowded room.
Things to avoid
- Mesh grounds, especially hexagons - this is a light delicate net
with flowers and stuff worked in and maybe heavier threads outlining
the motifs. also gentle wide scallops, these are charateristic of
18th century lace, it is what most people think of as "lace" and it is
completely out of period.
- naturalistic looking flowers - period flowers in lace look more
stylized than they do in later laces. they resemble architecture more than
they do embroidery.
- Obviously polyester or nylong threads ("I'm Plastic!!!" they cry).
Choose threads that look like natural fibers or real metal. The most common
materials where white linen, gold and/or silver metal, white, black or
colored silk. Sometimes 2 or more colers were used. Cotton is just fine, but
should be starched.
Types of modern laces that copy period laces are:
- Handmade - I have seen some amazing lace from China that is even
affordable (really!). Ask for Cluny, Le Puy, or Torchon style laces if
anyone in the shop knows what they are. These are modern names invented
in during the Victorian craft revival for 16th century style bobbin laces.
- Levers lace - this is the best of the machine made bobbin laces, the
machine mimics the motions of the lacemakers hands. It's repetoire is
somewhat limited, but within that scope it can take an expert to
distinguish it from handmade. It is especially suited to Torchon and
Le Puy laces.
- Chemical lace - this is an imitation needle lace made by embroidering
cotton or polyester on a fine silk ground. The silk is then burned away in
lye leaving the embroidery as freestanding lace. Sometimes you can find
chemical laces inspired by period patterns.