Characteristics of the Different Types Of Lace

This is part 3 of our Sumptuous History of Lace. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Alençon – A fine, needle-point lace, so called from Alençon, a French city, in which its manufacture was first begun. It is the only French lace not made upon the pillow, the work being done entirely by hand, with a fine needle, upon a parchment pattern in small pieces. The pieces are afterward united by invisible seams. There are usually twelve processes, including the design employed in the production of a piece of this kind of lace, and each of these processes is executed by a special workwoman; but in 1855, at Bayeux, in France, a departure was made from the old custom of assigning a special branch of the work to each lacemaker, and the fabric was made through all its processes by one worker.

Schweitzer Linen offers the Tavola Bella Runner (below) — a most decorative topping for tables, sideboards, dressers or wherever you want a delightful touch. Intricately flowered and scalloped Alençon lace, these beautiful imports also make marvelous hostess and holiday gifts.

Tavola Bella

The Alençon design is engraved upon a copper plate and then printed off upon pieces of green parchment of a specified length. After the pattern is pricked upon the parchment, which is stitched to a piece of coarse linen folded double, the pattern is then formed in outline by guiding two flat threads along the edge by the thumb of the left hand, and, in order to fix it, minute stitches are made with another thread and needle through the holes of the parchment. After the outline is finished it is given to another worker to make the ground, which is chiefly of two kinds: bride, consisting of uniting threads which serve to join together the flowers of the lace, and réseau, which is worked backward and forward from the footing to the picot. There was also another ground called Argentella, consisting of buttonhole-stitched skeleton hexagons.

In making the flowers of Alençon point, the workwoman, using a needle and fine thread, makes the buttonhole-stitch from left to right, and, when she has reached the end of the flower, throws back the thread from the point of departure and works again from left to right along the thread. As a result, the work is characterized by a closeness, firmness and evenness not equaled in any other point lace.
When the work is completed the threads which bind lace, linen and parchment together are carefully cut, and the difficult task of uniting the pieces together remains to be done. This is accomplished by means of what is called the “assemblage” stitch, instead of the “point de raccroc,” where the pieces are united by a fresh row of stitches.

Another way of uniting the pieces, which is used at Alençon, is by a seam which follows as far as possible the outlines of the pattern so as to be invisible. A steel instrument, called a picot, is then passed into each flower so as to give it a more finished appearance.

Alençon point is of a durability which no other lace can rival. A peculiarity in its manufacture is, that it is the only lace in which horsehair is inserted along the edge to give increased strength to the cordonnet, a practice originating in the necessity of making the point stand up when the tall headdresses formerly worn by women were exposed to the wind.

Formerly Alençon point, notwithstanding its beauty of construction, could not vie with Brussels lace as regards the excellence of floral design, but this inferiority has now been removed by the production of exquisite copies of natural flowers, mingled with grasses and ferns. Alençon point is now made not only at the seat of its original manufacture, but at Bayeux, at Burano, near Venice, and at Brussels.

Bayeux can boast of one of the finest examples of this lace ever made. It was exhibited in 1867, and consisted of a dress of two flounces, in which the pattern, flowers and foliage were most harmoniously wrought and relieved by shaded tints, which give to the lace the relief of a picture. The price of the dress was $17,000, and it took forty women seven years to finish it.
The city of Alençon had on exhibition at Paris, in 1899, a piece of lace of exquisite description, that had taken 16,500 working days to complete.

Leilani Table Linens are a lush flowering of Ivory damask basking in the incandescent glow of 500 thread count, 100% pure Egyptian cotton sateen from Italy. The ultra-luxurious tablecloths, with a truly magnificent appliquéd border of Eggshell Alençon lace and matching damask napkins, will show your most special guests just how special they are.


This magnificent pure linen tablecloth woven in Italy carves out a niche for itself with artful inserts of loveliest Alençon lace on tulle. Finely tailored in pristine White with hemstitched borders all around, it creates a memorable setting for elegant dinners and honored guests. Imported with matching napkins.


And named after the famous lace, Alençon Bed Linens, displays Alençon lace appliqués which add to the grandeur of the finest White Egyptian cotton sateen. 600 thread count, woven in Italy in Ivory on White or Ivory on Ivory, with the flawless look of precisely flanged edges and expert tailoring throughout.


Allover.—Lace of any kind which is eighteen inches or more in width, and used for yokes, flouncings and entire costumes.

Antique.—A pillow lace, hand-made from heavy linen thread, and characterized by an exceedingly open, coarse, square mesh. It is mainly used for curtains, bed sets and draperies.

Antwerp.—A pillow lace made at Antwerp, resembling early Alençon, and whose chief characteristic is the representation of a pot or vase of flowers with which it is always decorated. The pot or vase varies much in size and details. It is usually grounded with a coarse “Fond Champ.”

"Antwerp pot lace" by Mrs Bury Palliser - History of Lace. Retrieved from

“Antwerp pot lace” by Mrs Bury Palliser – History of Lace.
Retrieved from

Application.—A lace made by sewing flowers or sprigs, which may be either needle-point or bobbin-made, upon a bobbin-lace ground. One variety of Brussels lace affords the best example of Application.

Appliqué.—The same as Application lace.

Schweitzer Linen offers Paradise Wrap (left) and Chantilly Breeze Wrap that are richly appliquéd and trimmed with breathtaking Alençon.

Paradise_Shawl chantilly

Argentan—A needle-point lace, usually considered indistinguishable from Alençon, but which is different in some respects, its marked peculiarity being that the réseau ground is not made of single threads only, but the sides of each mesh are worked over with the buttonhole stitch. Argentan is often distinguished from Alençon lace by a larger and more striking pattern, and in some instances it is especially known by its hexagonally arranged brides. It is called after Argentan, a town near Alençon, and the lace was made there under the same direction.

Argentan stole, late 18th century (CUL.14.2002ii) Retrieved from The Lace Guild (

Argentan stole, late 18th century (CUL.14.2002ii)
Retrieved from The Lace Guild (

Arras—A white pillow lace, so called from Arras, in France, the city of its original manufacture. It is simple and almost uniform in design, very strong and firm to the touch, and comparatively cheap in price. It is made on a lisle ground. The older and finer patterns of Arras lace reached their climax of excellence during the first Empire, between 1804 and 1812, but since then they have gone out of fashion.

Arras Lace "Arras lace" by Mrs Bury Palliser - History of Lace Page 240 Fig 111. Retrieved from

Arras Lace
“Arras lace” by Mrs Bury Palliser – History of Lace Page 240 Fig 111. Retrieved from

Bobbin—Lace made on a pillow, stuffed so as to form a cushion, without the use of a needle. A stiff piece of parchment is fixed on the pillow, and after holes are pricked through the parchment so as to form the pattern small pins are stuck through these holes into the pillow. The threads with which the lace is formed are wound upon bobbins—small, round pieces of wood about the size of a pencil, having round their upper ends a deep groove, so formed as to reduce the bobbin to a thin neck, on which the thread is wound, a separate bobbin being used for each thread. The ground of the lace is formed by the twisting and crossing of these threads. The pattern or figure, technically called “gimp,” is made by interweaving a thread much thicker than that forming the groundwork, according to the design pricked out on the parchment. This manner of using the pillow in lacemaking has remained practically the same during more than three centuries.

Likely to be among the heirlooms of tomorrow, Schweitzer Linen offers Victoriana Doilies. These exquisite handcrafted doilies are delicately made with centers of White 100% cotton batiste, in three sizes. Each has a wide and wondrous border of incredibly fine bobbin lace, amazingly crafted by hand. Imported.


If ever a handkerchief was destined for ladies of fame and fortune, Madamoiselles is it. A delicacy made of finest White 100% cotton batiste, with a flowering of daintiest shadow-stitching, the heirloom beauty is exquisitely framed by the most elegant handcrafted bobbin lace. Imported, for ladies to treasure.


Schweitzer Linen also offers Jeunesse Handkerchiefs — 100% cotton batiste handkerchiefs daintily edged with the most delicate and intricate handcrafted bobbin lace. Imported in White, with two different exquisite edgings.


Chantilly—One of the blonde laces, of the sort recognizable by their Alençon réseau ground and the flowers in light or openwork instead of solid. It is made both in white and black silk. Black Chantilly lace has always been made of silk, but a grenadine, not a lustrous silk. The pattern is outlined with a cordonnet of a flat, untwisted silk strand. During the seventeenth century the Duchesse of Longueville established the manufacture of silk lace at Chantilly and its neighborhood, and as Paris was near and the demand of royalty for this lace increased it became very popular.

"Sjaal in Chantilly kloskant, 1850-1880" by Sjaal in Chantilly kloskant, 1850-1880. MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, Retrieved from

“Sjaal in Chantilly kloskant, 1850-1880” by Sjaal in Chantilly kloskant, 1850-1880. MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, Retrieved from

At the time of the Revolution the prosperity of the industry was ruined, and many of the lacemakers were sent to the guillotine. During the ascendancy of the first Napoleon, the manufacture of Chantilly again became flourishing. Since then the industry has been driven away from that town on account of the higher labor costs resulting from the nearness of Chantilly to Paris, and the lacemakers, unable to meet this increased cost, retired to Gisors, where half a century ago there were between 8,000 and 10,000 lacemakers. The supremacy of lacemaking formerly enjoyed by Chantilly has now been transferred to Calvados, Caen, Bayeux and Grammont. The widely-known Chantilly shawls are made at Bayeux, and also at Grammont.

Finest French Bayeux hand done large Chantilly shawl. Dating to the third quarter of the 19th century. Retrieved CAROLYN FORBES / TEXTILES

Finest French Bayeux hand done large Chantilly shawl. Dating to the third quarter of the 19th century.

Chenille —A French lace, made in the eighteenth century, so called because the patterns were outlined with fine white chenille. The ground {35}was made of silk in honeycomb réseau, and the patterns were geometrical and filled with thick stitches.

Chenille Fabric By Dugouha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Chenille Fabric
By Dugouha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Cluny—A kind of net lace with a square net background in which the stitch is darned. It is so called from the famous museum of antiquities in the Hôtel Cluny, at Paris, and also because the lace was supposed to have a medieval appearance. The patterns used are generally of an antique and quaint description, mostly of birds, animals and flowers, and in the existing manufacture the old traditions are fairly well preserved. Sometimes a glazed thread is introduced in the pattern as an outline. Cluny is a plaited lace, somewhat similar to the Genoese and Maltese laces, and is made in silk, linen or cotton.

Mat with Cluny lace edging. By Joedkins (Own work) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Mat with Cluny lace edging. By Joedkins (Own work) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Crochet—Lace which is made with a crochet hook, or whose pattern is so made and then appliquéd on a bobbin or machine-made net. It is similar to needle-point lace, although not equal in fineness to the best examples of the latter.

Schweitzer Linen offers Precieux (below) doilies and runners. Hand-crocheted as exquisitely as your great-great-grandmother might have done, these Venice lace doilies and runners may well be treasured by future generations. Painstakingly crafted in Italy of White or Beige 100% linen, the intricate stitches are so amazingly fine and tiny, it is hard to imagine how anyone could have the patience and skill to execute them.


Schweitzer Linen also offers Queen Anne Doilies that recall the refinements of days long gone by. These fine Italian linen doilies are made to be enjoyed today and treasured tomorrow. Exquisitely crafted with scalloped hand-crocheted borders and hand-embroidered daisies in the center, they turn any place you put them into a thing of beauty. Imported in White in a full range of sizes.


Duchesse—A fine pillow lace, a variety originally made in Belgium resembling Honiton guipure lace in des Guipure—It was originally a kind of lace or passement made of cartisane and twisted silk. The name was afterward applied to heavy lace made with thin wires whipped around the silk, and with cotton thread. The word guipure is no longer commonly used to denote such work as this, but has become a term of variable designation, and it is so extensively applied that it is difficult to give a limit to its meaning. It may be used to define a lace where the flowers are either joined by brides, or large coarse stitches, or lace that has no ground. The modern Honiton and Maltese are guipures, and so is Venetian point. But as the word has also been applied to large, flowing pattern laces, worked with coarse net grounds, it is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule about it.ign and workmanship, but worked with a finer thread and containing a greater amount of raised or relief work. The leaves, flowers and sprays formed are larger and of bolder design. The stitches and manner of working in Honiton and Duchesse are alike.

Duchesse Lace Detail, 19th century By Samuel L. Goldenberg (Lace: Its Origin and History.) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Duchesse Lace Detail, 19th century
By Samuel L. Goldenberg (Lace: Its Origin and History.) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Irish—A term denoting a variety of laces made in Ireland, of which the two most individual and best-known kinds are the net embroideries of Limerick and the appliqué and cut cambric work of Carrick-ma-cross. Other varieties, which are imitations of foreign laces, are Irish point, resembling Brussels lace; black and white Maltese; silver, black and white blondes. The Limerick embroideries, for they cannot be strictly called lace, are an imitation of Indian tambour work, and consist of fine embroidery in chain-stitches upon a Nottingham net. Carrick-ma-cross, or Irish guipure, is a kind of so-called Irish point lace, made at the town of that name, but which is really nothing more than a species of embroidery, from which part of the cloth is cut away, leaving a guipure ground. It is not a very durable lace. The most popular patterns are the rose and the shamrock. Irish crochet is an imitation of the needle-point laces of Spain and Venice; that is to say, it resembles these laces in general effect. There is also a needle-point lace made of rather coarse thread, and used exclusively in Ireland and England. The manufacture of laces in Ireland is carried on by the cottagers, by the nuns in the convents, and in several industrial schools founded for that purpose. It has only become a popular industry within the last twenty-five years, as the costumes of the people in earlier times did not require lace ornamentation, and there was a widespread and deep-rooted aversion to the adoption of English fashions in clothing so long as certain sumptuary laws were unrepealed.

Carrickmacross Antique Lace Sheelin Lace Museum (

Carrickmacross Antique Lace
Sheelin Lace Museum (

Maltese —A heavy but attractive pillow lace, whose patterns, of arabesque or geometric design, are formed of plaiting or cloth-stitch, and are united with a purled bar ground. It is made both in white silk and thread, and also in black Barcelona silk. There is also a cotton machine-made variety, used chiefly in trimming muslin underwear. The history of Maltese lace is interesting from the fact that the kind originally made in that island by the natives, which was a coarse variety of Mechlin or Valenciennes, of an arabesque pattern, was in 1833 superseded by the manufacture of the white and black silk guipures now so widely known as Maltese lace. This improvement was due to Lady Hamilton Chichester, who brought laceworkers over from Genoa to teach their craft in the island. Some of the patterns from that time showed the influence of the Genoese instruction. Maltese lace is made not only in Malta, but in Auvergne and Lepuy in France; in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, in England, and also in the Irish lace schools. Ceylon and Madras lace also resembles Maltese. Formerly shawls and veils of much beauty and value were made of this lace, but the manufacture is now confined chiefly to narrow trimmings.

Maltese lace By Joedkins (Own work) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Maltese lace
By Joedkins (Own work) Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Mechlin —A pillow lace originally made at Mechlin, Belgium, and whose special characteristics are the narrow, flat thread, band or cord, which outlines the pattern, and the net ground of hexagonal mesh. Sometimes the mesh is circular. The net ground is made of two threads twisted twice on four sides and four threads plaited three times on the two other sides. In this it differs from Brussels lace, whose plait is longer and whose mesh is larger. The lace is made in one piece upon the pillow, the ground being formed with the pattern. The very finest thread is used, and a high degree of skill is necessary, so that the resulting fabric is very costly. It is a filmy, beautiful and highly transparent lace, and preserves for a very long time its distinguishing peculiarity of a shiny thread or band surrounding the outlines of the sprigs and dots of the design. The earliest Mechlin designs were very like those of Brussels lace, though not so original and graceful; but in this respect later Mechlin laces showed marked improvement. The fundamental difference between the two, however, was that Mechlin was worked in one piece upon the pillow, while the Brussels pattern was first made by itself, and the réseau or net ground was afterward worked in around it. The manufacture of Mechlin has long been on the decline, the French Revolution seriously injuring the industry; and when the trade was revived and encouraged under Napoleon, the exquisite patterns of former times had been partly forgotten or were too expensive for popular demand. At the time of its highest popularity it was called the Queen of Laces, sharing that title with the finest Alençon point. Mechlin sometimes had an ornamental net ground called Fond du Neige, and also a ground of six-pointed Fond Champ, but these kinds were rare. It has always been a very great favorite with the English, and appears in most of their family collections of laces. There was a fine collection of this lace at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 from Turnhout, Belgium, as well as from other lace manufacturing centers.

19th century, Mechlin exclusive quality sample lace "Lace Its Origin and History Real Mechlin" by Samuel L. Goldenberg - Lace: Its Origin and History Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

19th century, Mechlin exclusive quality sample lace
“Lace Its Origin and History Real Mechlin” by Samuel L. Goldenberg – Lace: Its Origin and History
Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons


Source: LACE – Its Origin and History. Samuel L. Goldenberg, 1904.