The manufacture of lace dates back to fourteenth-century France, where it was used exclusively by clergy of the Catholic church. Lace then became fashionable, and lace-making spread throughout eastern and western Europe in the sixteenth century. The key to identifying the eight different types of lace lies in the ability to recognize how they are manufactured.
Eras of Lace
Identify whether the lace was made by hand or machine. Machine lace can be difficult to differentiate from handmade. Machine lace often looks fuzzy, and ribbing in the stitches is usually evident.
Identify the way the stitches were made and connected. It is best to use a magnifying glass to follow the lace path. If the lace lacks an obvious path, it was most likely made by a machine. Early lace was made by drawing out and binding together threads from a woven cloth. Threads were also often woven with large spaces to accommodate needle weaving. These laces are usually referred to as cutwork, eyelet, broderie anglaise and burato. This early lacework evolved into needle lacing in the vein of buttonhole stitches, known as point de gaze, point de Venice and point de France. After this, bobbins were wrapped with thread and twisted to create netting and bridges over a pillow, creating laces known as bucks and torchon. Crochet lace, which originated in Ireland, uses a crochet hook to create a chain stitch. Needlelace, based on the buttonhole stitch, is in the crochet lace family, as is tatted lace, a more complex version of needlelace.
Visit an expert if you are unable to identify the type of lace for yourself. A fabric store or museum with a textile collection should be able to assist you in finding the origin of your lace.