History of Lace

Lace has been made for thousands of years.

The oldest evidence of lace making dates back to around 2500BC, from which time fragments of knotted hair nets have been found in Pharoah’s tombs in Thebes and elsewhere in Egypt.

Lace-making was well-known to the Greeks and Romans and fine pieces have been found buried beneath the ashes of Pompeii. Through the early centuries of the last millenium, lace garments were worn by high-up clergy but were a luxury most could not afford. It was not until the 16th century that the use of lace became widespread and hand-made lace has been produced all over Europe since Medieval times, each country having its own speciality and often each part of the country having further local variations. For example in England in Medieval times, lace was made by hand as a cottage industry and areas such as Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Honiton had their own specialities. The first simple lace machine was invented in Calverton, Nottinghamshire, in 1589 by William Lee.

William Lee was the local vicar and married to a lace-maker. Rumour has it his wife spent time making lace to avoid spending time with him! These machines eventually replaced hand-made lace, and by the 19th Century Nottingham had become the lace capital of the world, and Stoney Street in the Lace Market (where we currently make all our products) was the centre of the industry.

Although lace making has declined in Nottingham, much of our lace is made locally and we still believe it is the finest machine-made lace in the world. We use two types of lace: Guipure Lace and Needlerun Lace.

Guipure lace

Made by embroidering cotton and rayon thread onto acetate, and then dissolving the acetate in acetone, leaving the embroidery as the final product. As this lace is heavily embroidered it is particularly strong, and much used in tableware and products which need to be washed frequently.

Needlerun lace

This lace is made on the same machines as guipure but is embroidered onto cotton Tulle. It looks more delicate than its guipure counterpart, but again is extremely hard-wearing and will not pull out of shape as the holes on the Tulle are six-sided.

Both these laces are made on the same machines, which were made in the early years of the 20th century. They are ten yards long and can produce lace of any width.