Lace is a lightweight, delicate fabric patterned with open holes. The holes in the lace are created either by removing threads from a previously woven fabric, or more often by leaving open spaces in the lace fabric itself. Originally linen, silk, gold or silver threads were used in the construction of lace; however lace is now most commonly made using cotton thread or synthetic fibre.

There are many types of lace, defined by how they are constructed. Some variations are:

Needle lace - designed using a needle and thread. This is the most flexible of the lace-making arts and is regarded by purists as the height of lace making. Whilst some needle lace designs can be produced relatively quickly, others are very time consuming.

Cutwork, or whitework - lace created by removing threads from a woven background and wrapping or filling the remaining threads with embroidery.

Bobbin lace - constructed using bobbins and a pillow. The bobbins, turned from wood, bone or plastic hold threads which are woven together and held in place with pins stuck in the pattern on the pillow. This is also known as Bone lace.

Tape lace - makes the tape in the lace as it is worked, or uses a textile strip formed into a design, then joined or embellished with needle or bobbin lace.

Knotted lace - including Macram? and Tatting. Tatted lace is made with a shuttle or tatting needle.

Crocheted lace - crocheted lace usually uses finer threads and more flowery, decorative styles of stitching. Lace is a very delicate fabric, designed with an open weblike pattern. Before machine-made lace was introduced, many various types of lace were constructed throughout history in many different countries. Some examples of these are:

Irish Crochet - a raised lace with a three- dimensional look which originated during the famine-ridden years of 19th century Ireland.

Broderie Anglaise - a whitework lace introduced in England in the 19th century

Chantilly lace - a handmade bobbin lace from the city of Chantilly, France dating back to the 17th century.

Antwerp lace - a bobbin lace distinguished by flower pot motifs on a six-point star ground. In the 17th century, approximately fifty percent of the Antwerp population was involved in lace making.

Alencon lace - a needle lace produced in the town of Alencon, France in the 16th century.

The History of Lace

The true origin of lace is difficult to locate, both in time and place. Some assume that lace originated in ancient Rome, based on the discovery of small bone cylinders in the shape of bobbins. Although little is known about the manufacture of lace during the Middle Ages, firm evidence dates back to the fifteenth century, when Charles the Fifth decreed that lace making be practiced in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. Lace-making was then designed to replace embroidery so as to facilitate different styles of fashion in dress-making.