A very delicate and pretty piece of lace can add a lot of value and beauty to an otherwise simple garment. The most striking feature of this delicate piece is that which is missing, coz a lace is full of holes. These holes in various designs bring out the beauty of the lace. This distinctive feature of lace makes it different from other textiles.


True lace materializes to have first been produced in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The most excellent laces were made in Italy, France and Belgium. A huge range of varieties of lace were also made in several parts of Europe, China, India, the Philippines and South and Central America.

In modern times, made with the latest fabrics like lycra, polyester and blended fabrics, lace is very much in demand for various designer wears like gown, sleepwear, skirts, innerwear and is also used for decorating pillow covers, tapestry, table linen etc.

Materials used


Laces are generally made from flax, silk and metal wrapped silk, while some are also made from cotton and wool. Though, flax (linen) thread made in Belgium is a preferred fiber, new materials have also added value and looks. These cover midrange and high-end embarks with durable Lycra which prevents shrinkage. Other designs have a better wrinkle recovery and a softer hand for better convenience and comfort.


Lace manufacturing

Hand made


Hand made lace is a highly skilled and time-consuming process. The most of lace makers are and have always been women. Intricate fine pieces of lace can take an entire day to make. Lace is made by looping and twisting threads by applying a set of bobbins or a needle. True hand made lace is also created without the use of any woven fabric.

Delicate lace-trimmed handloom linen and hand-made dresses are made in Nagercoil in the district of Kanyakumari, India. The region is well-known for its hand-woven lace work as the designs are pure magic and the filigree finish is world class. The diocese, under which these products are created, The Church of South India, is the hub of this veritable industry with 700 women working together creating precious handkerchiefs, bed linen, table cloths, napkins and household knick-knacks. Likewise, in India and China and in many other countries hand-made lace is produced according to their geographical style and designs.


Machine made

Suppliers of lace trimming in China and India are installing the latest manufacturing equipment and adding more production lines for satisfying the increasing demand brought on by lifting of WTO textile quotas earlier this year.

Recently many India suppliers have invested money to upgrades production facilities and to improve the product quality and design capability. Locally made and second hand equipments have been now substituted by the latest machinery from Germany and Italy. In India, most of the producers are using imported equipment such as Raschel machines from Germany and Jacob Muller machines from Switzerland.

China suppliers are also increasing their production capacity and minimizing waste by investing in imported equipment. Shantou SEZ Weifeng Computer Embroidery Craft Co. Ltd has purchased Saurer embroidery machines from Switzerland costing $3 million.

Hangzhou Shaoshi Arts and Crafts Lacework Co. Ltd uses multi-head shuttle embroidery systems imported from South Korea. As these machineries are computer-controlled, designs are easily transferred digitally and hence, consumes less time for the production.

Most of Indian suppliers of stretch lace fabrics utilize nylon yarn blended with spandex or Lycra. Models with polyester and rayon yarns are also made in small lots. Such designs give two or four way stretch, with spandex yarns blended at a ratio of 3 to 30 percent. Majority of makers use azo-free dyes.

Stretch lace fabric suppliers from China provide designs in cotton, rayon and polyester blended with spandex. With an increase in the competitiveness, the companies are trying to tune with the latest trends in colors and designs for women's clothing and undergarments, so that they can use these styles on their fabrics. At present pure stretch lace is well-accepted as are jacquard, mesh, embroidered and beaded models.


Types of Lace

Alen�on lace has a fine net ground and an enhanced outer border. Today, a majority of such type of lace is machine made. It is generally used as trimming for wedding gowns.

Chantilly lace is a type of bobbin lace. It was originally produced in the town of Chantilly, France. It was well accepted during the 17th century. It is designed by a fine net ground and delicate flowers, scrolls and branches. The design is commonly outlined with heavy silk thread. This lace is generally used in wedding gowns.

Battenberg lace, also popularized as Renaissance lace, is made by using loops of woven tape held together by yarn brides to form patterns. Making Battenburg lace was a recognized hobby in the United States in the early 1900's. It is now made by machine and is commonly used for tablecloths and in bridal gowns.


Venetian Lace, created in Venice, Italy, is a weighty lace with floral, sprays, foliage or geometrical designs. In the 17th century this lace was accepted as more valuable and had greater regard than jewels. Women of this era put it on the sides of their skirts and the range of layers of their lace petticoats would be seen. This lace garlanded kings as they were crowned and the garments of the wealthy were heavily covered with it. This lace is still utilized today, particularly for wedding gowns.


Machine made lace
In the early 1800's Lace machines were developed to make lace. John Leavers created a machine in 1813 that made designs and backgrounds at the same time. The Leavers machine set up the production of intricate lace patterns similar to those made by hand. Lace produced on the Leaver's machine is called Leavers Lace.


Raschel lace is made on a Raschel warp knitting machine. This type of machine can make laces similar to those made on the Leavers machine, but at higher speeds and at less expense. At present a majority of the manufactured lace in the market is made on Raschel knitting machines. Laces that are multifaceted, light and delicate are produced cheaply and faster on these machines.


Princess Lace
This type of lace is used mainly for wedding veils and other ceremonial occasions. The net is made by machine and the flowers are made with a needle by hand.

Nowadays, wedding gowns pay more attention to details. Simple designs were preferred in the past. But the concentration is now shifting to adding a small amount of detail. This detail typically covers some type of lace appliqu�. Currently, the historical gowns are also in demand as they are the latest trend. The 18th century gowns are well-known today. These gowns have more lace than some of the gowns from other historical periods.

Using bobbins and needles are the two basic techniques that are being used since the 17th century for making fashionable lace. However, one can also use a crochet hook, knitting needles or a tatting shuttle to make lace. Moreover, machine-made nets can also be embroidered to give unique patterned laces. Holes are formed in the lace when lace is being made and are not cut out later.

Bobbin Lace

Bobbin lace is made from multiple threads, each wound on separate bobbins. The design (pricking) of pin-holes is marked on a stiff card which is tied to a firm pillow packed with straw (nowadays a piece of polystyrene is often used). Though more threads can be added (or removed) as the design progresses, few threads are fixed at the beginning of the pattern. Basically, all the stitches involve two pairs of bobbins, i.e. four threads. Once the stitches are made, they are held in such a position that the pins are pushed through the pin-holes, in the pricking, into the pillow. The pattern motifs, which can be outlined with a gimp (a thicker thread), are usually worked in cloth stitch (forming areas resembling woven cloth) or half stitch (giving a more open effect), but more elaborate filling stitches are also used.
There are two ways in which such bobbin laces are made. One is a continuous process of making straight laces, where the motifs and ground of meshes or bars are made in one continuous process. Second is a process of making part laces, where the motifs are made separately and then joined with bars or a mesh ground. Once the lace is finished it is released from the pattern by removing the pins.


Based on their place of origin, the different styles of lace are named and the traditional English bobbin laces described below are no exception.
Honiton Lace

Named after the town in Devon, which was the center of a lace-making area, Honiton lace is a part lace traditionally made with very fine thread. A major advantage of part lace at the time when hand-made lace was produced commercially was that the various motifs could be made by different lace makers. This meant that large items like shawls and smaller items like collars, all could be finished faster. In contrast, the lace makers today, prefer working on their own and making separate motifs which are complete in themselves.

Bedfordshire Lace

Bedfordshire Lace was made not only in Bedfordshire, but also in other counties of East Midlands' lace making areas like Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. Created around the middle of the 19th century and inspired by the 17th century laces, this lace later developed features of its own. Some of the delicate ones, especially those designed by Thomas Lester, were also borrowed from Honiton lace. Technically, it is a straight lace and the pattern motifs are usually joined with bars of plaited threads.


Bucks Point Lace

Bucks Point Lace, one of the East Midlands laces, was made all over the area and not just in Buckinghamshire. Created in the 18th century, it is an English version of a type of mesh-grounded lace. Traditionally made with fine thread (not as fine as that used for Honiton lace), it is a straight lace in which pattern motifs are often outlined with a thicker gimp thread.

Torchon Lace

Torchon Lace is an exception to the rule about names. Surprisingly, the French word Torchon means a duster! It was not regarded as a very fashionable lace in the 18th and 19th centuries; hence was given a rather pejorative name. In Britain, Torchon is often the first bobbin lace learnt, but there is nothing second-rate about it today. It is a straight lace with a type of mesh ground different from that found in Bucks Point.


Needle Lace

Needle laces have the same basic techniques for all types of laces. The design is drawn on a parchment (nowadays architect's linen) and this is fastened to a backing fabric. Foundation threads are then couched down along the lines of the design with threads which pass through the pattern and underlying fabric. The design motifs are then filled with rows of buttonhole stitches, each end of the row being linked to the foundation thread. The motifs are then joined with short bars or a mesh ground of buttonhole stitches. The motifs can be also embellished by attaching extra threads to the outlines of the motifs. This raised outline (cordonnet) can be decorated with picots (decorative loops) as well. Once the lace is finished it is released from the pattern by cutting the threads which couched down the foundation threads.

As in the case of bobbin lace, needle laces are often named after the place where they were first made, like Venetian Gros Point and Alen�on are perhaps the best known. Each type of lace has its distinctive features. Today's needle lace often adopts techniques from different styles and tries to create something distinct.


China

Hangzhou Shaoshi has made designs with superior stretch capability and intricate patterns objected to the high end. The company makes 1 million yards of stretch lace fabrics per month, with US and Japan among its leading markets. It produces mesh and jacquard lace for sleepwear and underwear, and embroidered lace and water-soluble lace for bridal gowns and bed linen.

Shantou SEZ Weifeng offers spangle embroidered, colored embroidered and special corded stretch laces. The fabric is available in multiple shades and bright colors, with beads or sequins and with mesh, gauze or opaque backing. Changle Baihua Knitting Textile is another main supplier, producing 500,000 yards of lace per month.

In China, Guangzhou Shuangying offers lace trimming by using tricot machines. It produces 800,000 yards of lace trimming every month. It has brought latest machinery to increase its capacity to make special patterns on lace trimming, particularly jacquard designs. Now, it has RSJ 5/1 and RS high-speed warp knitting machines and an RJTC machine. There are also German made Karl Mayer, Raschel warp knitting machines and Spanish CADT systems

Yiwu Taileisi Lacework Co. Ltd, which produces tricot lace and lace fabric, uses KABC and Mayer systems.

Guangzhou Pearl River Tiansuo's produces lace and stretch lace. The company exports 2.8 million yards of lace trimming monthly. Guangzhou Pearl River Tiansuo Embroidery Co. Ltd's factory has set up 182 Torchon machines from Japan, 15 Comez machines from Italy and 32 Miller systems from Switzerland.

Pure Textile (Guandong) Co. Ltd has 100 warp knitting machines, covering Textronic, jacquard, Raschel and latest CADT systems.

Yiwu Taileisi produces tricot lace models featuring floral patterns. It exports three tons of lace trimming per month, largely to the US and the Middle East.


Price factors and market scenario

Many producers in India feel that their monthly orders have doubled since the WTO textile quotas were lifted in January 2005, and in terms of export, Knit Fabrics & Lace calculated to US$ 3.287 million, showed 234 per cent increment during January-April 2005 against January - April 2004.

As ways of further increasing competitiveness, they are increasing their production technology with respect to providing latest designs. The upgrades are also targeted to decrease costs through improved efficiency.
But this expansion is also forcing makers to raise their product prices under efforts to maintain reasonable profit margins. As a result, these particular companies are indented to increase product prices by as much as 25 per cent in short periods to counterbalance the new expenses.
Moreover, most lace trimming producers in China as well as in India aim to limit their price rises to 15 per cent by applying a range of cost-cutting measures. They believe that elevating prices significantly would reduce their competitiveness and drive buyers away.

The prices of lace trimming from India and China mainly rely on width of material, intricacy of design, particular designs and type of manufacturing equipment utilised. The producers believe that the price will rise in the coming days, as they counterbalance with the present equipment expenditure and the increasing cost of key raw materials used such as cotton. To adjust higher prices, companies are adding value to their products. Some producers plan to increase their prices by about 25 per cent.