What better way to dress iron beds than with the same thing that was popular when it was originally made close to 200 years ago……..Victorian Lace. Perhaps the most popular period for beds, came at the same time of Victorian Lace use throughout the mid to late 19th century, during the Victorian Era. This period marked by the reign of Queen Victoria developed a design style called “Victoriana”, which embraced the use of Lace for fashion and home accessories. Beds were actually just one of many items in the home, back then, that were adorned by the intricately detailed hand made lace. Beds had lace dust ruffles and pillow cases,while couches had lace arm covers and countless pillows. Tables were a popular place for a woman to display her handy work in the form of a “table cloth”. Some enormous and grand…others small and rectangular.
But by far the most popular place to display ones handy work with their lace , was their bed. There were few beds, back then that didn’t show off the ability of the woman of the houses. Even when a bed was dressed with a hand made quilt, Victorian lace some how found it’s way into the bedroom……sometimes just curtains.
Chantilly Lace is the best known of the black Laces. It takes its name from the French town of Chantilly, which became an important lace-making center circa the 18th century. As did French beds of that period. Many of the designs seen in beds from France were also seen in the lace being made in the same regions as those beds.
Machine-made lace first appeared circa 1760, and by 1813, a bobbinet machine was perfected. After 1832, cotton thread somewhat replaced linen. In the 20th century, many lace patterns have been revived and modified, and called Cluny lace. The chief modern centers of lace making are France, Belgium, England, Ireland, and Italy.
There are many types of lace, defined by how they are made. These include:
(1) Needle lace. Made using a needle and thread, this is the most flexible of the lace-making arts. While some types can be made more quickly than the finest of bobbin laces, others are very time-consuming. Some purists regard Needle lace as the height of lace-making. This was the most popular lace found on the early iron beds.The finest antique needle laces were made from a very fine thread that is not manufactured today. The most delicate and precious type of needle lace is known as “Rosepoint lace.” The pattern is first designed on paper, often reinforced with a piece of tissue, on which the design is realized. The design usually represents a rose or some other flower. Not surprisingly iron beds had beautifully designer floral casting to join and secure the metal tubing and rods to one and other To start, the lacemaker elaborates the flower’s outline with a thicker thread, so to add relief to the work. The next stage is to fill in the interior of the flower design with much finer thread and a variety of different stitches. A fine handkerchief medallion takes three days’ work. To produce larger pieces, all the medallions are sewn together with a thread so fine that it can only be detected by the eye of an expert. A certificate dating from 1922 states that the veil made for Queen Elizabeth required 12,000 of work and is made up with 12,000,000 stitches.
(2) Whitework. There are many types of whitework, but three main methods are usual, including openwork, cutwork and classic whitework. Openwork draws and pulls threads. Norwegian hardanger comes in this category. Cutwork involves cutting out fabric shapes from the background and then neatening the edges in a decorative manner. Broderie Anglaise and Italian Reticella are both cutwork methods of whitework. Classic whitework uses white embroidery stitching of various depths to create soft and darker shadows. This is often down on exceptionally fine cottons such as fine linen, batiste, muslin, organdie or on nets. Typical classic whitework includes Irish Carrickmacross, Scottish Ayrshire which uses pulled threads with embroidery, Dresden and Chikan a floral variety of patterning from India. Again….. many of the same patterns we see in the design of iron bed castings at that same period.
(3) Bobbin Lace. As the name suggests, this is lace made with bobbins and a pillow. Bobbin lace is made by using spools called bobbins (as many as 1200 in elaborate examples) and a stuffed pad called a pillow. The pattern is drawn on paper or parchment, and pins are inserted along the course of the pattern, through the parchment into the pillow. The loose ends of threads wound on the bobbins are looped around selected pins, and the bobbins are then passed over, under, or around one another, plaiting, interlacing, and twisting the threads as desired. The patterns may be connected by brides or a reseau. Also known as “Bone-lace.”
(4) Tape lace. This term refers to laces that include a tape in the lace as it is worked (or a machine- or hand-made textile strip formed into a design, then joined and embellished with needle or bobbin lace). Through the centuries tape lace has had several names including, mezzo punto, Renaissance lace, and more recently the coarser Brussels tape known as Battenburg. Luxeuil is also famous for tape lace. This is a comparatively quick method of producing lace fabrics using pre made tape lengths mostly now made by machine. The lengths of narrow tape are joined together with connecting hand stitches, worked in an open manner. Machine made tapes have more folded kinks in them because they don’t easily navigate corners. Some tapes have a thread running down one side which can pulled to help it curve more. Bobbin made tapes being hand made are usually designed to curve corners more naturally. Washing the item usually reveals differences as machine made laces don’t lie so flat after laundering.
(5) Knotted lace; including Macrame and Tatting. Tatted lace is made with a shuttle or a tatting needle. Macrame is an ancient knotting technique which reached Europe in the 8th century when the Moors brought it from the near east. From Europe sailors took the craft all over the world. In the 19th century it gained in popularity and has moved in and out of fashion ever since. It can be used to create fringes, braids and tassels, bags, belts, chair backs and hammocks.
(6) Crocheted lace. Crochet is a chain technique made by catching loops on each other with a crochet hook. Each loop is pulled through another so the whole becomes a chain. The chain is worked into with even more loops one at a time and a fabric forms as chains build up. Pieces can be worked in one continuous thread interlocking on itself and forming a fabric made of chains. The looping arrangements can be doubled and trebled and this creates areas which are more solid or more loopy and lace like in effect or raised to create rich areas of texture. The yarn thread used is important in achieving a particular end result. Crochet is a simple, fast, easy and transportable technique. Probably the most famous crochet technique is Irish Crochet.
(7) Knitted lace, including Shetland lace, such as the “wedding ring shawl”, a lace shawl so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring.
(8) Machine-made; any style of lace created or replicated using mechanical means.
So if you’re looking for authenticity on the way your antique bed may have been dressed when it was made……look no further.
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