Originally linen, silk, gold, or silver threads were used. Now lace is often made with cotton thread, although linen and silk threads are still available. Manufactured lace may be made of synthetic fiber. A few modern artists make lace with a fine copper or silver wire instead of thread.
There are many types of lace, classified by how they are made. These include:
Needle lace, showing button hole stitch
Bobbin lace made on a pillow with bobbins and pins
Broderie anglaise, a type of cutwork
Filet lace, embroidered on an existing net
Tatting, with shuttle
The origin of lace is disputed by historians. An Italian claim is a will of 1493 by the Milanese Sforza family. A Flemish claim is lace on the alb of a worshiping priest in a painting about 1485 by Hans Memling. But since lace evolved from other techniques, it is impossible to say that it originated in any one place.
The late 16th century marked the rapid development of lace, both needle lace and bobbin lace became dominant in both fashion as well as home décor. For enhancing the beauty of collars and cuffs, needle lace was embroidered with loops and picots.
Lace was used by clergy of the early Catholic Church as part of vestments in religious ceremonies but did not come into widespread use until the 16th century in the northwestern part of the European continent. The popularity of lace increased rapidly and the cottage industry of lace making spread throughout Europe. In 1840, Britain's Queen Victoria was married in lace, influencing the wedding dress style until now. In North America in the 19th century, missionaries spread the knowledge of lace making to the Native American tribes. St. John Francis Regis guided many women out of prostitution by establishing them in the lace making and embroidery trade, which is why he became the Patron Saint of lace making.
The English diarist Samuel Pepys often wrote about the lace used for his, his wife's, and his acquaintances' clothing, and on 10 May 1669, noted that he intended to remove the gold lace from the sleeves of his coat "as it is fit [he] should", possibly in order to avoid charges of ostentatious living.
Catherine of Aragon while exiled in Ampthill, England was said to have supported the lace makers there by burning all her lace, and commissioning new pieces. This may be the origin of the lacemaker's holiday - Cattern's day. On this day (25 or 26 November) lacemakers were given a day off from work, and Cattern cakes - small dough cakes made with caraway seeds, were used to celebrate.
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