Textile History: Learning about Bobbin and Teneriffe Lace

15 March, 2012

in Fabric, Textiles, & Sewing

Lace Doilies

Happy Thursday, my friend! It’s been a very nice, sunny, productive week around here.

I’m finalizing my little house design today and getting some Tunisian Crochet ready to show you next week.

But today, let’s talk lace. Fair warning: You’re getting an education and a link fest. Or being my teacher. Either way.

The butterfly doily I think you may have seen. Both were recently spotted at local thrift stores. Both are going for a $1. I know. Howevah…I didn’t buy them. This should clue you into how many doilies I have, if my shop backgrounds or decoupaged hanger shots already hadn’t.

Despite the fact that I managed to pass them up, I need your help continuing my doilification as if were.

(I just clicked “Add to Dictionary” in my SpellCheck – haha!)

I thought I was beginning to understand a bit about lace, but no.

I’ve put these up on both Twitter and Instagram and have gotten lots of oohs and ahhs and a variety of responses to how they are made.

Doily Closeups

(Sorry these aren’t the most stellar closeups. They were photographed in situ with the iPhone not knowing they’d get their own post.)

Right after posting “my” butterfly doily, Pam posted these doilies on her blog. Her follow up post indicates that hers are Teneriffe lace.

And holy moly, is that lace follow up post the best rabbit hole I’ve fallen into in ages. Amazing links!

So I wondered if the butterfly was Teneriffe? I originally thought it might be a type of Broomstick lace.

Then Ehcati commented on my Flickr photo that the 2nd one is a typical Bobbin lace pattern.  That appears to be the case for the butterfly doily too, according to this Etsy item.

Keeping the rabbit hole going, I followed her links to Renda Sol, a non-profit organization in Brazil interested in documenting and promoting local crafts as an ecomonic activity to develop the region and participate in ethical trading.  Very cool!  Or so Google Translator tells me.

rosas de tenerife photo

I learned that:

  • Teneriffe is sometimes called Sun Lace in Brazil because it’s made on circular templates of cardboard or heavy paper.
  • It was also called Brazilian Suns in centuries past by the French after it was imported to them.
  • However, it is different than the similar styles of Suns of Salamanca, Catalunha points and Soles Del Casar, because they are worked on fabric while Teneriffe is worked with the round templates and then worked together. Of these 16th century styles it’s the only technique to have maintained.
  • The Middle Ages was a time of inventing cutting edge fabrics, so much so that every woman, regardless of class was expected to do some type of embroidery or needlework. To keep her “an honest womam from early childhood and prevent idleness.”

***An aside. A large one.  Because the history of making invariably involves ideas on gender roles and the stature of hand making and work in a society.

Two things:

1. Why people ever worried about women being idle when they were already mothering and housekeeping is beyond me.

Especially in a time when you literally worked for and made everything you had. Or traded with the person that did make it.  And were tax heavily.  Had they worried more about men being idle, perhaps the women could have had some rest and there would have been less medieval battles. One can dream.

2. Also, I find the Medieval fixation, or high moral value, depending on how you look at it, fascinating, living in a time and place as we do where idleness is idolized as the state to attain.

We trumpet our Protestant work ethic yet all desire a 4 hour work week. Our culture has endless idle amusements and most of our productivity blogs spend their time teaching us how to work harder and better so that we get rich and then don’t have to hardly work at all. And I’ve observed that we’re pretty terrible at moderation so that most of us individually and our society at large swing wildly between being workaholics and running the rat race, and being hedonists on the Southern beaches, taking care of no one but ourselves. Quite a lot to get out of Brazilian and European Medieval lace techniques, I know, but how much they genuinely concerned themselves with not being idle vs. modern American culture really sticks out.***

  • I also learned it’s also called Brazilian Point Lace because it’s worked around little points, or nails.

Renda Sol makes some amazing modern home goods and personal accessories from this lovely Teneriffe lace.

So, fellow travelers into the rabbit hole, what say you?

Have I found two bits of Bobbin lace and learned about Teneriffe in the process?


p.s. Clicking on the historic Teneriffe lace photo or the painter Vermeer’s The Lacemaker photo will, ah, take you down new rabbit trails and holes to new galaxies should you wish.  Consider this another invitation and warning.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ChantalNo Gravatar

There’s an enormous abandoned factory in the middle of Scranton. We wondered for months what it was, and what the inside looked like when we happened upon one of those shows where people get trash/junk and change it into something useful/pretty/expensive – they were in Scranton at that factory! Turns out it was the Scranton Lace Factory, which only closed down about 10-15 years ago. I googled and found pictures of the inside and more info on it, I guess Hilary Clinton’s grandfather worked there, which is kind of cool. I also gather from Internet research that the own will let you in to photograph it if you just call first – which is really cool. I keep meaning to go to the local historical society to research the place some more, it sounds like it was a huge factory.

I never had much of an interest in lace/lacemaking until this. Jeremy thinks its just because I want to see the inside of the building. He might be right. Anyway, I’m planning on checking out all your links after the babies go to bed tonight.


ElizabethNo Gravatar

What a fabulous story – thanks for sharing!! PLEASE research it more, take lots of photos and put them, and the ones you found online in some blog posts for us!! I would love that so much!!


pamNo Gravatar

Funny we would be learning about lace at the same time! I have never been much of a fan of doilies, but I find these little pieces from my Gread Grandmothers trunk fascinating. Just wish someone in my family knew if she made them or they were made by another member of the family. There is no chance they would have been purchased.

Your lace pieces are just beautiful, Elizabeth. And it appears you have been learning a lot about lace yourself as a result of reaching out to into internet space for help. Isn’t it wonderful that we can do this? That these wonderfully delicious rabbit holes exist for us to get lost in for a time and come out smarter than we were when we fell in!


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