Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town Crier
Favorite wedding fabric can be 'something old and something new'
Lace: it is unique just like each wedding and has its own story to tell just like each bride.
Lace and its making has captivated brides and grooms alike since its invention and continues to do so with the help of the Lace Museum in Sunnyvale.
A non-profit teaching museum, the Lace Museum's mission is to preserve lace and the art of lace making, to offer instruction in all types of lace making and to exhibit lace and its historical uses.
The current exhibit at the museum, "Then and Now," displays a variety of laces used in wedding dresses dating back to the oldest on display, an 1815 bridesmaid's dress.
"It's a bobbin lace called Rosaline," said Pat Wootton, volunteer and member of the board of directors. "It's made completely by hand."
By definition, lace is "patterned openwork fabric made by plaiting, knotting, looping or twisting," according to The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.
The first known lace was said to be made by the Greeks and Romans who would decorate their flax cloth togas with colors and gold, according to the article, "The Birthplace of Lace," by Wim J. Laurkis. As a garment became frayed around the edges, threads were twisted and stitched together, Laurkis said.
"Lace is derived from the twisting techniques used in decoration of the fringe ends of woven fabric," Laurkis said.
Thus, the art of lace making was born. Lace as it's known today, was first worn in the late 15th century, said Ele Schwartz, chairwoman of the board of directors and a volunteer at the lace museum.
"Lace was originally made out of linen. You don't find cotton until after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793," Wootton said. "So most of the old laces are linen and silk."
Handmade laces include needlepoint and bobbin lace, tatting, crochet, netting and darning, she added.
Lace was considered a sign of wealth.
"The average in lace making is an inch an hour," said Wootton. "That's why it was more valuable than gold." Lace was smuggled and became such a craze in France, whole castles were traded for it, she added.
"The men liked to show off their wealth. They couldn't drive a Jaguar or Rolls-Royce, so they showed it off in the amount of lace that they and their ladies wore," Schwartz said. "You go back through the renaissance paintings and you see all these men with these lace ruffs and lace cuffs. This was the value of the time."
It seems the times have changed.
"Nowadays, it's done by machine and everybody takes it for granted," said Schwartz. "We, as hobbyists, are very privileged to make lace for ourselves."
The volunteers at the Lace Museum do not make lace for sale. They do, however, have lace trimmings, lace making supplies and wedding handkerchiefs for sale. They also offer classes.
"We mainly get people looking for wedding handkerchiefs and for bridal showers more than the bride herself," said Wootton. "The handkerchiefs range from $5 and up and go from before the turn of the century to some older, nice machine pieces made out of cotton that you can't get anymore."
The industrious bride can take beginning to advanced lace making classes and make her own lace handkerchief, Wootton added.
"They are making incredible lace in six to eight weeks," she said. "You could do a simple handkerchief edging in 10 weeks of lessons or so."
Old or new, a bride can collect or make heirloom pieces of lace and begin recording her own family history.
For more information about the Lace Museum and lace making classes, logon to: www.thelacemuseum.org. The Lace Museum is located at 552 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale.