Needlepoint Lace

Sample with cutwork and applied needlepoint lace. English, 17th century Sample with cutwork and applied needlepoint lace. English, 17th century Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.171-1961.

Needlepoint lace is a needle lace form of lace, whereby a ground material is no longer an essential part of the finished product or indeed it is completely absent. Needlepoint lace can be described as a single-thread technique using embroidery stitches. In general, the main stitch used for needlepoint lace is buttonhole stitch. The basic techniques of needlepoint lace, roughly following its development, can be distinguished as follows: 

• Squares that are drawn or cut out of the linen ground and then filled in with needlepoint patterns. This technique may be regarded as a development of cutwork. Gradually, the spaces became larger, leaving only a grid of the original ground threads remaining and more and more elaborate geometric patterns could be worked. Compare the late medieval reticella.

• The next step was when squares were made using a framework of threads that had been previously stitched onto a piece of card or parchment (the framework was not associated with a previously woven piece of cloth). The thread framework was then filled in with a needle and thread using various stitches until the desired design was achieved. Over time these squares became more and more elaborately decorated, but they retained a strong geometric structure due to the nature of the framework upon which they were made.

• The final stage was when the square framework was discarded and the pattern was drawn onto a piece of stiff card, parchment or paper. The lace was then worked over the design and when it was finished the lace was simply cut away from the stiff ground. This meant that more elaborate, free-style designs could be created that were not bound to a framework. This type of lace became known as punto in aria (literally 'stitches in the air').

During the seventeenth century the most important Italian lace centres were Venice, Genoa and Milan, and they produced both raised ('gros' in French; punto tagliato a fogliami) and flat forms of needlepoints, often using costly gold and silver threads. Needlepoint lace developed into a variety of different forms and continues to be made into the twenty-first century.

See also Inishmacsaint lace,  Irish needlepoint lace and youghal needlepoint lace

Source: EARNSHAW, Pat (1982, 1984, 1988). A Dictionary of Lace, Aylesbury: Shire Publications Ltd., p. XXX.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 29 June 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 09 May 2021 14:57