For those who love hand made lace.
A friend asked for help identifying the techniques in a textile. Here are her words and pictures.
First, I don't know much about tassels, basically nothing. I know that complex knots in silk cord was a traditional Chinese decoration for clothing. But I have no reason to think this piece has anything Chinese in it. The glass beads and the thick leaves don't have any Chinese characteristics that I can see. But I am not knowledgeable about Chinese decorative arts. Right around 1900, give or take a decade, several books on how-to for needlework techniques were published, apparently aimed at amateurs doing the work as recreation. I have seen some of these booklets, and some contain a chapter on how to make the complex knots used in Chinese decoration. So stimulation by those booklets may be the impetus behind the large knotted tassels.
2nd, the rest of the lace. That net is hexagonal and certainly machine made. Lace called "filet" has a square mesh, not hexagonal. The colored threads are embroidered onto the machine net. Some of the small leaves appear to be embroidered with chain stitch. The thick flower petals appear to be some kind of satin stitch worked over thick padding. Embroidered net lace first became possible in the 19th century, probably after about 1820 or 1830 (when large pieces of machine net became reliably available from suppliers). So the piece is definitely 19th or 20th century. But I haven't seen anything else even remotely similar to this. Every other piece of embroidered net that I have seen was white on white, or ecru, not polychrome. However some experimentation with colored lace did happen late in the Victorian era. Your 2nd photo has some areas with horizontal strips of beige colored buttonhole stitch. That would have been the method of finishing the edge of a piece of embroidered net.
I think a date around 1900, + or - 10 years, is most likely. I base that on the (sorry to say) grotesque character of the design and work. Taste from that era was wildly different from what we would do today. And nearer to the center of the 19th century the old love of lace, and the skill that still had hands moving, had not yet let design deteriorate to this point.
Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed analysis. I genuinely appreciate your time as well as your informed eye.
I agree the piece lacks the type of refinement one expects from mid-19th century lacemakers. You have me wondering if this was amateurism or experimentation. Most likely the former.
Thank you for enlightening me about the experimentation that occurred in Western lacemaking around the turn of the 20th century.
Thank you, too, for reminding me about the booklets spawned from the drawings in Codey’s Magazine to Peterson’s Needlecraft....and all the publications that followed until their zenith in the 1930’s. I should revisit them and try to pinpoint a time period.
For centuries the Chinese appliquéd finely executed silk embroidery onto gauze. The latter was sometimes painstakingly knotted to stabilize the backing. The gauze was often generously spaced with larger open spaces than the machine made netting that eventually emerged in the West. With this mystery piece the embroidering was done directly on the netting. If this piece is Chinese it would be a massive departure from their customary work.
Good food for thought.
You can find many of those c. 1900 instruction booklets on the ariz.edu site, and on the antique patterns library site.
Perhaps we need to think of it as a piece of embroidery on machine made net rather than a piece of lace. It does look different from anything I have seen before too.
Yes, it is a form of embroidered net. But it was invented to make use of the newly available machine net. And I think it was intended as an imitation lace, or cheaper substitute for fine needle or bobbin lace. In my own head I classify it as a type of lace, but yes, it is properly described as embroidered net or tulle.
LorettaThat’s a very good point, given that the piece came to me in a box filled with Chinese Imperial embroidering and kesi weaving.Thank you. More food for thought.Marilyn