I hunted around the forum a little bit and didn't find a direct definition of lace. We know it when we see it. It ranges from Hardanger to bobbin - torchon to Alencon - to needlelace and tatting, drawnwork, Tenerife circles, doilies and Irish crochet, which was invented (I have read) to imitate heavy Venetian lace that one book says is reminiscent of carved ivory. Then there is appliqued lace such as Isle of Wight and Carrickmacross. Lace, a textile, and filigree, which is rigid, are closely related visually. 

If I dropped some strings loosely on an ironing board and ironed them so they stuck together at the overlapping points, that would be lacy in effect but it would not be lace. There has to be some structure in the design. See "Not Lace" picture below. Some is abstract, some pictorial, some naturalistic, some stylized.

Net, though highly structured, is not lace either, but it's a relative - a precursor, because embroidered net is lace, and many laces have inset sections of net or a net-like arrangement of brides, or use a fine hexagonal net as a base. Filet crochet imitates net. The lacet pattern more nearly approximates lace, but it is dubious that a solid block or border of it would constitute lace. Complex tesselations are like fancy net patterns. And what about macrame?


  1. It is made with thread.
  2. It is not soiid, but solid, semi-solid, and open areas are mixed
  3. It can be textured but is not 3-dimensional.
  4. It has patterns which may (bobbin) or may not (Irish) repeat
  5. It can be made with knots, interlaced loops, twisted thread, or weaving on openwork such as net or drawn thread, and plain sewing or chain stitch on net (tambour) and tightly pulled stitches on fabric plus what else?
  6. It can be made by building up or by removing threads from a solid fabric

Not Lace:

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Comment by Claudia Crowley on March 23, 2021 at 6:04pm

I'm surprised that people would exclude reticella as it is one of the laciest of the laces and is just gorgeous in old portraits.

Comment by Claudia Crowley on March 23, 2021 at 6:01pm

You're right, that could be a pattern for various kinds of lace - you could make a complicated and none too pretty Battenberg piece or do it those other ways you mentioned.

Re Battenberg or tape lace, a friend of mine who went to Brussels brought me back a gift of a parasol made of what she firmly believed to be the finest Belgian lace: it was the crudest tape lace you ever saw, done with plain tape and thread the size of string and probably imported from goodness knows which country, not China, because I think Chinese work is better than that. I should hunt it up and post a picture. Of course I thanked her profusely and exclaimed over it because what can you do? I know at least some about lace and she knows how to run a division of a multinational; I couldn't do that, so I guess we're even.

Comment by Lorelei Halley Administrator on March 23, 2021 at 3:52pm

If you fill the spaces in your squiggle design you might have lace. For instance, pick a large space, cut out the cloth, sew in some net and embroider the net. Or work it as true needlelace, with a cordonnet following the lines of your design, with the spaces filled with needle lace stitches.

The definition of "lace" has often been discussed among lacemakers. It looks to me as if all don't want to include macrame. Arachne had such a discussion a few years ago. The definition I like best was "holes surrounded by thread". lol I think if the modern expression.

Many would not include drawn thread, pulled thread, reticella, Hardanger. In that view anything that retains the woven cloth in the final structure is not lace, but embroidery. I've included reticella because the stitches used in that form are exactly the same as those used in filet lacis. I've included drawn thread because the corner motifs are the starting point for sol laces. I've included pulled thread and Hardanger simply because I enjoy those two kinds of embroidery. The software for this site makes it very easy to discuss and post pictures. I ask our members' tolerance of my abberation.

P.S. Your design could also be used for pulled thread. Fill the larger spaces with pulled thread stitches.

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