A friend recently gifted this to me. It is about 10 inches by 10 inches and I've been studying it, trying to learn some things. First question - is it handmade or machine made? Every time I think one thing, I find something else that makes me think otherwise. There are marks around all the cut areas (kind of like pencil) - would machine made have that? The leaves all around are so smooth and perfect - could handmade have possibly done these? If anyone has any thoughts or knowledge about a piece like this, please do share! Many thanks ! (most of these pictures are from the back side)

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The satin stitch, when enlarged all the way, looks slightly uneven. The cutwork, on the other hand, even in the full sized enlargements I can't make out the stitches. The border definitely looks handmade. I've seen the pencil mark effect on other things but can't remember what. So ... I don't know but I'd lean toward handmade.

I don't see any reason to think it is machine made. I would say, definitely hand made.

But there are problems I can't answer. The 2 red lines show an area between them which has some threads withdrawn. But I don't see any stabilization stitching to prevent cut threads from raveling. Parallel with those red lines there must be threads cut. But I don't see any weaving, satin stitch, or 4 sided stitch. Maybe it is just careless work. Maybe you can figure it out, having the actual lace on hand.

The blue rings show where cross stitches are clumping threads into bundles.

The green square show how those 3 or 4 threads are clumped together. Along the vertical edge no threads have been cut: they are just clumped closely by some stitches on the edge. But I can't see exactly what stitch.

My two cents worth, I think it has been hand made out of China for commercial sale. Personally the pencil marks are an indication, they are specifically following the grain of the fabric. Not sure a machine would do that, especially so many. A skilled embroiderer can do beautiful satin stitch, though the ends of the satin stitched areas have not been finished off properly, another indication of cheap commercial making by hand.  As for the cut ends not being finished, that would be typical of cheap produced embroidery where the maker gets paid little. I have seen cut ends left unfinished or with just a few overcast stitches on pieces from early 20th century. 

Interesting point, Jenny.

Lorelei there is a lot of cheap Chinese made embroideries In Australia. They are beautiful in there own right, and someone certainly has the skills to do it. I just feel sorry for them because they get paid so little. The same thing happened in the fashion trade. I knew people who were staying up all night to produce beautiful garments for a high end department store here, and the got paid $5/ garment that sold for $$$$ at retail level Thank goodness that has stopped here now, though that’s why the garment industry from here has all gone to Asia. 

Lorelei Halley Administrator said:

Interesting point, Jenny.

That's probably true, although with China becoming more prosperous and modern a lot of that work has moved to India, and they produce inferior work compared with the Chinese. What is really beautful is Chinese work from the early 20th century. Nobody in the world is making that quality commercially any more.

Another consequence of trade with China, besides being able to get handmade lace, is the availability of linen. It was scarce as hen's teeth but now you can just buy it by the yard and not for that much either.

Jenny said:

Lorelei there is a lot of cheap Chinese made embroideries In Australia. They are beautiful in there own right, and someone certainly has the skills to do it. I just feel sorry for them because they get paid so little. The same thing happened in the fashion trade. I knew people who were staying up all night to produce beautiful garments for a high end department store here, and the got paid $5/ garment that sold for $$$$ at retail level Thank goodness that has stopped here now, though that’s why the garment industry from here has all gone to Asia. 

Lorelei Halley Administrator said:

Interesting point, Jenny.

I have been aware of Chinese bobbin lace -- usually Cluny type -- and some needle lace. But I wasn't aware that drawn work and pulled work were also at issue.

Sadly, the Chinese-made linen is very poor quality, partly because of the same issues that Jenny mentioned with low pay, but also because flax doesn't grow well in China, and what they do grow is inferior stuff.

Claudia Crowley said:

Another consequence of trade with China, besides being able to get handmade lace, is the availability of linen. It was scarce as hen's teeth but now you can just buy it by the yard and not for that much either.

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