Understanding the textiles world 2: textiles piece

I decide to choose some handmade Gozo lace (bizzilla) as a textiles piece to study. A good indication that it is handmade is the uneveness of the design, as whilst it clearly follows a pattern, each flower / hole is a slight different size and shape - which I think adds to the beauty.

Instead of drawing the piece I  took a rubbing with markel sticks-  an iridescent blue, and a pearl white painted with purple watercolour (I like this delicate and unpredictable effect). I also copied the design onto paper and cut it out like a paper snowflake.

lace3.jpg  lace2.jpg


I've always collected local crafts from my holidays, as I feel it really captures the feel of a place. I've been to Malta many times and have collected several pieces, but the piece in question was bought as a present from my Mum who went there in January 2012. I asked for a circular piece of lace to add to my embroidery hoop decorative wall, from which I found inspiration here. I love lace as it always looks so complex but incredibly delicate, and I love the way it lets the background through, unlike fabric.

History of lace
It's hard to give a date when lace was invented, although it is thought what we call lace today evolved in the 16th century. I was developed from different types of embroidery, cutwork and drawn thread work and it soon became a techinique picked up by people skilled at other forms of textiles. At the end of the 18th century lace making machines had been invented and by 1870 almost all kinds of handmade were also being made by machine. By 1900 most of the handmade lace industry in England had disappeared. There are still towns that I still have strong association with lacemaking, Honiton in Devon being one - somewhere I plan to visit next time I'm down that way.

History of Gozo lace

The craft has been with the island from the 17th century and was mainly worked only by a small fraction of Gozitan women. Lady Hamilton (Lord Nelson’s consort) brought Genoese lace makers to Malta to help revive the industry in the early part of the 19th century, so Maltese lace is a development of Genoese lace. As lace making became more popular and was sold worldwide, it became a island-wide industry.


Maltese lace is made using the bobbin lace technique, which is made with a number of threads, each fastened to an elongated spool or bobbin. A pattern is drawn up on parchment paper and holes pricked to show where the pins should be placed to keep the threads in position. The bobbins are then plaited to make the lace. Whilst the actual lace is handmade, it appears the centre (cotton?) circle has been stitched into the lace with a machine overlocker.

I like to think my lace was made by a little old lady sitting in a doorway, with the art being handed down from mother to daughter. But as there is steady demand for lace by tourists, it is now taught in schools, as well as evening classes and courses such as the Lace-Making Programme at the University of Gozo. They have also just had their 16th annual ‘Gozo Lace Day’ a few days ago, which was attended by lace makers and included exhibitions of contemporary lace master-pieces and textile crafts, and stands, one of which was mounted by the International Organisation of Needle and Bobbin Lace (OIDFA). So it seems what is a very traditional craft, originally made by a select group of Gozitan women has now been modernised and is crafted by a wide range of Gozo people, from all walks of society.

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