Bobbin lace

The instruments for making bobbin lace have remained the same over time. The support for bobbin lace is a pillow (cylindrical, round, or square), which can sometimes be covered by dark or waxed canvas.

The bobbins are made with bone or wood, and the threads used to make the lace are wound around them. The bobbins are worked two at a time, and there must always be an even number of them. The number itself is variable, depending on the complexity of the design and the height of the lace.

As many as 1500 could be used at once.

The process begins with a cardboard or parchment model onto which the design is inked. The outline of the designed is pricked, the small holes also serving as support for the pins. The model is then attached to the upper part of the pillows, and the threads needed to make the lace are held in place by the pins. Each thread is wound around a bobbin, which exercises a certain amount of pressure on it, ensuring that the work takes place at a regular pace.

Valenciennes, Binches, Malines, Lille, and Chantilly lace are all types of bobbin lace.

In sectional lace, the plaits are separate from the motifs and are joined subsequently, so that they can be made simultaneously by a number of different workers. Brussels, Milan, and Honiton lace all fall into this category.

Although needle lace was very widespread in Italy, bobbin lace was quite successful as well, and gave rise to passemanterie.


Milan lace originated in the late 17th century, and is typified by a particularly free and sinuous design, whose decorative motifs are worked separately and subsequently joined together. Certain types of Milan lace closely recall Flemish lace.


The city, already famous for its gold and silver passementerie, became known at the end of the 17th century for a very original and highly decorative type of lace known as “rosoni di Genova”, with rounded points used as trimming for sleeves and necklines. In the 19th century, manufacturing of this type of lace – in addition to imitations of foreign lace - extended to the rest of the Ligurian coast.


L’Aquila, Pescocostanzo, and Gessopolena were major manufacturers of lace, and continue to be today. The local style was very folk-oriented and has changed little over the centuries, with typical motifs depicting animals, flowers, and symbolic objects.