Needle lace

All needle lace is made with the same basic technique, which has remained unchanged over the centuries, although the patterns themselves have changed. Needle lace items are generally each made separately, through a process that requires several phases: the drawing, almost always entrusted to men, is then transferred onto parchment or a sheet of resistant dark paper by pricking tiny holes into it (piquage). The parchment is then attached to a support, and the drawing is outlined by a line of thread (tracé). Based on this outline, the drawing itself can be completed, by working some parts of it more extensively (entoilage) and others with sparser stitching, using a simple buttonhole stitch as the base. The completed drawings are joined together with small bars (brides), which may be decorated by small pins (picots). Finally, the item is pulled off its paper and canvas support, the threads used to make the lace are set into place (ébutage), and finally the various parts of the lace items are assembled almost imperceptibly (assemblage).

In the 16th century, Venice was the main centre for needle lace; indeed, the genre that originated there became highly successful throughout Europe. Lace manufacturers in Venice remained very active until the second half of the 18th century, then went into a slow decline, only to revive in the early 19th century with the Burano school. The latter was typified by various types of lace, including:

Punto in aria: the first type of lace to be stitched alone and not first onto a woven fabric, with a great variety of designs;

Venetian relief: typical and very famous Venetian lace, with sumptuous floral designs unfolding in a sinuous, continuous manner;

Venetian punto pianto: without relief, and with smaller leaves and flowers;

Venise à la rose: uses the same floral motifs typical of Venetian lace, but in smaller sizes;

Venise à rèseaux: the only Venetian lace with a knitted background.