The manufacturing of bobbin lace in the city of Genoa was inspired by Venetian designs for needle lace. Ligurian lacemakers continue to use bobbins to replicate Venetian needle lace designs throughout the 16th century, and they did so with a technique of their own, by matting the threads together. Genoa’s armelletta lace was obtained thanks to this matting stitch, which made it possible to obtain perfect, seed-shaped leaves, typical of the grounds, and through a very similar system the small triangles of the cutwork. At the end of the 17th century, Genoa became renowned for its very original style of lace known as rosoni di Genova, with highly decorative rounded points used to adorn necklines and sleeves. Punto di Genova became the reference standard for lace used in clothing, and was much in vogue among the aristocracy. Ligurian lace was not only worn by noblewomen: it was in even higher demand by a male clientele. Indeed, the lace was rather coarse and stiff, a characteristic that made it an ideal adornment for necklines, cuffs, garters, boot and shoe. Ligurian lacemakers were very skilled at working numerous spindles at the same time, and could use any type of thread: gold, silver, silk, linen, and aloe. In the 19th century, lace manufacturing expanded to other towns on the Ligurian coast, particularly Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli on the Riviera di Levante, and Albisola on the Riviera di Ponente, where in addition to traditional lace, local laceworkers also made replicas of foreign styles.
During the early 20th century, the Zennaro lace factory opened in Rapallo. In order to meet its clients’ needs, it focused on high-quality materials and craft. Zennaro used punto Genova to adorn table linens and clothes such as necklines and cuffs, using the fleuron motif. The Zennaro factory trained entire generations of lacemakers. Zennaro lace achieved such high quality standards that its fame extended beyond Liguria to national and international markets, and it won a number of prestigious awards. All of its samples are now held at the Museum of Lace at Villa Tigullio in Rapallo.
Liguria is also the leading region for the manufacturing of macramé lace. This knotted lace, made using a technique originally from the Far East, was particularly popular in the Chiavari area and was used to adorn towels, sheets, and table cloths for brides’ dowries, and for liturgical garments.
Liguria remains an active manufacturer of lace, thanks to local associations working on a series of initiatives aiming to revive women’s creativity and entrepreneurship.