Antique Lace: can you help us identify any of these techniques?

My friend Nancy is in need of your help.  She has oodles of amazing lace (plus a few embroidered pieces) from her mother's collected.  Many have provenance, and where we have a little information we included that with the photos.  Above each piece there is a number, then what we know and then maybe some detail shots following, below the main photo.  If you have any thoughts, especially about the lace techniques used, please leave us comments.  Tell us what piece you are talking about by noting the number.  Any and all help is greatly appreciated!  I might be adding new pieces as Nan sorts through them.  Once we can gather a little more information, we hope to publish an article or two about these amazing pieces!  Meow...

6/15/2014: I updated the page with some comments from friends Cara and Elisa.  Your comments are most welcome, so please leave them form us!

Nan's kitty, Piggy, enjoying some silk lace...


Could this piece be a diminutive form of broomstick lace?  Take a look at the detail shot below.
From Elisa:  probably needle lace


We believe this is tatted.  


This is a bed bonnet made and worn by Nan's great grandmother (you can see a handkerchief she made a little further down the list.)  More than one technique might be represented here...


Filet crochet?
From Elisa: looks like it could be a bobbin lace. I've seen a knotted ground like that in some torchon.


This piece is very fine cotton and has lace work and embroidery, with sections pieced together.
From Cara: Number 5 (photos 11-14) is torchon lace.  Inside the diamonds are spider motifs alternated with rose point.  There is a linen (or cloth) stitch background.

From Elisa: 
Torchon bobbin lace


From Elisa: probably needle lace of some sort; hem is decidedly drawn work (needlework)


The last detail shot shows the back side of the work.
From Elisa: possibly machine-lace applique. Hard to tell, but thread connections look wrong for needle lace.


From Elisa: drawn work, probably


From Elisa: drawn work, probably


From Cara:  Number 10 (photos 24-25) is torchon lace.  The fan motif that runs along the outside edge has a gimp incorporated in it.

From Elisa: Torchon, with gimp


From Elisa: Drawn work/needle weaving--a very nice piece


From Cara:  Number 12 (photos 29-30) might be a bobbin lace technique, but I'm not positive, it could be needle lace.
From Elisa: Bedforshire-Maltese bobbin lace, probably


This wonderful piece was made by Nan's great grandmother(see item three and the note with the final detail shot.)
From Cara:  Number 13 might be bobbin lace.
From Elisa: Can't tell; given note, hand hemstitching and reuse of machine lace?


From Elisa: "Battenburg" or "princess" lace: machine tapes with hand-embroidered connections


From Cara:  Number 15 (photos 37-38) looks like bobbin lace with a gimp.  The gathered corners sometimes indicate an older piece, many modern lacemakers make mitered corners.
From Elisa: can't tell


From Elisa: heirloom sewing (applique of machine-lace medallions and tape)


From Elisa: machine tape, possibly needle-lace fills; hard to tell


From Elisa: Battenburg/princess: machine tape, needle-lace connections


From Elisa: can't tell (I'm guessing machine, but I would have to get a real close look at how the plaits on the outside connect to the arches.)


From Elisa: can't tell (I'm guessing machine, but I would have to get a real close look at how the plaits on the outside connect to the arches.)


From Cara: Number 21 (photos 50-51) also looks like bobbin lace (torchon).  It has a nice sewing edge, linen (or cloth) stitch diamonds and the flowers look to be made of leaf shaped tallies connected with plaits.
From Elisa: probably bobbin lace (Bedfordshire-type)


From Elisa: "Brussels lace" (= tape is machine, flowers are machine, net is (hand) bobbin lace, bars/connectors are (hand) needle lace)


This amazing piece appears to be cut-work on very finely woven wild silk.  It is huge (like the size of a king bed) and the details are wonderful..The second and final detail shots show the back side of the work.
From Elisa: drawn work and Teneriffe needle lace


So not lace, but this is silk embroidery and the colors are amazing.  From Asian?  Most likely.  If you have an opinion please share it! Detail shots 4 and 5 show the back of the piece.
From Elisa: Chinese silk embroidery; mostly split stitch/couching, French knots; "reads" like a wedding piece to me (paired male/female birds), despite plum blossoms (longevity and thus traditional for birthdays)


From Elisa: Battenburg/princess


From Elisa: definitely machine lace


This piece is crochet.  There are two like this one, one on a linen round and one on a fine cotton round.


From Elisa: bobbin lace


From Elisa: ?Crochet?


From Elisa: definitely hairpin lace (a crochet technique)


From Cara: Number 31 (photo 85) looks like bobbin lace.
From Elisa: 
84 crochet?
85 bobbin lace
86 probably machine lace


I believe this is crochet!
From Elisa: crochet


From Elisa: crochet or possibly machine lace


From Cara: Number 34 (photo 91)  looks like a bobbin lace technique, but the combination of motifs is not like any I have seen before.  It also looks like it might be two pieces joined?  the upper piece looks symmetrical with a sewing edge on both sides and then another piece with a single sewing edge attached below?  Difficult to tell from the photo.
From Elisa: can't tell; probably bobbin lace


From Elisa: probably machine lace


From Elisa: crochet or machine lace


This piece is also embroidery, on metallic mesh (gold?)  It is very hard to photograph, but it is a long length of mesh, possibly a veil.  From the middle or far east?  It has real weight to it, so certainly real metal.
From Elisa: darning/chain stitch, on machine net; would need to look at ends of threads to tell whether it's hand embroidery.


From Elisa: buttonhole stitch and variants (needle lace),probably machine tape


This is part of a set, including several of each version, for two arm chairs?
From Elisa: Bedfordshire-type bobbin lace


Filet crochet, I believe.  This is part of a larger set to protect some chairs  
From Elisa: definitely filet crochet


Another gorgeous collar...
Partially tatted, with other techniques also?
From Elisa: definitely machine lace


From Cara: Number 42 (photo 109-110) looks like torchon lace worked with a multi stranded thread?  Four legged spider motifs, some rose point ground and whole stitch scallops on the edge.
From Elisa: torchon bobbin lace


This piece is really amazing.  It is a long length, and maybe machine made??? but extremely fine and special.  Ideas welcome!
From Elisa: (I'm guessing machine because it would be awful to have to do all those tallies in bobbin lace)


Another "not lace" but this is a long length of "needle point" or counted thread work, with several miters.  Just lovely...
From Elisa: Cross stitch, possibly a from a Berlin work (usually needlepoint) chart


This piece might be woven lace with some thread work after the weaving.  It is pieced together.
From Elisa: darning (and doves-eye stitch) on knotted net.


Be still my heart, this is actually knit!  It is a loop, maybe once on the bottom of a petticoat?
From Elisa: (don't know. Looks knitted. machine?)


Another collar, this one tatted (I believe) on linen.
From Elisa: Tatting


This is a spectacular length of lace, possible machine made???  But very fine and wonderful. Ideas welcome...


Assortment of tatted trim...


This is a long length of trim, cotton, and appears to be hand made.  Please tell us more!
From Elisa: can't tell. bobbin or machine.


This is a large piece of beautifully worked and joined medallions.
From Elisa: Machine


Two large lengths of trim, crochet?  I think so.  Looks hand made to us!
From Elisa: crochet or machine


A large length of trim, tatted???
From Elisa: crochet or machine, probably the latter


This is lace work on a fine mesh ground.  The mesh looks machine made, but the lace work looks handmade.  Each element varies from the next.  Check this out!
From Elisa:machine


Yet another amazing piece, this with some wear.  Remarkable few of these pieces has any damage.  This is very delicate and fine.
From Elisa: Limerick lace (tambour embroidery on machine net) or machine version thereof


This looks like more handwork on machine made mesh, very fine...
From Elisa: machine version of net-embroidery lace


This piece is another metallic mesh, quite heavy.  It looks like it could be hand made?  Gold?  Can you believe?
From Elisa: machine net

Thank you so much for getting to the bottom of the long list, and please take a few minutes to leave us comments.  We are open to all ideas and as we get more information I will update the page to reflect that. Nan thinks there might be even more lace coming, so I will add to the collection as she finds it and we photograph it.   Knit on!  Lace, of course... 


  1. Always willing to be over-ruled, but I think that 6-9 look like they might be Hardanger Embroidery and that 11 id Pulled or Drawn Thread Embroidery. Even if I am wrong those are some amazing examples of lace work!

  2. 4 and 45 Hand-knotted and darned filet lace (Italian); 20 and 39 handmade Cluny bobbin lace; 31 middle piece is Bedfordshire bobbin lace; 31 bottom piece is Irish Clones crocheted lace; 34 classic Torchon bobbin lace; 37 tambour - middle eastern? ; 41 and 53 Schiffli machine lace; 46 looks like hand knitted polish lace; 51 Leavers Mill machine lace to look like Cluny; 6,8, and 9 hand-drawn needle lace, possibly Canary Islands or Saba (definitely NOT Hardanger)

  3. Rather than photographing lace, one way to get a good, high-resolution picture is by laying it facedown on a scanner and scanning with the lid open (or beneath a piece of colored paper) so that it will have a dark background. Depending on the resolution, you can enlarge these images to the thread level.

  4. The Rook and The RavenOctober 13, 2017 at 1:41 PM

    Had fun looking again and testing myself. Here are my suggestions:1- armenian knotted lace, 2 - tatting, 4- hand-knotted filet lace, 5 -Belgian torchon, 6-9 all drawn thread work, most likely Canary Islands, 26 - Schiffli machine-made, 28 - Cluny bobbin 31 - handmade Irish crochet, machine made Nottingham in Cluny style and Leavers Mill machine made, 39 Cluny bobbin, 45 - Italian (Sardinian) hand-knotted filet, 51 - Leavers Mill machine-made, 53 Shiffli machine-made

  5. Eleven looks like Saba Lace to me. I am not at all a lace expert, but I live on the island of Saba and have recently begun joining the Saba Lace ladies (along with my 7-year-old daughter) and learning to do lace. I'm not familiar with the name that is on the note (I only moved here a few years ago; not a local), but I the technique looks similar to here. Hope that helps a bit.