The art of french lace
I remember the first time I stepped into a French lace mill. I was choosing fabrics for a New York City runway designer collection.
The first thing they did was hand me earplugs, to protect my ears from the machines moving at loud decibels.
The roaring of the machines and banging metal of the levers moving up and down were impressive. I was surprised by the magnitude of the looms. You need such an enormous machine to make delicate fabrics as light as air for runway dresses or wedding dresses. The loom can literally take up the space of a large sized room.
Can you imagine that learning the simple art of threading the loom is a trade skill passed down from generation to generation ? It’s a very special craft, like the art of making Marseille soap. The threading is an intricate process of delicately threading each individual tiny bobinette of the loom. There are thousands of bobbins holding each little thread. Threading a loom can take a full day of extreme precision by the master at work. That master’s mother, grandmother and probably even great grandmother often had the same job in the mill.
The machinery is equipment hundreds of years old that isn’t even made anymore. All the antique parts takes extreme technical knowledge to understand and operate. Only a few technicians in the world have the training to keep the machines running . Finding parts for the leavers lace machines can be a challenge since they haven’t been made in nearly a century.
Caudry, France lace region
The most famous lace mills of the world are in Caudry, France (with lace formerly being made next door in Calais, France). You will find the mills who made Kate Middleton’s wedding dresses laces, Solstiss and Sophie Hallette, in Caudry. With the large, vintage leavers lace looms, they make thousands of different patterns for their collections. There are only a few mills in the world that can make such beautiful laces based on the level on know how, history and equipment. Marilyn Monroe is wearing a gown made of lace from Caudry in this photo.
Musée de la dentelle de Caudry
I had a chance to visit the village of Caudry, France recently. The heritage and craft of lace is integral in the lace making region. The technicians and historians in the museum have a passion for lace. Most of the people working in the museum went to a trade school to learn the art of lace making. Some also worked previously as technicians or designers in the lace mills of the area. I had a private tour and heard more about the craftsman that helped bring to life important costume design pieces like the Great Gatsby.
If you are ever in the area please check out the Musée de la dentelle de Caudry, France.