Wonderful Airy Lace
Lace is a beautiful and delicate textile. It is used to make clothing and to decorate household objects. The most delicate and artistic kinds of lace are made by hand with either needles or bobbins (spools). There are many different styles of lace and each has a different pattern of flowers, leaves, or other designs.
Handmade lace took a long time to make, and only skillful people could do it. For these reasons, lace was very expensive.
When and by whom the complex art of lace making was introduced to Russia will probably never be known—it has occupied a firm place among the handicrafts in this country from time immemorial.
Thirteenth-century chronicles record that Prince Daniil Romanovich impressed foreign ambassadors with his proud bearing and splendid garments. The princely attire, it appears, was trimmed with lace made from extremely fine silver and gold thread and embellished with a wide variety of spangles, feathers and pearls.
But the reputation of Russian lace was not due solely to such luxury items. Lace made from linen thread became very popular, and it could be highly attractive—everything depended on the taste, skill and imagination of the lace-maker.
The material was always available—the poorest home had two or three strips of land sown with flax.
In the north the winters are long. The snow falls noiselessly, blanketing rivers, woods and fields. Beneath covering the earth slumbers until spring. This is the season for many crafts, the time when the girls gather together in one of the larger cottages. Till late at night they are singing songs while busy with their lace.
The frost patterns on the windows, the rime-crusted branches outside and the delicate tracery of a snowflake when it melts … all these are transformed into fanciful patterns in the lace.
To a Russian the words “Russian lace” evoke pictures of such of towns as Vologda, Yelets, Ryazan and Vyatka. Gold-fingered girls of all these were famed throughout Russia. But the finest lace-makers of all are Vologda girls, and the secrets of their craft were handed down from generation to generation.
By the way, Vologda lace won a gold medal at the Brussels Exhibition in 1968.
Yelets lace is lighter and more delicate. The patterns are not so sharply defined, and transitions are smoother. The Yelets lace-makers are fond of designs made up of big flowers. Yelets lace is gay, bright, and with a festive air.
Mikhailovskoye lace is made in the little town of Mikhailov (in Central Russia, near Ryazan). It is so colourful that it may be taken for embroidery. You know, it is extraordinarily bright, and preserves features of national peasant costume. Reds predominate, and the effect of a design in red is heightened by threads of yellow and deep blue. It is used for trimming, adding brightness and freshness to whatever it decorates.
Despite the fact that it has been going strong for centuries, Russian lace is in as great demand as ever.