Fuller of the seventeenth century, when he says: "Let it not he condemned for superfluous wearing, because it doth neither hide nor heat, seeing that it doth adorn." But the subject has also its graver aspects; for, as science is said to obliterate all difference between great and small, so the history of lace may be said to efface the distinction between the frivolous and the serious. Though good for nothing but decoration, the most earnest elements of humanity have been enlisted in connection with it. Lace-making, a product of the first rude beginnings of art, though complex, and involving immense labor, was yet early perfected. As a source of wealth, it has been the envy of nations and has shaped state policy; as a local industry, it has enriched and ruined provinces; and, as a provocative of invention, it has given rise to the most ingenious devices of modern times, which have come into use only with tragic social accompaniments. The subject has, therefore, various elements of interest which will commend it to the readers of the Monthly.
Lace, made of fine threads of gold, silver, silk, flax, cotton, hairs, or other delicate fibres, has been in use for centuries in all the countries of Europe. But long before the appearance of lace, poperly so called, attempts of various kinds were made to produce open, gauzy tissues resembling the spider's web. Specimens of primitive needlework are abundant in which this openness is secured in various ways. The "fine-twined linen," the "nets of checker-work," and the "embroidery" of the Old Testament, are examples. This ornamental needle-work was early held in great esteem by the Church, and was the daily employment of the convent. For a long time the art of making it was a church secret, and it was known as nuns'-work. Even monks were commended for their skill in embroidery.
A kind of primitive lace, in use centuries ago in Europe, and specimens of which are still abundant, is called cut-work. It was made in many ways. Sometimes a network of threads was arranged upon a small frame, beneath which was gummed a piece of fine cloth, open, like canvas. Then with a needle the network was sewed to the cloth, and the superfluous cloth was cut away; hence the name of cut-work. Another lace-like fabric of very ancient date, and known as drawn-work, was made by drawing out a portion of the warp and weft threads from linen, and leaving a square network of threads, which were made firm by a stitch at each corner of the mesh. Sometimes these netted grounds were embroidered with colors.
Still another ancient lace, called "darned-netting," was made by embroidering figures upon a plain net, like ordinary nets of the present day. Lace was also formed of threads, radiating from a common centre at equal distances, and united by squares, triangles, rosettes, and other geometrical forms, which were worked over with a button-hole stitch, and the net thus made was more or less ornamented with embroidery. Church-vestments, altar-cloths, and grave-cloths, were elaborately dec-