Torchon Lace by Kate Gentelli

Torchon lace is one of the oldest forms of bobbin lace and was made widely in most lace producing regions of Europe. Torchon means “dishcloth” in French. It is also known as Beggars lace.

Piece of Torchon Lace designed and made by Kate Gentelli.

Torchon lace was not made in England until the late 19th century, when home workers found huge competition from machine made lace. Workers in the East Midlands tried to compete by making the simpler, quicker Torchon lace to sell to the mass market. By the early 20th century, machine-made copies were almost indistinguishable from handmade lace. There was then little demand for the handmade product.

Torchon lace is a continuous lace, with the pattern being made at the same time as the ground. It is worked on a grid with lines of pin holes at 45o to the vertical. It is notable for being coarse and strong, the thread used is traditionally thicker than that used for finer laces. The lace was used by the middle classes as edgings or insertions on household linen and clothing. It was ideal for this purpose, it was strong, durable and inexpensive. Torchon lace was originally made from linen thread, but cotton is frequently used. It is a regular, geometric lace. Torchon differs from the finer laces by often having less pattern area than ground-stitch areas. It has many traditional ground stitches that are quite decorative in their own right.

Torchon lace is often the first type of lace taught to a beginner, as the geometric designs avoid many of the challenging techniques involved in more complicated lace types.

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