I’ve always loved the idea of lace. In my youth, I spent my days obsessing over the British Royal Family and daydreaming about life as a Regency or Victorian woman — accenting outfits with lace collars, sleeves, and trim. Lace has long captivated my imagination as both a thing of beauty and an art form. While there are many years that I would have never admitted my love for lace due to its fall from favor, it’s always had a special place in my heart. I love lace tablecloths, doilies, and curtains. There’s just something sweet and romantic about how it captures the light and ever so slightly obscures what it hides. So I was thrilled when I spotted the lace resurgence! Thanks to some nostalgic millennials, lace and macrame are once again trending. This time, I hope it’s here to stay!
Let’s take a look at the differences between lace and macrame, lace making techniques, lace history, and ways to use it in the home…
The Difference Between Lace and Macrame
So, what’s the difference between lace and macrame? Lace is created using a parchment trace. To make the pattern, one forms rows of loops and attaches one row to the next, creating the desired design. Lace was developed during the 1600s in Europe. Due to its painstaking handmade process, it was revered among the wealthy elite.
Macrame is a type of knotted yarn lace from Liguria. In macrame, patterns are created by hitching combinations of square knots. The technique results in a bulkier, more rustic pattern than traditional lace. Macrame was mainly crafted by male sailors during downtime at sea, and macrame objects were bartered in ports — bringing the art across the globe.
Ways of Making Lace Through History
Lace making techniques have varied by region throughout history, and technological advancements have drastically changed the process. First, people started making lace by hand, and the time-consuming method made lace goods pricey and only accessible to the rich. However, the Industrial Revolution eventually brought lace to the masses.
Lace developed independently throughout different regions in Europe. However, it was considered by all to be a luxury item because of its detailed production. When lace was made by hand, the material was reserved for the finest garments of the aristocracy.
Needle lace is the original lace making method and one of the most difficult to master. Needle lace is made with a single needle and thread, delicately looping rings dictated by a pattern template.
Bobbin lace evolved to pick up the pace of production. Bobbin lace is made by plaiting many threads attached to weighted bobbins simultaneously. Even though the bobbin method was easier to work than needle lace, it was still time-consuming to produce.
Limerick lace developed in Ireland, bringing a level of notoriety and fame to the lace industry there. Limerick lace is a mixed lace method, pairing the 1808 machine lace invention with hand embroidery.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, machine methods took over lace production in the early 1800s affording lace to the masses. While there have been many lace machine innovations, these three methods proved paramount in its development.
William Lee of Calverton invented the Stocking Frame in Nottingham in 1589. Its initial use was framework knitting, but it sparked a revolution in textile manufacturing that would go on to influence the lace industry.
The lace game was changed forever when John Heathcoat invented the Bobbinet machine in Loughborough, Leicestershire, in 1808. The device used bobbin carriages to automatically loop threads in intricate lace patterns, speeding up production like never before.
Nottingham Lace Machine
Taking the Bobbinet invention even further, John Livesey invented the Nottingham Lace Machine in 1846. It could produce miles of lace panels, which went on to fill the Victorian homes of the day.
Lace and Macrame Through the Ages: A Brief Timeline
Since its creation, lace has gone in and out of favor. Here is a brief timeline outlining the history of lace.
The history of lace begins during the 1600s in Europe. Since different regions were developing their own lace making techniques simultaneously, it is hard for one country to claim its invention. However, Venice, Italy, is the first trade city to print lace pattern books. Since original handmade lace was expensive to produce, it became a status symbol among the nobility.
The French Revolution
Lace was popular and sought after until the French Revolution. After that, one can say it went out of style along with Marie Antoinette and the aristocracy’s out-of-touch approach. Due to its unfavorable association, lace was avoided for a brief period.
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution brought back lace in a big way. With new machinery, lace became easier to manufacture and could be sold to the masses. As a result, more and more people filled their homes with lace curtains and doilies.
The Victorian Era
At the tail of the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Era heavily relied on the adornment of lace in both interiors and clothing. However, lace would again fall out of popularity for a while after the era came to a close.
The Groovy 70s and Rad 80s
The design trends of the 70s and 80s brought back lace and macrame in a new way. While lace was still somewhat fancy and frilly, the use of macrame lace carried a more casual bohemian feel to the material. Macrame curtains felt boho and fresh rather than stuffy and old-fashioned. Throughout the decades, macrame popped up in wall hangings, clothing, bed linens, and more. By the end of the 80s, the trend once again faded away.
The Rise of Grand Millennial Chic
Thanks to some nostalgic millennials, lace and macrame are again trending and experiencing a resurgence. Taking notes from shabby chic interior design, the “Grand Millennial” style trades in sleek lines for floral patterned sofas, vintage furniture, and lace. The new trend embraces the warm coziness lace and macrame have to offer, and I could not be happier that they’re getting the attention they deserve.
Styling Doilies, Curtains, and More
There are many different ways to decorate with lace if you want to hop on the lace resurgence. A great place to start is by hanging lace curtains, either over your windows or as dividers in the room. When accessorizing, doilies can provide separation or set a stage for your objects, giving them the proper emphasis. Additionally, you can hang macrame wall art or even frame pieces of lace for a more modern take on the trend.
Fingers Crossed — Lace is Here to Stay
Lace is back in style, but it should have never gone away. This beautiful material has a rich history that can add a dash of nostalgia, charm, or romance to your space. I know my inner teenager is thrilled to return to the lace doilies that graced my bedroom dresser.
Fingers crossed, lace is here to stay for another few hundred years.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.