The Origin of Lace: Turkish or French?

The Origin of Lace: Turkish or French?

November 19, 2018

In a period before millions swarmed Istanbul when the fabric of Istanbul itself was being slowly woven over time, intricate lace crafted artfully in the hands of Turkish women adorned homes and lives, catching the eye of many Europeans.

Europeans headed to Jerusalem for pilgrimage would not want to miss stopping in Istanbul on the way, most returning home with a wonderfully moving experience. Wanting to spread the word on the magic and mystery of the East, many of these visitors took pen to paper. Painting an exotic image of the East, these travelogues were followed by translations of “One Thousand and One Nights.” Interest was overflowing, leading to a flurry of delegation visits involving foreign embassies.

It was during these foreign delegation visits that the delicate lace crafted by Turkish women piqued the interest of the French. Of particular notice were the home decorations of Ottoman diplomats stationed in France and clothing of Ottoman women, all bedecked with lace.

The period’s first sightings of lace embroidery were on clergymen, nobility, in high-end tablecloth and drape decorations, as well as baptism garments. Further accelerating the popularity of lace was the frequent incorporation of lace into the bourgeois fashion.

Lace began appearing everywhere from various cloths to furniture, and even menswear – in abundance that rivaled womenswear! Used in men’s trousers, extending in layers from shirt cuffs, as well as detailing on scarves and kerchiefs.

Rumor has it French women were initially not as successful at lace craft as Turkish women. In the 1750s, in an effort to professionally learn the art of lace embroidery and establish a French commercial lace industry, the French invited Turkish women to settle in Lyon as instructors. These efforts spearheaded the expansion of the lace industry at the time.

 In the early 1800s the French went on to invent the patterned weaving loom, marking a great advancement in the field. What previously took days could now be completed in a matter of hours thanks to the clever use of cardboard patterns; even the most intricate designs could be easily and reliably created. France therefore made significant strides in revolutionizing the lace sector, mastering technical excellence, and a leader in artistry within the textile industry.

The inventor of the patterned weaving loom was awarded by Napoleon himself and subsequently sponsored. 30,000 Jaquard looms are set up in Lyon. Being an industrial town providing millions with their livelihood and income, it was no coincidence that Turkish women were asked to settle here to teach French women the intricacies of lace artistry. It is said that to this day, there are small settlements in France dedicated to the preservation and advancement of this art. Under the auspices of the Napoleonic Empire at the time, the unforgettable and mystically medieval town of Bruges, Belgium is one such settlement.

Whether it was originated in Turkey or France or any other part of Europe; colorful hand-made lace has become a cornerstone feature in Letters From Bosphorus bed and bath designs.

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