Alençon Lace

In Alençon, in the heart of the forests of Normandy, a very rare needlework lace making technique has continued for around three centuries, creating a delicate textile with incredible finesse.
To create a square centimetre of lace, over seven hours of work are needed. There are ten stages in the making of the motifs which are linked by a very fine network of stitches :
– the technical drawing which must be made by the lace maker who will continue with all of the following stages : this will accurately represent the motifs and ornamental spaces which make up the piece of lace.
-the sewing up : the coping of the technical drawing through its perforations, onto a green parchment, using a fine needle.
– the marking : the framework for the following stages, it establishes and defines the contours of the work’s motif.
– the network : a special feature of the point d’Alençon, the network makes up the background of the lace ; it consists of a double loop, made in one direction, followed by the other and finally done three times in an well defined order to reinforce the structure of the lace.
– the filling : a delicate operation, the filling is a specification of the loop stitch motifs. Thicker than the previous stage, there are five varieties.
– the styles : there are more than twenty types, notably the picot in horse hair which adapts to the structure and to the space of the work.
– the embroidery: minutely small stitches create a scallop edge all around the outline of the lace, bringing a relief to the motif.
– the lifting consists of delicately removing the piece from its supporting structure.
– the cutting is the process of removing the small, remaining threads, one by one, from the markings using tweezers.
– and finally the polishing which adds the finishing touch. It is done by buffering the fillings with a lobster claw which has replaced the traditional wolf fang.
Point d'Alençon, © Unesco-2
Under the power of Napoléon I and the universal exhibitions, Alençon lace became popular and its techniques have remained unchanged ; at the beginning of the 1930s the nuns of Alençon brought back and updated the tradition. Since 1976, under the authority of the Mobilier National and with the support of Alençon’s chamber of commerce, the working group for the conservation of Alençon lace, which succeeded the Manufacture Nationale du Point de France founded by Colbert in 1665, has been tasked with preserving this particular skill.VUE-DE-L-ATELIER-3-©-Unesco
Examples of lace, mostly destined for civil and religious decoration, can be found at Alençon’s Musée des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle which brings to the forefront this cultural wonder, inscribed in 2010 on UNESCO‘s intangible cultural heritage list.
In September 2011, the working group for the conservation of Alençon lace participated in the Maison d’Exceptions, the section of the Première Vision fair dedicated to high class creations.