Lace Making

SEE, mamma what is the woman doing? She looks as if she was holding a pin-cushion in her lap and was sticking pins in it.”

“So she is, my dear,” Ellen’s mother remarked. “But that is not all she is doing. There is a cluster of bobbins hanging down one side of the cushion which are wound with threads, and these threads she weaves around the pins in such a manner as to make lace.”

“I never saw anybody make lace that way. I have seen Aunt Maria knit it with a crochet-hook.”

“This is a different kind of lace altogether from the crocheted lace. They do not make it in the United States. The woman whom you see in the picture lives in Belgium in Europe. In that country, and in some parts of France and Germany, many of the poorer people earn a living at lace-making. The pattern which in making the lace it is intended to follow is pricked with a pin on a strip of paper. This paper is fastened on the cushion, and then pins are stuck in through all the pin-holes, and then the thread from these bobbins is woven around the lace.”

“Can they work fast?”

“An accomplished lace-maker will make her hands fly as fast as though she were playing the piano, always using the right bobbin, no matter how many of them there may be. In making the pattern of a piece of nice lace from two hundred to eight hundred bobbins are sometimes used. In such a case it takes more than one person—sometimes as many as seven—at a single cushion.”

“It must be hard to do.”

“I dare say it would be for you or me. Yet in those countries little children work at lace-making. Little children, old women and the least skilful of the men make the plainer and coarser laces, while experienced women make the nicer sorts.”

“What do they do with their lace when it is finished?”

“All the lace-makers in a neighborhood bring in their laces once a week to the ‘mistress’—for women carry on the business of lace-making—then this ‘mistress’ packs them up and takes them to the nearest market-town, where they are peddled about from one trading-house to another until they are all sold.”

“Do they get much for them?”

“The poor lace-makers get hardly enough to keep them from starvation for their fine and delicate work; but the laces, after they have passed through the hands of one trader after another, and are at last offered to the public, bring enormous prices. A nice library might be bought for the price of a set of laces, or a beautiful house built at the cost of a single flounce.”

“I think I should rather have the house, mamma.”

“So should I. But the people who buy these laces probably have houses already. There is over four million dollars’ worth of lace sold every year in Belgium alone.”

Ellen thought she should never see a piece of nice lace without thinking of these wonderful lace-makers, who produce such delicate work and yet are paid so little for it; and while she was thus thinking over the matter, mamma went quietly on with her sewing.

A girl and a boy watch a woman working at bobbin lace