American Women Learn Torchon Lace Making

This is the first article of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Jan 3, 1904, and is a short column on the sprouting popularity of Torchon Lace in America.

Now what exactly is torchon lace?

Torchon is one of the simplest lace making methods to learn although its popularity in mainland Europe did not spread to England until the late 19th century. In the television series Lark Rise to Candleford the main character’s mother, Emma Timmins, made and sold torchon lace as a reliable form of income until the popularity of machine made lace made her work redundant and comparatively expensive.

I can imagine that the pioneer women of the Mowat district would have had to create their own lace decorations for dresses and other cloth items by hand as they would not have had much money to buy embellishments. It would be interesting to see a comparison of all the different patterns the pioneer women might have known and brought with them from their home countries.

School for Housewives – American Women Learn Torchon Lace Making

One of the most thoroughly serviceable laces for general purposes is torchon, especially in its simpler forms.

It is only of late that women are discovering how easy some of these attractive patterns are to do.

Since the discovery has been made several little classes with an enthusiastic patronage have sprung up in our different large cities.

There are so many purposes to which a good strip of torch on can be put!

It makes a pretty and durable finish for the various articles comprised in the lingerie trousseau, and no experience housekeeper needs to be reminded of its many uses in connection with household linens.

Another good point is the inexpensiveness of the work. There is the first moderate outlay for the cushion and bobbin outfit. After that the only expense is for the thread.

It will be seen by the illustrations that torch on is a pillow lace, distantly related to Valenciennes and other favorites.

The number of bobbins for the less elaborate patters (such as the strip pictured) is about thirty-six.

The legend concerning the origins of the lace is pretty one. Some torchon maker may like to con it over as she twists her thread and manipulates her bobbins.

At a time when lace-making was yet an unknown industry, says tradition, there lived in Venice a pretty girl betrothed to a fisherman. During his enforced absences at sea she was accustomed to sit and think of him along the seashore.

One day as she sat day-dreaming of the beloved one, and idle wave washed up to her a mass of some exquisitely fine seaweed. It lay out before her in nature’s wonderful designs.

The maiden, to relieve her ennui, attempted to copy the pattern. She used for a foundation the meshes of a fisher’s net. Thus was lace-making begun.

But the story has variations. According to another version, the primitive fisher maidens used to embroider portions of nets to serve as bridal veils. From these head draperies developed lace.

As a matter of fact, nets, passementeries, broideries and their life are as old as civilization and as the first solicitude of woman for her coiffure.

However, it is not known how and from which of these garnitures sprang lace, the loveliest of them all. No trace of it is discoverable previous to the Middle Ages.

Some authorities will have it, and it is reasonable to believe, that the women of the Venetian lagoons themselves hit upon the plan of improving with fanciful designs upon the meshes of the fishing nets.

Again, the mariners of the Adriatic may have brought back with them from the Orient bobbin laws on the order of those that were recently excavated in ancient ruins of the east.

The lace which are lineal descendants of the decorated fishing net are made with hook or shuttle for the foundation mesh, and with hook or shuttle again or occasionally the needle for the decoration.

Marion Harland

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