Lace is an openwork fabric. There are two main methods of making lace: with a needle and single thread (needle lace) or with multiple threads (bobbin lace). Lace can also be made with a crochet hook, knitting needles or tatting shuttle. It is believed that lace originated in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, and rapidly developed from the 1550s onwards. By 1600 high quality lace was being made in many centers across Europe including Flanders, Italy, Spain, France and England. The demand for lace continued to grow in the seventeenth through to the nineteenth centuries, with the styles changing to meet the varying demands of fashion.

The Industrial Revolution heralded profound changes for lacemaking, bringing about the mechanisation of this painstaking craft. The first machine lace was made in the late-eighteenth century, and was followed in 1809 by a machine which could produce a stable net fabric that could be used as the foundation for new, hand-worked laces including Carrickmacross, Limerick and Tambour.

Technological developments continued throughout the 1800s and by 1870 almost every type of handmade lace could be copied by machine, leading to the disappearance of the handmade lace industry in England by 1900.

The twentieth century saw the revival of handmade lace as a craft undertaken for pleasure.

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