Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people of Belgium on this very sad day.
We want to show our support for our friends across the sea today and to celebrate our love for their country and culture.
We have some wonderful memories of visiting Bruges and the warmth and hospitality of the Belgians we met. Of course we ate far too many of their delicious waffles and chocolates but who could resist?
Belgium is known for the most beautiful laces and embroideries and you could spend hours and much money in the shops that specialise in lace.
The needlework is harder to resist than the chocolates !
The origin of lace is difficult to determine as it has been clouded by the passing of time but it is recorded that in the 15th century Charles the Fifth decreed that lace making was to be taught in the schools and convents of the Belgian provinces. This tradition continued through the centuries.
During the 15th century the making of lace was firmly based within the domain of fashion. At a time beautiful fabrics were beyond the purse of all but the royals and nobility. However, lace, unlike embroidery, could be unstitched from one material to be sewn on another in a manner that could transform dresses to follow different styles of fashion.
Many styles and techniques of lacemaking evolved but in modern times there are two main techniques practiced in the Flemish provinces of Belgium. The first, a needle lace, is produced in the region of Aalst. It is called Renaissance or Brussels lace because it is mostly sold in Brussels.
The second type, the Bobbin Lace, is a speciality of Bruges. This is a very expensive type of lace to make and is therefore no longer manufactured for commercial purposes.
There are about 1000 lace workers, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age.
Duchesse lace - made on a "carreau" or cushion - taken from the Flemish word "kussen" on which the paper pattern is pinned. The lace maker generally works with 22 bobbins, two of which are called The Conductors. For a Binche "Point de Fée" up to 200 bobbins are needed !!
Rosepoint lace - made with a needle and considered to be the most delicate and precious of all laces. It is very labour intensive and a fine handkerchief medallion takes three day's work. The design usually represents a rose or flower. The lace maker works the flower's outline first in thicker thread then fills the flower with fine thread and various stitches. Large pieces are made by joining medallions together. Queen Elizabeth II's bridal veil took 12,000 hours of work and is made up with 12,000,000 stitches.
Princess lace - made partly by machine today for wedding veils, christening dresses and mantillas. The flowers, stalks, and leaves are applied on the net by hand with a needle.
Renaissance Lace is also called Brussels Lace or Ribbon Lace and is very popular for household linen. The lace maker will sew the ribbon onto the paper following the design. Then she will fill up the empty spaces with a needle using a variety of stitches. The paper is not pierced so only the paper and the ribbon are attached to one another. When all the empty spaces are filled in, the tacking thread is cut on the back of the paper , the item of lace is removed and the paper pattern can be used again. The result is a finished item of lace, a corner, border, or a centrepiece, which may be then applied on Flemish linen to finish tablecloths, place mats, handkerchiefs, and a variety of other pieces.