Monday, September 19, 2011

"Point d'Alençon"

Think you have an 
Alençon Lace tablecloth?
You may want to think again.
History of Alençon Lace
Alençon lace, known as “the Queen of laces and a lace for Queens“,  is the most elaborate needle-point lace ever produced in France.  It traces its origins to 1665, when Louis XIV determined to improve the quality of French lace in order to keep in the country the enormous sums then being spent on Italian and Flemish laces by members of his court.

Alençon lace is handmade, only, in Alençon, Normandy, France. 
Alençon Lace Technique
The Alençon lace technique takes 4 years of apprenticeship and about the same again to master it completely. The method of production is extremely labour intensive, taking 7 hours to produce one square centimetre of lace, but it allows for extremely fine and sophisticated designs. Source

In 1976, the Point d’Alencon National Workshop was created by the State to preserve the lace needlepoint traditions in the town.  Today the workshop houses a small group who keep alive this unique skill, mainly producing pieces of needlework destined for great state-owned properties.

UNESCO recognised the exceptional quality of Alençon lace by adding it to the "Representative List of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity".  In its announcement the UNESCO committee said "Alençon needle lace is unusual because of the high level of craftsmanship required and the very long time that it
takes to produce (seven hours per square centimetre).”

There is a permanent exhibition of Alençon lace and exhibits showing how it is made in the Musée des Beaux 
Arts Te de la Dentelle in the Alençon town centre.
The public can also visit the adjoining  lace-making workshops on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in summer, or groups by appointment throughout the year.

Small samples of the lace can be bought from the museum shop for a price – about 500 euro!

Beware of imitations!!

You’ll find plenty of suppliers offering what they claim to be “Alençon Lace” and wedding gowns supposedly trimmed in Alençon lace.

With very few exceptions, most of this is NOT genuine Alençon lace.  It, sometimes, comes from China and is often cheap, machine made imitations that bears only a superficial resemblance to the real thing.  When it is available to order by the yard, or the dresses cost just a few hundred dollars, this gives the game away – new Alençon lace costs several hundred dollars per square inch!

Ouch – Why is real Alençon lace so expensive? Mainly because it takes eight years of training to master the Point d’Alençon technique and 25 hours of labour to produce a finished piece of Alençon lace the size of a French postage stamp (2.5cm by 2cm, less than a square inch).  The end result is stunning and can’t be matched by any machine made lace.
Faux (fake) EBay example:
Vintage Large Alencon Lace Tablecloth New Never Used  I didn't know whether to laugh or regurgitate!

Now that we know about the REAL DEAL, let me show you my beautiful Alençon "style"tablecloth. This lace is often described as "French" lace.  

         My cloth is NOT Alençon Lace!

These machine made lace tablecloths 
should legally be called
Alençon "Style" Lace
That is because they are made in the "style" of the handmade Alençon lace.

Some are expensive, some are not. The machine made cloths come in varying qualities. These can be very beautiful but it is best to be educated and know that you are not buying REAL Alençon lace.

My tablecloth is vintage. In fact, I have had it for more than twenty five years. I used it on an large extension table that I used in a previous home. It was too large for my table here and had been packed away.

My cloth is machine made with hand adornment.
This table cloth was definitely not inexpensive but some are pricier. While very beautiful, "French" lace can fetch prices into the thousands and still not be Alençon lace. I love my cloth, it makes for a beautiful table and it has been in a drawer for too many years. So out it comes!

I was trying to think of a tablecloth to use with this thrifty find when I thought of this jewel, packed away.

For colored under cloths I use (extra long) twin sheets. I often have to trim one long side, then finish with a narrow hem. You can always find twin sheets on sale for very little. You can see the blue coming through the tablecloth below.

It is not necessary to have the linens of Royalty to set a pretty table. Just make sure you know what you are buying then enjoy! Um mm, don't pack it away in a drawer.
Resources for this post:
Look for the tablescape this week!

I am partying with these folks:



☆Mama Ko☆ said...

You have so much talent, creativity and patience to have made a beautiful masterpiece like that. kudos to you

imriz said...

don't know how to react, too when i can see a phrase at ebay that says, "brand new with tags", when what they sell is vintage-y :)

loved your dishes and stemware:) said...

Ginger, sure wish I had some lovely lace like that!

Suzy xxx

⚜ ↁℯℬℬᴵℰ⚜@ Debbiedoos blogging and blabbing said...

Ginger that is gorgeous, just gorgeous. I would be afraid to muss it up. I have a very old table cloth that my Mom gave me, that was her Mothers mother. It is more of a silk blend though, it is pretty, and I have used it once for fear of a tragic accident happening on it.

S said...

Lovely tablecloth - and you are right to get it out of that drawer. Thanks for the education on the real thing too.

SmilingSally said...

Blue is the perfect "under" color.

Happy Blue Monday to you, Ginger!

xinex said...

This lace is so beautiful, Ginger, so exquisite! Thanks for the history....Christine

La Vie Quotidienne said...

How lovely this is, and thank you for giving us so much information about this type of lace. I remember seeing lace makers working in Bruge, and thinking what a wonder it was.

~Tablescapes By Diane~ said...

Hi lovely lady.
Your lace tablecloth from Ebay is Gorgeous.. I love going on Ebay also.Thanks so much for your sweet comments on my black and white tablescape. I hope you have a great week.
XXOO Diane

Barbara F. said...

Your tablecloth is lovely, a real heirloom, and works perfectly with that great dinner set, Ginger. I always knew Alencon lace was something to behold, and you hear it used a lot with bridal gowns. You gotta watch that EBay. You can easily be cheated if you are not aware. xo,

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled to see you bring it out of the drawer and share with us,it is a beautiful sight for our eyes,so magnificently gorgeous.hugs to you.

Deborah Kay at The Paint Splash said...

Thanks for the lesson! I purchased several lace cloths in Italy about 30 years ago. Love them. Blessings!

Joy said...

Beautiful, I love lace..especially lace tablecloths. Have a great week!

Donnie said...

That was really interesting and your tablecloth is beautiful.

NanaDiana said...

What a gorgeous piece...and I never knew that about the history. I knew it was expensive but never knew the reason WHY...and now I know that even the expensive ones I see for sale are not real! xo Diana

Tracy Suzanne said...

Hey Ginger. Love your tablecloth and the dishes are beautiful too. Your beautiful crystal is perfect with it. I can't image having the patience to make the beautiful Alencon lace or having the nerve to use or wear it even if I was wealthy enough to buy it.

Sweet dreams, Tracy :)

Cafe au lait said...

Amazing work!

My Blue Monday is here.

Mandy said...

Ginger, thank you for the history lesson. I loved it! Your table cloth is beautiful. Aren't you glad you are using it again?
I'm having my first link party tomorrow. I'd love it if you stopped by and linked up one of your posts.
Hope to see you tomorrow.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Fascinating! I always learn something new when I visit you!


Oh Ginger, your lace is stunning, I'm in love with it, I just adore lace! Thanks for the lesson, so great to learn something new about things we love and lace is no exception! What an amazing tablecloth you have sweet lady! The dishes and crystal are gorgeous too, just a very elegant setting! Lots of hugs, FABBY

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Ginger, I loved reading about this. Thank you. It is a real education as I can't imagine how long it takes to make that tiny bit of lace. WOW! It's like people saying they have Chippendale chairs when they have Chippendale style chairs. But this lace is truly amazing.

I was dropping by to thank you for your very kind words on my last post. They, and you, are much appreciated. Things here are a bit crazy, but I am trying to do a little blogging and try to catch up on some of my visiting.

Sending you big hugs, my friend...



Farah Muzaffar said...

Its a learning... i really enjoyed reading the post... you are a true crafter....I am sharing a treasure of Hand Embroidery, hope you like to come and see some traditional motifs and stitches

Diann said...

What a wonderful, beeautiful and informative post. there is so much beauty in these lace pieces!

classic • casual • home said...

Fascinating. Thanks for the education. Love it that I learned something new today.

Tracy Suzanne said...

It always makes me happy to see that you've visited me. I love hearing from you.

Hope your having a wonderful weekend.
OOO's...Tracy :)

Susan (My Place to Yours) said...

"Don't pack it away in a drawer." The BEST advice! Vintage linens last longer when used and cared for rather than stored. Your lace tablecloth is beautiful, and I especially love being able to see its gorgeous design with the blue peeking out from underneath. The tablescape you did with it this week really shows it off nicely, too. So glad you shared this -- and congratulations on your 100th post!

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