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Title: Bobbins of Belgium - A book of Belgian lace, lace-workers, lace-schools and lace-villages
Author: Kellogg, Charlotte
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Notes

  A few words in relation to era/dialect have been retained e.g. tho,
  possest, stopt, dropt, slipt, distrest.

  The frontispiece spelling of the Queen of Belgium is Elisabeth,
  as shown in the photo with her signature. Throughout the main
  text however, it has been spelt Queen Elizabeth. These spellings
  have been left as printed.

  In the Appendix, where there are two or more illustrations per page,
  the words (Top), (Middle), (Bottom) have been used, to indicate the
  link with the text and illustration.

  p.292: changed 4 to _d_

  Printer errors have silently been corrected.






    _Of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and Author of
    “Women of Belgium”_


    COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
    [Printed in the United States of America]
    Published in February, 1920

    Copyright Under the Articles of the Copyright Convention
    of the Pan-American Republics and the
    United States, August 11, 1910.


To the women of the Brussels war-time lace committee—Madame Allard,
the Vicomtesse de Beughem, Madame Kefer-Mali, and the Comtesse
Elizabeth d’Oultremont, with admiration and gratitude.


CHAPTER                                     PAGE
          Preface                             15
          Introduction                        25
       I. Turnhout                            49
      II. Courtrai                            79
     III. Thourout-Thielt-Wynghene            97
      IV. Grammont                           127
       V. Bruges                             143
      VI. Kerxken                            169
     VII. Erembodeghem                       189
    VIII. Opbrakel                           201
      IX. Liedekerke                         215
       X. Herzele                            231
      XI. Ghent                              247
     XII. Zele                               265
    XIII. Appendix                           275
          Index                              307


                                                         FACING PAGE

    H.M. QUEEN ELIZABETH OF BELGIUM,     _Frontispiece_

    FIFTEENTH CENTURY PORTRAIT                               32
    Showing heavy brocade as yet unrelieved
    by linen or lace trimming.

    PORTRAIT OF CHARLES IX (1570)                            33
    Linen collar showing picot edge made with
    the needle.

    Showing collar ornamented with bobbin-made

    ANNE OF AUSTRIA BY VAN DYCK                              41
    About 1635, cluny lace made with bobbins.

    ABBÉ BERRALY SCHOOL, TURNHOUT                            56
    General view.


    POINT DE PARIS CLASS                                     64
    On dark days lamps are lighted behind bottles
    filled with water, the rays passing
    through, fall in spotlights on the cushions.

    WINDING BOBBINS FOR THE CHILDREN                         65

    POINT DE LILLE, OR POINT D’HOLLANDE                      72
    Mesh showing “Esprits” or dots characteristic
    of this bobbin lace.

    LONG ON WHICH COLETTE WORKED ONE YEAR                    73

    OLD, WORKS WITH 1,000 BOBBINS                            73

    BELGIAN LACE MESHES (Plate I)                            80
    After Pierre Verhagen in “La Dentelle

    BELGIAN LACE MESHES (Plate II)                           81
    After Pierre Verhagen in “La Dentelle

    BOBBIN LACES                                             88
    Malines, Point de Paris, Valenciennes.

    TO AMERICA FOR BREAD                                     89
    Point de Paris lace combined with linen.
    The lower right-hand centerpiece shows the
    rose design, emblem of Queen Elizabeth.

    BOBBIN LACES                                            104
    Torchon, Cluny, Old Flemish, Binche.

    Cut linen with squares of Venise surrounded
    by filet and cluny; Venise made
    with the needle; cluny with bobbins.

    A “MARIE ANTOINETTE” IN CHANTILLY LACE                   128
    Made with bobbins, near Grammont.

    CUSHION COVER                                           129
    Center Venise, borders Valenciennes, lace
    executed by 12 workers in one month,
    embroidery and mounting by four women
    in two months; design by M. de Rudder.

    TEA CLOTH                                               129
    Point de Paris, cock design.

    LACE MAKERS OF BRUGES                                   144

    BRUGES AND SIMILAR BOBBIN LACES                         145

    CLASS                                                   152
    Symbolic color pattern on left-hand easel;
    demonstration bobbins attached to colored
    threads at right.

    Made with bobbins; executed in Flanders by
    30 women in three months; design by the
    Lace Committee.


    DETAILS FOR BRUGES LACE                                 160
    Made with bobbins on round cushion.


    POINT DE FLANDRES OR FLANDERS LACE                      176
    Flowers made with bobbins, mesh with needle;
    designs by the Lace Committee.

    HANDKERCHIEF IN NEEDLE-POINT                            177
    Made near Alost. Both mesh and flowers
    made with needle.

    STITCHES                                                177


    VENISE OVER SATIN AND VELVET                            181

    RETURN FROM EXILE                                   192–193
    Design by M. de Rudder; executed by 30
    best Venise-makers in Belgium in six months.

    CUSHION COVER IN VENISE                                 196
    Pekinese dog; design by M. Allard.

    BORDER OF VENISE                                        197
    Design by Lace Committee; executed in West
    Flanders by five workers in 15 days.

    “THE TOURNEY” BANQUET CLOTH                             208
    Design reproducing a mediæval painting in
    Tournai, executed in Venise lace by 10 workers
    in one month, mounting and embroidery
    by five workers in one month. Price in
    Brussels, 1,000 francs.

    WITH DETAILS IN FLANDERS                                209

    QUEEN WILHELMINA                                    216–217
    Executed by 30 workers in eight months.

    BOBBIN LACES                                            224
    Malines; Application, flowers sewn on tulle;
    Duchesse, with Needle-Point insertion.

    Upper flower shows open spaces left by
    bobbin worker for needle worker; lower
    flower shows both bobbin and needle work

    WEDDING GIFT OF MR. HOOVER TO MRS. PAGE                 240
    Executed in Venise and Flanders lace by 30
    women working three months. American
    eagles with outspread wings, protecting the
    Belgian Lion enchained in the four corners.

    FLANDERS—NEEDLE MESH, BOBBIN FLOWERS                    240

    Lace executed in Flanders by 40 women in
    two months; embroidery and mounting in
    Brussels by four women in three months.

    VALENCIENNES, SQUARE MESH                               241

    FAN IN NEEDLE-POINT                                     256
    Executed by three women in six weeks.
    “Shields of the Allies,” design drawn by
    M. Knoff for the Lace Committee.

    D’OULTREMONT                                            257
    It would take 40 workers about a half year
    to copy this veil.

    TO BE PRESENTED TO QUEEN ELIZABETH                      268

    LACE SCHOOL AT ZELE                                     268

    FOX AND THE GRAPES                                      269

    ELIZABETH                                               269


I entered the lace-world by the grim door of war. For it was the
war-time work of the women of the Brussels Lace Committee that opened
the way to me.

Long before the war, Queen Elizabeth in Belgium, like Queen Margharita
in Italy, had sought means to protect the lace worker, through
centuries the victim of an economic injustice, not to say crime, and
to rescue and develop an industry threatened from many sides. In 1911
she gave her royal encouragement to a group of prominent Belgian women
who organized as “Amies de la Dentelle,” Friends of Lace, and began
a lace-saving campaign by trying to remedy the deplorable condition
of most of the lace schools, the defective teaching, long hours, and
pitiful pay. They could insist in the schools, as they could not
elsewhere, on the right to inspect, to grant or refuse patronage. They
subsidized worthy institutions, and advocated the establishment of a
lace normal school and of a special school of design. Education they
felt to be the main road leading out of the prevailing misery, and they
were making progress along this road, when suddenly the Invader poured
over their borders.

While other women hurried to open refuges and hospitals and
soup-kitchens, a few of the Friends of Lace remembered first the
lace-makers; and by November 1914, had effected a war emergency
organization, known as the Brussels Lace Committee, with Mrs. Whitlock
as honorary president. Unfortunately most of the lace dealers failed to
cooperate with them, but they won the approval of the powerful Belgian
Comité National, which, with the Commission for Relief in Belgium,
carried on the relief of the occupied territory throughout the war.
And with an initial gift of $25,000 from America to be converted
into lace, they were able to start their work. It soon came to be
directed altogether by four women; The Comtesse Elizabeth d’Oultremont,
Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth; the Vicomtesse de Beughem, an
American; Madame Josse Allard, and Madame Kefer-Mali. At the same time
the aid and protection of workers on filets and other commonly called
“imitation” laces, was assigned by the Comité National to another
group of women, the “Union Patriotique des Femmes Belges.”

The Brussels Lace Committee employed, as trusted business director of
their offices, M. Collart, generously released to them by the Allard
Bank, and as technical expert, Madame Sharlaecken, before the war with
the Compagnie des Indes, one of the largest lace houses in Belgium;
and as the work developed, an increasing number of designers and aides
necessary to a lace business were added.

During the first few months the situation seemed utterly hopeless;
thread was impossible to obtain; and even if the thread were
forthcoming, no one could say who would buy the laces they might
encourage the women to make; the Germans were cutting off successive
sections of the lace-making areas where they had established
sub-committees, and were forbidding communication with them. And yet
these four women continued bravely to create the foundations of a great
lace business—for an extraordinary commercial organization grew from
their efforts.

However, despite all their intelligence and devotion, such a result
would have been impossible but for a hard-won diplomatic victory.
In early 1915 Mr. Hoover forced an international agreement which
permitted the C. R. B. to bring thread for the Lace Committee into
Belgium, and to take out an equivalent weight in lace, to be sold
in the Allied countries for the benefit of the workers. England
required a rigid control of the thread, and that it be given only
to establishments open to inspection by the C. R. B. At one time
these thread shipments were stopt—a period of cruel anxiety for the
women—but happily after a re-adjustment they were continued. And
once these international guaranties were obtained, the Belgian Comité
National was able to arrange for the distribution of the thread to the
various, even remote, lace centers, and for the return of the finished
laces to Brussels. They granted the women a subsidy of $10,000 and
insured to each _dentellière_ the chance to make at least three francs
worth of lace a week—a small minimum, to be sure, but every one
understood it might be increased later, and that if each of the many
thousands of workers was to have an equal opportunity, it could not
in the beginning be more. After this the Lace Committee had at times
as many as 45,000 women on its lists. The work in the schools and out
of them began to bear fruit. The sweating system, and payment in kind
(in clothing and food) were practically wiped out, and inspection and
control established. Everywhere the standard of design and of execution
was raised; old patterns were restored and improved, and by the end of
the war 2,237 new designs had been added.

But this was not advance through open country. There was constant
danger that at any moment the way might be completely barred; at
any time the guaranties covering the thread importations might be
withdrawn. The Germans early originated a “Lace Control” of their own,
and tried in every possible way to win over the Belgian workers,
and to buy up all the lace in the country. They accused the Brussels
Committee of being a political and patriotic body existing chiefly
to defeat the occupying powers and the Flemish activists. Then there
were other courage-testing difficulties. But despite all obstacles and
perils, the women persisted, and continually the precious skeins of
thread, with their message of “Carry On” were flung out from Brussels
to the farthermost corners of the land, binding all together in a firm
and beautiful web of hope and confidence. For the enemy was right in
suspecting the Committee of a purpose deeper than that of merely trying
to save women from the soup-line; they carried on a patriotic work of
highest importance. To them I owe a personal debt of gratitude, for
they permitted me to follow their devoted service closely, and they
opened the door for me to a new world of beauty and interest.


Lace is a tissue composed of mesh and “flowers” (pattern), or either
one alone, produced with a needle and single thread, or with several
threads manipulated by means of bobbins. It is the product of a natural
evolution from early embroideries and weaving.

We possess no contemporaneous history of the origins and development of
the lace art, partly, perhaps, because of the tradition, strong among
the initiated, of hiding its secrets, and of the consequent difficulty
of an outsider to master them, and partly because successive wars and
world cataclysms have interrupted or destroyed its progress.

We have ample proof, however, that lace in some form existed in remote
antiquity,—in early Egypt, in Persia, in Bysance and Syria, where it
was chiefly made by slaves; the Greeks and Hebrews speak of needle lace
as known throughout all time. It was not, in these oriental countries,
the delicate white mesh that we call lace, which would have been most
unbecoming to dark skin, but included richly colored passementeries
and filets and fringes, woven of gold and silver thread, of dyed wool
and cotton, and of the coarse linen fiber of the Nile Valley. It was
usually of hieratic and symbolic design, and sometimes sown with
gems—all capable of brilliantly enhancing the beauty of the East.
Egyptian ladies of 6,000 years ago trimmed their robes with elaborate
lengths of filet, and covered their dead with it. In the Cinquantenaire
Museum at Brussels there is the photograph of a remarkable little woven
linen bag, similar to one we might carry to-day, which was found in
the tomb of a Priestess of Hathor, bearing the mark of one of the
earlier dynasties. Its mesh is almost identical with that of our modern
Valenciennes, and it was undoubtedly made with bobbins.

Between ancient and mediæval times, the lace-gap is unbridged by
written record; we must gather what we can from the archeologist
and from the works of the sculptor and painter. Occasionally we are
thrilled by such a discovery as that of M. Bixio, who in excavating
at Claterna, an old Roman City near Bologna, came upon a set of bone
bobbins, lying in pairs, as we employ them in lace-making to-day. But
interesting discoveries are rare, and the body of our knowledge of lace
history so far is meager.

However, we are interested primarily, not in the ancient origins of the
two great lace groups, nor in early passementeries and filets and their
processes, but in the marvelous efflorescence of the lace art of the
Western Europe of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and in its still
lovely expression of to-day.

In mediæval painting, before the appearance of linen and its use as
trimming, or as lingerie, I know of no picture showing lace. Stuffs
were stiff and heavy, and ornamented with metal, or with gold or
silver thread. As they became more supple, we find, as in the portrait
of Wenceslas of Luxemburg (about 1360) decoration introduced in the
clipped cloth border of the collar and hood. This serrated edge
suggests the first simple Cluny lace patterns that appeared later. Then
we see the first linen showing through the slashed sleeve or above the
corsage,—one of many paintings illustrating this development, is that
of the Duke of Cleves, by Memling (second half of the 15th century).
And shortly afterward the first lace edgings appear, the beginning
of our lace of the middle ages, of its rebirth in Western Europe. The
search for these details of progress in the paintings of European
galleries is a fascinating and rewarding game; a Belgian friend of mine
has spent many years at it.

The flowering of the lace-art was part of the great Renaissance
(lagging behind, to be sure, the major arts) and now was no longer the
work of slaves, but regarded as an important, independent _métier_, and
happily it usually escaped the despotism of the mediæval corporations.
Italy, probably through her exploitation in the early part of the
15th century of her Greek Colonies, was its first western home, and
Venice, the center for the exquisite needle laces of which our museums
fortunately still preserve specimens. While laces made with the needle
and single thread were flourishing under the Doges, bobbin laces,
twisted and braided with many threads, were being made in Sicily and
in other sections of the country.

From Venice, the secrets of the art traveled easily in several
directions, and probably about the close of the 15th century by way
of the thriving port of Antwerp, to the industrious and beauty-loving
Flanders, where the seed fell on most fertile soil. Flanders possest a
multitude of workers already skilled in an allied art, that of weaving,
and the necessary lace material in her valley of the Lys, the finest
flax region of the world. Valenciennes, Lille, Malines, Ghent, Bruges,
turned to lace-making with a veritable passion; it spread throughout
wide districts of what are now Northern France and Belgium.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the lace industry made phenomenal
progress, both extensively and intensively. Holland and England sent
continually larger orders to Flanders. As cloths grew finer and
softer, and the mode of wearing them more graceful, and as daintier
linens were increasingly employed, lace became ever more filmy and
exquisite. A worker spent perhaps a whole year on a single meter of
Valenciennes, one head-dress cost as much as 200,000 livres. Every lace
had its time, its season. During this epoch, needle laces were supreme,
as bobbin laces were to be in the 18th century.

Under Louis XIV lace reached its climax of perfection and beauty.
Colbert imported lace-women from each center where they had been
conspicuously successful. He encouraged the invention of new designs
and technique; he subsidized schools in many cities, at Reims, Alençon,
Arras, Sedan, and he threatened with the death penalty those who might
attempt to carry lace secrets beyond the French borders,—in every way
he sought to develop an art that should belong peculiarly to France.
Thus directed and subsidized by the state, and nurtured and stimulated
by a beauty-seeking court, whose love of luxury was still controlled
by taste and refinement, it is not surprizing that this lace-period
surpassed any other known. It was true of the Court of Louis XIV as
of that of Louis XIII that a _seigneur_ was known by the number and
quality of his lace points; some of them possest several hundred
garnitures. Unfortunately the workers did not profit by this brilliant
development,—they seem from the beginning predestined to be the
victims of a social and economic slavery.

But there were already evidences of an attempt to control a demand
for luxury that threatened disaster. With the 16th century, heavy
duties and excess taxes were levied upon lace. An edict, dated
1729, prohibited the wearing of it, in the hope of checking
over-extravagance in dress.


Showing heavy brocade as yet unrelieved by linen or lace trimming]

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF CHARLES IX (1570)

Linen collar showing picot edge made with the needle]

After its _apogée_ under Louis XIV, lace-making was caught, along with
the other arts, in the tide of degeneracy. Its designs were marked
by fantasy and grotesqueness, rather than by the delicacy and beauty
of the preceding period; tho while it deteriorated in design, its
technique grew constantly finer and more complicated, until, from the
point of view of the workmanship at least, it seemed almost superhuman.
But in the second half of the 18th century, wearied of complications
and extravagance, people amused themselves by a return to simplicity.
The Marquise de Pompadour affected laces sown with simple “flowers,”
and Marie Antoinette went further in preferring a pattern of scattered
“points” or peas. With this return to the primitive in design, the
technique of lace reverted also. In many quarters, the sheer muslins
of the Indias gained favor over lace. Trade, already burdened with the
duties and imports that had grown up around the extravagant laces,
suffered further from the sudden popularity of the simple costume.

The death-blow of the industry in France was to follow close on the
heels of this new fashion. Since lace had been the particular pride
of the aristocrat, the Revolution made it a crime to appear in it. In
such one-time famous centers as Valenciennes and Lille, the bobbins
ceased, tho the industry of that region sought refuge farther west, in
Bailleul,—in Bailleul, dust and ashes to-day! Fortunately in Belgium,
lace-making generally survived the crisis of the Revolution, tho it has
suffered from succeeding disastrous influences.

At the opening of the 19th century and under the Empire, taste was
heavy, design rigid and military, with nothing in common with true
lace motifs. During the opening years of 1800 the invention of
machine-made tulle, brought from England to Calais, effected further
sad changes in the lace-world; scarfs, veils, entire robes of tulle,
ornamented with applications of needle or bobbin-made details—often
palms and laurel wreaths—were all the mode. People preferred these
to the exquisite lace jabots and flounces of the preceding century.
In 1833 cotton thread began to be used instead of the stronger linen
of the best lace periods. The delicate lace-art continued to suffer
with all the others under the general decadence of the reign of Louis
Philippe and the Second Empire. Industrial and commercial development
was the note of the age; the rich amused themselves in travel, in
new scenes and sports, rather than in fostering the arts. In fact,
during the thirty years following the war of 1870, lace seemed almost
forgotten except in America. The number of workers in Belgium fell
from between 100 and 150,000, to 50,000 or less.

But before the world was plunged into this last, most destructive of
wars, there had been signs of a renaissance in the decorative arts.
People had begun to read and compare, and refine their taste. The
rulers of Italy and France and Belgium were winning results in their
attempts to rescue, and to revive and develop the lace-art, which
had seemed threatened with extinction. Then came the war—and the
devastation of entire lace regions, like that of Bailleul in France,
and of Ypres in Belgium. It is true that many of the refugee lace-women
have been employed and encouraged during the four years, by certain
committees in France and free Belgium. And in occupied Belgium, the
unceasing efforts of the Brussels Lace Committee have borne rich fruit.
Whether the higher standards of lace design and technique, and the
improved condition of the lace workers—better education, shorter
hours, higher pay—will be maintained under post-war conditions is yet
to be proved. Over this difficult hour of reconstruction, of transfer
from war to what we fondly call normal conditions, we can but hope to
carry the hard-won gains of the testing period.

In this little book I make no attempt to present a history of lace,
or a detailed analysis of its processes. I have wished merely to set
down in simple form a few of my observations in the lace districts of
Belgium, as the war has left her. To follow them one does not need
even an elementary knowledge of the important lace forms, tho that is
easily acquired. For there are but two large groups; the needle-lace
group, and the bobbin-lace group, between which we learn quickly to
distinguish. We can not prove the time of their respective origins; as
we know them, they seem to have existed side by side, as they do in the
Belgium of to-day. Sometimes one was more popular, sometimes the other.

To place a piece of lace, we have first but to ask the question, “Was
it made with a needle, and by looping and twisting and weaving a single
thread; or was it made by braiding and twisting and weaving several
threads, by means of bobbins and a round or a square cushion?”

In general, there is but one technique for all needle laces, tho
there is no limit to the variety of stitches the needle worker may
employ. I have seen a scarf, made during the war for Queen Elizabeth,
in which there were many hundred different points. One comes soon to
recognize the important needle laces; the exquisite French Alençons and
Argentins of earlier days, with their meshes made with a buttonhole
loop, and their flowers stiffened with horsehair; the various
Venetian points,—Venise, Burano, and Rose point; and the extremely
popular Brussels point, with its gauze mesh and raised flowers. It is
characteristic of these needle laces, that the flowers are thrown into
relief, sometimes high, sometimes scarcely perceptible.

Bobbin laces may be made with a dozen or with one hundred times as many
threads, according to the design and width of the lace. They fall into
two sub-groups, the first including laces made with uncut threads,
in a single piece; the second, those made detail by detail, in which
the threads are cut as each is finished, the completed lace piece
being made by joining these separate parts. This second method was not
introduced until the latter half of the 17th century.

In the first group, made with uncut threads, are the early Clunys and
the common Torchons, Old Flanders, the beautiful Valenciennes, Point
de Paris, Point de Lille, Malines and Binche, with their delicate
round, or square or hexagonal meshes, from which the pattern blossoms.
Their flowers are flat, never lifted in relief, tho a heavy outlining
thread often sets them off brilliantly from the surrounding field.

The second bobbin group, in which the final lace piece is composed of
united details, includes black and white Chantilly, Blonde, popular
with Spanish peoples, Brussels Duchesse and Bruges Duchesse, most
frequently displayed in our American shops, and the finer Rosaline,
which was in great demand when the war broke out. This group of bobbin
laces admits a kind of relief.


Showing collar ornamented with bobbin-made cluny]

Some laces combine both needle and bobbin points. In the lovely Point
d’Angleterre, increasingly difficult to obtain, bobbin-made flowers are
united by an airy needle mesh. And the coarser Flanders lace has the
same composition.


About 1635, cluny lace made with bobbins]

There are, besides, the familiar and often beautiful Applications, in
which either needle or bobbin-made flowers are stitched, or _appliquéd_
on machine-made tulle, or, rarely, on a tulle made by hand. And various
mixed laces, fantasies and embroidered tulles, as well as a whole
company of cheaper tissues called lace, but which can not honestly
claim the name, are trying always to crowd the true lace from the

Naturally, the technique of any given kind of lace has undergone
various transformations through the centuries. The Valenciennes mesh,
for instance, first had round spaces, while square ones became more
popular later. During a certain period the introduction of jours, or
open-work effects, added an airy lightness to many laces.

I had the pleasure recently of being with a friend of mine, the
sister of the Belgian Consul-General at New York, Madame Kefer-Mali,
who has devoted twenty years to the study of lace, when she first
examined a lace collection lately presented to the Cinquantenaire
Museum. With magnifying glass I followed from case to case, as she
placed each specimen in its country and century, according to its
design, its mesh, the manner of directing the threads, the relief of
the flowers, the various stitches or the kind of thread employed. As
I listened to her, it was easy to appreciate why lace may become an
all-absorbing interest. Madame Kefer-Mali’s love for the lace itself
is now subordinate to her passionate desire to secure justice for the
lace-worker. As she takes a filmy length in her hand, her first thought
is of the talent and patience of the girl or woman who made it, of the
eye-straining, meticulous labor it represents, and of the pittance
still paid her for her gift to the world of art. Madame Kefer-Mali has
already won something for the _dentellière_ and she will continue to
fight for more.

Tho there are lace sections in widely scattered parts of Belgium, none
(except Turnhout) is so important as those of the two Flanders. Western
and Eastern Flanders form an almost continuous and unrivalled lace
region, which breaks up irregularly into districts, each celebrated
for a particular kind, or for several kinds of lace. However, it would
be impossible to draw an accurate map illustrating the Belgian lace
situation, either from the point of view of the varieties made and
their quality, or of the workers. It seems, indeed, at times that lace
was invented to defeat the statistician, for he no sooner reaches a
conclusion than it proves inexact; a factory rises near a certain river
and the lace women desert their cushions to accept its better wages;
in a village long devoted to Needle Point, young girls discover that
the bobbin-made Clunys pay better, or they marry and make no lace at
all until their children are partly grown; poor crops and resulting
misery may send others who have not for some time been listed as
workers back to their cushions. For, since despite the many schools and
work-rooms, the great majority of women still work at home, lace-making
is peculiarly sensitive to every change in family and community life.
We may say, however, that despite constantly shifting conditions,
Western Flanders forms a great bobbin-lace area, unquestionably the
most important in the world to-day, while Eastern Flanders has been for
centuries and still is, famous for its needle points.

Unfortunately, too, because of the miserable lace-wage (in Belgium,
before the war, it averaged about a franc a day) this industry has
been regarded always as a supplementary occupation, on which the
family could not rely for its main support, and which was not capable
of organization and amelioration as other industries are. The slavery
conditions have undoubtedly been due chiefly to lack of good schools
and constructive lace training, and to the system by which a _facteur_,
or first buyer, collects the laces, to re-sell them to a _fabricant_,
or dealer, who in turn may sell them to a larger fabricant—a system
permitting any number of intermediaries—and also to the fact that the
women, scattered as they are throughout the agricultural regions, have
never protected themselves by forming syndicates. The first step toward
emancipation has been taken; the new teaching is under way. The fatal
system of the many intermediaries remains to be dealt with—to be swept
away. And it is hoped that feeling the new power education will give
them, the dentellières will at last find ways either through unions or
by other means, of protecting themselves.

For the rest, fixt data are difficult to obtain. The lace industry can
not be captured and subjected to cold analysis and tabulation. It must
be studied differently from other industries that can be localized. As
in learning to know the garden flowers of a country, one must go from
doorstep to doorstep, so if one wishes to understand lace, one should
become familiar with its _milieu_, the family and community life from
which it springs. In a sense, then, these little journeys to lace
districts which are the subjects of my chapters, may suggest more about
what lace really is than a more technical and formidable volume.



_Lace Children of the North_

Lace is the flower of Belgium; the white blossom that springs from the
teeming plains of the Flanders, from the agricultural districts, and
from the mournful Campine of the North. During the long and solitary
winters, when work in the fields is impossible, thousands of women
and girls and little children turn to their lace cushions, and dreary
rooms are enlivened by the music of the flying bobbins. If the lace is
Needle Point, and lacks the accompanying click-clack of the shifting
_fuseaux_, it nevertheless gives purpose and value to the otherwise
almost unsupportable winter days. However, despite the time that must
be subtracted for weeding, for gathering the all-important potato
crop, and for other farm duties, summer with its bright light and long
day, is the true lace season; it is only then that some of the finest
varieties can be executed. Coarser pieces must be substituted for the
dull, eye-straining days.

To be sure, some lace-making is still carried on in certain cities,
but very little. This delicate _métier_ can not successfully combat
the influences of the social and industrial groupings of the larger
centers; the living wage, the shorter hours, the distractions of
cinéma and café. The cities remain the logical centers for the normal
and training-schools, for assembling, and display, and sale; but the
age-old patience of the lace-maker is born of a certain ignorance and
isolation. This does not mean that the industry may not persist still
on the fringes of some of the larger cities, or flourish in nearby
villages—it does; and in three conspicuous instances, until the war,
it remained the dominating activity of a city. Bruges, Ypres, and
Turnhout, could truly be called “lace cities.” Now there are but two;
for Ypres, the pearl of Flanders, is gone.

Turnhout, a town of 24,000 inhabitants, in the Northern Campine
district, is not only a “lace city,” counting 6,000 workers, but if one
considers its long list of excellent lace-schools, the fine varieties
made there, and the quality of the workmanship, it appears sufficiently
important to challenge the leadership of Bruges. However, Turnhout
stands practically alone in the north, while Bruges is the center
of western Flanders, one of the largest lace contributing areas in
Belgium, and promises, therefore, to hold for a long time her title of
first lace-city.

It is strange to think of Turnhout as a remote town, since it is
scarcely two hours by motor from Antwerp; but the first glimpse of
the intervening sand wastes of the Campine region awakens at once a
sensation of loneliness, of isolation. I made the journey in late
November, reaching Turnhout about noon of a low gray day, just as
hundreds of golden-haired children—no mists could dull the bright
gold of their hair—were clattering along the stone sidewalks in their
wooden shoes, on their way home from school. As always, I marveled
at the way they could leap and run without losing their sabots. They
were “lace children,” nearly all of them part of the little army of
1,800 in the lace-schools, and because of the intelligent work of the
soup-kitchens and dining-rooms for debilitated children during the four
years of war, were probably, many of them, in better physical condition
than they had been at its beginning. The women of the Brussels Lace
Committee had succeeded, too, in augmenting their food ration from time
to time. Their chief visible need was for stockings and shoes—and
I knew from the teachers later that they sadly lacked underclothes.
Mothers can patch and repatch, and add in various ways to outer
garments; but after a certain number of washings, undergarments simply

I went first to the convent of the Abbé Berraly which, during the
war, encouraged by the advice and support of the Lace Committee, has
developed into the model school of Belgium. It is situated in a crowded
part of the town, but its own fine brick buildings cluster about a
spacious courtyard and vegetable gardens. In summer the children work
much out of doors, tho when they are inside their class-rooms it seems
still impossible for the teachers to break with the tradition of the
closed window.

I began my visit in a little room at the right of the entrance hall,
where six older girls were still at work, tho the 500 other pupils had
gone for their lunch. Dozens of rubbed carbon copies of lace patterns
were pinned to the walls along with executed samples of the lace they
represented. This was a _piqué_ class-room; the young women seated at
high, narrow tables, were carefully at work on pieces of glossy green
cardboard on which the lace design had been drawn and which they were
pricking with pins, or covering with tiny holes, that indicate the
position of the pins that must hold the thread as it is twisted or
looped or braided, by the worker. The cardboard piqué is in a sense
both the beginning and the end of the lace course; the beginning, since
no pupil can start his lace without the piqué, or interpreted pattern,
and the end, since it is the most difficult of all the processes in the
technique of the lace. The _piqueuse_ must understand the design and
its practical execution, must interpret the picture to the worker in
terms of pin-pricks marking the progress of her thread. A good piqueuse
knows immediately, on looking at a drawing, whether it is a true lace
design, or must be adapted, and also in which kind of lace it can be
best exprest. As she shifts a pin-prick less than a hair’s width to
the left or to the right she varies appreciably the resulting mesh
or flower. She has considerable liberty in deciding which particular
stitches will be most effective to fill in the jours, or open-work
spaces indicated in the pattern.

One of the great evils of the past has been the absence of
training-schools, and the consequent lack of piqueuses; in each
generation there have been but a few good ones, who have, in a sense,
held the lace industry in their hands. Before the war, Ypres had two
famous piqueuses, to whom patterns were sent from an entire region;
and in the town of Turnhout to-day, with its thousands of workers, tho
there are several less experienced piqueuses, there is but one woman
to whom the finest and most complicated drawings can be entrusted for
interpretation. She is the only person, for example, who could make
the piqué for the beautiful scarf, which I saw later being executed
in the Point de Paris room—for that she received 90 francs. It is a
common saying that one must be born a piqueuse to succeed; at least it
remains true that in addition to her capacity for an intricate and most
meticulous labor, the piqueuse should possess a high sensitiveness to
art values.

The little room in the Abbé Berraly’s school is one expression of the
Lace Committee’s conviction that the emancipation of the industry and
of the lace-maker will come only through education.


General view]


In general the women of the past have sat dumbly before their cushions,
helpless to do anything but continue to execute, year after year,
the particular cardboard pattern the facteur, or lace agent, placed
before them. They had little or no conception of the rich art world
of which their flowered flounces were a part, and no feeling at all
of their power to influence that world by interpreting a design for
themselves, or by correcting or improving it, or even perhaps by
creating a new one. Not that all workers should become designers, or
even piqueuses—progress depends, as it does in other industries, on
specialization; but at least trained workers will enjoy the freedom
to choose and the feeling of independence that comes from a thorough
knowledge of their _métier_.

In this room then was a class of specialists, six smiling, intelligent
young women between 16 and 18 equipping themselves as experts in
interpretation. The designs on which they worked, many of them revivals
of classic ones long forgotten, or beautiful recent creations of
Belgian artists, had been sent up to them from the Committee’s central
room of design in Brussels. Before the war, they would have come from
the particular lace dealer to whose agent their laces were sold.

Opening from the little pattern room I found the office with its great
oak armoire, where the costly finished laces are stored until the day
they are taken to Brussels, to be combined into beautiful confections
for the salon or bedroom or dining-room, or for personal adornment.
Of course, some are always resold by the meter, but one of the chief
successes of the Lace Committee has been the employment of motifs and
yard laces in the production of cloths and spreads and innumerable
articles of a loveliness hitherto unknown.

From the office and the little room where the pricked cardboard
patterns are prepared for the cushions, I went further along the hall,
and turned to the left, where at the foot of a staircase were new
wooden benches awaiting the sabots of the returning children. These
benches were new because the Germans, who, here as elsewhere, had
driven the children from their school, had burned their benches, and
not only the benches, but all visible wood—they had torn casements
from the windows and doorways, as well as removing every knob and
fixture. This was disgusting, but more or less understandable. Their
country demanded more cannon, therefore they took brass and copper;
they were cold, so they ripped off the nearest available piece of wood.
But wood and metal failed to satisfy them; upstairs at one end of the
largest room there is a pretty stage arranged for school festivals,
with a painted forest background, and side wing-drops picturing
meadow-lands. These fathers and brothers of German children slashed
and ripped the painted canvas forest and ran their bayonets through
the foreground meadows, with no spur beyond that of the pleasure in
the act; for no inch of the canvas had been taken away—I could have
replaced the whole from the rags.

It was still only a little past one o’clock, and the children had not
yet returned. I went into the beginners’ room, where large windows
let in all the light there was on this gray day, and saw the long,
even rows of low rush-seated, high-backed chairs, with the school-room
sabots (where the children were fortunate enough to possess this second
pair) hanging from the backs. Before each chair was a round or square
work-cushion and over each cushion a white cloth carefully spread to
protect the precious thread-bearing bobbins beneath. The whole empty,
silent place seemed prepared for a ceremonial or religious rite; and
every snowy cushion a tiny altar awaiting its ministrant.

At last they were coming back, the younger children clattering in
ahead of the older girls, to deposit their muddy street sabots on the
benches. Such a rush of yellow-haired babies for their chairs—several
of them were no more than seven years old; many were between nine
and ten. Little feet slipt into the clean sabots, white cloths were
carefully lifted and folded, sisters and teachers began their rounds of
inspection and instruction, as tiny hands took their positions over the
heaps of bobbins—one at the left, one at the right—and the cadence
of the clicking wood began. It was impossible for me to follow these
incredible little fingers as they twisted and braided from pin to
pin. I had seen scales so rapidly played that the successive motions
were only a blur, but these shiftings back and forth of the bobbins
were even more bewildering. More strangely moving than the picture of
any great orchestra where gifted fingers wrung melody from a myriad of
strings, was this of the play of hundreds of baby hands over threads
and bobbins, as the flowers blossomed beneath them. It is said that to
become a good lace-maker one must begin, as he would if he expected to
become a distinguished pianist, at latest at the age of seven or eight.

The greater number of these little girls were making Point de Paris
edgings. They had their pricked patterns pinned near the top of the
square linen-covered cushions and were working the threads vertically
toward them. Since the pins which hold the threads in place must be
constantly moved along as the work proceeds, it is very important
that the cushion should be stuffed with something that the pins can
easily penetrate. These particular cushions were stuffed with wool,
some contain straw, and the linen covering was blue, tho it is often
the natural color. Besides guiding the tiny brass pins (which vary with
the delicacy of the lace) that hold the thread, each child must know
how to manipulate the long brass pins which separate the various groups
of bobbins not in actual use. She learns, too, to roll each finished
section of her lace in blue paper and tuck it carefully away in the
little drawer below the upper part of the cushion; the true lace-maker
prides herself on the snowy whiteness of her lace, which she protects
in every conceivable way.

While I was moving from one to another, a sister had gathered a group
of seven to ten year olds nearer the stove—a company of Fra Angelico
angels they looked, as I bent over them to watch their little hands.
They placed brass pins in the holes pricked in the pattern to hold the
rather coarse thread, twisted first two threads to the right, then
two to the left, then braided them to form the familiar hexagon of
the Point de Paris mesh. When they reached the pattern, a most simple
conventional one, other bobbins had to be brought into play. They held
the threads always from the top of the cushion vertically toward them,
with the seam edge of the lace to the left and the border to the right.
Even these babies had from 50 to 200 bobbins to keep in mind, rather
long beech-wood bobbins, these for Point de Paris, with the thread
tightly wound at the top, and a considerable pear-shaped bulge at the
end. Each lace is supposed to require a particular bobbin, especially
suited to the weight of thread employed, but workers often use them
indifferently. Some fortunate ones pride themselves on their fine ebony
or ivory sets. Of course, bobbins must be constantly resupplied with
thread, and in a corner of the room I saw a white-haired grandmother
with her _dévidoir_, or spindle, busily winding thread on the bobbins
for the children. She made a beautiful picture there at her wheel with
a dozen little girls with their cushions crowding near her. I asked if
the beginners were able to earn something and found they were making
about 10 and 15 cents a day.


On dark days lamps are lighted behind bottles filled with water, the
rays passing through fall in spotlights on the cushions]


In this model school, for all children under sixteen years of age the
lace work alternates with regular lessons, as it should of course,
in every school. Those above that age may give their entire day to
the lace. The hours for girls between nine and thirteen are: from
8 to 11 o’clock, lessons; from 1:30 to 4 o’clock, lessons again;
and from 4 to 6:30 o’clock, lace. This is still a sadly long day
for growing children, but it nevertheless registers a most cheering
improvement over the former cruelty of a far longer day. It has been
the Committee’s hope that such a system as this might be instituted
throughout Belgium, and that from it they might advance to still better
conditions. Children from thirteen to sixteen come at 7:30 o’clock,
make lace till 11:30, and again from 1:30 to 4:45 o’clock. From 5
until 6:30 o’clock they have regular school lessons—one wonders how
much education can be crowded into one and a half hours at the end of
a day that began at 7:30 o’clock! The girls over sixteen years of age
make lace from 7:30 until 6:30 o’clock. One thing to remember always,
in looking at these distressing figures, is the frequent number of
holidays in Belgium; the children are saved by their numerous _fête_

It was not easy to leave the tragic and marvelous primary room; the
fairy-like fingers and the golden heads above the cushions. But I had
to go on to room number one on the ground floor where there was another
Point de Paris class, for girls about twelve years old. In the Abbé
Berraly school the girls must pass through at least three classes in
Point de Paris before they proceed to Point de Lille, to go on from
there to the “spider-web,” or delicate and most difficult Malines.

The first striking difference between this room and the primary, was
in the number of bobbins piled on the cushions—there were hundreds
now instead of dozens. The cushions were larger, too, and most of them
were round, for many of the pupils were working on collars and doily
and handkerchief edgings. The designs were already complicated, one
of them represented, for instance, the animal symbols of the allied
nations. This class promotes to the advanced class in Point de Paris,
where I found several cushions with over 500 bobbins heaped upon them,
and girls of fourteen and fifteen years shifting that number with a
swiftness not to be followed.

Since the heavy rain was making seeing difficult, the teachers moved a
number of iron stands (resembling umbrella stands) to various points
in the room, placing on top of each stand, in the middle, a small
kerosene lamp, and, near the edge, a large globular carafe, filled
with water. The light from the lamp passes through the bottle to fall
with concentrated and magnifying effect directly on that spot on the
cushion where the work is in progress. The rack may be turned, the
bottle raised or lowered, and usually four girls profit by the light
from one lamp. It is a picturesque and primitive system, which many
still prefer to the more modern and expensive electricity, because it
is an advantage to have the working spot on the cushion thrown into
high relief, while at the same time the bottle light is softer and less
tiring to the eyes than electricity. These iron stands and lamps were
very practical and satisfactory, but I have often seen, in poor little
rooms, the bottle set on the table on a rough wooden block, with a rude
oil dip in a cup propped up on bits of stick or stone behind it to lift
it to just the proper height; as the work progresses, the position of
course must be altered.

While the girls were pulling their chairs closer to the bottles I
talked with the teachers about the place of Point de Paris in the
lace world. There is no fine lace, they told me, which is so much in
demand to-day as Point de Paris, for no lace so successfully combines
durability and beauty. It is more used for dainty lingerie than any
other variety. Paris buyers seem never to be able to secure sufficient
Point de Paris, which tho it was christened by that city and was
largely produced there during the 17th century, must now be supplied
by Belgium. Its strength depends on its solid hexagonal mesh, always
the test of lace, which is made with eight cotton threads, usually of
fairly coarse quality. From this substantial mesh may blossom a pattern
of extreme grace and beauty, the closely woven flat parts or toile,
being relieved by open-work spaces, or jours, and the whole design
outlined and thus thrown into a kind of relief by a heavier thread. The
roses of the Queen design, drawn for the Brussels Committee by Mlle.
Brouhon (who has since died), is one of the loveliest of the recent
ones. I saw, the other day, a box scented with lavender and filled with
rolls upon rolls of this rose pattern lace, ready for the day when a
château can be restored, and fine linen sheets and pillow slips with
their Point de Paris edgings can once again be spread on the beds.

Point de Lille could never be successfully used for either lingerie
or table or bed linen for it is not sufficiently durable. In room 3,
girls from fourteen to sixteen years were beginning to execute this
more difficult lace. Its clear, transparent mesh originated in the city
from which it is named, where in 1788 there were as many as 16,000
women employed on it. Its fragility results from the fact that but four
threads (instead of the customary eight of Point de Paris and Malines,
and of the mother of them all, Valenciennes) are used in twisting
and braiding the meshes. On its light, clear mesh, the designs are
now often very elegant and free, tho the traditional Point de Lille
edging has a straight border and rather rigid pattern. They are always
outlined by a heavier thread, as are the flowers of the Point de Paris
and Malines, but unlike these other laces, the Point de Lille is
characterized by little _pois_, or peas or dots, scattered through the
mesh. It is sometimes confused with Malines because of the transparency
of its mesh, which, however, is not so delicate as that of Malines, nor
so difficult to make, nor, because of its fewer threads, so solid.

One of the most popular and more solid varieties of Point de Lille
is better known as Point d’Hollande, because it is chiefly sold to
the well-to-do Dutch peasants for their handsome bonnets. It is wide
and often of sumptuous design, a sole branch or flower frequently
furnishing the entire wing of a bonnet.



In the class-room, I went directly to a dark-haired Josephine, whose
cushion seemed to hold the largest mounds of bobbins—“Yes, there are
over a thousand,” she admitted shyly and smilingly. The directress came
to help her open the little drawer beneath her round cushion, and
to shake from the blue paper a most lovely wide scarf with a charming
flower design. “I began it last January,” she added, “and I hope to
finish it this January of 1919.” One year with a thousand bobbins, and
at best 50 cents a day for her work—which was so much more than she
could have made before the war that she had no thought of complaining!
I wondered if the woman who would throw this filmy flower-sown veil
over her shoulders would care to know about the dark-eyed Josephine and
her year with the 1,000 bobbins.


But there is much more beautiful lace than either Point de Paris or
Point de Lille taught in the Turnhout school. The girls pass from
the Lille room to Malines, known in the city of its birth as the
“spider-web of Malines.” Nothing could be more airy and exquisite than
its delicate hexagonal mesh, much more difficult to make than either of
the preceding varieties because it must be worked without the aid of
pins, with only the eye to guide in securing the requisite uniformity
and exactness. No lace demands greater skill or greater patience; since
in addition to the difficulty of working without supporting pins, is
the difficulty of handling the extremely fine thread employed. The
patterns are usually of delicate flowers and leaves, with open-work
stitches introduced to add ever greater lightness to the whole.

The dentellières in the Malines room work chiefly on insertions and
flounces to be used for handkerchiefs or fichus or dainty blouses, or
perhaps for wedding gowns. The Committee has given them, too, many
orders for inserts for table centers or doilies, so exquisite that one
feels they should be used only under glass.

Scarcely an important family in Belgium but treasures a bit of old
Malines. Among my rarest pleasures were those I enjoyed, when the
conversation turning upon lace, a friend has said: “But would you care
to see my mother’s Malines, or my great, great-grandmother’s?”—and
she has brought from a brocade box a filmy, ivory-colored collar or
flounce, or a scarf or bonnet, all of a breath-taking loveliness and
delicacy never to be reproduced. I remember, too, a Christmas mass
and the marvelous flounce that fell from beneath the white and gold
chasuble worn by Cardinal Mercier over the scarlet of his robe.

It is only in Turnhout that any considerable quantity of Malines is yet
made, and despite all the efforts of the Committee and of other lovers
of beautiful lace, there is little hope that it will live much longer.
When the old artists, for so they should be named, die, few young women
are found willing still to sacrifice their years to the spider-web.

The women of the Lace Committee believe there is no future work more
important than that of improving the 200 and more lace schools of their
country. In the lace normal school at Bruges, in the national school
of design at Brussels, the excellent Needle Point school at Zele, and
in such schools as this one at Turnhout, they see the hope of the lace
art; they urge that the Government increase its subsidies to these and
other deserving institutions. Education and ever better education of
the lace-woman is their watchword.



_Early Home of Valenciennes_

For years I had heard of the blue flax fields of the valley of the Lys,
and of the season between April and September, when along miles of its
course, the river is filled with boxes floating the finest linen fiber
of the world, the flax of Belgium, North France and Holland, which can
be better prepared in its waters than anywhere else.

Unfortunately I could see it only under a January rain, but Monsieur de
Stoop, a prominent weaver of Courtrai, the town of 36,000 inhabitants
which is the valley center, made the Flanders fields bloom again as he
described to me the successive steps which lead from them to the woven
linen his factory produces—I should say, produced, for the Germans
left his plant, along with seven others, an utter ruin. He was unable
to explain and apparently no analysis has yet determined, just why the
waters of the Lys river surpass all others in their power to rot the
encasing straw and generally to cleanse the flax; but one thing is
clear, they have established Courtrai as a world market for fine raw
linen. Sometimes the stalks need be floated only two or three days,
sometimes it requires very much longer to macerate them, the period
depending chiefly on the weather, and particularly on the temperature.

[Illustration: BELGIAN LACE MESHES (Plate I)

After Pierre Verhagen in “La Dentelle Belge”

All meshes made with bobbins: 1 and 4, Valenciennes, round mesh; 2,
Valenciennes, square mesh; 3, Valenciennes, mesh almost round; 5,
Chantilly; 6, Old Flanders; 7, Point de Paris]

[Illustration: BELGIAN LACE MESHES (Plate II)

After Pierre Verhagen in “La Dentelle Belge”

Meshes, 8 to 12, made with bobbins: 8, Binche; 9, Malines; 10, Point de
Lille, made for France; 11, Point de Lille, destined for Holland; 12,
Gauze Point, made with needle, used in Point d’Angleterre; 13, Brussels
machine-made net; 14, Ordinary machine-made net.]

After its soaking and cleansing, the linen fiber starts again on its
journey, this time to the various countries where it is to be made into
thread and woven into tissues. Much goes to England and to Ireland,
to such firms as Beth and Cox. From there it returns to Belgium in
the form of linen thread for fine laces, quite a different variety,
of course, from that employed in sewing. Lace thread, both cotton and
linen, may be used for sewing, but never sewing-thread for good lace.
An outsider can scarcely estimate the importance of the quality of the
thread to the lace-maker. Of two skeins bearing the same number, one
may be supple and easily led, while the other is brittle and wayward.
We hear many stories of how women used to spend their lives in damp
cellars, in order to keep their thread moist and soft. I have been told
several times, for instance, that a certain piece of lace had been made
below ground, because only there was its marvelous technique possible.
Whatever the degree of truth or legend in these assertions, it is known
that the rarest laces require certain atmospheric conditions, and are,
above all, dependent on a superior fineness and pliability of the

The English and Irish spinneries lead the world; they produce
most of its lace thread. One of them; the Coates firm of Paisley,
has established in Belgium branches in which Belgian capital is
interested,—at Gent are the _filteries_, which prepare thread for
weaving, and at Alost and Ninove are the _filatures_ or spinneries
which turn out the finished sewing and embroidery thread. The cottons
and linens of these mills are too coarse for the delicate laces;
however, during a single war year, the Brussels Committee was happy to
be able to buy from Alost as much as 600,000 francs worth of thread.
By some miracle, the Ghent filteries escaped the practically universal
ruin visited on mills and factories, and should be operating before
peace is signed, but for the spinneries of Alost and Ninove, the future
is still dark.

During two years the enemy, feeling they might one day run the mills
where they stood, left them intact, tho they requisitioned their
stocks of thread. Then as they saw they might not perhaps be able to
continue their beneficent occupation of Belgium, even if they won the
war, they began to remove the mill machinery to Germany. They were
especially ruthless when the mills were known to be of English or
French ownership. They stole the secrets of the factories and finally
they deported the workmen. These men are scattered everywhere. Even if
the machines of the factories were not completely destroyed it would be
impossible under a considerable time to reassemble the skilled workmen
essential to the spinning industry. The Germans will undoubtedly try
to capture the trade, and to market their goods, if they must, through
such neutral countries as Denmark and Switzerland.

When I arrived at Courtrai, Monsieur and his family were just moving
back into the house from which they had been ejected. They apologized
for the room they so hospitably offered me, in which the original bed
had been replaced by an iron one they recognized as having belonged to
an English family of Courtrai. The brass trimmings were gone, and the
mattress had of course been removed, but Madame had been able to find
one stuffed with sea-moss for me. The curtains were slashed, blocks of
wood nailed to the once handsome walls, there were no lights, no metal
knobs or fixtures of any kind, no service wires left. Below, the cellar
had been almost filled with concrete to provide the conqueror a safe
refuge during danger periods. It requires a special kind of courage to
take up life again in a place like this, but these good people said:
“We can not complain, we are so much better off than others, and at
least we have saved our health; with that we can be sure of being able
to build again what they have destroyed.”

From there I went to Baron de Bethune, a connoisseur of laces, who
had before the war opened a lace museum in Courtrai, chiefly for
Valenciennes. I found him ill in a little house in the town; he had
long before been driven from his château in the suburbs. His sister,
who had with great difficulty made her way from Louvain, received me
with apologies in the midst of a heterogeny of boxes and packages, the
few personal possessions they had gathered together in the hope of
some day having a home again. I was not to see the old Valenciennes
and other specimens of the famous lace days of Courtrai; fortunately
for his museum, Monsieur had succeeded in getting them to Brussels
where they were still, to my personal regret, hidden away. However, I
was not surprized, for I had been unable before starting for Flanders
to see the celebrated collection of the Cinquantenaire Museum at
Brussels, for that, too, had been successfully secreted. Museums are
slow in rehanging their treasures. Even tho the presence of the three
neutral Ministers, the Spanish, American and Dutch, in the capital, was
supposed to be a guaranty of protection to the national collections,
and undoubtedly it was only their presence that prevented in Belgium
what happened to the Museums of Northern France, the Belgians with
unwearying ingenuity concealed what they could. Whenever I hear of
hidden laces, I am reminded of a morning at Malines and a sad little
basket containing a fine collection of old Malines lace, I saw exhumed.
It had been buried deep in a box, along with the family silver, and as
the daughter of the mother who had worn it took its once lovely flowers
and webs, now gray and earth-stained, between her fingers, they
powdered to dust.

Monsieur suggested that I see Mlle. Mullie, a leading dealer of
Courtrai, who still handles a large output of Valenciennes; tho
Courtrai, which was once a brilliant production center, is no longer
of great importance. After the French Revolution, which killed
Valenciennes-making in its original home, it migrated to other parts of
Northern France, and to the two Flanders; to Ypres, where it enjoyed an
especially happy development, to Bruges, Ghent, Dixmude, Furnes, Menin,
Nieuport, Poperinghe and elsewhere. For a long time Ghent led all
these, with over 5,000 workers listed in 1756. But starvation wages and
successful imitations have told against this, as against other laces.
Nevertheless, in the census of 1896, Bruges was still credited with
2,000 Valenciennes workers, and Poperinghe with 500, while there were
scattered groups of considerable importance in a great number of the
villages of Western, and some of Eastern Flanders.

Courtrai and the nearby villages where the lace is actually made,
still stand, tho many buildings have been destroyed, but while her
people were not forced to become refugees, lace-making was seriously
interrupted; workers were evicted from their homes and their schools.
And they suffered further because there was scarcely any thread left,
the dealers often asking as much as 20 cents for ¾ of a yard of lace
thread, about the previous value of the same length in finished lace.
Under these conditions it was especially easy to see the importance
of the efforts of the Brussels Lace Committee, which furnished thread
at the normal price, and gave more for the lace than was ever offered
before the war.

[Illustration: BOBBIN LACES

  First column: Malines, Malines, Point de Paris, Point de Paris,
    Valenciennes (square mesh)

  Middle column: Point de Paris

  Third column: First three, Valenciennes; fourth, Point de Paris]


Point de Paris lace combined with linen. The lower right-hand
centerpiece shows the rose design, emblem of Queen Elizabeth]

Unfortunately the German facteurs (agents for lace dealers) worked
cleverly here, too, as in other districts. They had always plenty of
requisitioned thread to offer, and succeeded in buying considerable
lace, for which they offered high and varying prices.

The younger women of the Courtrai region have been rapidly giving up
Valenciennes to make Cluny, which pays better. A Valenciennes beginner,
for example, must work a year as an apprentice, during which time she
is able to earn scarcely more than five cents a day. The wages of the
good workers have advanced, but unless they can be increased even more,
there are few who will continue to make this difficult lace.

After 60 years’ experience in lace, and latterly she has employed 1,000
women, Mlle. Mullie says that one is fortunate, among 5,000 workers,
to find five who can execute a sample from a drawing not already
interpreted or pricked for the worker. Before the war there were two
good piqueuses in Ypres to whom Courtrai sent her difficult patterns,
but only one of these still lives.

In peace-time the greater part of this Courtrai lace goes to Paris
(some is sent to New York), which is all one needs to say in tribute
to its pattern and its quality. Paris knows lace better than any other
city in the world; she accepts only the best. We were talking of the 60
per cent. duty the United States Government levies on imported laces,
and the harm it works to the Belgian industry. “That is our greatest
discouragement, but there are other Government stupidities,” Mlle.
Mullie smiled. “France, for instance, charges 10½ francs on a kilo
of Valenciennes, and the same amount on an equal weight of Cluny; the
Valenciennes may be worth several thousand, and the Cluny three or four

The true old Valenciennes mesh, called “Rond,” is still made at
Courtrai, as well as at Bruges; the modern Valenciennes commonly has
a square mesh, which is preferred by many connoisseurs, since it is
more transparent and sets the flowers off more strikingly. “Whether or
not you prefer it to the square, you must see the traditional round
Valenciennes mesh,” Mlle. Mullie said, and we started off in the rain
for a group of tiny brick houses, the Gottshuisen (God’s houses) which
the city furnishes free to certain old people.

Before we reached the first, I saw two white heads near a window,
bending over cushions; and once inside, on those cushions, lengths of
snowy Valenciennes of the old round mesh, of an admirable regularity
and loveliness. These two women were both over 70 years old, and they
sat before their bobbins, twisting and braiding the eight threads of
the mesh as they had twisted and braided them for over a half century,
and still cheerfully hoping that they might some day win more than 15
or 20 cents a day for their work. “Now we must have more,” they said
gently, “because thread and oil are so much more expensive than they
were before the war.”

In the next house, the old woman whose sister was ill could afford no
light at all; when dusk fell she had to leave her bobbin mounds and her
mesh and flowers and go to bed—what else could she do without coal or

It was the last day of 1918, and I decided that Mrs. Bayard Henry of
Philadelphia, who had sent me a little money to use as I chose, would
be happy to give to these sweet, faithful women and their thirteen
neighbors, candles and oil as hope symbols for the New Year. I left her
gift with Mlle. Mullie.

It was already very late, and I had not time to go to Wevelghem and
Gulleghem, two of the most important lace-villages contributing to
Courtrai. Mlle. Mullie was facing the future with courage. “I am sure,”
she said, “that Peat, from whom I have bought thread for forty years,
will not forget me, and that I may be able to count on a shipment
from England at a just price as soon as anything can come through.
That I have been cut off during four years will make no difference.
I shall write, too, to a friend in France, and from Puy I may have a
few skeins. The question of pins and bobbins is serious—they seem to
have disappeared, and one can not start a worker on less than a dozen
bobbins. Those I have thus far succeeded in finding cost 95 centimes
the dozen, as against the 28 centimes of pre-war times. There seem
literally to be no pins. However, despite everything, I, at least, hope
to see my thousand women at some not too distant time again busy over
their cushions. A few have already sought me out to let me know they
are ready, waiting only for the precious thread. I regret infinitely
the passing of the fine ‘Val,’ but we shall continue to produce as
much as we can, and at any rate we shall try unceasingly to raise the
standard of the Clunys and Torchons.”



_In the Important Bobbin Lace Area_

On a spring-like Saturday in early January, I left Bruges by the
Thourout road for Thielt. As I turned beyond the Porte, I found myself
speeding toward the great arms of one of those Dutch windmills that
so frequently, in the lowlands, close the long vista. The farther I
rode into the Thourout region, the more it seemed the loveliest bit
of Western Flanders I had yet seen. The gentle outlines of the low
red brick farmhouses followed with satisfying harmony the landscape
contours. Farm succeeded farm in swift succession, small farms, where
every square foot of soil was green with sprouting grain or vegetables,
and in the morning sunlight the thickly sown cottages shone like jewels
on the plain.

Pink and white geraniums blossomed behind many of the quaint windows,
and I knew that near them grandmothers, or mothers, or daughters (or
possibly all three together) were sitting before their cushions, and
from pin to pin were twisting and braiding Cluny and Duchesse, the
characteristic laces of this section. This was an excellent day for
lace-making with its sunshine of summer.

To the south and east of the badly shelled town of Thourout, I visited
the districts of Iseghem, Thielt and Wynghene, all celebrated for their
guipures. Guipure, a rather vague commercial term covering two widely
different groups of lace, may be loosely defined as bobbin lace without
a mesh base. One group of guipures includes the Clunys (named after
the Cluny museum in Paris because they employ many old Gothic designs)
which are made in one length or piece. They closely resemble the more
common Torchons, surpassing them, however, in fineness and firmness of
execution, and in brilliancy of design—the distinguishing connecting
bars of Cluny often throw the figures into conspicuous relief. While
this one-piece lace is usually made of the coarser threads, fine linen
or cotton, or even silk thread, is also employed. In the second group
of guipures are those made in separate small bits, or details, which
are afterward joined to make the flounce or piece, the most common of
these varieties being Flanders and Duchesse. In the schools of Thielt
and Wynghene all the kinds are taught. Because they are made of coarser
thread and therefore more quickly than such laces as Valenciennes or
Needle Point, are less taxing to the eyes, and pay better, these
guipures have gained ground in almost every lace center in Belgium, and
often threaten the very existence of the finer laces. If it had not
been for the leadership of the “Amies de la Dentelle,” of a few of the
more intelligent and disinterested dealers, and above all of certain
convents to whom Belgium owes the preservation of many of her finest
designs and varieties, it is a question if any but the few remaining
old women, who for forty or fifty years have preferred to follow one
pattern, would still produce the old meshes and points. Much hope now
centers in the corrective influence of the recently founded Normal
School at Bruges and of the other schools of Belgium, but, despite all
the efforts of these combined groups, delicate laces like the Malines
have been fast disappearing.

The little farmhouse, if one can call two rooms a house, I visited
on the edge of Thielt demonstrated clearly what is happening. It
was Saturday afternoon and the mother of the large family of boys at
play on the neat brick path outside, was scrubbing the tiled floor,
moving the small baskets of potatoes and heaps of tobacco leaves and
sabots and the winter sled from place to place as she proceeded. The
socks to be darned, each already a fantastic patchwork, were piled
on the window-sill, where there was room beside for a geranium and a
fern. The stove and the table were also crowded into this, the general
living-room, which despite all attempts to arrange things, boasted
scarcely one unincumbered foot of floor space. However, over near the
window with its two plants, were the customary chair and the cushion,
and the girl of sixteen, absorbed in her lace, quite oblivious of the
water her mother was splashing about her feet.

The adjoining room was similarly crowded; it had to serve as bedroom
for this large family. There was the mantel-piece with the familiar
row of bright plates and vases,—the place where the family’s art
sense finds concentrated expression. Fortunately, this room, too, had
a window with other plants, and before it sat the grandmother in her
black cap and shawl, who, as I entered, was just slipping her battered
eye-glasses into the little side drawer beneath her cushion. She
smiled a friendly greeting, and uncovered her lace, a filmy flounce of
Valenciennes about four inches wide, firm and regular, and of a good
old design. She had been making Valenciennes all her life; she would
make it to the end. She was delighted to show me how she twisted four
threads to form one side of the hexagon of the mesh, and four to form
the opposite, and the union points where the eight met. Then she held
up a length of her lace and told us that a facteur (neighborhood buyer
for a large business house) had been there just before we arrived,
to try to buy her flounce at nine francs the _aune_, which would be
roughly, about $2.50 a meter. The committee has been giving her 19 fr.
50 c. ($3.90) for the same amount, and she asked anxiously, tho still
smilingly, if she might not continue to hope for the committee price,
even tho the war had stopt. It is pathetic, day after day, to hear that
question repeated, and not yet to be certain of the answer. However,
one can always reply truthfully, that the women of the “Friends of the
Lace” will work unceasingly not only to hold wages where they are, but
to advance them.

I turned from this delicate lace to the granddaughter’s cushion—she
was making guipure de Cluny, of coarse linen thread. Marie’s pattern
happened to be a good one and she was working swiftly and evenly, sure
of a fair day’s wage.

Here, then, was a suggestive contrast, and however one may regret it,
it exists in the large majority of lace-making households in Belgium,
and is only to be expected. It is but the deserved penalty of a past
and present economic blindness or callousness. Where they are not
making Cluny, the younger women of this district give their time to
ordinary varieties of guipure which they call Bruges and Milan, or
Point de Bruges, and Point de Milan.

[Illustration: BOBBIN LACES

(1) Torchon (2) Cluny (3) Old Flemish (4) Binche]


Cut linen with squares of Venise surrounded by filet and cluny. Venise
made with the needle, cluny with bobbins]

While I had been watching the Valenciennes and Cluny, the mother of
the household, who had the mop of fuzzy dark red hair often seen in
this region, had hurried her scrubbing to an end, and wiping her hands
on her blue apron, was ready to uncover her own cushion. I looked
at the chapped, rough skin and the hands used to pulling weeds and
digging potatoes and scrubbing, and realized that they could not
possibly hold a piece of fine sewing—the thread would catch with
every stitch—and yet that she could turn from her scrubbing-brush to
the little wooden bobbins (her fingers need not touch the thread) and
proceed without difficulty on a snowy bit of Valenciennes—for happily
she was following her mother in Valenciennes.

There are three schools in Thielt, of which the convent schools de la
Charité and de l’Espérance are the more important. I went first to the
Convent de la Charité, with Mlle. van der Graeht, who has throughout
the war been devoted to the workers and the lace. Tho Thielt lay in the
danger zone, she refused to choose a safer city, remaining to share the
work of her father, who added to his arduous duties as administrator
of the _arrondisement_, those of the representative of the Brussels
Lace Committee. Two weeks before the end, however, the Germans drove
these patriots from their house (three bombs from Allied aeroplanes
had already fallen on it) and they were denied the experience they had
been waiting for throughout all the years, that of seeing the Allied
soldiers march into Thielt. One of the Germans was frank enough to
tell them that they were being forced away chiefly to prevent their
“assisting” at that deliverance.

Immediately after the armistice they returned, and installed themselves
comfortably once more on the first floor of their almost roofless
house. When I arrived they had not yet come in from their first
inspection trip of the communes just behind the lines, and I was
welcomed by pretty, brown-haired Flavia and her six-year-old Albert.
Flavia’s husband had been killed at the front during the first months
of the war, and she had served in this household throughout all its
terrible duration. As I looked from the windows of the drawing-room,
still intact, across the rear garden, to the mass of wreckage that was
once the neighboring house, I understood the feeling of the impotence
of all effort produced by the casualness of these bombs, that spare
here to strike there, and why in the war one inevitably becomes a
fatalist. And as I looked across the garden, Flavia told me something
of her experience with the thirteen Germans who took over the house
when they drove her master out and of how whenever the shelling was
severe they ran to the cellars, and several times tried to persuade her
to go with them but she always refused. “I preferred,” she said, “to
die alone with my little boy in the open, to risking being killed with
them in the cellar.” On Sunday, October 13, between 11 and 2 o’clock,
sixty shells fell on Thielt, and all day Monday and the following days
they continued to fall, until on Saturday the 19th, the French marched
into the town. To add to the horror of this period, people were dying
in large numbers of influenza. Flavia told me of the street-sweeper who
died at the corner with her broom in her hand. By some miracle she and
her little boy escaped both shell and pestilence, and when Monsieur
and his daughter returned they found her scrubbing and restoring as
best she could after the flight of the enemy. This was one of the
centers where during the four terror-years a bright beacon burned for
all the surrounding territory, for it was here that the people of the
villages and the convents could bring their laces for the committee,
knowing they would be accepted and paid for. In 1916, the Baron van
der Graeht was encouraging the work in no less than seventeen communes
and of as many as 3,500 lace-workers. Flavia smiled as she remembered
something—“What good luck, there will be a sister coming this very
day about 2 o’clock, with her laces.” As she said this, the door
opened—father and daughter were back from their pony-cart expedition
to the front-lines.

Monsieur was still visibly moved by what he had seen, even after his
own four years’ experience. “Madame,” he said, “I can not describe my
emotion on going about in those little shattered villages just behind
the lines, where the women have insisted on remaining, and where day
by day, and year after year, they have sat calmly before their cushions
making lace, while the shells burst before and behind them. After such
a victory as theirs, the lace industry of Belgium must live.”

Mademoiselle gave me the list of the badly destroyed villages, and
then the names of those which had suffered less and that, with Thielt,
produced the most lace. Among them were Pittham and Ardois (which
specializes in old Bruges); Ruysselede (with an excellent school for
Valenciennes), Aerseele, and Maria Loop. Thielt, itself, had at the
beginning of 1919 about 300 workers, of whom a hundred were in the
school of the convent de l’Espérance, and about 60 in the Convent
de la Charité. There had been times of great discouragement; in one
particularly dark hour in 1917 many of the workers had turned back to
the old facteurs, or village agents, for help, and unfortunately some
of these sold to the Germans, who were constantly trying to win them by
offering large sums for their laces. Since he was under no obligation
to turn over a fixt wage to the workers, the facteur might reap any
profit he could secure.

We abandoned this unpleasant subject to talk of the schools, the hope
of the future, and after lunch I went with Mlle. to visit one of these,
the Convent de la Charité, on the edge of the town, with its 60 girls,
who have supplied the committee with much old Flanders and Cluny. Even
tho this was a Saturday afternoon in winter, 45 of the 60 chairs were
occupied by girls between 12 and 16. One rarely finds a girl over 18
in the schools; once she has learned her trade, she prefers to work at
home with the mother and grandmother.

Unfortunately in this, which is considered a “good” school for
Flanders, I found the longest hours I had yet met, that is, summer
hours. In winter, because of the poor light, they are shorter. It seems
unbelievable, but the sisters told me that in summer the children come
at 5:30 o’clock and work until 8 at night—with only three half-hours
for recreation—one at 8:30 o’clock, one at 12, and one at 4. A day of
13 hours for growing children, and girls who are maturing! It is such
cruel conditions as these that the Committee have done their best to
ameliorate. In this case, tho the hours are still criminal, the wages
have been improved.

However, “improved wages” leave much still to be fought for. I talked
with a girl of twelve in the front row, an apprentice, and found that
she earns between 40 and 50 centimes a day, or about 10 cents for her
13 hours’ labor, which tho it is almost double what she could have
earned before the war, is nevertheless only 10 cents per day. The
Committee was able to add the war-time subsidy of 20 per cent. to this.
Naturally, the learner can not yet make what is called good lace, and
unfortunately her parents are often only too content to have her bring
home 10 cents a day. The older, more experienced girls, were earning
from one to two francs a day, or from 20 to 40 cents, that is, on a
summer’s day or full day.

Monsieur told me later that in his region if the wage of the good
worker can be raised to 50 cents per day, she will be able to live, and
will be content to remain at home before her lace cushion rather than
to go to the shoe and cotton factories of Thielt.

The advanced pupils were eager to uncover their treasure. Nearly all of
them had protected their round cushions with a circular piece of thick
blue glazed paper, with a hole in the middle. Through the hole they
worked with their rather heavy cherry wood bobbins, on the meshless
guipures of Cluny and Bruges and Flanders, which this school prefers.
Several were finishing the collar and cuff sets of rather coarse
but pretty Bruges with its characteristic rose and trefoil, seen so
commonly in shop windows, and which are especially effective when worn
with cotton or linen frocks. The Guipure de Flandres pupils were making
square insets for table and tray-cloths of simple, geometric designs.
Two girls were at work on what they called Guipure de Milan, of a wide
spreading branch and flower pattern.

However, the most interesting lace was not the guipure but the Point
de Flandres or Old Flanders, with its elaborate mesh base, just now
experiencing an interesting and encouraging revival, in which the
zealous Baron van der Graeht felt Thielt should assist. A half-dozen
older girls were executing doily and table center rounds in this lace,
after the Committee’s very popular Swan pattern. They were using a
fairly coarse linen thread, and working the rich, solid mesh with eight
bobbins. “Whoever would make the Old Flanders mesh must be willing
to play a game of patience,” Madame had once said to me. The dull,
plain woven parts of the pattern are brilliantly outlined by a still
coarser thread, and in the “jours” or open-work spaces are the much
loved snow-balls characteristic of Binche lace. Because of its combined
strength and beauty, there could hardly be a more successful lace for
general use than this Old Flanders, sometimes called Antik.

While it was once the most generally made and most celebrated of
Flemish bobbin laces (it was known in every part of Flanders in 1500),
it had been almost forgotten for generations, but even tho it has been
little remembered for some time, Old Flanders may be said never to have
died. In certain regions, that of Antwerp for instance, it is found
continuously on the garments of priests. It is the lace that remained
always at the base and from which the other bobbin laces, from time to
time, sprang. It is to be hoped that the Committee’s laudable effort to
revive it will bear increasing rewards.

Tho they could understand no French, and I knew only a few words
of Flemish, these little and big girls found much amusement in my
visit, and in my inability to follow their swift fingers. These were
fingers accustomed, too, to weed the fields and to dig potatoes, for
there is practically no lace made here during the weeks of August and
September when the potato-crop is gathered. The Sisters of Charity,
teachers in this school, were poor themselves, as their surroundings
testified. They had no fine carved oak armoire for their laces, but
brought from some safe place a tin box, like an ordinary bread-box, in
which were the dainty white packets ready to be sent to the Committee
at Brussels. As they were exhibiting piece after lovely piece, they
unfolded the swan pattern doily rounds of Old Flanders, and after a
moment’s hesitation, Sister A. ventured, “There is one thing you might
do for us, Madame; when you return to Brussels, could you not tell the
Committee that while the small swan doily rounds are sufficiently paid,
this large centerpiece round is not? It is our fault in estimating; we
did not realize how long it would take to make it.” I could not resist
teasing them a little and replied that I should be delighted to carry
the message were it not for the fact that it was precisely this set of
swan doilies (as it was) that the Committee had given me for Christmas.
“Should you like me to tell them,” I asked, “that they had not paid
enough for my present?” They were covered with confusion, as I expected
they would be, and then how they laughed, those frail little sisters.
“_Mais_, Madame, that would indeed be difficult; we will write; we had
forgotten. _Non_, Madame, you certainly could not tell them that! But
we can write letters now whenever we wish—can we not? One loses the
habit in four years.” And then they laughed again all together.

It was already late when I reached Wynghene. The shell-pitted roads of
western Flanders had made all my traveling difficult and I could not
see Mlle. Slock, one of the rare lace dealers who has looked beyond
her immediate purse and has taken time to revive old models and invent
new ones, seeking in every way to raise the standard of the present
production in all her region, which is chiefly devoted to Cluny. I had
not time to stop in the village, but hurried on beyond it to a cheerful
red brick manor house set in a forest, the home of the Burgomaster of
Wynghene, whose wife has been the untiringly devoted representative of
the Committee for this section.

As we sat at tea together, near the conservatory windows, where we
could look through the naked garden trees across a meadow to the
forest beyond, the Burgomaster told me of the morning when they stood
at these windows, after the shells had been falling for days all about
them, waiting and watching, scarcely daring to breathe, and of how as
they watched, he saw through the trees of the forest what looked like a
brown shadow, but the brown shadow moved, and then running across the
meadow, where he had always believed they must break through, came the
Belgian soldiers, the soldiers of deliverance. “I know our hearts stopt
beating; we stood choking, incapable of motion, as we watched them
come—still unable to believe after four years of waiting.”

We were silent for a few minutes, then we began to talk of the lace.
As his wife turned to get the list of her villages, I asked if the
Germans had attempted to get her workers away from her. “They had their
agents here, as everywhere,” she answered, “and I regret to admit that
one of their most successful ones was a Belgian woman, who had been a
facteur, or lace gatherer for larger houses, before the war. When the
Germans offered her large prices, she consented to serve them. If she
had been sacrificing herself for what she believed to be the good of
the workers, we might have forgiven her, but it was obvious that she
was not—she is pretty and likes pretty clothes—_Voilà tout!_ Along
with several other disloyal citizens, she was imprisoned the other day,
but unfortunately after only twenty-four hours, succeeded in freeing
herself. However, the people will never forget that she trafficked with
the enemy.”

I had known of the German lace organization first through seeing the
huge sign, “_Allgemeine Spitzen Centrale_” (Central lace depot), just
across from our C. R. B. offices. And as soon as I got in touch with
the loyal work of the women of the Belgian Lace Committee, I was
daily hearing of this or that attempt of their oppressors to capture
the designs and the output of the country. They might succeed with
the simpler, more helpless workers, who because of their great misery
may be forgiven for selling to them—and with the deserters and
activists—but they were daily defeated by the Committee patriots.
I was thoroughly interested to hear, now, from one of the patriots,
that the idea of the German “Lace Control” possibly had its birth in
Wynghene. In February, 1915, a certain Freiherr Von Rippenhausen was
stationed at Wynghene. He had with him his young American wife—they
had been married but a short time, and the people of the village were
kind enough to say they believed she was not German by conviction!
However that may be, the Von Rippenhausens requisitioned lodgings in
the house of one of the lace buyers of Wynghene, and in this house
they naturally discovered much regarding the lace situation, the lack
of thread, and the distress of the workers, and of the Belgian system
by which the facteur furnishes the thread to the worker and buys
the finished products, which he in turn sells to a big lace house,
reaping what profit he can as intermediary. Frau von Rippenhausen,
in particular, informed herself thoroughly, and together she and
her husband, it is said, organized the German “Lace Control,” with
headquarters at Brussels.

Since the Germans had requisitioned all the thread they could lay
their hands on, of which there were enormous stocks in Belgium, it was
not difficult for them to offer it to the workers. They sent German
soldier facteurs into every corner of the country to offer large prices
to native facteurs or to individual workers. On receiving a piece of
lace, they supplied an equal weight of thread to the workers, thus
establishing a continuing chain of material and product. And they
claimed to be selling their lace in America! They were clever enough to
profit, in 1917, by the Committee’s apparent inability to go on at that
moment, exercising every pressure they could, and naturally they gained
ground. No one can say yet how much lace they were able to buy, but the
amount of inferior lace was considerable.

Madame Van der Bruggen’s records show that before 1917 there were in
Wynghene, contributing to the Committee, 400 workers on Cluny and
Duchesse, about 200 on Cluny and Valenciennes in Beernem, 200 on
Valenciennes in Oedelem, and 350 in Oostcamp, all grateful to have the
Committee’s fixt minimum of three francs’ work a week insured to them.
Some of these villages, Beernem and Oostcamp for instance, are usually
included in the Bruges district.

She praised the Committee’s method of raising the wage by standardizing
the values of certain designs as executed by an average worker; the
poorer workers then gained less, the superior ones, more. “I thought
I realized,” she said, “how cruelly underpaid our women were, but it
was not until I saw their joy when the Committee promised them that at
least they should always have a minimum of ten centimes an hour for
their work, that I really understood. Ten centimes (two cents), just a
postage stamp, for a whole hour’s straining effort; and they were happy
because that was so much more than they had been sure of winning before
the war!”



_Belgian Home of Chantilly_

The Committee was discouraging about Grammont. When I told Madame de
Beughem of my plan to go there to see Chantilly lace in the making,
she answered, “But that will be a futile journey; the women have had
practically no black or white silk thread since the war, and the few
who were still working in 1914 will have stopt; that one-time important
branch of the industry has almost ceased to exist.” I decided, however,
to visit the tomb of Chantilly, the lace so closely identified with
Grammont that in Belgium it takes its name from that city, rather than
from its original French home.

And Grammont itself, a town of 13,000 inhabitants, was well worth the
journey, situated as it is in a lovely region of rolling hills, and
deriving its name from the steep slope (Grand Mont) to which part of
the city clings. The surrounding undulating country is dotted with
quaint, clustered villages, some with thatched, some with tiled roofs,
and only twenty miles away is the charming town of Audenarde—poor
Audenarde, so cruelly wounded by the war!

I reached Grammont about noon, having lost an hour on the way through
the difficulty of passing camions and artillery and marching companies
of Canadian soldiers. Between Ninove and Grammont, too, were many
squads of German prisoners at work on the ruined road. They were
guarded by the French, but it was a rather lenient surveillance, at any
rate the sullen groups in their trailing gray capes appeared to be
casually tapping the mud with their spades instead of being genuinely
at work.


[Illustration: CUSHION COVER

Center Venise, borders Valenciennes, lace executed by 12 workers in one
month, embroidery and mounting by four women in two months, design by
M. de Rudder]

[Illustration: TEA CLOTH

Point de Paris, cock design]

My Belgian chauffeur, whose health is broken after three years of
forced labor in Germany, would have been delighted to run them down,
and at one point did succeed in splashing a group with mud, as he
called “Boches” and something I did not catch. I began to understand
the ruling that released Belgian prisoners shall not be placed over
Germans still held here.

After lunch I started with Madame Cuseners to the little lace school
whose director has courageously carried on during the four years. We
walked through a narrow arched passageway beside a brick building
and into a large hall at the rear which was at one time the lace
class-room. Instead of lace-workers, however, we found Scotch and
Canadian soldiers busy tacking the Union Jack and Belgian flags on
the wall, and hanging boughs and festoons of colored paper rings—they
were making ready for a “grand” New Year’s Eve dancing party. In
the courtyard still farther back a half-dozen Scotchmen had built a
campfire, protecting it with a low canvas roof, and it was burning
brightly despite the dismal rain.

It shone on the windows of the long, narrow room at the side of the
court, which looked like a conservatory, but which had become the
refuge of the lace-workers, when because of lack of thread and fuel,
they could no longer occupy their hall. I found fifty sweet-faced girls
between thirteen and fifteen busy over their cushions, a faithful,
tired-looking old Abbé and an enthusiastic young woman teacher. They
were not making black nor the less important white silk Chantilly, for
they had long been entirely without silk thread. Nevertheless, they
were preserving the art of making it, since they had been kept at work
on Chantilly designs executed with bobbins and the white cotton thread
furnished by the Committee. They had some fine flounces, which were
not, however, to be compared with the traditional black silk ones of
the great Chantilly days.

For Chantilly has seen great days. It appeared first in France
about 1740, where it achieved a phenomenal popularity, which was
unfortunately rudely ended by the Revolution, for since it was a
favorite lace at court, the Revolutionists made it a crime to appear
in Chantilly. Later, under the Empire, it enjoyed a revival, the
fabrication of the silk laces spread in France; Bayeux became a
celebrated center; and, finally, toward 1835, it crossed to Belgium,
where Grammont was early recognized as its home. In 1851 all of the
forty-nine schools of that province taught the technique of this
lace. Then toward 1870 true Chantilly seemed doomed a second time
to extinction by the success of the machine imitations of St. Pierre
des Calais, and also because the vogue for black lace had passed. But
again the pendulum has swung back; the imitations are now greatly in
favor and there is a cheering increase in the demand for the true lace

The Abbé brought out from dusty drawers the school’s stock of designs,
elegant groupings of bouquets and foliage, with occasional striking
geometrical details introduced, all joined by a fine hexagonal mesh,
which resembled at first that of Malines, and later, more closely, the
Point d’ Alençon mesh. The fact that this lace is often used for scarfs
and gowns, and that the customary flounce is of generous width, has
encouraged the development of elaborate patterns. Some of the sketches
were divided by heavy pencil lines into the separate narrow strips
on which the lace-maker actually works. To achieve the wide flounce,
these strips are attached one to another by special workers who employ
a joining stitch that defies detection. The individual pattern strips
include both mesh and flowers and follow irregular lines, curving, it
may be, to include a full-petaled rose. When one examines the fineness
of the clear hexagonal mesh that forms the base of Chantilly, it seems
all the more remarkable that the division lines are not visible. This
Chantilly mesh has differed during various periods and besides there
are always almost as many varieties as there are workers, for one
weaves more closely or more firmly than another. I came soon to realize
how great a difference in effect results from a practically invisible
variation in the thickness of the thread, or in the manner of twisting
or looping it or in the placing of the pins. One of the distinguishing
characteristics of Chantilly is the relief produced by a heavier thread
that outlines the pattern and forms the twigs and veins of the leaves.
In securing a brilliant relief, the French have always succeeded better
than the Belgians.

These Grammont pupils were also making Blonde, a favorite lace with
the Spanish people, and introduced into Belgium from France at the
same time as Chantilly. Its processes are very similar, tho it is
easily differentiated from its sister by the heavy glossy petals of its
flowers and their conspicuous open-work centers in the Point de Paris
stitch. The name Blonde is derived from the écru silk which was first
employed in its making; now it is made of white or of black silk, and
chiefly in the form of scarfs or mantillas. The girls were making their
war-time Blonde of cotton, the good Peat cotton of Nottingham, brought
in by the C. R. B. for the Lace Committee. It is practically only in
the Grammont and Turnhout regions that Blonde is still made.

The instructress showed me the little bundles of poor, crooked brass
pins that were all that remained after four years of the occupation,
explaining what harm poor pins can work in a fine mesh like that of
Chantilly. Then she asked if I could not tell them when they might
expect new ones. Alas, these disheartening months of the winter of
1918–1919 when one hope after another has been deferred; so many things
to be done at once, and all depending on the re-establishment of a
system of transportation utterly destroyed.

I went from the school-room, past the fire in the courtyard, back to
the large hall where the Canadians were still decorating for their
party, and where we wished one another a Happy New Year—brave
Canadian boys well loved by the Belgians—then on to the house of
Madame’s mother, who for a half-century has been a lace _fabricant_,
or dealer, and whose front room served easily as combined salon and
office. Precious laces need very little space; they can be stored in a
handsome carved oak armoire, which is at once a safe and a beautiful
article of furniture. This old lady’s hair was still dark and glossy,
as is so often the case with grandmothers in Europe, and her brown
eyes were bright and keen. She talked of the time when there were more
than twenty dealers employing over 2,000 workers on Chantilly in the
Grammont region, and of the gradual decline of the industry. “Certain
empty houses on the heights above the town tell the story. Long ago the
lace-makers left the valley at the foot of the slope, and seeking the
brighter light on the hill, formed a lace colony there; but they have
come down again, the houses on the hill are deserted. One by one the
skilled old workers have died, and their secrets with them. There is
only one really excellent piqueuse left and she is a baker-woman who
exercises her talent of pricking patterns between baking! And I believe
that instead of the former thousands, we have not more than eight
hundred dentellières to-day. Here, as elsewhere, factories have come,
and the lace has fled. With us it is the cigar and the match that have
banished it, they furnish better wages and our women follow. However,
if we can win a higher pay for the lace, and can but develop the little
school you have just visited, and continue to train our girls, we shall
yet be able to restore Chantilly. Especially,” she added, “if we can
be helped by that fickle Mistress Fashion, who last year smiled again
on the black lace gown. Some of our patterns for robes can be made in
a few weeks, but the truly fine ones take months, even a year to make.
All depends on the design and the number of threads. We have had much
to combat in the success of the marvelous Calais machine imitations of
Chantilly, but true lovers of lace will never be content with them,
however clever they are.”

She shook out a folded triangular shawl. “There is no lace in the
world more beautiful than this,” she said, as she spread it on the
white tablecloth, the better to display the wealth of its black flower
clusters and long fronds, and then had me squeeze the delicate mesh in
my hand to test its resiliency. I could not but agree with her. Her
daughter brought out an exquisite collar, a tendril and flower pattern,
with long tabs that could be crossed in front and let fall like a sash
behind, a “Marie Antoinette” of most tempting loveliness; then a dainty
parasol and a fan and a few filmy winged butterflies—all pieces made
before the war, before the Germans set a wall of fire between the women
of Grammont and the silk thread (Grenadine d’Alays) which meant their

I was glad to have a few hours of sweeping hill country between these
elegant black laces and the Valenciennes I was next to see; for the
moment all white lace seemed negligible.



_Queen of Lace Cities_

After a day beside the graves of Nieuport and Dixmude and Ypres, the
first glimpse of the singing towers of Bruges against the evening sky
seems an unearthly vision. During four years no one had known that
Bruges would not perish as her sisters had perished. One must have come
direct from the desolation of Nieuport, to her pignons and bridges,
from the skeleton of Les Halles of Ypres to her Hôtel de Ville, to
estimate her incomparable beauty. Since Ypres is dead, only Bruges and
Turnhout remain as true lace cities of Belgium; Ghent, the elegant
neighbor of Bruges, and herself once a Queen in the lace world,
has turned to her factories and no longer counts. Except Turnhout,
then, with its famous schools for fine laces, no Belgian city to-day
challenges the leadership of Bruges, and beyond Belgium, she has but
one great rival—Venice.


This claim to leadership rests on a solid foundation. Bruges is of
ancient lineage in the lace world; she has preserved unbroken, through
at least four centuries, the traditions of that world. There are
those even who believe that mediæval bobbin lace had its origin in
her territory, and they are at least supported by legend. A pretty
story tells of a poor and infirm widow, who with her many children
lived in a little street of Bruges. The entire family depended only
on the work of Serena, the eldest, who from dawn till dark turned her
wheel. She had long been loved by a neighbor, Arnold, the son of a
great merchant, and she did not view him with disfavor. But as winter
and misery settled again on the poor little hut, and Serena saw that
all her efforts appeared vain, she vowed to the Virgin never to marry
unless her family could be rescued from their suffering. Then one day
when near the Minnewater, as she was making sad thoughts, suddenly
she saw a light, and from the Virgin threads descended toward her,
which, skipping the branches, dropt in her lap, where they by chance
designed lovely patterns. Serena understood this to be the response to
her prayer, and she tried at once to reproduce the arabesques in linen
thread. She ended by attaching little woods to them and by aiding them
with pins. And thus to the great emotion of Bruges bobbin-lace was
born. And all the rich seigneurs and bourgeois wished to possess it.
Ease came and Serena married Arnold, and they had many daughters, all
of whom she taught to make lace.


  First column: Bruges
  Middle column: Bruges, Bruges, Bruges, Rosaline
  Third Column: Rosaline, Old Flanders, Old Flanders, Duchesse]

The often quoted picture in the Louvre Gallery, painted by Hans Memling
(14—to 1494) and representing the Virgin and the Infant Christ
surrounded by gift-bearers, among whom is a rich Brugeois wearing a
gray costume trimmed with a bobbin-lace edging, certainly indicates
that the industry existed in this epoch, and possibly had its center at
Bruges, then the principal city in Flanders and the seat of the court.
Furthermore, records prove that already at the opening of the 16th
century, lace-making was included as a necessary part of the education
of women. The edicts of Charles V requiring that it should be taught
in all the schools and convents, greatly stimulated its development in
Bruges, as well as throughout the entire Flanders and the provinces
of Hainaut, Brabant and Antwerp. It became so popular an occupation
for women that Charles’s successor, Philip II, required that the
magistrates of Ghent and Bruges restrict the number of lace-workers in
their cities, in order that the rich might find some women left willing
to serve them. Another enlightening document shows that in 1544 Bruges
counted 7,696 poor among her population, and that the department of
public charity required of the young women among them that they should
cease to walk the streets and should learn the lace industry. There
were at that time many lace schools. During the following centuries,
Bruges maintained her position as a lace center and was able to
survive the death-blow the French Revolution dealt the industry. For
we find, about the middle of the 19th century, the city still counted
seventy-nine schools, attended by 2,722 pupils, while in Valenciennes,
for example, lace-making no longer existed.

There is, then, a rich and ancient past back of the clicking bobbins
of the Bruges of to-day. After four years of German rule it is still
difficult to give accurate statistics, but generally speaking, in this
city of 54,000 inhabitants, as many as 5,000 women and girls make lace
of some sort. If you question the average woman, she will probably look
at you in surprize and say: “How many lace-makers? Why, everybody;
there is hardly a house in Bruges without its cushion and bobbins.”
While if you put the same question to such a celebrated lace dealer
as M. Gillemont de Cock, who counts gold and silver medals from many
nations, he will be very apt to answer: “Madame, before the war I knew
of about thirty, now I can not say!” The Lace Committee at Brussels
considers 5,000 a fair estimate for Bruges and her contributing
villages, which is the number given, too, by Professor Maertens of the
Normal School.

By the Bruges district is meant chiefly Bruges, quite the contrary of
the usual situation. One hears of the Alost region, for instance, and
finds that while the villages of the surrounding area count thousands
of workers, in the city of Alost itself very few are left. However,
Bruges, too, counts some few outlying villages. Madame Ryeland,
representative during the war of the Brussels Lace Committee, told me
that forty communes contributed to her committee, the most important
being Syssele (where Valenciennes is the favorite lace), Maldeghem
(applications and filet), Saint Andre (Cluny and Valenciennes),
Oostcamp and Lophem (Valenciennes), Saint Croix (Cluny and other
guipures), and Saint Michele (an unusually beautiful Duchesse de

In Bruges itself there are three important convent lace schools,
working largely for the shops, but which also execute private commands;
the convent school of the Apostolines, typical of those where the
children learn a little Flemish, a little French, much catechism, and
for the rest make the laces of the region from morning till evening;
the school Defoere, and the well-known school Josephine. Each has
between 100 and 200 dentellières, who make the popular Torchons and
Clunys and Valenciennes, and also the more difficult Binche, with its
mesh characterized by the airy “_boules de neige_,” snow-balls. They
make, too, Old Flanders, which has a particularly strong and elaborate
mesh; and of course the Duchesse de Bruges, or Bruges, for which the
city is famous. In addition to the convent schools and a few other
less important laique schools and some work-rooms, one finds in the
Hospices, or free homes for the old, another goodly company working
together. In their picturesque retreats some 200 old women pass their
days making lace, chiefly Valenciennes.

There remain the individual households; to the common statement that in
each one, some member makes some kind of lace, one might add, at some
time during the year. If the children from these homes do not go to the
schools to learn, they are taught by their mothers and grandmothers. A
favorite Christmas gift to children is a cushion and set of bobbins,
with which they soon learn to produce simple patterns. For example,
Madame Roose, the daughter of the concierge of the Groothuis Museum,
which houses the marvelous Baron Liedts collection of old laces,
accustomed from childhood to see and hear of these laces, became
herself a lace-maker and later a successful dealer and now has five
daughters of her own, all of whom she has herself taught to ply their
bobbins. The Lace Committee told me that during the war the clothing
committee had difficulty in finding young girls and women who could
darn and sew even moderately well; since childhood they had given all
their time to lace-making. Conscious of the danger in this situation,
the Lace Normal School preaches that until she has learned other
necessary things, no young girl should be allowed to spend more than
half a day over her cushion.


Symbolic color pattern on left-hand easel; demonstration bobbins
attached to colored threads at right]

By far the greater number working at home make Torchon, Cluny and
Valenciennes, tho the Bruges district is celebrated, too, for Rosaline
and Binche and Old Flanders, and above all for the Duchesse de Bruges,
once so named because it was thought worthy to adorn a Duchess. Bruges
lace has always been made entirely with bobbins, in separate flowers,
or details that are united not by mesh, but by little picot-edged cords
or bars. There are many varieties of this familiar lace; between the
coarse, much marketed modern Bruges, with its well-known roses and
trefoils, sometimes scarcely meriting the name of lace, and the Bruges
of the robe presented in 1901 to Queen Elizabeth, then the Princess
Elizabeth, there is a deplorable distance. The individual trefoils
and arabesques and roses of the coarser kinds are made very quickly
on the round cushion, which can be readily turned, and are produced
in great quantities in many of the communes of the Bruges region,
while fortunately in such a village as Saint Michel one can still see
exquisite examples of the finer Bruges in the making.


Made with bobbins; executed in Flanders by 30 women in three months;
design by The Lace Committee]

Rather than be introduced to the lace-making of Bruges by the younger
workers in the schools, or in one of the thousand homes given over to
it, I preferred to go first to the place where probably more strangers,
especially English and Americans, have been initiated into the
mysteries of the cushion and its bobbins than anywhere else in the
world. There have been other famous Béguinages in Belgium—congeries
of houses maintained by private endowment, for women, who, while
they object to taking the vows of the convent, yet wish to live in
a kind of partial retreat from the world and under the protection
of the church—but none lovelier than this one of Bruges, with its
sixteenth century buildings of pure Flemish architecture, grouped
about a wide green court shaded by elm trees. Naturally the Béguinage
has not been a mecca for travelers and artists merely because several
of the gentle old ladies in retreat there made beautiful lace; they
have come in search of its quaint pignons and doorways, its inner
gardens, the bridges that span the surrounding canals where the swans
paddle peacefully. And they have been delighted to find included
in the picture the white-capped women before their lace cushions,
intent (doubtless unconsciously) on perpetuating other beauties, as
old as those of the buildings encircling the court, the designs of
Valenciennes that have been handed down by French and Belgian mothers
to their children through generations. These ladies of the Béguinage
may keep their private fortunes and pay for the privileges of the
retreat. They are supposed, however, to live austerely; their charming
brick houses are white inside—wall-papers (as being too gay) are
forbidden—while the floors are covered with a kind of pretty, rude
rush carpet. They may not go on journeys, and no man outside, except
the clergy, may enter the sacred precincts of the court, the gates
of which are closed at 8 o’clock. Can one imagine an atmosphere more
encouraging to hours spent patiently in lace-making? It is recorded
that in the Béguinage of Ghent, in 1756, there were as many as 5,000
women engaged in making the Valenciennes for which that city was
famous. But the day of this particular kind of retreat has passed, and
even at Bruges many of the houses are vacant; when the old die, there
are few who wish to take their places. And it is only because those few
who remain preserve the best traditions of the lace that they count
in the lace-world of to-day; the quantity produced is negligible.
Nevertheless, I was delighted that my first knowledge of Bruges lace
should come through the few wide Valenciennes flounces of exquisite
flower and vine pattern and firm and even workmanship that I found
still pinned to the cushions of the Béguinage.

Curiously enough, in this retreat, pervaded by the sadness that
inevitably reigns where the old order changes, I found the young and
enthusiastic Vicaire, Professor Maertens, assistant director of the
new Lace Normal School of Bruges. He lives with his aunt, who is the
mother director of the Béguinage and called “Madame, la Grande Dame,”
tho she is still Mademoiselle. The Béguinage may in one sense represent
the despair of the lace, since what is happening there is happening
throughout Belgium. But in the person of Professor Maertens of the
Normal School, the Béguinage represents, too, the hope of the lace.
In the plain little room of his charming Gothic house, he explained
with admirable clarity the necessity which led to the founding of
this Normal School by the State in 1911, and the system which it has
developed. He then arranged that I should “assist” at the _réouverture_
of the school the following morning. There was to be a reopening
because, in common with so many schools of Belgium, the Lace Normal
had been driven from its quarters by the Germans, and tho after their
eviction the teachers had persisted in continuing their classes in a
convent, where their persecutors forced them to receive two Austrian
pupils (from whom, however, they concealed much), they were in the
true sense to begin again on January 7, 1919. That was fully four
weeks after the invader had had to evacuate, for eager as they were to
commence, with their best effort, they had not been able before this
to prepare three school-rooms and a few smaller ones on the ground
floor for use. We are accustomed to the pictures of the territories
desolated by the Germans, but unless one goes from house to house in
the districts supposed to be left unharmed, he can have no conception
of the state in which they were left. However, by Thursday morning the
few rooms on the ground floor had been disinfected and whitewashed,
and the Lace Normal School of Belgium re-opened its doors at 8:30
o’clock. Poets have described the shining faces of children on their
way to school—but after pupils and teachers have been ground under the
heel of an implacable oppressor for four years there is still another
light in their faces as they reassemble in a free school-room. It was
generous of them to allow me to share their first morning.

The teachers’ course covers two years. In order to insure careful
individual training the directors prefer to have no more than eight
or ten earnest students in each year’s class; they prefer, too, that
these shall not have been lace-makers before entering, and that they
be between sixteen and thirty years of age. There are, then, two
class-rooms, light and airy, and equipped with blackboards and charts,
and the all-important large demonstration cushion with its gigantesque
bobbins attached to heavy colored wool threads to aid the eye and
brain. Each young woman records the steps of her progress in a series
of copy-books so beautiful in their penmanship and their drawing as to
recall at once the manuscripts of long ago.

What, then, is the instruction which they receive? Since there had
never been a system of teaching lace-making in Belgium, the directors
of the Normal School were obliged to develop one, and as it exists
to-day, logical, comprehensive, far-seeing, it belongs exclusively to
the School of Bruges. By the defective method employed before, a pupil
was taught to make one kind of lace, then another, and another, but
tho she might become proficient in the execution of thirty kinds, she
might still be incapable of executing a new thirty-first variety if it
were presented to her, because she had not been taught the underlying



Made with bobbins on round cushion]

The Bruges directors found, after a long and careful analysis of the
processes employed in all known laces, that they depend on but
between twenty and thirty major operations, and that, in the final
analysis, for the bobbin laces, these reduce themselves always to the
simple question, “Does the thread pass from left to right, or does it
pass from right to left?”


They chose specific colors, red, purple, green and others, to represent
specific movements of the threads, thus establishing a symbolic color
system of design which enables the pupil to read a blackboard drawing
as he would a written page. And they realized that before the processes
are portrayed by lines on the blackboard, they should be executed with
the gigantesque bobbins and the colored wool cords.

They then outlined the two years’ work, which they made to include
classes in practical lace-making, in design, in commerce and English,
in the history of lace-making, and religion. Because the two years’
course was already over-crowded they did not attempt to teach the
needle points, which, according to them, do not demand a system of
instruction in the same sense that the bobbin laces require it.
Besides, they look upon bobbin lace as more uniquely Belgian and as
therefore more necessary to develop. Dr. Rubbens of Zele, farther east,
plans soon to have a needle lace Normal School in operation in that

In the first year class, a demonstration of the use of the tools, the
winding-wheel, the cushion and bobbins is followed at once by the study
of the Torchons, which tho they are the commonest known laces, yet
in all their varieties employ all the more important lace processes.
The Torchons once thoroughly mastered, the student has traveled a
considerable distance on the lace journey. The study of Torchon is
succeeded by Cluny in all its varieties and Cluny is in turn followed
by a kind of barbaric Russian lace, of baroque design, which is,
like the Torchons and Clunys, made of linen thread, and resembles
them closely in other ways. The finer laces, Valenciennes, Duchesse,
Flanders, and others are taught only after these first three groups
have been mastered.

Along with the actual lace-making, the students follow courses in
design, where they begin first with simple studies in geometry and
in drawing. They then execute geometric designs and adapt them to
lace-making. From these studies they proceed to drawing from nature,
and to what is more difficult, the adaption of the drawings from nature
to lace designs, for it is one thing to create a beautiful flower and
leaf arabesque, and quite another thing to draw it so that it may be
exprest in thread.

The important classes in commerce and English and those in history and
religion run parallel with the studies in lace-making and design.

Of great value to these future teachers of Belgium is the model
practise school across the court from the main rooms, where at four
o’clock each day the poorer children of the neighborhood come to be
taught. Each has her cushion and bobbins and pins and thread furnished
by the Normal, and enjoys all the advantages offered by its excellent
system; while the coming teachers find here the opportunity to perfect
their methods.

I asked if these teachers could look confidently to finding positions.
Since only the initial class had graduated before the Germans were upon
Belgium and since that class was composed almost entirely of women
sent from the already existing convent schools, who sought to improve
their methods, it is as yet impossible to answer this question. But as
this is the single training-school in Belgium (the Brussels School,
so capably directed by Mme. Paulis, being chiefly a school of design)
there seems to be every reason to hope that once the country has risen
from the chaos into which it has been plunged, the Bruges graduates
will have no difficulty in securing places. Teachers are as yet very
poorly paid, but as regards salaries, too, there is reason to hope. The
ideal plan for a school would seem to be that it should be in charge of
a graduate of the Normal School, while a specialist in design from the
Brussels school should come once a week with her charts and drawings to
give particular instruction in that branch. The vital decision as to
the part lace-making should have in the curriculum of the communal or
free public schools is still in abeyance.

Since factories have killed the lace industry in every other city in
Belgium except Bruges and Turnhout, people often ask if it can persist
much longer in Bruges. There seems to be good ground to believe it
will. Under the Germans the port of Zeebrugge acquired a momentary
prominence, but with Antwerp so near, there seems little chance that
it will ever become important, or that Bruges herself may look forward
to any large industrial development. Lovely, tranquil city guarding a
beauty of long ago, it is probable that Bruges will maintain her right
to the title “Queen of Lace Cities.” “Yes,” M. Gillemont de Cock would
add, seeing the patterns and quality of the Valenciennes and the modern
Old Flanders and Bruges, and Binche, pinned to her cushions to-day, and
remembering the exquisite delicate webs of a few decades ago, “_Une
Reine, Madame, c’est vrai, mais une Reine bien malade_”—“a Queen,
Madame, it is true, but a very sick Queen.” The Lace Normal and other
schools can help greatly to restore her.



_Sister Robertine_

On a wet, cheerless day between Christmas and New Year’s, I started
with Madame de Beughem and Madame Allard for the most important lace
district of Eastern Flanders. The Alost region, which in 1896 counted
8,500 workers, is known throughout the lace world for its Needle Point
and Venise.

We went first to Alost itself, the center of the area, where, however,
modern industries have won their already oft-repeated victory over the
lace. It was in Alost, the 16th of November, 1918, that my car had
scarcely been able to push its way between the two lines of Belgian
soldiers of deliverance holding back the smiling, tearful population,
and where, too, I passed Burgomaster Max free after four years in
prison in Germany, on his way to King Albert at the Army Headquarters
near Ghent.

A short distance south of Alost we passed Haltaert, from which this
lace section might more justly take its name, since in Haltaert there
is scarcely a household without its needle or bobbin workers. And but
a little farther south lay Kerxken, which even in the rain, looked a
friendly village and where beside fully three-fourths of the windows
women were plying their needles.

Before the war companies of the men of this region went to France to
work in the harvest, as many as 40,000 migrating annually, because even
before the war, France was short-handed agriculturally and the French
fields offered higher wages than their own. The women and girls helped
those who remained to gather the crops, and in the fall, when the
men came back and the season for working the farms had passed, whole
families turned to lace-making as a means of piecing out the gains of
the summer. Sometimes the men cared for the children or assisted with
the housework so that the women might sit uninterruptedly before their
patterns, and in certain instances they themselves made lace—the
census of 1896 lists 117 men lace-workers in Belgium. In Kerxken we
found that thirty young men who had been silk weavers before the war
had during the occupation been able to make lace—not true lace, but
such imitations as filet, really a form of embroidery. They made, too,
Application, not genuine Application where true lace details, made
either with the bobbin or needle, are sewed upon the tulle base, but
tulle ornamented with machine-made lacets, narrow braids of various
sorts that come to the region from Calais. Lacets usually have a strong
thread along one edge, which can be drawn so that the braid may be more
swiftly fashioned into curving leaves or flowers. These distressing
imitations, which unfortunately pay much better than the true laces,
since they can be made with great speed and find a ready market, are a
constant menace to them. “_Voilà notre ennemie!_” said Madame Allard,
as we looked into a work-room where the table showed little piles of
lacet collars. The only method of fighting this enemy is through higher
wages for the genuine lace.

We could not see Adele Rulant, once with hardly a peer in Needle Point,
to whom people from far and near had sent their old pieces, even
shreds of their family treasure, for restoration, knowing that almost
certainly her artist’s needle would recapture the lost mesh or flower.
Adele Rulant had died and we realized again how surely one by one the
famous dentellières of the last half of the 19th century are dropping

We turned down a lane and were soon at the green door of the convent
of the black-robed Franciscaine Sisters, who dismayed, but smiling,
hurried forward to greet us, very fresh looking in their white lined
coiffes and collars. I say dismayed, because through an error they had
expected us the day before and had kept a fire burning for hours, a
supreme expression of hospitality in this bitter, coalless winter; this
was Saturday afternoon, there was no fire, and the lace-workers were at
home scrubbing their tiled floors and doorsteps. But they would light
a fire at once, and send a Sister to the nearest houses to recall at
least a few of the women; they would prepare lunch for us, a plate of
little cakes and a bottle of wine had already been set on the table.
Such an apologetic bustle of welcome was heart-warming on a cheerless
day. Nothing less, I am certain, would have made it possible for me to
drink an entire glass of sour red wine at 10:30 o’clock in the morning.

I wished particularly to visit the convent because I had known during
the four years of Sœur Robertine’s successive victories over the
Germans. After they refused to let laces pass except through their
hands, which taxed and had frequently stolen from the parcels, time and
again she outwitted them, crossing the forbidden village frontier and
carrying the precious rolls herself to the office of the Committee at

Beneath the calm of that office there was always tense expectancy; at
any moment anything might happen, even the worst thing. One day after
weeks of being entirely cut off from many of their lace sections,
when the women were more strained and anxious than ever before, the
door opened quietly and Sœur Robertine, of Kerxken, a prohibited
district, stood before them. Fear for her quite overcame their joy at
seeing her; they quickly turned the key and hurried her into a rear
room. “But why have you come? We did not send for you—we should never
have allowed you to take such risks!”

At first only Sœur Robertine’s twinkling, keen gray eyes answered,
as she slowly threw off her long black cape and from beneath other
garments began unwinding meter upon meter of lovely white lace, till
the billowy lengths covered all the table. “It was very simple—I
had to come. For weeks our thread has been exhausted; the women are
suffering for need of their earnings. I found a way, and I’ll find a
way back, never fear; we’ll all return safely to Kerxken—the thread
and the money and I—even tho we may have to slip in under the very
nose of the Boche!” She was still laughing and still producing lace,
little packets now of square insets and bouquets, when I had to leave.

It was a delight to meet her again here freely directing her
convent—she who had so bravely held her right to freedom. Her parents
had been shop-keepers and she had brought to the Order a goodly store
of practical knowledge and a general alertness and good sense, which
added to her unselfishness and swift sympathy and ever-ready laugh,
easily explained the admiration and affection generally felt for her.


Flowers made with bobbins, mesh with the needle: designs by The Lace


Made near Alost. Both mesh and flowers made with needle]


While we were sitting in the large, cold reception room, waiting for
the workers to reassemble, I asked Sœur Robertine about a painting
over the door—a striking portrait which proved to be that of the Curé
Van Hoeimessen, who, in 1857, founded the convent in an attempt to
relieve the misery of the village. A short time before this, greatly
distrest by the idleness and poverty of his parishioners, he had asked
that a teacher be sent to Kerxken to instruct a few girls in the art
of lace-making, and since there was no building in which to start a
school, he called the class of five or six girls together in his own
house. Then, later, as the experiment succeeded, he invited a group of
sisters to come and founded for them the convent of the Franciscaines,
which from that day has held unswervingly to the traditions of its
foundation in teaching and executing the fine needle laces. There are
at present 15 sisters, and about 150 true lace-workers in their lace
school. In addition, 300 makers of filet and “imitation” are connected
with the convent.

From the salon we went to the work-room, which looks on a deep
walled-in garden, a treasure-plot for potatoes and cabbage during
the famine years. About a dozen girls and women had dropt their
brushes and brooms and hurried through the rain in their wooden shoes
to take up their patterns and go on with the delicate traceries of
Needle Point and Venise. It was easy to pick out their leader—a
beautiful-faced, white-haired woman wearing a black crochet cap, at
work on a Venise insertion. She was Sidonie, the best piqueuse, or
interpreter of design, in the convent. There were no cushions here, as
in the bobbin-lace classes, and the workers held the small, shining,
black cloth pattern in their hands, following the pricked holes with
their needles; there were fewer of these guiding pin-pricks than in
the bobbin-lace picqués. The patterns for Venise and Needle Point are
usually small because most women object to large details, as difficult
to turn in the hand. Later in a neighboring convent I noticed that the
patterns were considerably larger than those at Kerxken, and Sœur
Robertine, pointing to them said, “I should have to cut those in two
for my girls.” Fortunately a detail can usually easily be separated
and later rejoined. To protect her lace, the worker covers it with
thick blue paper, cutting a hole about the size of a twenty-five-cent
piece through which the needle and thread may move freely. Here it
was not the marvel of the flying fingers, as in the bobbin-rooms at
Turnhout, that most won our admiration, but the skill in directing the
fine threads in complicated designs of incredible delicacy. I chose
to sit beside fifteen-year-old Colette who held the partly finished
section of a handkerchief square beneath her needle. She explained
that it was Point de Gaze, gauze point, a name more recently given
the old Needle or Brussels Point. And the fragile hexagonal mesh she
was weaving between two beautiful full-blown roses, whose raised
petals curved outward from elaborately worked centers, seemed most
appropriately named. Her cotton, for Needle Point is made with cotton
thread, was so fine that I could not, despite her amused reiterations,
believe it did not break with every second stitch. A heavier thread
had been used to make the flat, closely woven portions of the flowers,
and a still heavier one to outline each finished petal or leaf with
the _cordonnet_ (cord) or _brode_, produced by an extremely firm and
regular buttonhole stitch. This cord throws the flowers into very
brilliant relief.


Colette had not woven the roses, for because of the difficulty in
making it, workers usually specialize on the various individual parts
composing this extremely popular lace. A second girl had made the
flowers, and a third the exquisite open-work details introduced to
lighten the whole. Considerable freedom is allowed the lace-worker
in the execution of these open-work stitches. If she has talent she
may obtain many interesting original results in filling in, for there
is apparently no limit to the number of stitches she may employ.
In Colette’s little handkerchief square, I discovered miniature
marguerites and stars and airy balls. Each group had been made by a
specialist (many women have spent their lives in making just tiny stars
or wheels), and sent to the convent to be bound together with the
leaves and roses into a beautiful whole by the clear mesh that dropt
hexagon by hexagon from Colette’s swift needle.


Colette’s neighbor was making the same mesh, but as a background for
bobbin-made clusters, sent here from a bobbin-lace village to make
the rare Point d’Angleterre, a small quantity of which Kerxken still

In the corner of this class-room were the shelves with the essential
skeins of thread; cotton for the Needle Point, linen for the Venise.
The linen is more and more difficult to obtain, and since it is hard
to handle and breaks easily, has been largely supplanted by cotton
thread. There were large cardboard boxes for the drawings and the
pricked working patterns; others for the little bobbin-lace roses and
leaves and vines that were to be worked into Brussels Point; and still
more boxes for the finished meters and insets ready to be sold to the
Committee, and later to the dealer who will replace the Committee.
While we were examining the boxes a pretty, dark-haired dentellière
of about sixteen came in, with work she had finished at home, two
handkerchiefs with Brussels Point borders, and two and a half meters of
Venise, on which she had worked five and a half months and for which
she asked 160 francs, or $40.00.

In the “imitation” room we passed quickly by the lengths of inferior
filet and the piles of cheap collars made by men; there was little
temptation to linger there. The only defense against that room is more
pay for the work across the hall.

We climbed the stairs shivering and looked into the neat little
bedrooms with their white board floors, and into the icy chapel where
Sœur Robertine declared she could be quite comfortable with only a
small black woolen shawl over her shoulders.

We had brought our lunch, but were not allowed to eat it. Sister A.,
an excellent cook, had prepared hot soup, potatoes and meat, and a
dried apple mousse which we persuaded Sœur Robertine to share with
us. And after lunch, the orphan and refugee children came in to shake
hands, also Janiken, the poor “_idiote_” who is forty-nine years old,
but still a child, with a strange, animal-like expression on her face.
Sœur Robertine held her hand for us to shake, otherwise little
Janiken seemed able to direct her own movements. She smiled and chatted
in Flemish, then waddled off quite happy with the candies and cakes we
had brought. Janiken spends her days making bead collars and bracelets
for the sisters, whom she loves, and when her bead boxes are empty she
places them at the foot of the statue at the end of the narrow corridor
upstairs, and prays the good Saint Anthony to refill them, that she
may weave more necklaces. At night as the sisters pass silently by the
statue, they snap the threads of their former gifts, letting the beads
shower into the boxes, and in the morning Janiken is happy again.

Sœur Robertine had never ridden in a motor, and when we proposed
that she accompany us to the Franciscaine convent at Erembodeghem, not
very far away, her eyes shone. And I shall not forget the faces of the
others, as after a further bustle of leave-takings and good wishes,
they leaned from the green doorway in the rain, clasping their hands
and laughing and nodding, while we tucked their beloved sister into
our car. Sœur Robertine herself sat silently and ecstatically in a
corner, determined to miss no part of this extraordinary experience.



_The Queen’s Cloth_

Erembodeghem is a commune of about 6,000 inhabitants, tho the pretty
winding street by which we entered, with the picturesque, red-tiled
houses clustered irregularly along both sides of it, suggests a smaller
village. Nearly all the women in this town, as in Kerxken, make lace,
and again it is chiefly Needle Point and Venise. The convent, which
furnishes the customary directing and stimulating center, has no
superior in the country for its particular laces, unless one grants
preference to its own mother house at Opbrakel.

As we entered the courtyard, a group of French soldiers were warming
themselves before a fire they had lighted beneath a dripping canvas
tent-roof stretched across a corner of the wall. In the dreary rain
the fire flaming against the brick wall, and the horizon blue of the
uniforms were a cheery greeting. But inside the convent, alas, there
was less cheer; indeed, there was the chill of the tomb, no coal for
the poor sisters, who were for lack of it unable to conduct the regular
school classes. They told us of their distress over the idleness of
the children, who had been turned into the streets by the Germans many
weeks before, and whom they were not yet able to reassemble. “Their
manners are already so bad,” Sister A. said, “that we are ashamed
to own them as our pupils.” The Germans left the class-rooms in the
familiar condition, and the sisters had no sooner finished patching and
disinfecting, than the Italian soldiers were billeted there. They were
too loyal to criticise but I suspect that their experiences after the
departure of the Italians must have convinced them that, after all, a
new army is just another army. The French followed, but they at least
were occupying only four class-rooms, and the sisters were trying to be
optimistic. “We believe they must be better,” one of them said, with a
smile; “however, we shall not know until they are gone.”

“At any rate,” she continued, “our lace-room has not been
requisitioned; we have had enough coal to keep a little fire there.
During all the four years that work has never stopt.” Since it was
Saturday afternoon there were many vacant chairs in the class-room, but
still enough girls were present to enable us to judge of the kind of
lace school this is.

Little girls between nine and ten, sitting up very straight in their
high-backed chairs, were working with swift, steady fingers and
already producing a good Venise insertion of a simple leaf pattern.
Several of the other girls were busy with the now well-known Venetian
Point medallions representing the arms of the Allied nations, and the
provinces of Belgium; still others were executing flower details for
yard lace. All this Venise they were making with a needle and single
linen thread, for this convent works exclusively with linen thread.
They were handling the black cloth patterns, eight to ten inches wide,
with apparent ease, turning them with almost every stitch. This mere
mastery of the pattern is in itself impressive.

In a corner, near one of the great windows overlooking the walled-in
winter garden, a slim, darkly clad girl about sixteen was absorbed in
pricking a complicated pattern. Sister A. led me a little aside to
explain that this was their feeble-minded girl and that tho they could
not explain it, she was able to interpret correctly very difficult


Design by M. de Rudder; executed by the 30 best Venise-makers in
Belgium in six months]

At the Committee Bureau I had seen many of the wonderful cloths made
from Venise details from this convent (among them the cloth typifying
the burning cities, presented to Mrs. Hoover), but I had never imagined
anything so lovely as the exhibit the sisters had been arranging
on the long, low table, while we were passing from chair to chair
following the magic needles.... We turned to find the separate parts
of a banquet cloth to be offered to Queen Elizabeth on her return from
exile, assembled for us. Two hundred and twenty details, there were,
on which during the darkest days of the war, women had worked with
unfaltering faith and love. M. de Rudder, a well-known Belgian artist,
had drawn the design for the Lace Committee. The border, edged with
ivy, the symbol of endurance, is composed of ferns and wild flowers,
eels and sea-weed, suggesting the forests and fields and waters of
Belgium. Adjoining them are the coats of arms of destroyed cities,
bordered by a band of lilies of the valley, signifying the return of
happiness. In the center, the four patron saints of Brussels, Saints
Michel and George, and Saints Elizabeth and Gudule, are enwreathed with
olive branches. Saint Elizabeth, above the Red Cross, represents the
Queen and her devoted service as nurse during the war, while the eight
medallions near her carry the names of the Beatitudes. Opposite Saint
Elizabeth is Saint George, who represents King Albert. Below him is
the Belgian decoration for bravery, and in the surrounding medallions
are woven the names of battles won by him. Between Saint Elizabeth and
Saint George, are the immortal words spoken by His Majesty as he went
from the Chamber, sword in hand, on the 4th of August, 1914: “_J’ai
foi dans nos destinées! Un pays qui se défend s’impose au respect
de tous, ce pays ne périt pas!_” It is one thing to mention a few
of the two hundred and twenty details of this glorious cloth, it is
quite another to hold any one of them in one’s hand and realize its
perfection, its incredible combination of softness and delicacy and
firmness and regularity. The twelve sisters gathered happily about us,
as we sat before the table quite breathless over the discovery of one
new beauty after another in their truly royal gift.

And then they brought us something much less important, but
nevertheless exquisite, the work of Sister S., which they show rarely,
a length of Rose Point about four inches wide, and which even the women
of the Committee after their long years’ constant experience in lace,
said they had never seen surpassed. The linen thread ordinarily used
in Venise runs from Number 200 to Number 300. This lace, whose base
is formed by an ethereal interlacing of vines and tendrils, is made
with Number 2000. One can work on it scarcely more than two or three
hours a day, and then only under the best light. Sister S. brought
me the magnifying-glass, without which I could not have followed the
exquisitely varied points, and lifted the infinitesimal petals of the
tiny flowers incrusting the background of interwoven tendrils. In some
of these microscopic blooms were as many as four layers of petals. It
would be useless to attempt to describe the loveliness that results
from the blending of the background of vines and lifted blossoms. I
asked what a meter of such lace would bring and learned that it will
probably be sold in Paris for 1,000 francs, tho these sisters would be
happy to guard it as one of their convent treasures.


Pekinese dog design, by M. Allard]


Design by Lace Committee; executed in West Flanders by five workers in
15 days]

We had intended going into some of the neighborhood houses to watch
the work of the older women, but it seemed impossible to look at
any other lace that day and we said good-by. And while the chauffeur
brushed away the small boys clinging to or crawling over the car, we
again tucked our sister in, to carry her home to Kerxken; it had been a
great day for Sœur Robertine and for us.



_Mother House of a Famous Lace-making Order_

After Kerxken and Erembodeghem I was not surprized, when inquiring
about needle laces further south, to learn that the only school whose
work could dispute first place with them was that of the mother house
of the same order at Opbrakel. I had come to know that the finest
needle laces of Belgium are made in these convents of the Sœurs

It was a bitter day, but I determined to reach Opbrakel despite
shell-pitted roads and rain. I succeeded even in making a short stop
on the way at Cruyshautem Convent, famous, too, for its Needle Point,
where the sisters would have detained me longer to describe again and
again the entry of the American soldiers at 9 o’clock in the morning on
All Saints Day—the wonderful American soldiers who had arrived to free
them from their oppressors of four years, and who had remained to buy
every scrap of lace in the convent, carrying away the address with the
promise to send for more.

In my journeying I discovered a pretty way of learning whose army
occupied a particular village—I looked for the first small boy to see
which soldier’s cap he proudly wore. Thus at Opbrakel, tho it was late
afternoon when I arrived, there were children still playing in the
street, and the boys jauntily wearing the horizontal blue announced to
me that the French were there. These small boys, and later the soldiers
themselves, examined my mud-splashed car with much curiosity, as it
drew up in front of the convent door.

My visit was quite unannounced, but the sisters held out their hands
in welcome, and drew me in out of the rain, speaking, as they did so,
words I had almost forgotten, “Hot milk; you must drink a cup of hot
milk at once, Madame, and your chauffeur also; this is a cruel day
for journeying.” They led me to a little room, where I found another
unaccustomed comfort, a tiny fire burning brightly. As I sat before
it, sipping the sweet milk, the first I had had since leaving America,
I remembered the gratitude of travelers in the middle ages toward the
convents and abbeys whose doors they found open. The war had brought a
return of many of the difficulties and perils that beset them, with the
comfortable hostelries of pre-war days pillaged and ruined, the little
restaurants or cafés that could do business filled to overflowing
with soldiers (I have spent hours in the wind and rain at night vainly
trying to find a bed, or a place for my car), with roads wrecked,
neither post nor telegraph, nor train, and natural accompaniment of
all this disorganization, the necessity of being ever on guard against
thieves—in the midst of conditions like these we can appreciate the
meaning of the cheering hospitality the convent offers.

While we sat before the fire the Mother Superior had one of the sisters
show me a treasure of the school, a framed exhibit, illustrating in
miniature all the processes employed in the making of the needle
laces, which they had prepared for the last International Exposition
at Brussels. Then she recounted for me a little of the history of her
lace-making convent, which celebrates its centenary this year, this
free year of 1919. I could imagine what it would have meant to try to
be joyful over such an anniversary with the enemy heel still on one’s

One hundred years ago the commune of Opbrakel was in such a wretched
state of poverty and misery that among its 2,000 inhabitants, 800
were beggars; and as often happened elsewhere during the period of
suffering following the Napoleonic wars, the curé of the commune
sought to relieve it by founding a convent which should teach the art
of lace-making, to furnish a means of earning bread. He called the
Franciscaine Sisters who soon had 100 pupils in their lace-classes,
and among them a number of boys. From those days to these, lace-making
in this convent has never ceased; there are now not more than 125
pupils in the excellent school, but in the homes of the entire region
are those who have learned their art there. The sisters taught first,
Chantilly (Opbrakel is very near Grammont, the Belgian home of
Chantilly), but about fifty years ago changed from bobbin to needle
lace, and since about twelve years ago, they have specialized on the
particular needle lace, Venetian Point, in which they are unexcelled.
Few of the enraptured tourists in Venise realize that the laces they
are buying there were very probably made in Flanders!

Important lace schools and work-rooms have from time to time
concentrated all their skill on the production of a masterpiece
that might represent them to the world and awaken wide interest and
approval. We have a long list of such _chefs-d’œuvres_ from the
lace-rooms of Belgium, of lovely scarfs and cloths and robes offered
to sovereigns or distinguished patrons. And happily during the war the
Committee could encourage this practise by giving orders or special
“commands” to be executed as gifts for benefactors. Several of these
presentation pieces will have enduring value historically as well as

More than one command fell to the share of Opbrakel, and among others
that for a scarf offered to the Queen of Holland in appreciation
of her country’s generosity to Belgians within Dutch borders. The
dentellières, each proud to be selected for the royal task, worked
many months on the countless exquisite needle points in this delicate
veil. On the scarf ends they united the arms of Holland and Belgium,
engarlanding them with hyacinths and tulips, the Dutch national
flowers, and about these in turn they wove lilies of the valley,
symbolizing the return of happiness. Below the medallion rest the
Belgian provinces, enchained, and above them they represented the
children of Holland showering flowers of abundance upon the martyred
children of their sister kingdom.

It would have been pleasant to talk of other master-works, but we had
already sat too long before the fire and we hurried now to reach the
large, airy class-room across the court before dark. When starting
on my lace journey, I had been warned that, once I had visited the
bobbin-lace work-room with all the picturesqueness of the cushion
with its mounds of bobbins and clustered pins, and of the flying
fingers and the continuous cadences of the clinking wood, I would find
needle-lace classes uninteresting. In the beginning this was true;
there was nothing particularly dramatic or stirring in a great room
filled with girls and young women holding little black paper patterns
in their hands and plying a needle above them. But the more I watched
these little patterns and the fingers directing the needle and thread,
the more marvelous the accomplishment appeared—cotton and linen
so fine that it seemed impossible that any finger should control
them—cobwebby, diaphanous meshes, richly petalled tiny flowers, and
delicately veined leaves growing beneath just a common needle and a
single thread. In the end I looked eagerly for the needle rooms.


Design reproducing a mediæval painting in Tournai, executed in Venise
lace by 10 workers in one month, mounting and embroidery by five
workers in one month. Price in Brussels, 1,000 francs]


And this was the most rewarding one I had yet visited. It happened that
the majority of the pupils were busy on the details of a tablecloth
recently designed by Madame Allard, in which the linen center is
encircled by a family of little beasts as gay as any ever gathered
together to cheer a dinner company. I laughed outright, as a little
girl, herself laughing, held up an exquisitely worked and most vividly
real group of happy ducks floating on a pond. The next showed her
enchanting rabbits, another her deer—all along the line they were
chuckling over the success of their particular pets. They had captured
the sunshine and happy motion of a farm-yard world with just a needle
and a single linen thread! Here, as at Erembodeghem, only linen thread
is used, because tho it is more difficult to handle, it produces a
finer and stronger lace than cotton. After several months (it took six
months to execute the first cloth of this design) the details would
be assembled and joined by special workers, following the large paper
pattern the sisters were now spreading across a table, which had been
sent down to Opbrakel from the room of design at Brussels. And the
finished cloth, as delightful as an early naive tapestry with its
smiling animals, would be sent to the Committee for sale.

Opbrakel stands unquestionably first in Belgium in the production of
figures in Point de Venise. During the war, its workers have repeated
several times for the Committee their beautiful “Fables de La
Fontaine” series of medallions, as well as those which represent so
charmingly “Little Red Riding-Hood,” “Puss in Boots,” “The Sleeping
Beauty,” and other much loved fairy-tale figures. These medallions
have been sold separately as doilies, or have been combined with
Flanders lace or linen in handsome cloths.

It was fast growing dark, and the 125 girls began folding their
patterns, and carefully wrapping their delicately pictured little
rabbits and ducks to keep them clean till the morrow; maids appeared
with dust-pans and brooms, and we gathered up our skirts and stept out
into the courtyard. As we crossed it in the dark and the rain it was
difficult to refuse the further hospitality of these sisters, who would
have kept me for the night.



_The Last Lace Stronghold of Brabant_

In the court in front of the big brick convent building with its odd
little steeple, two sisters, skirts tucked up, and pails swung over
their shoulders, Chinese fashion, were about to begin the Saturday
scrubbing. Madame Kefer-Mali and I were on our way to Liedekerke, the
principal remaining lace center in Brabant, and had stopt in this less
important village of Heckelgem for a look at the convent school opened
nine years ago.

In the village itself we had found about 150 of the 2,000 inhabitants
busy with their needles, for this is distinctly a needle-lace commune,
producing a fairly good quality of Venise. Which means that there are
as yet no local mills, and tho an adjacent match factory has already
attracted a number of Heckelgem girls, most of the women are still
content to spend their time making Venise, which they take to the
convent, to be sold there to Brussels or other agents.

The convent class-rooms were warm and cheery; fern baskets hung from
the ceilings and every window was gay with potted plants. Practically
all the village children were gathered inside, and since it was 11
o’clock when we arrived, were happily engaged in drinking their daily
Comité National cup of cocoa and in eating the good white biscuit that
goes with it. Saturday morning is mending time and on the girls’ desks
I saw more of those amazing patchwork socks and stockings, the result
of three or four years’ weekly attempts to hold them together.


Executed by 30 workers in eight months]

In the advanced lace class-room, thirty girls, between thirteen and
sixteen, were working with cotton thread on Venise insertions and on
details for larger pieces. They had come at 8 o’clock that morning, a
more humane beginning hour than most schools allow, and would remain
as long as there was daylight—looping and weaving with a needle and
single thread. I stopt beside Rosalie, who was making a pretty flower
detail for a cushion cover. She had begun it five days before and hoped
to finish, and receive the seven francs she was allowed for it, that

On the table was a pile of chairbacks in Venise, with figure centers
and surrounding garlands of flowers all connected by the bars
characterizing this lace—an order for a Brussels dealer, who had
recently offered fifty-two francs each for them. The sisters were
excited and happy over this new price, which was considerably more than
anything Heckelgem has hitherto been able to command, one and a half
francs a day having been the average wage of the best workers.

A little farther to the south and still in Brabant, tho it lies near
the Flanders border, is the much better known convent of Liedekerke,
which boasts an unbroken record of sixty years of lace-making, and
which before the war received a yearly subsidy of 800 francs from the
“Amies de la Dentelle.” As we walked beside the pretty orchard and
vegetable garden, bright with purple cabbages, that form the entrance
court, toward the rather impressive red-brick buildings, again with
their odd miniature steeple, I saw the great arms of a Dutch windmill
turning lazily somewhere in the rear. And nearer the door, off at the
left in a side court, a war-kitchen with tiled floor and uncertain
roof, where hundreds of the village poor still were coming for their
daily pint of soup. Of the 4,000 inhabitants as many as 2,900 were
forced on to the soup-line during the occupation.

This, then, was one of the important and successful convent schools of
Belgium; but in January, 1919, it was in a much sadder plight than the
little neighboring school at Heckelgem. There was no coal, not a class
was in session, not a child at work with her bobbins. At 4 o’clock in
the afternoon, on Monday, October 28, when there were between 800 and
900 children, among them 100 lace-workers, gathered in the various
class-rooms, German officers had appeared to announce that by 7 o’clock
the rooms must be cleared of both teachers and children. I had already
had many demonstrations of what taking possession of school-rooms
meant. It was not necessary that the sisters should lead me from room
to room, pointing out this or that ruined wall, or casement torn
away, or vacant space where the benches or chairs burned as firewood,
once stood; but I followed them about for their own sakes. There was
at least a kind of comfort in being able to furnish proof of these
outrages to somebody.

One small room was undisturbed, but it was a sadder room than any of
the others. The primary lace-class had occupied it, and several rows of
little girls were learning to make their first flowers and leaves when
the enemy drove them out. The baby chairs and the cushions were just as
they left them, tho thick dust dulled the blue of the linen covers and
the tiny unfinished white roses and tendrils held by the rusty pins.
One would have liked to bring the enemy mothers into this room with its
baby chairs, and its dust-covered unfinished roses.

In the large adjoining hall Sister M. kindly came to work at a
table, on Application, one of the laces for which Liedekerke has been
especially distinguished. Before the English invention, early in 1800,
of machine-made tulle, which had an incalculable influence on the
development of the lace-industry, all meshes had to be made either with
the needle or with bobbins. The factory substitute for these difficult
processes won instant favor, and with the general public the more
swiftly made and cheaper tulle Application, supplanted the exquisite
Point d’Angleterre, which it imitated. Liedekerke, for example, had
begun its lace career with Point d’Angleterre, and in changing later to
Application, was merely responding to popular demand. Its sixty years
of lace-history reads: Point d’Angleterre, Application, Rosaline.

These things Madame Kefer-Mali explained, as Sister M. was placing
her square of blue paper on the linen of the table cushion, and then
the bobbin-made bouquet, wrong side up on the blue square, pinning it
carefully and smoothly through the paper to the cushion. Over this
she stretched her scarf length of tulle. I was surprized at the time
and painstaking effort she gave to these simple operations, until I
saw later the effect of the slightest carelessness on the finished
flounce. Almost any clever needlewoman can join a flower to a piece
of tulle—but only an artist can produce a beautiful scarf or veil in
Application. Once the bouquet was properly placed and pinned, Sister
M. began to sew, lifting the tulle lightly with each stitch, and
smoothly attaching all the edges, for this bouquet was being appliquéd
on the body of the scarf. Had it formed the border one edge would have
remained free.

Liedekerke Convent, to which some 200 of the villagers bring their
laces and which once made little else than Application (many beautiful
robes and flounces and scarfs have gone out from the commune and the
school), now makes comparatively little of it; for during the last
six years Paris and other markets have asked for Rosaline. It is to
be hoped that this small quantity may be continued, and that the lace
world may still win at least a few pieces yearly of the earlier, more
exquisite Point d’Angleterre.

Point d’Angleterre, so named because of its great popularity in
England, reached its height in beauty and in favor during the
seventeenth century, when it occupied the talent and energy of all the
lace-workers of Brussels. It differs from Needle Point, in which both
flowers and mesh are made with the needle. It is one of the loveliest
of all laces, combining in rare beauty, rich bouquets and arabesques
and birds of finest bobbin work, with a frail transparent needle mesh,
the flowers themselves becoming frequently more light and delicate
through the introduction of charmingly varied needle-worked open
spaces. Certain workers make the flowers, and others the connecting
mesh. If one can imagine the softness of a kind of sublimated or
diaphanous velvet, added to the fragility of an airy and cobwebby lace,
one may have some idea of the effect of good Point d’Angleterre. And
if one would possess a collar or a flounce, one should buy it quickly,
for Point d’Angleterre is going the way of the other difficult and
exquisite points. Such villages as Kerxken, Liedekerke, Destelbergen
(near Ghent), and those of the Alost region still make occasional

[Illustration: BOBBIN LACES

(1) Malines (2) Application, flowers sewn on tulle (3) Duchesse, with
needle-point insertions]


Upper flower shows open spaces left by bobbin worker for needle worker;
lower flower shows both bobbin and needle work completed]

The more ordinary Point de Flandres, or Flanders, so generally produced
to-day, has the same composition as Point d’Angleterre, since in it
bobbin-work flowers are joined by a needle-mesh. And even tho coarser
and less complicated than Point d’Angleterre, Point de Flandres
is also difficult to make, and should be much better paid. There are
innumerable differences in quality, and many ways in which this lace
may be employed. The Committee has used it chiefly in elegant table
centers and cloths, in lamp-shades and in various articles to embellish
a drawing-or dining-room. And this summer of 1919 it is being used
with much success by important French houses as trimming for dainty
_ninon_ underclothing. Nineteenth century Point de Flandres, then, is
little more than a commercial name for a very coarse kind of Point

This Point de Flandres must not be confused with Old Flanders or Antik,
the ancient bobbin-lace experiencing a happy revival at present. Old
Flanders is, like Cluny, made entirely with bobbins and with uncut
threads; in other words, in single lengths, and not in separate or cut

Liedekerke, then, first made Point d’Angleterre for which, after a
certain time, it substituted Application, changing again about two
years before the war to Rosaline, suddenly become a popular lace.

Rosaline is not very different in appearance from the finer varieties
of Bruges; in fact, it employs much the same technique, and is made
as is Bruges with bobbins, in small pieces, which are later joined by
special workers. A dentellière who can make fine Bruges can usually
make Rosaline. Each small piece is composed of elaborately interlacing
flowers and leaves and arabesques, without a connecting mesh, but
joined by _brides_ or bars, with a picot edge. Sometimes the tiny
incrustations called pearls, common to Burano lace, are added, to
further ornament the richly covered ground.

I watched a Rosaline cushion, on which the pattern of an arabesque
detail was pinned, and Sister A., as she began to shift in pairs the
fourteen bobbins needed to execute it; one pair, the _voyageurs_, were
continually traveling from right to left and back again as she wove
the flat parts of the leaves and blossoms. The Rosaline technique is
particularly difficult, since the pins must be continually and rapidly
changed as the worker, with a crochet-hook, lifts the thread to pass
her bobbin through in the characteristic loop stitch. This delicate
operation, constantly repeated, strains both eyes and nerves. The pins
are placed along the outside edge of the flowers, instead of inside, as
in Bruges, which produces the picot or looped-edge effect of Rosaline.
In Bruges the flower edges are even.

I turned from the arabesques just beginning to grow on the cushion,
to a lovely little finished detail, about four inches square, one of
several in a box which was to hold them till they could be joined to
make a scarf. It had taken seven days of thirteen hours each to make
this four by four piece, which meant that the maximum a skilled worker
could earn in executing it was about two francs a day.

The Liedekerke convent school does not accept children under twelve for
more than two complete afternoons a week and for more than one hour
each of the other days, these hours being lengthened gradually until
the girl of sixteen gives her entire time to her lace. The sisters
hope that once they find coal and thread and can put their class-room
in order, they may again have 100 pupils, and that the village may
continue to count at least 200 good dentellières.



_A Château of Refuge_

There are certain châteaux in Belgium that will be remembered
throughout this century as harbors of refuge; they dared not flare
beacons from their roofs, but during four dark years, people of the
nearby communes knew that day and night lights burned there for them.
The château of the Comte du Parc was such a one, a property lying
on the edge of the village of Herzele, south of Alost, which, tho
the house itself is unpretentious, embraces a lovely park and wood,
and from which, incidentally, the Germans cut 1,000 trees. It is no
longer only the estate of the du Parcs, it is the loved shelter of
every villager accustomed to hurry toward it in sad or perilous hours.
The morale of the entire region was sustained by the knowledge that
the people of the château had not left, as they easily might have,
for their safer Brussels home, in the zone of civil administration,
where if not free, they would at least have been less imprisoned, but
had chosen to remain in the military zone, utterly cut off from their
relatives and the rest of Belgium.

They might have considered several reasons sufficiently important to
call them away (the Bourgmestre of Herzele had found at least one, his
ill-health); among other things their château was as yet practically
uninhabitable. It had been begun only a short time before the war broke
out, and with the sounding of the first alarm the workmen had rushed
out to report to their officers, leaving electric cords dangling,
unmounted fixtures standing against the walls, and neither hot water
nor heating systems installed. Madame told me later of her desperate
and amusing efforts to fasten locks on the most important doors. As she
and her husband were debating how they might arrange one large room in
the left wing as their single general living-room they could already
see the villagers coming anxiously along the tree-lined avenue and
across the park to inquire if they were still there. “After the first
troubled questions,” Monsieur said, “even if we had not already decided
we must stay, it would have been quite impossible to go away.”

The soldiers of the village were leaving with scarcely time for
good-bys; Madame understood the fears of the women who came to the
château for comfort; her only son, too, a brave, handsome boy, was off
to join the colors—her brave, handsome boy, who now lies buried not
far from the Yser.

In October the victorious Germans pushed southward, and from the 14th
to the 18th, shrapnel fell like rain on the park, but the château
escaped unharmed. Then three officers of the occupying army rode up on
horseback, revolvers in hand, demanding that the Comte present himself
immediately. Madame followed her husband, not knowing what to expect.
To their first threat, Monsieur replied calmly, “I do not like those
objects,” and after a moment’s hesitation the officers lowered their
weapons. Then they demanded guaranties that they would be absolutely
safe from attack by any person, either of the château or the village.
“I can, of course, speak for my château,” Monsieur answered, “but I
can not be responsible for the villagers if they are pushed too far.”
These villagers themselves told me later that they were convinced it
was only the presence of the Comte (the bullies were frequently servile
before titles and powerless before fearlessness) that saved Herzele
from destruction. “We always expected the worst,” they said; “in the
early days, when the Boches lighted a great fire in the wood, we rushed
to the château, believing it was burning.”

From the beginning, Madame and her two daughters looked for some
constructive aid they might give their women, something more than the
general relief furnished by the Comité National.

Of the 2,500 inhabitants of the village, 1,700 were soon on the lists
of the helpless or destitute; among these were many tuberculosis
victims. The château living-room became first a clothing bureau, where
daily all sorts of garments, sent from America, were distributed.
Madame engaged some of the women of the village to patch and re-fashion
these, and with certain sums of money that succeeded in reaching her
from time to time from an American lady who had “adopted” Herzele, she
was able to purchase new materials and offer further saving employment.
I do not know the American lady, but if she could have seen Madame’s
eyes as she told me of what it meant, imprisoned as they were, to
receive these gifts from some one outside who remembered them, I do not
doubt she would have felt sufficiently rewarded.

In 1916, when I was in Belgium as a member of the Commission for Relief
in Belgium, the Germans prevented my going near Herzele, or any point
in the zone of direct military preparation, so I could follow the
work of Monsieur and Madame only through the Brussels Lace Committee,
which had itself great difficulty in keeping connected with them. They
made their judgments from the ever increasing quantities and improved
quality of the laces that somehow came through.

The room in the château was the lace office not only for Herzele, but
for eleven additional villages, where between 2,500 and 3,000 girls
and women, encouraged by the Committee support—its designs and thread
and money—were busy with their needles and bobbins; for while this is
chiefly a needle-work district, large quantities of bobbin laces are
also made. To be sure, none of these laces is superior, but they are
good, and marketable. They include Cluny, Duchesse de Bruxelles, a kind
of coarse Flanders (where the flowers are made with bobbins and the
mesh with the needle), Venise, and Rosaline; and of these the Flanders
and Venise are most important. At times it was not difficult for the
dentellières to take or send their finished lace to the château, at
others they were threatened with fines and imprisonment if they were
discovered trying to get it there. To refer to but one instance, the
facteur of the village three miles distant was fined seventy-five
francs when caught on the way with his pieces. The Germans were doing
their utmost always, to attach lace-makers to their _Spitzen Centrale_,
and despite the international agreement which engaged their protection
of the work of the Brussels Lace Committee, they interfered with and
obstructed its work again and again. At one point they insisted that
all deliveries to the Committee should be made through them, and that
they be paid 1 per cent. on the value, in gold, for transmission, where
transmission, unfortunately, only too often spelled for them retention.

In the village Madame and her daughters went from house to house,
instructing and comforting. The days of the deportations were more
terrible than any others. In remembering that first hideous deportation
night in Herzele, one remembers, too, that early in the war Cardinal
Mercier said that while there was once a time, when to make people
believe, we felt we must heighten, or embellish the cold facts, that
now in order that they should believe, we must withhold part of the
truth. That first night, men and boys were torn from their beds and
herded into the school, from there to be carried off in cattle-cars
to Germany. There was neither light nor heat, and in the cold and
the darkness, the tortured little village broke into a great cry of
lamentation, while the château was filled with wives and mothers
seeking comfort.

Later, when the activist troubles became acute, the two daughters held
meetings even in the cabarets to urge loyalty to a united Belgium. They
believe that not one person in their entire village can be said to
have worked for the enemy, except when deported bodily, or otherwise

Somehow the years passed, and then one day, the 16th of September,
1917, bits of white paper fell like snow from the clouds. The family
rushed out to gather them and found Lord Northcliffe’s celebrated
posters, “The First Million,” representing a vast multitude on the
march, the statue of liberty in the background, the fields of France in
the foreground, and a continuous bridge of ships connecting them. This
snowfall was followed by others, and each brought hope.

Finally, in October, 1918, the Germans, knowing the Allied Army of
Liberation was almost upon them, again pulled their guns up into the
château grounds, but in the final fighting, as in the earliest, the
house somehow escaped.


Executed in Venise and Flanders lace by 30 women working three months.
American eagles with outspread wings, protecting the Belgian Lion
enchained in the four corners]


When I reached Herzele, in January, 1919, the wide park was beautiful
and still, green things were sprouting beneath the trees, there were a
few birds; to a stranger there was little evidence of the terrible
years. But inside, in the cold, unfinished hall, the electric cords
still dangled; everything was as the Belgian workmen had left it four
and a half years before. And in the single living-room at the left,
rudely furnished, but including through large windows the beauty of
the park, there were still the war-time desk and long table with the
piles of trousers and shirts at one end, and the rolls of white lace
at the other. I shook out a scarf of Duchesse de Bruxelles of flower
and leaf pattern, with insets in needle work, and several wide flounces
of Flanders lace, of the same pattern I had seen used in the charming
lamp-shades on sale in the Committee room at Brussels. There were also
rolls of Bruges, and Rosaline, Application, and Point d’Angleterre.


Lace executed in Flanders by 40 women in two months; embroidery and
mounting in Brussels by four women in three months]


As I examined them, Monsieur got out his records and discust the
future of his lace-workers. “I am convinced they will be happy to
continue in this district, if only they can be sure of a living wage.
And apart from other determining factors, to make that, they must
learn to execute laces of better quality. We need, above all, a school
which will offer along with its courses in practical lace-making,
training in design. During the war we had many beautiful designs from
the Committee, but each time we were cut off from them we realized
our helplessness. In one of the villages the patterns are drawn by a
furniture-maker. One reason for the wretched condition of the workers
before the war was their entire dependence on the particular lace
dealer who furnished them their patterns and their thread, and who,
of course, protected his models by copyright. The old, unprotected
designs, which may be copied by any one, are little in demand, and
during the process of generations of recopying, many of them have so
greatly deteriorated as to become scarcely recognizable. If our women
were trained they could restore these, and, what is more important,
some of them, at least, could invent new ones.”

I asked what it would cost to found a school and support it during its
first year. “Perhaps 20,000 or 25,000 francs; we might hope that the
State would undertake such a work, but with its present overwhelming
burden, it is a question if the Government can occupy itself with
lace needs. If it could be started by private initiative, and prove
successful, I believe there is no doubt that the Government would be
willing later to subsidize it.”

Madame brought a picture post-card from the mantel, of three brothers
who had been deported, two of whom had not returned. Other men were
drifting back from Metz, where most of the _déportés_ from Herzele
had been for over two and a half years, but these two would not
return, for they had been frozen to death. I understood at once, for
I remembered the sixty-five men with black arms and legs who had been
“returned” to the Brussels Hospital in 1917. “No”; Madame looked at
the portrait of her boy, with the Belgian colors above it and a vase
of flowers in front, and then again at the little post-card; “No,”
she said simply, “I have no desire yet to go to Brussels. I prefer to
remain here with my people, where we may still, from time to time, weep



_A Lace Queen of Long Ago_

Of the cities I visited during three months’ continuous travel in
Belgium following the armistice, Ghent appeared to me to be attacking
her problems with greatest speed and vigor. Brave old Burgher city of
canals and mellow buildings and bell-towers, this Flemish capital is at
the same time an active, modern, commercial center; which explains why
Bruges has been able to win from her the title she once proudly held of
“Queen of Lace Cities.”

The lace history of Ghent begins with the lace history of Belgium, in
the sixteenth century; but her great period dates from the seventeenth
century and the introduction of the epoch-making mesh of Valenciennes.
The activity of her women and girls, following the appearance of this
new lace, surpassed anything she had hitherto known; it was not long
before the music of 1,000,000 bobbins rose to meet the riotous pealing
of her bells. In the sixteenth century Malines had undisputed first
place in lace; Ghent now out-stript her. One wonders if part of the
fascination of this city for the men the United States sent there in
1814, to make peace with England, and who, after six months’ lingering,
had to be urged to return home, lay in its clicking bobbins and the
joyous garlands that blossomed under them.

There is a portrait in the Hôtel de Ville, where one may see the
Empress Marie-Thérèse, wearing the marvelous Valenciennes and the
Needle Point robe presented to her by the Canton de Gand in 1743. And
scarcely more than a century later, in 1853, the city made its last
gift of similar magnificence—another robe, valued at 20,000 francs,
on which 80,000 bobbins were employed unceasingly during six months,
and this time offered to the Duchess of Brabant, Marie-Henriette. There
were no succeeding world-stirring gifts of lace because Ghent had begun
to think of other things, of industrial and commercial development, and
as she advanced in these, the art of lace-making declined, until to-day
it has ceased to exist.

However, in the surrounding communes (the region counts fifty) there
are still perhaps 2,000 dentellières making most of the bobbin and
needle varieties, the best among them being Valenciennes, Flanders,
Duchesse, Needle Point, Bruges and Rosaline. The Comtesse de Bousies,
chairman of the Ghent Lace Committee during the war, did her best to
encourage the work in these outlying districts, and was able to help,
in addition, many needy women in the city itself.

In 1917, for instance, Celine appeared at the office to ask for thread.
She was twenty years old, and before the war had been one of the
10,000 women employed in the linen spinning mills; her mother was ill
with tuberculosis, her father without work, and also ill; there were
five younger children. “I know I have not proper fingers,” she said,
as she held out her rough hands, “but if you will only promise I may
bring my lace, I believe I can learn.” The Committee believed this,
too, and because she worked with intelligence and with almost feverish
eagerness, she was soon assured the minimum wage of three francs a
week, and later the larger sums made possible with the Committee’s
success. Shortly before the armistice, the mother died, and only last
week Celine came again to the desk to ask anxiously if the Committee
could not somehow arrange, that even after they had disbanded, she
might continue to make lace. Her father had found a little work; she
wanted to remain at home where she might at least direct the younger
children, and she could, if only she were sure of her war-time
wage. Could not the Committee promise the sale of her laces? Often
repeated question during these courage-testing days, when emergency
organizations are breaking up, and poor women do not yet see what is to
replace them.

Among the more important communes on the Ghent committee list, I found
Oosterzele, Baelegem, and Landsanter, all three producing a good
quality of Duchesse, Flanders, Needle Point and Venise, and counting
together about 160 lace-makers; Gysenzeele and Destelbergen, which make
fine Flanders, and Duchesse, Knesselars, with 250 Cluny workers; Asper
with 60 in Venise; the convents of Scheldewinkle and Eecke, the first
occupied with Venise, the second with Needle Point and Duchesse, which
it sells to an American house, and finally, the larger Deynze district,
including Vynck, Lootenhulle, Machelin, the Valenciennes convent school
at Ruysselede, and Bachte, with perhaps 400 lace-makers in all.

I got my orientation for this last southern district from the Comtesse
d’Alcantara, who has been indefatigable in her double rôle of chairman
of Deynze and vice-chairman of the regional committee. Constantly
throughout the war, she might have been seen starting from the handsome
château at Bachte—one of the most imposing in Belgium—on bicycle or
on foot on her way to one of the lace villages, with thread and money
for the workers, or at night returning with the rolls of lace which she
had then to get to Ghent and from there to Brussels. The Germans never
succeeded in obstructing her work, nor that of her father and mother,
for their villagers and for the orphans of the entire region. Women
came between shells to bring laces. It was a moral help just to be able
to talk about their work.

As I crossed the moat and passed under the archway, I saw the spot
where the last Allied shell exploded, killing nineteen Germans, while
the family and the 200 villagers in the cellars, where they had been
for two weeks, escaped unharmed. In fact, in all the Deynze country I
was in the midst of the destruction accompanying the final push of the
liberating army, and was vividly reminded of what would have happened
to the rest of Belgium had the armistice been further delayed.

But already in the partially wrecked villages many of the women had
gone back to their cushions—their reason-saving cushions, for they
furnished practically the only employment to be had, and however small
the earnings, they at least insured a few francs a week, and best of
all they proved that something of the past persisted.

In Vynck, a poor little town of 1,700 people, I found 40
Valenciennes-makers, and heard that 100 young girls were being taught
at home by their mothers. I talked with two maiden sisters—one 68, the
other 72—whom I spied hidden behind a window-screen of potted plants,
working, with 450 bobbins each, on a kind of Valenciennes one finds
only on the cushions of the past generation. They could not repeat
often enough their gratitude to the Committee, which had been paying
them 44 francs ($8.80) a meter for their lace, so much more than they
had received before the war from the Courtrai facteur to whom they had
sold. They counted on making about five meters during the winter ($44
worth), and they work from dawn sometimes till nine at night.

In a neighboring house was a grandmother of eighty-one and her
granddaughter, and on the grandmother’s cushion such a covering and
re-covering of bobbins and lace, to keep them spotless. Over all she
had spread a large towel, beneath it a worn napkin, then a piece of
pink gingham, and below that two remnants of white and blue cloth,
and it seemed appropriate that the snowy treasure, Valenciennes, too,
should be revealed to me only after such a ceremony of unveiling as
this bent old woman of Vynck performed.

I passed quickly through Lootenhulle with its 125 workers, who make,
among other varieties, good Duchesse and Rosaline; and Hansbeek, which
produces a superior Valenciennes; and Ruysselede, with its excellent
school for Valenciennes; to cross from the south to Destelbergen, which
lies almost directly east of Ghent. All the plain was white under the
first deep snow of winter, but to enjoy its loveliness one had to be
able to forget the torn roofs and fireless hearths.

At Destelbergen I went at once to the atelier of Mme. Coppens, to
whom women of both France and Belgium send their old Applications and
spider-web meshes, for restoration. Before the war she employed seventy
expert lace-makers in her school, now she can depend on no more than
twenty—tho there are some 100 less skilful ones in the village. On
this particular January day the school was empty. As Mme. Coppens
received me, she said, “I regret, Madame, but I am without coal, and
without thread; I have been forced to close my work-room; however,”
she hesitated an instant, “if Madame does not object to coming into
the kitchen, she may yet see Stéphanie, the first lace-maker of the
village, at work.”

[Illustration: FAN IN NEEDLE-POINT

Executed by three women in six weeks. “Shields of the Allies,” design
drawn by M. Knoff for the Lace Committee]


It would take 40 workers about a half year to copy this veil]

Remembering the glistening shelves and floors of other Flemish
kitchens, I did not mind; happily not, for in the end Stéphanie was
more to me than many villages. She was bending over an immaculate
cushion, seventy-eight and unmarried, and all her person as
scrupulously neat as her cushion, from her odd little peaked black
crochet cap to the felt shoes she had made herself. She was weaving
the flat surfaces of a dainty French bouquet, and as I stept toward
her chair, looked up, delighted that some one was interested in what
she was making. When I picked up a Bruges collar on the nearby table
she tried in ejaculatory Flemish to make me understand, that even tho
she had made parts of it, she disowned the whole as unworthy the name
of lace, and she brought my eyes back to the delicate texture of the
leaves and petals on her cushion.

I wished to know what Stéphanie was getting for a day’s work on
her fine bouquets. She has been making lace for seventy years, is
intelligent and quick, and her maximum wage is two cents an hour, a
franc for a day of ten hours. I asked about the future—she has thought
of that, not without anxiety, and is providing at seventy-eight for
what she calls “old age” by trying hard to put by two cents a week.
Madame C. has been kind to her, and gives her as much freedom and
comfort as she can offer; for instance, when Stéphanie was ill for
three days last week, she did not deduct her wages. She would gladly
double her pay, or triple it, for she realizes there are few like
Stéphanie left, but the Paris firm to whom she sells pays so little
for her lace that she has never been able to offer more than a franc a
day. “If I could give two francs, I could quickly gather a company of
1,000 contented lace-makers, I am certain,” she said. “But when my old
workers fall ill or die, I find no young girls willing to come to me;
they prefer the twenty francs a week they can make picking wool. When
Stéphanie goes, I shall have no single artist to replace her.” “_C’est
un vrai cœur de dentelle_” (she is a true heart of lace), she said
affectionately, as she patted her on the shoulder.

And then she went to fetch a cardboard box and I took a chair by the
table, to watch her unfold what it might contain. She spread three
beautiful widths of Application on blue paper so that I might better
see the tiny bouquets and scattered buds and leaves that blossomed
from the fine quality of machine-made tulle; all these had come from
Stéphanie’s bobbins, and she was having difficulty to continue at her
cushion because of her eagerness to explain them. They were French
designs, as their charming lines had made me suspect. In the box
with the Application were two rolls of Point d’Angleterre, the lace
one finds rarely at present. We held the first one, a length of four
meters, six inches wide, against the light, and then Stéphanie could
sit still no longer; she knew something about this piece, for she
had made its first flower in 1911, and not finished its last until
the war was half over. She pointed out the spaces where a special
needle-worker had introduced almost microscopic open stitches into her
leaves and blooms to give them even greater airiness, and showed how
almost impossible it would have been to execute these needle-stitches
with bobbins; and how difficult is the stitch made with a special
crochet-hook required for the raised veins and outlines (brodes) of
the petals and leaves, since the hook must catch and attach the thread
each time beneath the surface. Finally, a needle-worker, again, as is
always the case in Point d’Angleterre, had spun the clear web between
the flowers, uniting them all into the finished flounce. Stéphanie
pointed to a single detail. “It took me five days to make that tiny
bouquet, and the needle-worker one and a half days more to add the open

Since the snow-covered roads made traveling extremely hazardous, I
decided that I could not stop longer, no matter how absorbing the
Applications and Points d’Angleterre, or how endearing the personality
and contagious the enthusiasm of Stéphanie. I said “Good-by,”
explaining that I had yet that day to visit the needle-lace school at
Zele, twenty kilometers away.



_Stéphanie Visits the Trade Union Lace School_

But I was not to have to part with Stéphanie. When her Flemish ears
gathered from my French that I was starting for Zele and the school
founded three years ago, which had been the talk of the region ever
since, her eyes fairly spoke her eager desire. Seventy-eight and
earning twenty cents a day, and yet consumed by a love for her art (for
with her, lace-making is a true art), and a passion to learn more about
it! I asked Mme. Coppens if Stéphanie might not come along in the car.
In answer she began bustling about, tears in her eyes, to help get her
ready, and Stéphanie in her odd little woolen cap could scarcely tie
her long black-hooded cape because she was constantly throwing up her
hands, and exclaiming, and pressing them together, as she tried to make
me understand that in all her seventy-eight years she had only twice
ridden in a wagon and never had she dreamed of being in an automobile
before she died. What would the neighbors say? We bundled her into the
corner of the car and were off, but she could not sit still, leaning
forward to exclaim over the beauty of the snow, or a windmill, or the
children skating in their sabots, or huddling down to cover her face
with her hands in swift shyness if some one had seemed to see her; no
spirit was ever so bubbling and gay and eager and timid all at once as
Stéphanie’s as we rode through the snow toward Zele.

Nor so patient as hers after we arrived; for instead of going to the
school, I had to leave her in the car while I went to the house of the
director, Dr. Armand Rubbens, unfortunately ill with rheumatism, who
is not only the founder of the school but the inspiration of all the
unusual accomplishments of the lace-workers of this town, where his
father is Burgomaster. After her long wait, Stéphanie’s only comment as
she looked a little fearfully at the gathering dusk, was: “It is not
yet too late to see the school.”

Inside, Dr. Rubbens, who since taking his university degree has not
been strong enough to follow his profession, and has devoted himself
to the 800 lace-workers of his district, explained the organization of
the Zele “Trade Union Lace School,” founded three years ago and the
only one of its kind in Belgium. I felt, as he talked, that he was
reproducing in miniature a Henry Ford plant, and when I told him this,
he smiled. “I begin to think I should see one of Mr. Ford’s factories,
for in reading an account of his system in the Paris _Matin_ last week,
I was astonished at the number of his ideas I had incorporated.”

The fifty advanced workers in the atelier (there are 140 apprentices)
share the profit of the lace sales in proportion to their wages, and
own part of the stock of the union. The best workers of this group
make twenty-five centimes an hour, or two and a half francs (fifty
cents) a day of eight hours, the highest pay I know of, so far,
gained by a lace-maker. The girls may go four hours each week to a
school of domestic science, without losing pay; there are illness and
pension funds, and other provisions for the health and protection of
the members of the school. Dr. Rubbens has seemed to accept every
opportunity as a privilege.



I looked over the files and photographs and records, for even tho Zele
is a remote town of but 6,000 inhabitants, this wide-awake director has
made it provide for him a better set of records and announcement and
advertising cards (some of them in English) than I have seen anywhere
else in Belgium. While I was inspecting the books, he opened a chest
and spread on the table a finished model from his school—a Needle
Point scarf or veil, sown with marguerites and varied by a bewildering
succession of open-work stitches, each seemingly more exquisite than
the preceding and some of them invented for this particular veil. The
needle-workers who had made it had given about 9,000 hours to its
flowers and gauze, and it would bring 3,000 francs to the Trade Union



I felt that I must fetch Stéphanie to see this, but Dr. Rubbens advised
hurrying now to the school, where there was something still more
beautiful to be seen—the scarf just completed that will be presented
to Queen Elizabeth, and so far the _chef-d’œuvre_ of the Zele
lace-makers. I told Stéphanie about it on our way through the village.

Once arrived, we went directly to the most advanced class, where
Stéphanie might find most to interest her. The young women were at work
on Needle Point collars and medallions, a series of tableaux from the
legend of the Fox and the Grapes, and she was all eyes and ears as she
went eagerly from chair to chair, trying to see what these girls had
been taught that she had missed learning, and to add to her lore, if
she could. I believe it is only in such a modern school as this that
an outsider would have been allowed to examine, as Stéphanie did, the
stitches and patterns, for the tradition of the locked door and the
carefully guarded secret still prevails in the lace word.

I was impatient to see the school’s masterpiece, the royal scarf, and
it was now brought from the safe and held before us by three young
women, as the directress led us from point to point in the airy mesh
spun between its rose garlands and medallions. On either side of the
center medallion, the arms of Belgium, were two others, in which human
figures symbolized cities the war has made immortal. For Nieuport a
fisher-maiden stood on the shore with her basket, and about her the
net took up a cockleshell motif; Poperinghe had the graceful hop-vine
as its device; for Furnes there was a dairy-maid with her churn in
the midst of blossoming butter flowers; while Ypres was represented
by a beautiful Flamande sitting before a lace cushion heaped with
bobbins—countless stitches, occupying 12,000 hours, and the entire
weight 125 grammes! And yet, at the end, Stéphanie tilted her dear old
head and said: “Nevertheless, Madame, for the Queen, I should have
made the mesh yet finer.”

This Trade Union is in a sense a professional school, since it
teaches design, but there is the weak spot in an otherwise remarkable
achievement. The designs executed by Dr. Rubbens and the school are
often the kind that have led foreign lace-buyers to order through
Paris, which could furnish the drawings, rather than direct from
Belgium. They lack the lightness and grace that lace designs should
unfailingly possess, just the qualities which the Friends of Lace have
done so much to encourage and cultivate. If Dr. Rubbens can see his way
to follow their suggestions, or to employing a French teacher, there
seems no limit to what he may accomplish.

He is now attempting to establish a true needle-lace Normal School,
which will offer courses in commerce, English, history, and all the
branches necessary to a complete lace education. This will supplement
the instruction of the Bruges bobbin-lace Normal, already well under
way. He holds that the teaching of the fine needle points is more
tedious and difficult than the teaching of the bobbin points, and that
it takes more years to become expert in needle laces than in others.

On the way home, Stéphanie asked what she might do for me. “You may
pray for me, if you wish, Stéphanie.” She was silent a moment. “But,
Madame, should I not make a pilgrimage to Lourdes for you? On one of my
trips in the wagon, I saw the sea, and for three years after that the
sea was every day just before my eyes. And to-day will remain until I
die just in front of my eyes. Madame, should I not go to Lourdes for


[Illustration: Map showing important lace areas in 1919, especially
prepared for this volume by the Brussels Lace Committee.

The size of the circles indicates the approximate geographical extent
of lace-making activity, and has no reference to the quality produced.

The finest varieties are made in the areas indicated by circles 3
(noted for Valenciennes, Bruges, Cluny), 4 (Bruges, Valenciennes,
Cluny), 11 (Duchesse, Application, Rosaline), 15 (Maline, Pt. de Paris,
Pt. de Lille, Binche).

Second quality, circles 5 (Val., Cluny), 6 (Val., Bruges, Cluny), 7
(Duchesse, Needle Point, Val., Cluny), 9 (Point d’Hollande, Val.,
Venise, Needle Point, Cluny).

Third quality, circles 8 (Duchesse, Needle Point), 12 (Venise Needle
Point, Duchesse, Chantilly), 10 (Bruges, Duchesse, Val., Cluny), 14
(Needle Point, Application), 13 (Cluny, Torchon), 16 (Cluny).

The least important laces are found in regions 17 (Venise, filet), 18
(filet, Torchon), 19 (Point de Paris, Chantilly).]

[Illustration: _a._ Pattern]

[Illustration: _b._ Worker’s piqure made from pattern]


_With Drawings by the Directrice of the Brussels School of Design, Mme.
Lucie Paulis_

From the point of view of technique, all laces are divided into two
groups; laces made with the needle, and laces made with bobbins.

_I.—Laces Made with the Needle_

All needle lace is executed in the same manner. First, the design of
the whole is divided into details sufficiently small to allow of their
being easily held and turned by the worker. The design of each of these
details is reproduced on a special kind of black paper by means of tiny
pricked holes that follow all its lines.

The lace worker sews this pattern (or _piqure_) to a piece of double
white cloth, which gives it solidity. She is then ready to begin the
_tracé_ or outlining process. A strand of two or three threads is
appliquéd along all the contours of the pattern by means of a very fine
needle and very fine thread, which catches the cloth below the black
paper, passing and repassing through each of the holes of the pattern,
thus holding the outlining strand in a sort of embrace. When all the
contours of the drawing have been traced, the second part of the work
begins, the execution of the points that are to fill in the spaces.

[Illustration: _c._ The outlining or tracing cord]

All the points or stitches of needle lace are loops, simple or twisted,
formed by a needle carrying a single thread. (The worker holds the
needle with the base instead of the point, forward.) The first row of
loops is attached to the threads of the outlining strand. Arriving at
the extremity of the space she is working, the lace-maker begins a
second row of loops running in the opposite direction, attaching each
loop to the corresponding loop of the first row. At the end of this
row she fastens it to the outlining strand by one or two stitches and
starts on the third row, repeating this operation until her space is
completely covered.

The _points_ or stitches most frequently employed are:

 1. The plat (sketch d), or stitch which forms the flat woven parts,
 which can be more or less tightly drawn, and serves for all the
 opaque parts of the lace. It is made by simple loops, each row being
 consolidated by means of a stretched thread as illustrated in the

[Illustration: _d._ Stitch for the _plat_ or surface]

[Illustration: _e._ Stitch one]

 2. The _jours_ or open-work stitches. Among the fantasy stitches
 employed in the jours are:

 [Illustration: _f._ Mirror stitch]

 _a._ The _point one_, or stitch one, (sketch e.)

 There exists also a stitch _two_, and stitch _three_, which differ in
 the number of loops forming the group.

_b._ The _mirror_ stitch (sketch f.) and a kind of _ball_ stitch
(sketch g.), and lastly the famous extremely transparent _point de
gaze_, or gauze stitch (sketch h.), which constitutes the mesh of the
popular Brussels lace.

[Illustration: _g._ Ball stitch]

All the surfaces having been covered, the lace is further embellished
by the confection of _brodes_, or firm outlining cords around the
filled-in spaces, which produce a more or less striking effect of
relief in needle laces. This _brode_ (sketch i), is made of a strand of
fine or heavier threads, appliquéd as was the original strand outlining
the pattern spaces, and then beautifully covered by the buttonhole
stitch. When the brode is well made, the buttonhole stitches follow
closely, touching side by side.

[Illustration: _h._ Gauze mesh stitch]

Many differing little details which help to give to needle lace its
richness and brilliancy (balls, rings, etc.), are also varieties of
brodes, and are made for the most part in the buttonhole stitch. The
bars forming the base of Venise lace are made in this way.

The execution of the brodes is the final work in needle lace. After
they are finished, the lace detail is detached from the underlying
pattern by cutting the thread between the black paper and supporting
cloth, the fine thread which in the beginning attached the outlining
strand. There remains only to join the separate details of the pattern
by a very fine stitch called the _point invisible_.

[Illustration: _i._ Brode, buttonhole stitch]

The varieties of needle laces are:

 _a._ Venise (_fond_ or base composed of _brides_ or bars).

 _b._ Reticella (Venise lace of geometric design and made without
 brodes or outlining relief cords).

 _c._ Rose Point (Venise with a design of fine branches and tendrils).

 _d._ Brussels Point or Needle Point (very fine lace in which a gauze
 mesh replaces the bars employed in Venise).

_II.—Bobbin Lace_

Bobbin laces fall under two groups: (1) Those made with cut threads,
and (2) those made with continuous threads.

1. Laces made with cut threads, or of repeated details, are executed
on a round cushion, which can be easily turned and they require but a
limited number of bobbins (generally not more than two dozen). They
may be said to be composed essentially of a braid which grows wider
or narrower as it follows all the variations of the pattern, and is
interrupted as often as is necessary.

The parts in process of operation are attached to those already
finished by veritable running knots made with the aid of a little
crochet needle, a tool absolutely indispensable to the making of this
kind of lace. The design of the whole is divided into portions so small
that they cover only the middle of the cushion. It is necessary to have
all around the detail, space for the bobbins, each of which carries a
thread about four inches long.

[Illustration: _j._ Bobbins used in making Belgian laces

  _1_, _2_ and _3_ Valenciennes
  _4_ and _5_ Malines]

[Illustration: _j._ Bobbins used in making Belgian laces

  _6_ Malines
  _7_ Point de Paris
  _8_ Application
  _9_ Torchon
  _10_ Duchesse]

[Illustration: _k._ A pattern for bobbin lace, with l, m, n, the braids
in which it must be executed]

Each fragment is traced on a dark blue paper or _patron_ on which
the place for the pins is not indicated (sketch k.). The lace-maker
pins this blue paper to the middle of her cushion, covering the whole
with a piece of dark blue linen which has a hole in the middle large
enough to leave free the part of the pattern actually being worked. The
lace already finished is thus protected. She then places a pin on
the spot where she decides to begin, attaching the necessary number of
bobbins and starts to weave as a weaver does, first from right to left,
then from left to right, carrying the two bobbins holding the threads
forming the woof (_trame_) successively above and below the threads
forming the warp (_chaine_). Each time all of the threads of the warp
have been crossed by the threads of the woof, she places a pin, and
now the two woof threads caught by this pin lead back to the opposite
side. She turns her cushion according to the direction of the braid
she is executing, so that the threads forming the warp always fall

[Illustration: _l._ A braid which forms the _toile_]

[Illustration: _m._ A _grillé_ braid]

[Illustration: _n._ A braid of 4 threads]

The fundamental stitch in these laces and that which forms the greatest
part of the braids is the _point de toile_, or _toile_ (sketch 1.).
Certain open stitches are also employed, the most common being the
_grillé_ or half-stitch (sketch m.).

The different varieties of bobbin laces made with cut threads, or in
repeated pieces are:

 _a._ Bruges, the flowers are united by brides or bars that are braided
 with four threads (sketch n.).

 _b._ Duchesse (made only with fine thread, loosely worked and
 producing a not particularly pleasing result).

 _c._ Rosaline (an imitation with bobbins of Rose Point. Brodes, or
 raised outlines made with the needle, give it relief).

 _d._ Flanders (in this lace the base of brides or bars is replaced by
 a net mesh base executed with a needle).

 _e._ Application (the flowers, executed like those of Bruges are sewed
 upon tulle).

2. Lace made with uncut or continuous threads. Laces of this group are
executed on a stationary cushion. The design, before it can be used by
the worker, must pass through the hands of a _piqueuse_, or interpreter,
who prepares what is called the patron or pattern (sketch o), that
is to say, determines in advance the places where the pins destined
to hold the threads, must be placed (sketch of a piqure, p.). This
work of the piqueuse demands great skill and infinite patience. Upon
her interpretation will depend the aspect of the lace, for the worker
follows her indications rigidly. This pattern is pricked on a supple
and resistant cardboard (in olden times it was made on parchment) and
is pinned to the cushion with the selvage of the lace at the left. The
worker then attaches to a row of pins placed all across the top of the
pattern, the threads which she will need, often many hundreds.

[Illustration: _o._ Pattern from which piqure is made]

[Illustration: _p._ Piqure]

Now she commences her work, braiding, twisting, intercrossing the
threads in diverse ways, and placing a pin each time the threads must
be held in a position which they can not retain without the aid of a
fixt support. When she arrives at the bottom of her pattern, with great
care she takes out all the pins, and lifts her work to the top of the
pattern, replacing the pins so that the lace will be kept absolutely
regular. She then recommences her work of braiding or weaving,
repeating the same operation till the length of lace she must make is
finished. The patterns are usually about a foot long.

[Illustration: _q._ Valenciennes mesh]

The bobbin laces made with continuous thread comprise:

  _a._ Cluny and
  _b._ Laces with a mesh base:
       1. Valenciennes,
       2. Binche,
       3. Malines,
       4. Point de Paris,
       5. Point de Lille,
       6. Chantilly.

The varieties in Group _b_ may truly be called woven lace, because they
contain a veritable tissue in which, tho the threads are combined in
such a way as to produce more or less open effects, the opaque parts
are woven regularly, that is as linen is woven. The pattern of the mesh
of each of these laces is different.

  Valenciennes (sketch q.).
  Binche (sketch r and s.).
  Malines (sketch t.).
  Point de Paris (sketch u.).
  Point de Lille (sketch v.).

Further, Malines, Chantilly, Point de Lille, and Point de Paris are
characterized by the presence of the _bourdon_, or heavy thread,
slightly twisted, outlining all the details of the design.

Grammont, or Chantilly lace, is usually made of black silk thread.
The mesh is the same as that of Point de Lille. In it the toile is
replaced by the grillé, which adds greatly to the lightness of the

[Illustration: _r._ Binche mesh]

N. B.—To be understood technically, all these laces made with
continuous thread should be considered from the point of view of
the place they occupy on the cushion of the worker: They are held
vertically with the selvage at the left.

[Illustration: _s._ Mesh of “snow-ball” pattern, used in Binche]

It is necessary to mention with these laces, Torchon, the most common
of all, which has little artistic value, and has entered more and more
into the domain of the machine. Torchon base (sketch w.).

[Illustration: _t._ Malines mesh]

[Illustration: _u._ Point de Paris mesh]

[Illustration: _v._ Point de Lille mesh]

[Illustration: _w._ Torchon base]

[Illustration: _x._ Picot]

[Illustration: _y._ Cluny pattern]

Group _A._—Cluny laces demand great ingenuity in execution. The most
simple are made entirely by braiding in such a way as to produce an
effect of interlacing (sketch y.). The braids are formed of four
threads; when the interlacing is more important they become more
complicated. At times the braids group themselves to form the flat
surface or toile which later will resolve again into braids. They
unite and part, sometimes dividing into strands (brides) of two
threads according to the lines of the design. This design should be
absolutely precise. And since in it the future employment of each
thread must be constantly foreseen, it is quite impossible to compose
a Cluny lace pattern without a knowledge of the technique of that lace
(sketch y).

[Illustration: _z._ Interpreted Torchon pattern]

[Illustration: Completed lace]

Sometimes the general name guipure is given to Cluny, as well as to all
laces made with continuous thread which have not a mesh base.


      Aerseele, 110

      Albert King, 194

      Alcantara, Comtesse d’, 252

      Alençon (town), 31

      Alençon lace, 38, 132

      Allard, Mme. Josse, 169, 172, 209

      Alost, Lace region of, 149, 169ff, 224
        Spinneries of, 82

      America, Aid from, 17, 235, 236
        Lace buyer of, 252
        Laces displayed in, 40

      Americans in Ghent, 248

      Amies de la Dentelle, Convent subsidized by, 218
        Lace quality conservation by, 100, 272
        Prices under, 103
        School reforms under, 15
        War committee, see Brussels Lace Committee

      Antik lace, see Flanders, Old

      Antwerp, Old Flanders in, 115
        Port of, 30, 166
        Province of, 146

      Application lace, 226, 241
        Areas producing, 277
        Bobbins for, 289
        Lacets for, 171
        Method of making, 221ff, 292
        Restoration of, 256
        Tulle base for, 41, 259

      Ardois, 109

      Argentin lace, 38

      Arras, 31

      Asper, 252

      Bachte, 252

      Baelegem, 251

      Bailleul, 34
        Devastation of, 36

      Bayeux, 131

      Beernem, 123

      Béguinage of Bruges, 154ff
        of Ghent, 155

      Berraly’s convent, Abbé, 53ff

      Beth, Thread firm of, 81

      Bethune, Baron de, 85

      Beughem, Vicomtesse de, 17, 127, 169

      Binche lace, 115, 150, 152, 166
        Areas producing, 277
        Mesh designs, 297, 298
        Method of making, 40, 296

      Bixio, M., 27

      Blonde lace, 40
        Method of making, 134

      Bobbin lace, 37
        Areas producing, 97ff, 144ff
        Method of making, 39, 287ff
        Teaching, 161
        Varieties of, 39, 40, 292, 296

      Bousies, Comtesse de, 249

      Brabant, Lace area of, 215ff
        Province of, 146

      Bruges (town), 30, 51, 87, 91, 124, 247
        Lace region of, 143ff
        Lace Normal School of, 76, 100

      Bruges lace, 241, 249, 257
        Areas producing, 143ff, 277
        Collars and cuffs, 113
        Duchesse, 40, 149, 150, 152
        Method of making, 292
        Old, 109
        Point de, 104
        Rosaline and, 226ff

      Bruggen, Mme. Van der, 123

      Brussels (town), 19, 21, 85, 204, 210, 216, 217, 232, 241, 253
        German “Lace Control” in, 122
        Museum, 26, 42, 86
        Point d’Angleterre in, 223
        School of Design, 76, 165, 279

      Brussels lace,
        Duchesse, 40, 237, 241
        Point, 39, 179, 182, 283, 286
        Method of making Brussels Point, 286

      Brussels Lace Committee, 127, 148, 151, 195
        Agency, purchasing and sales, 108, 116, 174, 182, 206,
            210, 225, 237, 241
        Designs of, 58, 193, 242
        Educational aims of, 56, 75, 115
        German interference with, 123, 238
        Improvements through, 36, 53, 121
        Map of lace areas, 276
        Origin and purpose of, 15ff
        Personnel of, 17
        Prices paid by, 103, 112, 123, 124, 254
        Representatives of, 105, 118, 149, 236, 252
        Thread supply for, 82, 88

      Burano lace, 39

      Bysance, 26

      Calais, 35, 172

      Celine, 250

      Chantilly lace, 40, 205
        Areas producing, 127ff, 277
        Method of making, 296

      Cinquantenaire Museum, 26, 42, 86

      Claterna, Ancient bobbins of, 27

      Cluny lace, 28, 44, 89, 94, 98, 111, 118, 123, 149,
          150, 152, 162, 225, 237, 251
        Areas producing, 277
        Designs, 302
        Duty on, 90
        Guipures of, 99, 103, 104, 113, 149
        Method of making, 39, 296, 302, 304

      Coates, Thread firm of, 82

      Cock, Gillemont de, 148, 166

      Colbert, 31

      Colette, 179

      Collart, M., 17

      Comité National, Cooperation of, 16, 17, 19
        Relief work of, 216, 235

      Commission for Relief in Belgium, 120, 236
        Cooperation of, 16, 19, 135

      Compagnie des Indes, 17

      Convents, Lace-making
        Bruges, 149
        Cruyshautem, 202
        Eecke, 252
        Erembodeghem, 189ff
        Heckelgem, 215ff
        Kerxken, 173
        Liedekerke, 218ff
        Opbrakel, 201ff
        Ruysselede, 252, 255
        Scheldewinkle, 252
        Thielt, 105, 110
        Turnhout, 53ff

      Coppens, Mme., 256ff, 265

      Courtrai lace region, 79ff

      Cox, Thread firm of, 81

      Cruyshautem convent, 202

      Cuseners, Mme., 129

      Designs of various laces, 278ff

      Destelbergen, 224, 251, 256

      Deynze district, 252, 253

      Dixmude, 87, 143

      Duchesse lace, 98, 123, 163, 249, 251, 252, 255
        Areas producing, 277
        Bobbins for, 289
        Bruges, 40, 149, 150, 152
        Brussels, 40, 237, 241
        Guipures, 99
        Method of making, 292

      Eecke convent, 252

      Egypt, 26

      Elizabeth, Queen, 17
        Laces for, 38, 193ff, 270ff
        Patronage of, 15

      England, 30
        Thread from, 19, 82
        Tulle from, 35

      Erembodeghem, 185, 210
        Lace region of, 189ff

      Flanders (district), Lace industry in 30, 43ff, 146

      Flanders lace, 41, 99, 163, 237, 241, 251
        Details of, 224, 114ff
        Guipures of, 113
        Method of making, 292
        Old, 40, 111, 114ff, 150, 152, 166, 225

      France, History of lace in, 30ff

      Franciscaine Sisters, 173ff, 189ff, 201ff

      Friends of Lace, see Amies de la Dentelle

      Furnes, 87, 271

      Gand, Canton de, 248

      German depredations, 51, 59, 80, 82ff, 88, 231
        facteurs, 88, 119
        interference with lace workers, 18, 105, 110, 119,
            120ff, 157ff, 174, 190, 219, 237ff
        “Lace Control,” 20, 120ff

      Ghent, 30, 87, 143, 147
        Béguinage of, 155
        Lace Committee, 249ff
        Lace region of, 247ff
        Spinneries of, 82

      Graeht, Baron van der, 105, 108, 114
        Mlle. van der, 105

      Grammont, Chantilly lace region, 127ff, 206, 296

      Greeks, 26

      Grenadine d’Alays, 139

      Groothuis museum, 151

      Gulleghem, 92

      Gysenzeele, 251

      Hainaut, Province of, 146

      Haltaert, 170

      Hansbeek, 255

      Hebrews, 26

      Heckelgem convent, 215ff

      Henry, Mrs. Bayard, 92

      Herzele lace region, 231ff

      Holland, 30
        Lace for Queen of, 207

      Hoover, Herbert C., 18
        Mrs. Herbert C., 193

      Hours of lace workers, 65ff 111ff 217, 228, 255, 268

      Imitations, 17, 41, 171, 183
        of Chantilly, 132, 138
        of Point d’Angleterre, 221

      Import duty on lace, 90

      Ireland, Thread from, 82

      Iseghem, 98

      Italy, 15, 36
        Ancient bobbins in, 27
        History of lace in, 29

      Kefer-Mali, Mme., 17, 42, 215, 221

      Kerxken lace region, 169ff, 224

      Knesselars, 251

      Lace areas, List and Map of, 276ff
        History of, 25ff
        Methods of making, 279ff
        Schools, 146, 147, 242ff
          Amies de la Dentelle and, 15ff, 76
          Chantilly, 129, 131
          Convent, 53ff 105, 149ff, 177, 190ff, 205ff, 215, 218ff, 252
          Coppens’, 256
          Normal, 100, 110ff, 152, 156ff, 273
          Trade Union, 265ff
        Varieties of, see Bobbin lace and Needle lace

      Landsanter, 251

      Liedekerke lace region, 215ff

      Liedt’s collection, Baron, 151

      Lille, 30, 34

      Lootenhulle, 252, 255

      Louis XIII, 32

      Louis XIV, 31, 32, 33

      Louis Philippe, 35

      Lys River valley flax, 30, 79ff

      Machelin, 252

      Maertens, Professor, 148, 156

      Maldeghem, 149

      Malines (town) 30, 86, 248

      Malines lace, 40, 100
        Areas producing, 277
        Bobbins for, 288, 289
        Mesh design, 299
        Method of making, 73ff, 296
        Old laces, 86
        Point de Lille and, 71, 72

      Map of lace areas, 276

      Margharita of Italy, Queen, 15

      Maria Loop, 110

      Marie Antoinette, 33

      Marie-Henriette, Duchess of Brabant, 249

      Marie-Thérèse, Empress, 248

      Menin, 87

      Mercier, Cardinal, 239
        Malines lace of, 75

      Milan lace, 104
        Guipure of, 114

      Mullie, Mlle., 87, 89, 90

      Museum, Brussels, 26, 42, 86
        Courtrai, 85
        Groothuis, 151

      Needle lace, 37ff, 201, 206, 208ff, 273
        Method of making, 279ff
        Varieties of, 38ff, 286

      Needle Point lace, 44, 99, 162, 169, 189, 202, 223,
          248, 249, 251, 252, 269, 270
        Areas producing, 277
        Method of making, 178ff, 286

      New York, 90

      Nieuport, 87, 143, 271

      Ninove, 128
        Spinneries of, 82

      Northcliffe’s posters, Lord, 240

      Oedelem, 123

      Oostcamp, 123, 149

      Oosterzele, 251

      Opbrakel convent, 189, 201ff

      Oultremont, Comtesse Elizabeth d’, 17

      Paisley spinneries, 82

      Parc, Comte du, 231ff
        Mme. du, 231ff

      Paris lace market, 69, 90, 196, 223

      Paulis, Mme. Lucie, 165, 279

      Peat, Thread firm of, 93, 134

      Persia, 26

      Pittham, 109

      Point d’ Alençon, 132
        d’Angleterre, 181, 221, 241, 260
          Method of making, 40, 223ff
        de Bruges, 104
        de Flanders, 224ff
        de Gaze, 179, 283
        d’Hollande, 72
          Areas producing, 277
        de Lille, 40
          Areas producing, 277
          Mesh design, 300
          Method of making, 71, 296
        de Milan, 104
        de Paris, 40, 134
          Areas producing, 277
          Bobbins for, 289
          Mesh design, 299
          Method of making, 62, 296
          Various uses of, 69, 71
        de Venise, see Venetian Point

      Pompadour, Marquise de, 33

      Poperinghe, 87, 271

      Prices paid for lace, 88, 103, 117, 183, 196, 217, 254

      Prices paid for supplies, 88, 93

      Priestess of Hathor, 27

      Puy, Thread firm of, 93

      Reims, 31

      Reticella, 286

      Retreats, 154ff

      Rippenhausen, Freiherr von, 121

      Robertine, Sœur, 174ff, 197

      Rond mesh, 91

      Roose, Mme., 151

      Rosalie, 217

      Rosaline lace, 40, 152, 221, 223, 237, 241, 249, 255
        Areas producing, 277
        Method of making, 226ff, 292

      Rose point lace, 39, 195, 292
        Method of making, 286

      Rubbens, Dr. Armand, 162, 267ff

      Rudder, M. de, 193

      Rulant, Adele, 172

      Russian lace, 163

      Ruysselede, 110, 252, 255

      Ryeland, Mme., 149

      St. Andre, 149

      St. Croix, 149

      St. Michel, 149, 153

      St. Pierre des Calais, 132

      Scheldewinkle convent, 252

      Schools, see Lace schools

      Sedan, 31

      Sharlaecken, Mme., 17

      Sicily, 30

      Sidonie, 178

      Sister A., 190ff

      Sister M., 220ff

      Sister S., 195

      Slock, Mlle., 118

      Spain, Blonde lace for, 40, 134

      Stéphanie, 257ff, 265ff

      Stoop, M. de, 79, 84

      Syria, 26

      Syssele, 149

      Thielt lace region, 97ff

      Thourout lace region, 97ff

      Torchon lace, 40, 94, 99, 150, 152, 298
        Areas producing, 277
        Bobbins for, 289
        Designs of, 301, 303
        Teaching of, 162

      Turnhout, 43, 135, 143, 144, 165
        Lace region of, 49ff

      Union Patriotique des Femmes Belges, 17

      Valenciennes (town), 30, 34, 147

      Valenciennes lace, 31, 40, 85, 89, 94, 99, 102, 105,
          123, 149, 150, 151, 152, 155, 156, 163, 166, 248, 249
        Areas producing, 79ff, 87, 277
        Bobbins for, 288
        Duty on, 90
        Mesh, 27, 41, 71, 90
        Mesh design, 295
        Method of making, 296
        Prices paid for, 254ff
        School for, 110, 252

      Values of lace, 31, 88, 90, 225, 269
        See also Prices

      Van Hoeimessen, Curé, 176

      Venetian Point lace, 206
        Medallions, 192, 210
        Varieties of, 39
        See also Venise

      Venice, 29, 30, 144, 206

      Venise lace, 39, 169, 182, 189, 216, 237, 251, 252
        Areas producing, 277
        Method of making, 178, 192, 285, 286
        “Queen’s Cloth” of, 193ff

      Vynck, 252, 254

      Wages paid lace workers, 44, 65, 73, 89, 92, 110, 112ff,
          124, 172, 218, 228, 250, 258, 268

      Wevelghem, 92

      Whitlock, Mrs. Brand, 16

      Wynghene lace region, 97ff
        Burgomaster of, 118

      Ypres, 36, 87, 90, 143, 271

      Zele, Lace school at, 76, 162, 265ff



_A Book of Gripping Human Interest_


An absorbingly interesting narrative of personal experience by the only
woman member of the Relief Commission, who tells in moving language the
story of the unbreakable spirit sustaining the Belgians and the noble
service the Belgian women have rendered and inspired in a land made
desolate by war.

Introduction by HERBERT C. HOOVER,

_Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium_

 To quote from Mr. Hoover’s own foreword: “The soul of Belgium received
 a grievous wound, but the women of Belgium are staunching the flow,
 sustaining and leading this stricken nation to greater strength and
 greater life. We of the Relief have been proud of the privilege to
 place the tools in the hands of these women and have watched their
 skilful use and their improvement in method with hourly admiration....
 Mrs. Kellogg has done more than record in simple terms passing
 impressions of the varied facts of the work of these women, for she
 spent months in loving sympathy with them. We offer her little book
 as our, and Mrs. Kellogg’s tribute in admiration of them and the
 inspiration which they have contributed to this whole organization.”

_12mo, cloth, $1.00; by mail, $1.12._

_What Leading Periodicals Say of_



 “So impressed was Mrs. Kellogg by the greatness and value of what the
 Belgian women are doing to help save the Belgian people that she has
 written this book, in which each chapter describes some phase or tells
 some incident of what she saw. The simplicity with which she writes
 makes the wonderful story of the devotion, the unstinted service,
 the utter self-abnegation with which many thousands of Belgian women
 are giving themselves completely to this work stand out all the more
 grandly.”—_Times_, New York.

 “Among the thousands of books that have been written on the
 war, in this country and abroad, the pen of a woman has given
 us the truest portrayal of the real heart of a heart-broken
 people.”—_Constitution_, Atlanta, Ga.

 “The pages brim with information and with profoundest pathos.
 As you read some of them you will feel a lump in your
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 “It is a book of tears, heart-throbs, and of devotion.... We do not
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 “It is full of the kind of stuff that makes us proud of the part
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 the long, sad months that Germany had its iron heel on this stricken
 land.”—_Evening Star_, Poughkeepsie, N. Y.

 “The only American woman member of that Commission wrote the
 book—Mrs. Charlotte Kellogg—after spending eight months on Belgian
 soil; and her strong sympathy, her unfailing appreciation, intensify
 the literary charm of its pages. Learning how these women have
 labored, in their mothering of smitten millions, we get from this book
 side-lights upon the effects of the war.”—_Richmond Times Despatch._

_12mo, cloth, $1.00; by mail, $1.12._


  354–360 Fourth Avenue,      New York

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