Lace as we know it today had its origin in the decoration of washable linen which came into general use in the fifteenth century for ecclesiastical, personal, and household purposes. Beautiful results were attained by drawing threads or cutting out spaces to be filled in with decorative lace stitches. The next step in the development of lacemaking was called reticello. The first pattern book to mention this work is Vecellio, published in 1591, and the famous Sforza inventory of 1493 uses the term but applied to trimming of sheets. In the process of making reticello, the desired open spaces were cut from the linen and a piece of parchment or stiff material was required to support the threads that formed the framework of the pattern. On this counted linen thread foundation the needle wrought beautiful laces of geometric designs. An example of this reticello in the exhibition is the border whose linen foundation has been cut in squares and the remaining threads entirely overworked, accented at intervals with conventional four petalled flowers. Due to its fast growing popularity, this alluring type of work sprang from a pas- time of leisure and luxury to a thriving industry even in the poorest homes and communities. Reticello rapidly developed into punto in aria or “stitch in air,” in which no linen foundation was used, the thread being woven with the needle accentuating the design firmly over a parchment pattern, then working it in with button hole and various mesh stitches. This name first appeared in 1529 in Tagliento’s long list of stitches in which his designs were to be carried out. According to Elisa Ricci’ this title “stitch in air” might be generically applied to all needle laces whose designs are independent of linen, are not raised, and have no background. 

    The pictures to this article are an example of modern Spanish lace. With crafting becoming more and more popular, contemporary artists from around the world are exploring the creative possibilities of age-old traditions. Recently, Spanish crochet teacher Eva Pacheco showed that textiles can do more than keep you warm in the winter. She and her students created a colossal canopy made up of dozens of crocheted squares intricately woven in old world Spanish lace designs with crochet needles. 

    This handmade awning is installed in the main shopping corridor in the Southern Spanish town of Alhaurín de la Torre, in Malaga. The project began three years ago after the city council’s Department of the Environment sought a more sustainable way to shade the high-traffic pedestrian area in the summer. Since then, Pacheco and her students have continued adding to their creation—using recycled fabric in a variety of vibrant colors—so that it now covers almost 500 square meters (5, 381 square feet).

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