Usually, I feel rather uncomfortable when my potential customers ask me why my products are expensive. But yesterday I went to the local alteration shop to repair my son’s spring jacket: there is a 20-inch ripped seam on his sleeve, and I didn’t have time to repair it myself. I know that for a professional it is a 10 minute job. Guess, how much I was asked to pay? 34 CAD, more than the cost of the jacket! So I thought I should probably stop feeling guilty about charging 49 CAD for a toy I spent 3-4 hours making.
I’m writing this post to cast a vote for those who are still spending their time and effort and amazing creativity to make unique, handmade items and struggling to compete with eastern mass production. I spent last year in France and have to accept that European customers are way more understanding about why handmade items, especially those handmade in Europe, cost considerably more. Unfortunately, they also accept that there are less and less people in their countries, who can knit, crochet, paint, etc.
Not to be unfair to any of the artists, I decided not to mention any names here. And because my year in France was mainly spent on lace making, I’d like to share my findings and experience, opening a tiny window to the world of hand making.
I’ve hand knitted and crocheted for years, but I’ve never tried lace before recently, when my mom asked me to knit a Russian shawl, her long-time dream. Then I started to look for patterns and realized that lace making is going to be my new, lots-to-learn passion. It seems like every European country has its own style of lace, with French and Italian lace being probably the most exquisite. There is quite a number of different techniques too. I would say that needle and bobbin lace making are the most complex, requiring a lot of dedication and time.
The needle lace making has originated in Armenia, and, as it follows from the name, uses needles and thread. Embroidery is a simplified variation of this type of lace making.
I won’t be wrong, if I state that the bobbin lace is the most difficult to make. This lace is made using special wooden sticks called bobbins. Vologda, a Russian town that is very famous for its bobbin lace work, still has a college dedicated exclusively to this art. I was told that the large panels require as many as 300 bobbins to handle at the same time! I had a one month course on bobbin lace a while ago, and I would say that even 30 bobbins were too much)))
It takes months to design and create a panel like this one.
Another technique is tape lace. Here, pre-made tape is shaped into a pattern and then fixed by a different lace technique, for example, by bobbin lace or needle lace. Tape can be crocheted or, for example, machine made.
One of my favorite lace making techniques is frivolite, or frivolite tatting. Apart from using it to create common small lace items like doilies, frivolite is extensively used in jewelry making.
Finally, crocheting lace is probably the most accessible and widespread lace technique. I was particularly impressed by Japanese designs. Like amigurumi in toy making, Japanese lace doilies are utterly thin and lacy.
Nowadays there is a lot of machine made lace, seamlessly perfect and affordable, but never as exquisite and charming as handmade art that brings together techniques, developed by many generations, and with distinctive character of the artist.