Alençon Edging

Jean Leader

Lacemaker and Textile Enthusiast

An Edging of Alençon Lace

The design of this small piece of Alençon lace indicates that it probably dates from about 1760–70. This style of needle lace takes its name from the town of Alençon in Normandy which was a centre of the French needle lace industry in the eighteenth century. This edging would have been gathered and used as dress decoration probably with matching wider edgings and sleeve ruffles. Johann Zoffany’s portrait of Queen Charlotte at the Holburne Museum in Bath, England shows just how extravagantly lace was used on fashionable costume at this time.

Alençon edging — 12 cm long and about 6 cm wide

Detail:  Off   1   2   3   4

The lace above is at actual size (on a computer screen), but I have enlarged four details to illustrate aspects of Alençon. These can be located on the image by selecting the different numbers, and the 16x magnified enlargements can be found below. (Scroll down; or click/tap on the detail on the image to be taken directly to the enlargement and description.)

Detail 1

Alençon mesh ground worked at right-angles to the length of the lace. That makes sense because it means shorter rows. The twisted stitches are worked in one direction only with a whipped return thread.

Alençon ground with stitches worked from left to right.
The whipped return thread is grey.

Detail 2

Corded stitch for the solid areas with raised, closely buttonholed outlines.

Detail 3

The filling with groups of tiny buttonholed couronnes and bars with open stitches at each side.

Detail 4

The tightly buttonholed edge with picots