Friday, March 29, 2013

A Case For Lace

With the sun barely poking through moisture-heavy clouds in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States yesterday and the temperature not quite attaining the range of balmy, you might think it was a bit too early in the season to be wearing lace. And you would be right, if said lace was all you wore. But it does happen to be spring, has been for more than a week now, and I thought I would just give the warming season a little boost with my attire in the direction of pleasant.

Lace-making is an ancient craft. An openwork fabric, lace can be made by machine or by hand. Wikipedia notes that the holes can be formed via removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric, but more often the open spaces are created as part of the fabric. True lace was not made until the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A true lace is created when a thread is looped, twisted or braided to other threads independently from a backing fabric. Originally linen, silk, gold, or silver threads were used. Now lace is often made with cotton thread or synthetic fiber.

Similar is a process called tatting. Employed for a time as a nurse’s assistant at the Camarillo asylum in southern California in the 1930s (when she wasn't managing train stations with my grandfather), my maternal grandmother learned tatting from one of the patients, and I still own some of her lovely handiwork. Developed to imitate pointe lace, tatting is a particularly durable form of lace constructed from a series of knots and loops over a core thread. This technique actually more closely resembles the front of the vest I wore yesterday, with more traditional, and delicate, lace on the back.

Last week my regular readers may recall that I wrote a post about the history of pinstripes (Pinstripe Parable) which featured a pair of vintage, charcoal-colored Lee’s pinstriped denim trousers. I mentioned owning a pair in blue. Today I broke out the indigo jeans, pairing them with a tailored white blouse by Worthington from JCPenney with crisply starched, turn-back cuffs. A look around my closet revealed this lacy, navy-hued vest, which I received in a box of cast-off clothing lovingly passed along to me by my best friend’s mother, Joyce, last summer. The dainty vest would be a perfect counterpoint to the masculine, pinstriped pants. I gathered hope for more sun than clouds and put it on.

With my grandmother’s heirloom necklace and earrings of sapphire-glass stones setting off a vintage rhinestone pin I fastened to the vest in front, I grabbed a denim jacket and headed out for my commute to Washington D.C. for a day of research at the Library of Congress. Soft ice pellets, referred to as graupel by our local meteorologists, splattered gently on my windshield as I made my way south from Baltimore County. I held out hope that our nation’s capitol would trend more toward temperate and wondered if my choice of lace, even as an accessory, had been a bit optimistic. Heartened by the sight of a fellow commuter on the subway wearing a whole dress made of lace, I realized I wasn’t the only one longing for spring!

By the time I emerged from the Library at the end of the day, the clouds had parted and the sun was offering a fair bit of warmth. My fashion fight for spring had not been in vain after all.

"Lace is as much about the space between the threads as it is about the threads themselves."
-- Lori Howe

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