Burano, a pastel-painted island in the Venetian lagoon, prides itself on being the oldest centre of needle lace making in the world. Using an embroidered technique the first lace dates back to the 1500s when production took place in houses around the island. Today the industry is in decline as few girls are learning the skills necessary but you can still see many ladies at work in the lace shops around the island. So for this week’s photo challenge I thought we could have a look at some of the intricate designs involved.
Burano legend tells of how mermaids tried to tempt a fisherman while he was out on the water. The man gallantly withstood the temptation of their singing as he was already engaged to a local girl. The Mermaid Queen was so impressed by the man’s faithfulness that she flashed her tail in the water to create a foam that turned into a wedding veil for the fisherman’s fiancé.
The fisherman presented his beloved with the veil on the day of their wedding. No-one had ever seen anything so delicate and intricate but the young ladies of the island were in such admiration that they set about trying to imitate the veil’s fragility with needle and thread for their own weddings. And so began the lace making industry of Burano.
Each piece can involve 5 or 6 different ladies as each person concentrates on a single stitch type, even if she knows all the different stitches. The first will set out the basic pattern, the next may do a netting style stitch whilst later relief stitches give the lace a 3D form.
This means that a single fan such as the one shown can take up to 3 months to complete. Yes, 3 months, 12 weeks, a quarter of a year just to make one fan. The work’s intricacy and labour is reflected in the price too. The one pictured would be priced at €5700 for example and no, I didn’t forget a decimal point, that IS five thousand seven hundred euros but the delicacy of the lace is unrivalled.
So next time you’re in Venice don’t forget to take the vaporetto over to Burano to check out the lace makers before they disappear. I’d love to hear about your favourite crafts or hobbies so leave me a comment below and in the meantime keep stitching!
For more on the history of Burano lace-making visit the Lace Museum here
Weekly Photo Challenge Intricate
The Weekly Postcard