Sunday 12 July 2009

Lace Place

La Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode (the International City of Lace and Fashion) opened in June in Calais, northern France. Its building, by Alain Moatti and Henri Rivière, is on the site of an old lace factory. Some space is taken up by a history of lace-making, from hand to machine. Calais was a centre of machine lace, using methods and hardware imported from Nottingham. There's also a restaurant, a shop, a library and a "tissutheque".

Here are some old recipes for cleaning lace, completely untried and unguaranteed.

From The Woman's Own Book of the Home, 1932: Take some clean old white muslin and sew it round a large bottle full of cold water. Wrap the lace carefully around the bottle. To prevent wrinkles tack one end of the lace to the muslin. Take a clean sponge soaked with sweet oil, and saturate the lace thoroughly through the wrappings to the bottle which is to be fastened by strings in a wash kettle. Pour in a strong cold lather of white castile soap and boil the suds until lace is perfectly clean and white. The bottle should then be placed in the sun to dry. Remove the lace and wind it round a ribbon block or press. Soap jelly may be used for washing lace – afterwards rinse in cold water.

To tint: After rinsing dip in weak tea or coffee. Black lace should be quite cleared of dust by brushing with a soft brush. Soak it in prepared tea containing 1 dessertspoonful tea, 2 teasponfuls gum arabic, and 3 pints boiling water. Iron under tissue paper.

"Some people wash it in sugar and water, and some in coffee, to make it the right yellow colour. But I have a very good recipe for washing it in milk, which stiffens it enough, and gives it a very good creamy colour." Mrs Forrester in Cranford.

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