On the Trail of Alencon Lace

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May 23rd 2015
Published: May 23rd 2015
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A quiet place beside the Tourist Office.
Thursday 21 May 2015

A vague memory surfaced while we were in the Bayeux area and noticed the town Alencon on the map. A remembered association of this town's name with lace making was enough to send us on a mission to set eyes on some of the lace. A little preparatory detective work found the Musee des Beaux-Arts et la Dentelle would be the place to find the lace in Alencon, so we set off through the green countryside with more than a hint of sun to cheer us.

Our excellent GPS lady directed us to a free carpark in the centre of town. We duly headed off on foot to find the Tourist Office where an English woman married to a Frenchman gave us easy-to-follow instructions. The town market was closing so a bite of lunch from a boulangerie was in order before we went to see the lace.

The precious lace is housed in a darkened envirionment to protect the fibres from the light. Thankfully a very muted light allows the visitor to see the lace, once the eyes have adjusted. Photos without flash would not be very successful so there are no lace photos
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Rhododendrons beside the Musee des Beaux Artes
in this blog. It's hard to find words that convey the sheer beauty of Alencon needle lace. Hundreds of hours go into the creation of even a small piece of this perfection. We saw diaphanous shawls in stunning black lace, many examples of collars, and cuffs and a host of lovely trims with designs so tiny and intricate we couldn't believe human eyes and fingers could be trained to produce such work. Other examples were quite bold in comparison, but always delicately made and quite exquisite. What the long term effects on the health of the women who did this would be Is sobering to think about. This Alencon lacemakng tradition began in the 16th century and was very popular as a decorative element on clothing of the time. Times and fashion changed, so that by the start of the 20th century machines began to take over. However, there Is a commitment to keep this lacemaking art alive, and today lace makers are passing on their craft at a nearby National Lace Workshop.

Additional photos below
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Was once a prison in the centre of town until a few years ago.

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