Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Burano, the island of lacemaking


We were staying in Venice for six days and on day two we took the boat ride 40 minutes to the island of Burano. It is a fishing village, very quiet compared to Venice and so colorful as you can see. It was charming and the style of homes/buildings much more simple and well taken care of. It is definitely just a tourist town now with much shopping and food on this small island. I was snapping away on my camera and felt that every view was a beautiful photo…bright sun, clear blue skies and water!  It was 100 degrees though!DSC07364



I was walking the main shopping street when I came to this lace store that said it had a museum in the back and upstairs and it was AIR CONDITIONED so I grabbed the family and we went through…slowly.

The walls were full of hand made lace pieces and all were behind glass so forgive the glare and reflections on these photos.


Burano has a history of lacemaking from the late 15th century. They had a famous school that lasted for 100 years where nuns trained girls from the age of 12.  In 1900 there were 1000 women making lace but is now down to a handful of older women in this town. The school closed in the late 20th century due to cheaper lace from Asia and it now houses the Museum of Lace.


What was disappointing was that the museum’s collection was not as extensive and amazing as the two stores in town that had private collections!  Inside the museum they were taping a video of an elderly lacemaker who had a lace pattern going on her lap but sadly, it was in Italian so I couldn’t understand it.

The Venetian lace is called Needlelace or Stitches in the Air in Italian.  It is not bobbin lace which is more common and done primarily in northern Europe. I watched a woman in the shop. The design is drawn on colored tissue like paper that is stitched to some base. Basically the woman has a small hand needle and fine thread and it looks like she is making tiny stitches. It is all held together with other stitches or weaving and when the paper is taken away, you have airy lace. I think that this lion and boat scene below really show the detail of the stitches.




This was an amazing bridal gown! I can’t imagine how many years it took to make this lace. Of course, in the beginning, lace was only for the noblemen and the royal families. The described is as the most expensive commodity of that time!  It became very popular and even men demanded it for cuffs, collars etc.DSC07386DSC07387DSC07389DSC07390DSC07388DSC07391

This piece above looks like tape lace where the take a 3/8” approx width of ribbon like lace, bend it into shapes and then stitch it together with long thread links…like a spiderweb!

Below is an elaborate example of using lace and eyelet for an heirloom garment.  In years past, when I made heirloom lace clothing for my nieces and myself, this would have been a great one to inspire a new skirt!



The photos don’t do the lace justice because you need to get up close and see how tiny the stitches are. At the store, they had a magnifying glass there for you to use.

If you go to Venice, this is a MUST for a few hour day trip! And the gelato is a MUST also!


  1. Truly beautiful. Perhaps someday handcrafting will again be valued as much as it was before the machine age.

  2. So much beautiful lace. Mind-boggling to think of the work that must have gone into each piece (or even a small segment of a piece). Thank you for sharing!