Neuchâtel lace


Category:
Traditional craftsmanship
Canton:

Description

For many years the canton of Neuchâtel was renowned for its lacemaking industry. As far back as the 17th century, Neuchâtel lace was much sought after among ladies from European high society. Back then, the industry employed five or six times more people than the local watching industry. Neuchâtel lace is a light-coloured bobbin lace made from linen or silk, also referred to as “blond”. It uses a specific stitch, which distinguishes it from other types of lace work. The patterns changed according to the fashion of the day, from Mechlin to Valenciennes and Binches, to name but a few of the many quirkily-named patterns. However, the lacemakers of Neuchâtel, who were always willing to try something new, wholeheartedly embraced these changes. The decline of the local lace-making industry was hastened by the arrival of mechanical lace-making from England in 1830 and by a fall in demand for lace. Today, lacemaking is a purely leisure pursuit, but nevertheless remains inextricably linked with this illustrious past. Although the original techniques are rarely taught nowadays, they have survived thanks to a handful of dedicated lacemakers, who manage to rework old models, draw inspiration from them, and even create brand-new lace work from the originals. Several museums celebrate this craftsmanship, including the Château de Valangin, the Musée paysan de la Chaux-de-Fonds and the Musée régional du Val-de-Travers.

Image gallery

  • Edging on a linen scarf edging, late 18th century © Marie-Louise Montandon
  • Marie-Louise Montandon: Part of a bobbin lace cap © Marie-Louise Montandon
  • Summer class, 2010 © Corinne Boillat
  • Passeport vacances 2010 © Corinne Boillat
  • Max F. Chiffelle: Bobbin lace pillow, Château de Valangin, 1943 © Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • Alfred Ditisheim: Lacemakers and watchmakers after C. Girardet (1819), postcard © Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • Edging on a linen scarf edging, late 18th century © Marie-Louise Montandon
  • Marie-Louise Montandon: Part of a bobbin lace cap © Marie-Louise Montandon
  • Summer class, 2010 © Corinne Boillat
  • Passeport vacances 2010 © Corinne Boillat
  • Max F. Chiffelle: Bobbin lace pillow, Château de Valangin, 1943 © Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • Alfred Ditisheim: Lacemakers and watchmakers after C. Girardet (1819), postcard © Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds

Video

Pierre Blanc: Les dentellières, 2011 © Pierre Blanc

Audio

RTN: Report on the lacemaking classes attended by a school summer club at the Château de Valangin: the children given their account Radio Télévision Neuchâtel/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds

RTN: Interview with Madeleine Aubert during a demonstration event at the Château de Valangin © Radio Télévision Neuchâtel/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds

References and documentation

Publications
  • Rose-Marie Girard : La dentelle aux fuseaux dans le canton de Neuchâtel au début du XXe siècle. In : Musée neuchâtelois. Neuchâtel, 1982, p. 35-52

  • Héloïse de Juillien : Manuel de dentelles aux fuseaux. Comprenant les trois premières parties de l'enseignement pratique et théorique du cours. Ed. Musée du Château de Valangin. Valangin, 1984

  • Marie-Louise Montandon : La dentelle de Neuchâtel. Auvernier, 1998

  • Marie-Louise Montandon : Technique de la dentelle de Neuchâtel. Neuchâtel, 2001

  • Marie-Louise Montandon : Dentelles de Neuchâtel. De la production à l’exportation. Auvernier, 2007

  • Marie-Louise Montandon, Rose-Marie Girard : La dentelle aux fuseaux en pays de Neuchâtel. In : Nouvelle revue neuchâteloise no. 18, vol. 5. Neuchâtel, 1988

  • Edouard Quartier-la-Tente : Le Val-de-Travers (Le canton de Neuchâtel. Revue historique et monographique des communes du canton de l’origine à nos jours 3). Neuchâtel, 1893

  • M. Wavre-Barrelet : Dentelle et dentellières d'autrefois. In : Musée neuchâtelois. Neuchâtel, 1915, p. 51-59

Documentation