When you visit Gozo these days, spotting a lace-maker at work is rare! As lace-makers on the island have dwindled it’s still important to highlight some curious points that are related to this art and craft that has indisputably left its mark on the Gozitan cultural identity.
- In the past centuries, lace-making was not a hobby but a cottage industry that helped to alleviate the poor, rural families and brought in extra income. Girls were taught how to work the bobbins at a very young age and the trickle of money from lace making would help in making ends meet.
- Lace-making requires a kind of hard pillow, made of straw and paper, referred to as a ‘trajbu’ onto which the lace-maker pins a pattern drawn by a local lace artist which will be realised in thread. Next the first sets of bobbins are attached and the work starts. Lace-making is essentially made up of a series of stitches that involves twisting and crossing the bobbins left and right, under and over each other to create intricate and dainty patterns. The lace is held in place using pins. These very careful berry-headed ones are tucked in key places of the pattern being worked out. The tension of thread and the precision with which the lace-maker can master will determine the quality of the item produced.
- One of the most complicated but very characteristic stitch, is the mosca, a kind of stitch, which entails the shuffling of four bobbins in way to create a kind of petal shape. This petal-shapes are used profusely in the more elaborate lace pieces.
- Traditional Gozo lace comes typically in silk and linen. The lace that is worked in linen is usually used in items such as table runners, table clothes and other house The silken lace is used in clothing. Amongst our favourite is the Gozitan lace shawl in black silk, a heirloom piece, that features a repeat of the Maltese cross pattern. In the olden days, lace was used to adorn cuffs and collars. Lace for church vestments is obvioulsy made in white.
- Visit the village of Ta’ Sannat and head up to the square known as Tax-Xelina where you will find ‘The Lace House’. In 1951, Princess Elizabeth on her way to visit the Ta’ Ċenċ reservoir that was being built, stopped for a vist at Ġuseppa Debrincat, a leading lace merchant in Gozo with a big house at what is now called Tax-Xelina Square in Main Street, Sannat. Of course, the royal couple watched local lace makers demonstrating their skill and the Princess was gifted with a piece of lace. What is left today is the house itself andhe marble slab commemorating the event. But if you would like to view lace masterpieces which have been crafted in Gozo, were exported and now have been brought back to the island where they belong, it is worth paying a visit to the Private Lace Collection set up at ‘L-Ixtabi’, an authentic rural corner house situated on the last turn of the road leading Ta’ Pinu Shrine, in Għarb.
Gozitan lace is always an appreciated gift and souvenir. If you intend to acquire Gozitan lace, it is very important to note that price is highly indicative of the quality. Ask for the authentic product!