Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.
Bobbin lace evolved from passementerie or braid-making in 16th-century Italy. Genoa was famous for its braids, hence it is not surprising to find bobbin lace developed in the city. It traveled along with the Spanish troops through Europe.
In the 17th century, the textile centers of Flanders and Normandy eclipsed Italy as the premiere sources for fine bobbin lace, but until the coming of mechanization hand-lacemaking continued to be practiced throughout Europe, suffering only in those periods of simplicity when lace itself fell out of fashion.
Also in Switzerland, bobbin lace making became a popular craft done at home to generate an additional income, especially in rural areas. Most of the bobbin lace was thus sold to the aristocracy in neighbour countries or to clerics.
The Valley of Lauterbrunnen was one central point of this handiwork. When I visited Lauterbrunnen last summer, I passed by a shop window featuring bobbin lace works. And I learned that there is still an active bobbin lace making culture in the village (Lauterbrunner Spitzen-Klöpplerinnen).
Traditional ethnic Swiss costumes called “Trachten” use bobbin lace embellishments as well, up to this day:
If you want to learn about bobbin lace making, you can do so while visiting the open-air museum Ballenberg in Bern. There, you can watch a craftswoman make bobbin lace or even attend an introductory workshop.