Filet Lace is probably one of the oldest types of “embroidery.” It’s actually the decoration of a net made up of square (or sometimes diamond-shaped) meshes. It’s commonly done today on machine-made net (or canvas), usually lacking the characteristic knots on the netted ground found on older samples of lace. This isn’t to say, though, that knotted net can’t be used. It can, and it creates a beautiful and “authentic” effect.
The problem arises in acquiring the net. In the past, the net was made by hand, and this can certainly still be done. There are plenty of books to show you how to make net by hand, as well as a website here and there devoted to it. But you know what? It can be really boring to make a large enough piece to do anything decorative (like curtains or a table runner).
So, what’s the alternative? You could go with machine-made mono-canvas, which I think looks exceptionally flat. Or, you could go with machine-made knotted net, which can still be had through a few sources.
I got “into” filet lace when I was looking at church ornamentation. In churches of old, often the altar linens or the vesture of the priests were ornamented with filet lace. (You can see an example of what I’m talking about at a website called French Yesterdays, in their “antique lace” section here.) Seeing an example of this, I wondered what it was and how it was done.
The example of filet lace at French Yesterdays is commonly called “filet guipure,” which is intricately embroidered net. After seeing multiple examples of this, I came across an individual correspondence course through the Embroidery Guild of America, and was instantly intrigued. I joined up with the guild as a “member at large” and launched in. But you know what? I found out that everything I wanted to know and do on net I could learn on my own. It really just takes a knowledge of basic stitches and a little creativity.
In my explorations, I also came across one book that helped me a lot. It is called Filet Lace – Introduction to the Linen Stitch. This book is packed with clear, easy instructions. The author, Marie-Jo Quinault, has a neat website called Filet Lace By the Sea, where you can purchase the book. Essentially, it covers primarily the linen stitch, which is a form of needleweaving through the mesh. Perhaps more exciting than the book is the fact that Marie-Jo also sells knotted net, for those of us who prefer the “authentic” look of the net ground, without the grueling hours of making your own net.
Don’t get me wrong, though – making the net is not that bad. There’s something to be said for being able to do it. But for an extensive piece, it’s a bit much to knot your own net. So the fact that someone offers knotted net is pretty cool! It’s reasonably priced, too – she charges for the cut. It’s not hand-made, but you can’t tell that when you get the piece made up. It’s made on an old loom. It’s great stuff!
Perhaps the most enticing thing about filet lace is the fact that it really is a very easy way to produce beautiful stuff for the home.