Lace net curtains have been used down the ages as window dressings, to provide privacy and shade during the daytime, without fully blocking out the light. Handmade lace was prized for its beauty and delicacy, but before the industrial revolution, it was only the very wealthy who could afford it.
When did lace curtains first become popular?
By the mid-nineteenth century, when lace making machines enabled lace to be mass produced, net curtains became much more affordable. The Victorian house would combine thicker fabrics with a lace curtain for an extra layer of warmth and privacy. They also add a pleasing contrast to heavy drapes, serving a decorative purpose.
Are they fashionable today?
Today, the ethereal floaty quality of lace curtains is enjoying a revival, both in smart city homes and in country residences. There has been a growing interest in the so called ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic, which romanticises the simplicity and cosiness of rural life, and lace curtains chime perfectly with this trend.
Weaves of lace
One of the most common types of lace is Nottingham lace, known for the city that was at the heart of the world’s lace making revolution. At its peak, there were 186 lacemakers in the city, according to Nottingham Industrial Museum. The lace was prized because of the ‘twist machines’ used to produce it, which at the time were the most complex in the world.
It is possible to buy weaves of lace pattern today that are unchanged from their origins in Nottingham 150 years ago. The lace is available in several point sizes which determines the fineness or coarseness of the pattern.
Madras lace was another popular weave, and is finer and more delicate than other types of lace. It is woven from 100% cotton, and the pattern is affixed on top of it. It is named for the Indian city where lace making machines were imported from Europe in the nineteenth century.
How do you hang lace curtains?
The easiest way to hang lace curtains is on an adjustable spring-tension rod, which are widely available. The rod fits into a pocket sewn into the top of the curtains. The curtains are cut to 1 ½ to two times the width of the window opening, depending on the fullness and gather effect that you want to achieve.
How do you care for lace curtains?
It is best to follow the manufacturers instructions. Many will recommend dry-cleaning only, but most lace can be safely washed in cool water, either by hand or on the delicate cycle of a washing machine. Unless the curtains are exposed to a particularly dirty environment, they should not need washing more than once a year.
However, never put lace curtains in a tumble dryer. You will find that because of the light and delicate nature of the fabric, they will dry very quickly, and can be soon returned to the window. Be aware that 100% cotton curtains may shrink when you wash them, so check if you can mitigate this by using a higher rod pocket, or lowering the hanger rod slightly.
Are lace curtains always white?
Some lace is bleached to give it a bright white appearance; some lace is left a ‘natural’ white, which is more akin to an ivory shade. Ecru is a darker, slightly brownish shade. Most types of lace can be easily dyed to any darker shade.
The shade you choose is a matter of personal taste; for some, bleached white looks too stark, while others find ecru too yellowish. Bear in mind that the bleaching process uses harsh chemicals and is highly energy intensive, so it is not a very environmentally friendly way of treating fabric.
Are there any alternatives to lace?
If you want to achieve that sheer, breezy lightness to add to your window dressings, but feel that lace isn’t the right fit for your home, there are other options. You could choose an elegant plain voile fabric, for example, which is very affordable, and creates that light and airy charm.
The light flowing curtains not only look fabulous as window dressings, but also as bed canopies, for a modern take on the luxurious four-poster. They are also used as cabinet curtains, to complete that cottagecore look to perfection. They are often used as door curtains or room separators, to create a sense of privacy without fully isolating the space.
For front and back doors, lined voile curtains will also add an extra layer of insulation, to keep your home warmer and save on energy bills.
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