Lace was once studied eagerly and extensively, but today only comparatively few collectors take notice of it. There is probably more interest shown in the equipment used in its making (pillow-lace bobbins, in particular) than in the finished material. A brief mention is made of some of the many varieties, but only the barest outline is attempted; the names of the many patterns and the stitches employed would alone fill a book. Hand-made lace is divided into two distinct types: that made with the needle, known as needlepoint; and that made with bobbins on a cushion, known as pillow. Basically, needlepoint lace is made from one single continuous thread, and pillow-lace from a number. In the latter, each thread is wound conveniently on a bobbin made of wood or bone, often the subject of 'folk' decoration, and many are hung at one end with a bunch of coloured glass beads.
In the sixteenth century lace-making was a flourishing art, pattern books began to appear, and both Venice and Flanders were early seats of activity. Stimulus was provided by fashion decreeing that lace should be worn by both sexes, and contemporary paintings prove its popularity. The most renowned needlepoint laces were made at Alencon and Argentan, and at Brussels. It is stated that the net forming the background in some of the finer Alencon pieces was composed of hexagons with sides one-tenth of an inch long, these sides being 'overcast with some nine or ten buttonhole stitches'.
Pillow lace was made also in Venice and Flanders, and in other countries. In England, imports from Europe threatened the native industry, and prohibition of foreign work was followed by the immigration of some of the workers themselves. English pillow lace was produced in several places, Honiton in Devonshire being the most famous. Other centres of lesser importance were: Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Suffolk. Lace was made also in Ireland, principally in the nineteenth century.