The Lacemakers of Peniche (part 2)

IMG_0361One of the great things about the lacemaking festival of Peniche this summer was that there were so many opportunities to chat to the women about a skill which traditionally takes place behind closed doors. Many of the older lacemakers I spoke to had learnt the craft as young girls from family members or neighbours. For many years it was also taught in local secondary schools. One woman, who was seventy five, described how she had been making lace since the age of four, having learnt it from her mother. She told us how as a child she would work on pieces during the long summer holidays. She would then sell the lace to a local shop and use the money to buy herself a pair of smart shoes to wear to the annual religious festival.

IMG_0359Bobbin lacemaking was never apparently a main source of income for the poor fishing communities of Peniche. Instead it was a way for the fishermen’s wives to make extra money when times were hard. According to one woman I spoke to this was particularly the case during the few months of the year when the fishermen would stop going out to sea in their boats to allow the fishing stocks to be replenished.

IMG_0354Since those days, as the community has become more affluent, it seemed as if lace-making in Peniche might die out. However in recent years there’s been a renewed interest in the craft and a desire to preserve a skill so closely associated with this small fishing town. At this year’s event it was great to see quite a few young children, all girls, demonstrating their lacemaking skills alongside the older women. Although no longer taught in secondary schools there is now a college where children and adults can learn the craft.

IMG_0353Traditionally the lace has been used to edge sheets, napkins and tablecloths. but nowadays there is an attempt to find more modern uses for it. My thirteen year-old daughter was rather taken by some lace earrings on sale and it’s now also being  incorporated into clothes and accessories such as bags and belts. We didn’t have time to stay and watch the outdoor fashion show or visit the local exhibition where the winners of the annual lacemaking contest have their works displayed, but I do hope this small town continues to find new markets for its unique and enduring talent, which against the odds has survived to the present day.

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2 Responses to The Lacemakers of Peniche (part 2)

  1. Great article Rita. I’m trying to find information on the tradition of lace-making in Portugal and how renowned it is in the wider world. Do you have any additional sources of information that might point me in the right direction? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Connal,
      Thank you and I am sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I’ve struggled to find information about lace-making in Portugal which was one of the reasons why I went to the festival in Peniche. While there though I did pick up a small book of lace patterns written in Portuguese, English & German which includes an introduction describing the history of lace-making in Peniche which you may find useful. It’s called “Bobbin Lace of Peniche” and is written by Janne L.G. Hill & Graca Maria Ramos (ISBN 3-925184-72-4).The german publisher is Barbara Fay Verlag. Good luck, Rita

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