by Antida Cordina
Maltese cross in lace
Maltese lace actually used to be called Gozo lace because that's where it started.
A priest gave a piece of lace to a Gozitan girl and she studied the pattern and started to work and teach others how to do it. This was in 1846 but lace first appeared in Genoa, Italy in 1530.
It has always been worked on a pillow, either standing or flat, and sometimes a big and round pillow was used when more than one worker was engaged.
They took it in turns to work on the same wide and long pattern.
The Maltese pillow is called Trajbu. The bobbins are of wood, and linen or silk thread is wound around them ready to start the pattern.
The bobbins are always used in pairs. At hand one should have a pair of scissors, a pin cushion, pins usually with bright coloured heads, and extra bobbins if the pattern requires.
When the pattern is placed on the pillow and secured by pins, the work is ready to begin. The basic stitch is called whole stitch or linen.
As you progress in lessons you learn the most popular stitches --
- the half stitch
- net stitch
- the spider, and
- the fan
The most popular and traditional patterns all carry the eight pointed Maltese cross and the Moska or leaf pattern which is either worked in clusters or in singles.
In the past this was a means of earning a living or something extra. Nowadays it is mostly taken up as a hobby and practiced throughout Malta and Gozo.
Classes are held by the local councils, parishes and schools. Mainly women of all ages work lace but I personally had a male in my class a few years back.
In the earliest years even boys learned how to work lace in Gozo.
Although it is now considered as a craft, it is an art in itself and every pattern presents a challenge.
It requires patience and a good knowledge of basic techniques before venturing on to the most expert patterns.Reply
Anteda, thank you so much for taking the time to write and share such a detailed story on the art of traditional Maltese lace.
I'm sure our readers will find your story fascinating and I would certainly like to go along to one of the classes to see firsthand how this is done.