Culture, Design Inspiration, Life in Italy, Traveling Italy

Burano Island of Lace

I can’t believe I’ve been living here for 6 weeks and I just now made it out to Burano. Known for the colorful houses and history of lace-making, Burano is on the top of the list of things to see in Venice. I guess I took my time to visit because it’s about an hour ride on the ferry from the Giardini area where I’m living and I was never in the mood to venture out. Glad I did though because there is no place like it.

As the story goes (according to my Italian husband) Burano used to be desolate, so one day the fishermen decided to paint all the houses in bright colors to attract people to the island. Since then people have been visiting for just that and along the way have stumbled upon the antique art of lace. That’s the reason I was going of course. I’m always on the lookout for handcrafts that are dying out. It’s quite sad actually…as I was in the Museo del Merletto (museum of lace) one of the workers was explaining to a group of tourists how this antique art is no longer valued because of the globalization of lace-making so much so that you can barely find lace made from Burano anymore (guess who is making it now). She was explaining how these days lace-making is all outsourced for lower prices and so it’s killing the originality of talent. Unfortunately that’s the way the world has become. But apart from the economic side of lace let’s move on to the pretty side!

Imagine a room full of women sitting in chairs with big pillows on their laps and a teacher circling around the room making sure everyone is following the pattern and not knotting up their threads. The first school of lace in Burano was opened in 1872. Here in the museum courses were offered! They were a year long and after going to this school a woman could venture out and create her own lace patterns and sell her makes. However over the years Burano had difficulty finding a surviving lace maker and eventually this almost became just a story BUT Burano was lucky! A few women have carried on this tradition by teaching small groups in Burano solely to keep the tradition from being forgotten. The famous pattern they use is called the Venice Point because the pattern resembles all the bridges in Venice with all the bars being connected and worked over with thread. All of this is done through needle work, the most time consuming of all lace techniques according to my book Fabrics A to Z They design a pattern on some type of paper or cardstock which covers the pillow (for comfort and security while they sew) and then start poking away into the pattern. After they complete the pattern they rip away the paper and the bits that remain in the tiny crevices are pulled away with tweezers. The lace is then attached to whatever you can imagine. It seems like back in the day some women used it as a headpiece! Now that’s bizzare.

Here I am below walking around in Burano.

Find the link for the book above in the previous paragraph. If you’re interested in getting the museum pass I had click here.

As you exit the museum there is a map of where lace patterns originate from.

There is also a little bookshop where you can find arts and craft books. I came across this stockcard book full of paper lace placemats! If you can’t make lace or don’t feel like paying for it then just put these on your table! This is a modern twist to an old craft.

If you visit Burano today you can find shops where women (most likely part of these clubs) are sitting in the stores with their pillows making lace as people walk around shopping for scarves and table runners. Why are there no young people sitting in those chairs? Too slow paced for a modern world of tech everything? I don’t think today’s generation knows the true value of women with that kind of talent-to create something from nothing.

Well, being a crocheter and watching my great-grandmother and grandmother make everything themselves I know the value and I’m here to share it with you as deserved!

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8 thoughts on “Burano Island of Lace”

  1. I’m enjoying reading your blog, found via Facebook (Living in Italy Travel page). Florida girl here too living in Italy (albeit temporarily). Your post caught my eye because my family and I just visited Burano about a month ago and loved it, but we didn’t have a chance to explore any of the lace shops or the museum. Maybe next time. Your posts on learning the language are fascinating! Would love to know how you’re faring in that area now.

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by. What brought you to Italy? Well I’m loving every bit of living in Venice. Honestly I’ve never loved living in Italy so much until being in Venice…it’s just so much different from the south of Italy. Anyways after 5 years now I feel almost half Italian! I drink espresso regularly, make pasta everyday practically, and find myself using hand motions for no reason 😆

    2. Sorry just now realized you were talking about the language! It’s gotten much easier. Somehow things just started clicking. I one day just chose to break out of my shell and speak incorrectly, taking guesses if I was saying the right words and ran with it anyway and that helped a lot. I think most people have a hard time just getting it out of them. Then I signed up for lessons in grammar cause I felt like I could speak but not write and that helped my confidence level! I only took lessons for a few months but I’m dying to start again.

      1. No worries! Thanks for replying, glad to hear it’s gotten much easier. I took ten 3-hour lessons when I first arrived over a year ago but never went back. Kinda wish I continued the lessons because I’d love to communicate with my landlord, even on a basic level, instead of using Google Translate on the phone, lol. Good luck with everything! I’ll be following your blog — might inspire me to revive mine!

        p.s. My husband is stationed here with the military.

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