Vologda region is known as a breeding ground of arts and crafts
in the Russian North. In XIX-XX centuries there were highly
developed such handicrafts as carving and painting of wood
and birch bark, fancy weaving and needlework, niello and ceramics.
But what became really world famous was Vologda lace. Since
the end of XVIII century lace making developed both in Vologda-town
and region. Vologda laces were always notable for their characteristic
ornaments. Their lines are smooth and flowing. Even geometrical
patterns become rounded. Their design is generalized, it often
has just a hint of a real prototype. The main feature of those
laces is delicacy. Local lace makers created lots of transparent
nets that served as ground and types of laces that looked
like a frosty window or blossoming garden, or a meadow full
of flowers. But they are not spider web like. Made of firm
flax or cotton threads, Vologoda lace are strong and weighty.
in the 19th century the Vologodians exhibited their works
According to old documents from the Vologda Record Office
the lace was exported to some European cities. The merchants
from Vologda took part in different foreign fairs, e.g. in
Philadelphia (1876), Chicago (1893), Berlin (1909), Paris
(1925). Numerous invitations, which are kept now in the Vologda
Record Office, testify to the popularity of the Vologda applied
Lace making was considered to be respectable and profitable.
Even members of wealthy families were involved in trades.
Nobles and prosperous mechants trained their daughters in
lace making as in a sort of fine arts. Women from impoverished
gentry families and widows worked long hours around the year.
But the majority of lace makers was represented by inhabitants
of garrets and basements. Flax has always been favored in
this tradition. Either brown (unbleached) of snow-white it
has silk resiliency and luster - so it is often called "northern
silk". Flax laces are beautiful and durable. Nowadays
Vologda laces are also made of cotton or, rarely silk, sometimes
with metal threads as metanit or lurex. Since olden times
in Vologda province they used to make both multipair laces
and guipure. In each region not only patterns were peculiar
but even methods and tools.
At the end of XlX century a huge number of scarfs and kerchiefs,
pelerines and head-dresses of black and golden silk were produced
in Vologda province. Even members of wealthy families were
involved in trades. Nobles and prosperous mechants trained
their daughters in lace making as in a sort of fine arts.
Women from impoverished gentry families and widows worked
long hours around the year. But the majority of lace makers
was represented by inhabitants of garrets and basements. In
peasant families girls earned money by lace making to buy
fashionable dresses. At the end of XIX century writers note
"excessive foppishness" of peasant women's garments,
their yearning for townsfolk's clothes - silk and wool stylish
dresses, coats with fur collars.
At the same time in many districts of Vologda province women
wore ancient folk costumes: shirts with decorated hems, skirts
with laces and woven ornaments. Snow-white multipair laces
were supplemented with bright colored threads that called
over the bright colors of ornamented cloth. Women often put
on shirts with decorated hems in haymaking time and for other
kinds of collective labor. An expert in vologodsky laces S.
A. Davydova describes one of the local customs. Soon after
her marriage, the bride put on her best dress and countless
shirts with decorated hems and went to show herself. Older
women examined delicacy of her dress to see how skillful she
was in needlework and lace making. But it's hard to put on
too many shirts. So brides often prepared just lavishly adorned
hems and put them on like underskirts. One young woman came
to having on 17 skirts.
In the Vologda museum can see wonderful albums containing
samples of laces. Refined patterns marked by the obvious influence
of modernist style - variations of flower bows, butterflies
and dragon-flies as well as especially delicate exact laces,
braids of handkerchiefs and serviettes were probably accepted
by Vologda lace makers, with the help of practical school
graduates. Along with the designer's patterns a thick stratum
of real folk art existed. Thousands of lace makers used those
traditional ornaments, transforming them for changing times
Lace making is one of the most laborious and time-consuming
handicrafts. Though the process of weaving looks like 'a sort
of fun it requires extreme patience, accuracy and good taste.
And those who do not copy samples, but create them, often
spend months searching after fresh idea. They produce mountings
of drafts and sketches of the whole thing and all its parts.
Each detail, every figure, curl and flower then are woven
to try different ways, colors, materials. When the whole picture
is ready on a big list of paper, the designer has to work
on technology to find the right place for each pin. When this
is over, lace makers start weaving itself. Big articles are
made by teams and need weeks and months of hard work. Lace
making tradition in Vologda survived through hard times. Now
it's still alive and developing