Malta and Gozo has long been renowned for making beautiful lace and with the recent news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been presented with a Maltese lace blanket by the people of Malta, to mark the christening of Princess Charlotte, this amazing craftwork has once again be thrown into the spotlight.
The Maltese and Gozitan tradition of lace making, known as “il-bizzilla“, can be traced back to the sixteenth century. However, the well-known sight and sound of bobbin lace making, which has become so synonymous with the Maltese islands, was not introduced until the nineteenth century from Genoa. Two of the most influential people in the growth of the industry on the islands was Lady Hamilton Chichester, who promoted the move from needle craft to Italian style bobbin lace making and the pattern designer Dun Guzepp Diacono, who nurtured and encouraged the lace making industry on Gozo, and gave the poor families of the island the means by which to earn additional money.
Maltese lace quickly developed a distinct and unique style of its own, and became increasingly popular for fashionable Europeans. It is said that Queen Victoria was a great admirer of Maltese lace and had many pieces were made specifically for her. Maltese lace was distinct for its honey coloured silk and designs, which frequently featured the eight pointed Maltese cross and fat ‘wheat ears’ or ‘oats’ into the intricate patterns.
Although not as popular as it once was, there has been a resurgence of interest in many of the traditional crafts in the Maltese Islands. The skill and beauty of lace making is once again being recognized. If you are interested in learning more about Maltese lace making and learning how to make Maltese lace, you can contact a number of organizations.
- The Maltese Lace Guild was established in 2000, and its president Consiglia Azzopardi also runs courses on lace making at her farmhouse in Gozo.
- The Malta Society of Arts has been promoting Maltese arts and crafts for over 150 years. Based in the beautiful Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta, the organisation runs many courses including traditional lace making.