Historical information

Here we have a delicate example of chemical lace which is 7.6cm x 48cm. This is an interesting method of lace making where the lace is embroidered onto a sacrificial fabric which has been treated (initially chemically treated) to dissolve in a chemical solution on completion without damaging the lace. The chemicals used were not environmentally friendly and consequently this method of lace making has developed to use water soluble base fabrics or fabrics which will disintegrate with the application of heat. A remnant of the sacrificial fabric can be seen on the top of this piece.

Originally chemical lace was made on a home embroidery machine but is now also known as Schiffli Lace and made on a Schiffli machine. This machine was invented by Isaak Grobli in 1863 using the same principles as the newly invented sewing machine except that the bobbin of the sewing machine was replaced by a shuttle shaped like the hull of a sail boat, hence the name ‘schiffli’ which means ‘little boat’ in Swiss-German. The Schiffli machine uses two threads and makes a stitch similar to a closely spaced zigzag stitch on a domestic sewing machine. Over time the number of needles and shuttles increased until the present day when some machines can be up to 18 metres in length and use over a thousand needles. Previously the pattern was followed by hand using a pantograph arm where the operator followed the design pattern but the development of computer technology has meant that software designed to drive Schiffli machines can now create a wide variety of stitches and lace designs.


The Amess family owned Churchill Island from 1872 to 1929. This lace collection was owned and contributed to by three generations of Amess women - Jane, Janet and Unity (Bright - donor). Jane was wife of Samuel Amess, first Samuel Amess to own Churchill Island.

Physical description

Length of lace trim

Inscriptions & markings

Package contains note: FICCHU c1860/70 (hand made) [not associated with this item]