Artistry and old lace

April 30, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Handmade lace is not only beautiful, but has saved some lives.

In the 19th century, handmade lace was a sign of wealth and prestige; most of it was purchased by royalty and the upper classes.

"If royalty liked your family's pattern, it could keep you from starving," said Ruth Youngblood of Waynesboro.

During the potato famine in Ireland, "there wasn't a family without a crochet hook," she said. "There was even a black market for lace in the 1800s."

Youngblood is a collector, historian, teacher of lace arts, lacemaker and lace restorer. Originally, there were hundreds of Irish rose patterns, she said; she has about 30.


"It's hard to believe you can twist (thread) and make so many different roses," she said on a recent morning in the light, airy room where she displays her lace.

Fourteenth-century lace designer Frederico Vinciola said that lace-making is "the invention of a goddess and the occupation of a queen."

If that's true, then Youngblood's business, The Queen's Lace, is aptly named.

A visitor to the museum-like Queen's Lace is surrounded by antique and new lace garments, decorating accessories, antique dolls dressed in lace frocks and head coverings and exquisite christening gowns. The gowns Youngblood made are indistinguishable from the antique ones.

Hanging by the glass doors is a Battenburg tablecloth from the 1920s or 1930s that Youngblood said she found in a flea market and restored. She currently is restoring a lace bedspread from about 1910.

Youngblood sells her work, and new and antique lace-making supplies, and also does custom work.

While Youngblood has been doing needlework most of her life, she became serious about it 15 years ago when she lived in Missouri and started studying the various forms.

"I like teaching the most," she said.

There are many different kinds of lace, and Youngblood offers classes for groups or individuals in needlelaces, tatting, knitted laces, Irish crochet, bobbin lace, fillet lace, French beading and several others.

Prominently displayed at The Queen's Lace are several study pieces for her students to check out. Youngblood displays a reproduction piece of lace in a glass cabinet with antique lace to make students aware that they can be sold a reproduction when they are expecting the real thing.

"Antique lace can be reproduced so well that you can't tell," she said.

She collects old thread, cords and tape. When restoring a piece, she "goes through her stash" and usually finds a match.

In the corner of the room is her current project, a lace curtain with a large peacock motif, her favorite. The fillet lace is embroidered with a ball-pointed needle on netting stretched on a frame.

Fillet lace comes from France, and only recently arrived in America, Youngblood said. "Most lace is European," she said. "America is only 200 years old."

Many lace patterns date back to the 16th century.

Youngblood has international contacts and buys supplies from Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Turkey, England, Australia and Thailand.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Lacemaker's Guild, which Youngblood started last August, meets at St. Andrew Church, 12 N. Broad St., Waynesboro. The morning meeting is from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and the evening meeting is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.

Youngblood demonstrates a type of lace-making, and participants make one motif of that type.

For more information, contact Youngblood at

Visits to The Queen's Lace are by appointment only.

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