Visit to Brussels and Brugge, Belgium

Waiting for Horses at Brugge

Genuine bobbin lace

 Over the last few years, a group of seven of us have been visiting the European Christmas Markets over a long weekend in December each year. This year, I was excited to hear that Brussels- Brugge was the destination!:)  Brussels is the capital of the European Union, but it also has a beautiful old city and it is famous for it’s chocolates, beer and LACE. It was very difficult to find genuine lace and I soon realized that I had to look for antique lace to have any chance of seeing genuine lace. Even then, it was difficult to find real handmade lace in Brussels and to find sales people who were truthful about it’s origin, even though it was obvious to me that it couldn’t be handmade in Brussels when I looked at the price – nine euro for a genuine piece of lace!!! The shop would probably take  100% and a piece of genuine lace would take at least twenty hours to make! On our visit to Brugge, there were lace shops everywhere, but again it was all computerized lace. The computerized lace was very shiny white. The antique lace was an off -white. In Brugge, the sales people were more honest and explained that genuine lace makers  couldn’t  keep up with the tourist demand. One  woman told me that 80% of tourists are happy to buy computerized Chinese lace. About 20% of people want to see the antique lace.  She had some genuine lace made by students, who were happy to sell it at a low price – €12.50 for a small piece. I bought 2 pieces of students lace. In the past all types of lace were made in Brugge – Bobbin, needle and tape lace. Nowadays there are classes in bobbin lace. Unfortunately we were returning to Brussels that night, so we didn’t get a chance to see a class in progress.  Luckily, I had attended an introduction talk and class on Bobbin lace in Cliffoney Sligo and I also saw some Honiton Lace makers at work when I was in Bolsena Ricama, Italy in September, so I am becoming more aware of good bobbin lace. Of course, when I am asked to teach Irish Crochet/Clones Lace with the Guild of Irish lace makers in Dublin, Ann Keller is the resident bobbin lace tutor! It is not one of traditional Irish laces, but is very popular in England and in Europe.

7 of us in Brussels

The seven of us outside the hotel where we were staying in Brussels

Genuine bobbin lace

A genuine piece of Bobbin Lace. The shop owner said it took an expert bobbin lace maker over a year (I would say two years) to make this piece, which was in the ceiling of a lace shop in Brugge. She said it would cost the same as a car to buy, if it was for sale!:)

Brussels at night

Genuine bobbin Brugge lace by students

Bobbin lace made by students in Brugge.


Chinese lace in BruggeComputerized Chinese lace in the Christmas Markets in Brugge.

Genuine Brugge Bobbin lace

This beautiful piece of Genuine Bobbin Lace

was priced at €64.

Bobbin lace in windowMáire outside a house in Brugge with a lace curtain.

mini bobbin lacemaker

A close up of the window in Brugge with a mini bobbin lace maker!

Antique Brugge Needlepoint and net lace

Genuine needle and net lace.

Lace from China

Computerized Chinese Needle lace in Brugge.

a mixture of genuine and machine lace

A mixture of genuine and computerized lace.

The linen, which is probably make in China or Japan, has insets of

computerized tape lace.

Ice skating in Brugge

Ice skating in Brugge

Evanne at bell tower

The huge queue of people waiting to climb the stairs of the bell tower in Brugge

Waiting for Horses at Brugge

Horse and Cart

Máire and Josie at Bell tower

Máire and Josie outside the 14th century Bell tower in Brugge

Mary at Brugge at night

Mary at the Christmas markets in Brugge, with the Bell tower in the background
Máire and Liz on horse

Máire and Liz on the horse and carriage ride around Brugge

Máire and Evanne

Máire and Evanne relaxing at night in Brussels:)

Imitation and real lace

Pieces which I bought:Clockwise:  A Chinese Christmas decoration (3 stars),  genuine bobbin lace, made by a student in Brugge (€12.50) a net piece of genuine lace, made by a student in Brugge (€12.50).

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Beate19 on December 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Maíre,
    hopefully you had a great time in Belgium! Yeah, the prices are much too low for handmade lace, even by students! I don’t believe that any Belgian student made a tiny lace piece for that price. They charge even more(50 – 70 €!) for a hand-crocheted beanie made of bulky acrylic yarn in treble crochet pattern. And surprisingly people bought them (even wore them at 25°C! Crazy!). Maybe they could ask for a fair price in Brussels and Brugge and make money at the same time.
    And I really don’t believe that 80% of tourists buy computer-made lace – I wonder where those tourists are from!
    On the island of Fuerteventura/Canary Islands they offer genuine Fuerteventuran lace at two spots on the island: a shop at the beach and at the capital Bétancourt, where the lace-making is also demonstrated. I thought they would have a similar system in Belgium.
    By the way, I didn’t see any piece – even small – of trad. Irish Lace in expensive Dublin shops. There are serveral shops selling woolen stuff but nobody specializing in lace.



    • Posted by cloneslace on December 21, 2013 at 1:04 am

      I’ll post more photos of the pieces I bought which were made by ‘students’. They look a lot different to the computerized lace that was everywhere! Most of the sales people won’t admit that it comes from China. One man admitted that it was machine made lace, but he said it came from Germany! Most people don’t know the difference! It’s interesting to hear your views on it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: