The history of Calais lace dates back to the beginning of the industrial revolution which began at the end of the 18th century in England and the first mechanical weaving looms powered by steam engines. Lace was a luxury item for the wealthy classes of society; thousands of lacemakers produced manually (spools) lace pieces for the adornment of beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen of the time long before the appearance of the steam engine. Cities in France, Flanders, England and throughout Europe were known for the quality and finesse of their lace: Valenciennes, Alençon, Bruges, Le Puy... The tradition of handmade lace remained in the most centers, particularly Valenciennes.

With the industrial revolution enabled by the steam engine, mechanical weaving machines appeared allowing mass production, quality products, lower costs and the service of a large number of consumers. The first looms were invented in England and used to produce most fabrics including lace, especially for curtains. The diffusion of these techniques was delayed by the French revolution of 1789, by the Napoleonic wars and the blockade of England. But after the end of the Napoleonic epic at Waterloo in 1814, and the Treaty of Paris in 1815, the peace that came allowed the expansion of industrialization, especially in Calais, the city closest to England. This is how the first lace loom - a wooden Leavers loom - arrived in Calais smuggled from Nottingham on a fishing boat. Others followed with mechanics who knew how to assemble, operate and maintain them. These men (and women) from England formed the first English community in Calais, associated with the expansion of lace; today they are French with English names... the Boot, West, Young, Hurst, Arnett, to name but a few.

Subsequently, the addition of the punched card system due to Jacquard, allowing patterns to be made, considerably increased the industrial and commercial potential of mechanical lace. This is why Calais lace has been prized and sold in all the major cities of the world, notably New York, Boston, Chicago.

Renowned worldwide for its finesse, the richness of its bases and the variety of its patterns, the lace produced on Leavers looms is an exceptional product. Today, the French Leavers business park gives the Calais and Caudry centers exclusive rights to produce "Calais Lace". The companies that perpetuate this tradition have been able to adapt it to the lifestyles and aspirations of customers. Drawing their inspiration from heritage, sketchers and designers propose new stylistic approaches and explore innovations for the use and treatment of new materials.


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