Bobbin lace, also known as Renda de Bilros, is an ex-libris of Portuguese textiles tradition, typically from fishing areas of the coast, especially in Vila do Conde and Peniche. This meticulous handcrafted technique is produced by the successive crossing or interspersed of textile yarns, executed on the pike and with the aid of pins and bobbins.
The origin of Bilros Lace take us back to the ancient villages by the sea, where woman used to make this delicate lace when they weren’t helping men at fishing and agricultural activities, as a way to earn their living. If we go further back in time, there is documentary evidence that at the 19th century Peniche already had eight private workshops where children with at least eight years old were taught how to make this handcrafted pieces. On 1887 was created the Industrial Design School of Rainha D. Maria Pia, leveraging the teaching of the Bilro Lace, with high quality training. Nowadays this art can be learnt at Bilro Lace Schools/Workshops from the municipality of Peniche, as the Association Peniche – Rendibilros and the Santa Maria Craftsmen Workshop.
Each region has its own method which makes this technique so unique. On Peniche we can find two types: bilro lace erudite and popular. The differences are mainly found on the patterns: the first type has very elaborate drawings, with very complex and non-repetitive motives, demanding the use of a great variety of stitches and immense expertise; the second type has simpler drawings, has a usually repetitive motive, and uses simpler and more traditional stitches.
This traditional lacework is also an important part of the historical heritage of Vila do Conde. At the Museum of Bobbin Lace from the city could be seen a collection of all kinds of instruments and materials used in the production of this art. Besides that tools, can also be found beautiful examples of Bobbin Lace, drawings, pikes and various centenary documents, as well as an international section with lacework, pillow-lace and bobbin-lace from Europe and Brazil.
So complex as exquisite, this art was in decadence during the 20th Century, but lately the Portuguese Government started several programs aimed to maintain the industry and tradition of Lace of Bilros well alive for the next generations.