Make, learn and talk about needle lace.
As far as I can work out - Alencon has Lots of little picot everwhere within the work!
They do look much alike, and I am not expert enough to know all the finer points between them.
Some alencon lace has separate cordonettes which are only stitched down here and there. Devon put up a piece in the Photos section for us to mull over. check out the Alencon page, and that might give you an idea as to the dates of our chat.
Sorry, got called away for a cuppa! - and it gingered up the brain!! - I should have added that Alencon ground is a twisted stitch whipped into each stitch twice in the return row - so it forms a round mesh.
Point de Gaze Ground is an uneven twisted stitch, Not whipped, and when worked needle away you get 3 twists on one row, and 2 twists on the other - the "uneven" part I referred to. The Twisted stitch is worked both ways, not one way like Alencon ground.
The grounds are very different
Another difference is in the cordonet. The cordonet in Alencon is very tightly covered with buttonhole stitches, tacked to the piece every fifth stitch or so. The cordonet in Point de Gaze has the covering stitches farther apart. I was taught that they should be a needle width apart. Carolyn Wetzel has done a good job of describing the conrdonet of Alencon in her article in Piecework which is still on news stands. I highly recommend that you get a copy if you don't have one, since she has done a marvelous job of describing the entire process.
Another way to learn the difference is to get Pat Earnshaw's book NEEDLELACE. She gives a clear history of the development of the various styles of needlelace -- point de France, point de Sedan, Argentan, Alencon, etc.-- and gives diagrams of the stitches used in each form along with enlarged photos of the stitches worked in thick thread so you can really see how it is made. That might help you understand the difference. I would not venture to describe the differences myself, since I am still very new to needlelace. (Earnshaw's book is paperback and still in print. It is regarded as one of the good intermediate level books.)
Another point about the differences: they are quite distinct in style. (Style meaning the design, shapes of motifs, kinds of leaves and flowers, how the motifs are arranged over the surface of the lace.) Unfortunately there are very few online photographs of any kind of needlelace, and those that do exist are mostly shots of the whole object, so that you only see the style and not the working methods or stitches used.
We do have Alencon and Point de Gaze groups, and our members have posted some photos which were discussed in those groups. You might go to those and read through all the posts.
Also Lori Howe on lacefairy has a section on lace identification, and I think she has photos of some of these 2 kinds of needle lace. http://lace.lacefairy.com/Lace/ID/laceID.htm
Also again: I created a page on my website to try and detail what stitches were used in Point de Gaze and how they were used. http://lynxlace.com/StitchesofPointdeGaze.html I am not an expert and my presentation is based on the books and online article that I listed there. I did all that because I want to learn Point de Gaze soon, after I get some more practice. But Alencon is still far away from my capabilities and I wouldn't presume to say anything about that form.
Thank you for the replies. I have learnt so much in the last few days.
I like the ground mesh in Alencon - "twisted stitch whipped into each stitch twice in the return row", much easier for a beginner, but after hours and hours AND HOURS of buttonhole stitches I think I prefer the cordonet of Point de Gaze where the buttonhole stitches are further apart. I'll upload my next piece of lace on the beginner's group page. It's based on part of what I think is a piece of point de gaze lace on the wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carolus_-Private_Collection_-_det...