For discussion of construction and style details of antique Alencon needle lace, and for those who want to learn it.   Alençon  We are now including Argentan. There are some differences but many similarities between the two. Eventually we will be able to clarify. 

Christiane says: "Anne Kraatz in her catalog of laces "Les dentelles" indicates that, nowadays, Argentan laces are those that consist of more significantly by the "brides bouclées" hexagonal network and a smaller number of "modes" or "fillings". Pat Earnshaw also addresses the Argentan and the Argentella too. The latter type, Argentella, I would point out, is made in the town of Argentan and is characterized by its "rosacé network" or "rosette network " but still in the same family as the Alençon . But basically, the two towns of Alençon and Argentan know well and exercise either the three types." "

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Latest Activity: Jan 22

Books and Resources for Alencon Needle Lace

"La dentelle à l'aiguille" by Brigitte Deslesques Dépalle.   (Dorothy Searle translation of part of this book)    Brigitte and Laurie Waters "studied at the Atelier National du Point d'Alencon at the same time in 1980". Brigitte's "book is the definitive work on the technique."  

Laurie Waters translation of Brigitte Deslesques Depalle   La%20dentelle%20%C3%A0%20l%27aiguille.pdf

There is a book, Alencon Lace derived from the original Histoire du Point D'Alencon by Mme Despierres, 1886, that is a translation by Roberta Morgan into English that describes a lot about the organization of the industry.

Pat Earnshaw NEEDLELACE. Merehurst, London, 1991 has a chapter on Alencon and its stitches.  I don't know if her choices are exhaustive or merely common ones.

This video shows lace makers at the school in Normandy, showing how they hold their hands.

A set of photos showing working methods and some antique laces (but not closeups)

Loretta's diagrams for horsehair picots are here.

Loretta's instructions for Brides Bouclées  a one page pdf file.

Stitches of Alencon - ;

Photos of Alencon lace

Discussion Forum

Alençon books 2 Replies

Hy everyone. I learned some Burano and Aemilia Ars stitches. I also do Orvieto Crochet with cotton n.100.I'd like to learn Alençon lace but I'm in Italy and so I have to found a book or some books or…Continue

Started by Francesca Merletti. Last reply by Francesca Merletti Aug 21, 2018.

Concernant la brode, concerning the « brode » in Alençon lace 13 Replies

Bonjour à vous tous,Peut-être pourriez-vous m'aider. J'ai acheté du fil 100/3 en coton pour commencer un essai en dentelle d' Alençon. Est-ce que doubler le fil 100/3 pour la trace sera suffisant ou…Continue

Started by Christiane Machabée. Last reply by Angelina Aug 21, 2018.

How to work the basic Alencon reseau stitch 12 Replies

I have followed the comments about the basic stitch for Alencon reseau with interest.     A few days ago I was fortunate enough to be able to examine some antique Alencon lace under a 400X…Continue

Started by Maureen Bromley. Last reply by Maureen Bromley May 17, 2014.

A beginner's sampler 6 Replies

Here is my first attempt at an Alencon sampler. It consists of 9 half-inch squares and uses gassed cotton thread - size 160 for the reseau in the centre and 120 for the rest. I see that this thread…Continue

Started by Dorothy Searle. Last reply by Karen Roy Jan 2, 2014.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Laurie Waters on May 23, 2015 at 9:47am

I'm constantly griped at by LaceNews Ebay Alerts readers, especially collectors in France on this question. Especially when I state that you can't tell in which towns these laces were made, so to apply the definitive attribution to Argentan is problematic at best.  The small industry in Argentan limped along through the revolution and ended completely around 1830. But it took off again with the establishment of a factory by Lefebure in Argentan in 1874 (next to the Benedictine convent).  He recruited renegade lacemakers from Alençon as teachers.  So after this time there was little difference between laces from the two towns. And, the Benedictine convent has had a substantial influence in Alençon, further lending support to the similarity of work in both places. I saw patterns in progress from the Huginard firm (have to check my notes sometime on the firm) in Alençon with fully buttoholed mesh dated in the later 19th c that you could swear would be Argentan.

But we can talk about an 'Argentan style', which essentially comes in 2 forms, both based on 18th century work.  Let me call the first style the 'ordinary' Argentan.  The 3-layer hexagonal mesh is fully buttonholed, often quite finely done.  Motifs are a little blocky and bold, not much ornamentation in the toilé.  Decorative 'mode' fillings are kept to a minimum. There is a lot of mesh compared to the clothwork. No horsehair is ever left in the picots (not that it wasn't used in the formation of the picots, but it was never left in.  People in Argentan will sometimes swear that horsehair was never used in any capacity).  If it weren't for the fineness of the mesh, this style doesn't have too much to recommend itself.  'Ordinary' style pieces come up for auction occasionally, but not often.

But there is a second style, let me call it the 'elaborate' Argentan style.  Again, no horsehair, and fully buttonholed mesh, and decorative fillings are excellent. This is a more recent attribution, and Mick Fouriscot in the 3rd volume of Le Secret des dentelles, shows very elaborate examples - lappets, flounces, etc. You rarely find this style at auction. Exactly where it was made is a mystery.  Another problem is that the more elaborate pieces with 'snowflake' type grounds were more likely made in Sedan and more closely resemble contemporary flat-grounded Belgian laces.

There's a pretty good discussion of all this at


Comment by Christiane Machabée on May 23, 2015 at 8:27am

Je me suis arrêté de me questionner à propos des différences entre les travaux de ces deux villes normandes (Alençon et Argentan). Je remarque qu'historiens et collectionneurs ignorent souvent de laquelle des deux villes est issu un travail. L'important est de garder en mémoire que les fonds à brides bouclées sont plus caractéristiques d’Argentan même si parfois il peut en être autrement en réalité, car les deux villes étaient voisines et pouvaient exécuter indifféremment les mêmes travaux.

I stopped questioning myself about the differences between the work of these two Norman towns (Alençon and Argentan). I notice historians and collectors often unaware to distinguish of which of the two cities came the work. The important thing is to remember that the ground of "brides bouclées" are most characteristic of Argentan although sometimes it may be otherwise in reality, because both cities were close and could either perform the same work.

Comment by Teri Dow on May 22, 2015 at 4:38pm
Lorelei, have you looked at Jean Leaders Lace pages to see if her descriptions can enlighten you. Just a thought ...
Comment by Lorelei Halley on May 22, 2015 at 4:30pm

I have been going crazy over how to distinguish Alencon from Argentan. So I went to laceforstudy and did searches. 

I have not yet looked at all the examples resulting from both searches. As a preliminary estimation, the differences appear to be stylistic rather than technical (but I don't know enough about that yet). The Alencon examples often have recognizable plant forms, some attempt at naturalism. But the Argentan examples are mostly shapeless blobs filled with various stitches. Both kinds have 2 ground: one thick between the motifs and footside, and one in finer thread between the motifs and headside. Both appear to be whipped twisted buttonhole.  The finer thread one is worked so you see neat geometric rows rather squared off. The thicker thread one has a more pronounced hexagonal appearance. The hexagonal one is whipped along the vertical sides as well as the horizontal. But the finer mesh is whipped only along the bottom (or top) horizontal line.

I don't know how accurate laceforstudy's identifications are. They appear pretty much accurate for bobbin lace.  However the date attributions, especially for the Argentan, I have some issues with. I am assuming that design and style in bobbin lace and needle lace marched together, each reflecting the other. Fashion would dictate, I assume, the kind of design. Some of the needle lace Argentan dated to the late 1700s are more similar in style to bobbin laces from 1810-1820.


Comment by Lorelei Halley on April 26, 2015 at 6:52pm


Thanks for making your translation available to us.

Comment by Laurie Waters on April 25, 2015 at 12:50pm

Thanks Christiane! It is time I polished this translation into something more formal, and I will certainly look to you for help.


Comment by Christiane Machabée on April 25, 2015 at 12:34pm

Merci beaucoup Laurie pour cette traduction. Je cherche souvent les meilleurs mots anglais pour définir tous les différents points et votre document pourra m'y aider. Ne vous gênez surtout pas si je peux vous aider en retour. 

Laurie, thank you very much for this translation. I often look for the best English words to define all the stitches and your wonderful document could help me. Don't be shy if I can help you in return.

Comment by Laurie Waters on April 25, 2015 at 11:35am

Please note that what I sent is a draft, and is at the moment a fairly literal translation of the text parts. It will improve when I have a chance to work on it more. The actual instructions are in much better shape.


Comment by Laurie Waters on April 25, 2015 at 11:32am

Here is my translation of the entire Delesques-Dépalle book.



Comment by Christiane Machabée on April 25, 2015 at 11:04am

Il est aussi possible de consulter sur NLT la traduction du livre de Brigitte Delesques-Dépalle généreusement présentée par Dorothy Searle le 12 juin 2013:

It is also possible to check the translation of the Brigitte Delesques-Depalle's book on NLT and generously posted by Dorothy Searle in June 12, 2013:


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