Although many groups in the Eastern Mediterranean create variants of needlelace, Armenians were the best known for it by an accident of marketing. The lace among most groups was originally created for domestic use and rarely sold or exported. After the pogroms against Armenians in the 1890's, however, the surviving females were left destitute and began making needlelace for export to support their families. It required little capital. All it required was a needle and thread, and a high level of skill.  

The pieces were marketed in the West by missionaries or charitable relief organizations to raise funds, and Armenians became synonymous with needlelace in the popular mind. Many of the finest examples were made by young girls in orphanages, with their nimble fingers and sharp eyesight producing delicate pieces that an older artist would find difficult. Many ethnic groups make needlelace as showpieces of their domestic skills, but for that generation of Armenians it was a matter of life and death.

The term "oya" (a turkish word for lace) was only used by Armenians in Western Armenia (the area in the Ottoman Empire). The Armenians in Eastern Armenia (in the Russian Empire) used the Armenian word for lace, which is "JANYAK". This term is still used today in the current Republic of Armenia, and the native lacemakers there are visibly disturbed when visiting Armenian tourists from the diaspora use the term "oya", which is the word the tourists' grandmothers used. One can find active lacemakers in Armenia on any weekend plying their wares at the "Vernissage", the great outdoor craft market in Yerevan near Republic Square.

For members using Alice Odian Kasparian's book, i was the "artist" who did the drawings in the book. I originally tagged along when my wife Susan was studying with Alice back in the 1970's, and began drawing the lace designs as a reference for my wife. Alice saw my work, and asked me to illustrate her forthcoming book. Alice's hands were shaky by that time, and she could not do the line drawings herself. Susan & I also served as her go-fers. I'm not a trained artist, but I was inexpensive (it was a freebie). My apologies for the quality of the work..       glindsinanian@aol.com

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For previous discussions of terminology for these laces see this.  I make no personal claim of knowledge about this.  I'm just cross referencing the two discussions we have had on this issue.  I leave it to others to settle the names issue.

Goodness!! don't apoplgise for the quality of your drawings. They are good, and Oh! so helpful.

That is interesting to read the history of the Armenian lace. Thank you for that.

How do they pronounce Janyak?  Is the J soft like a Y?



Elizabeth Ligeti said:

Goodness!! don't apoplgise for the quality of your drawings. They are good, and Oh! so helpful.

That is interesting to read the history of the Armenian lace. Thank you for that.

How do they pronounce Janyak?  Is the J soft like a Y?

It's a hard "J" like "jellybean". The "A's" are broad like a Bostonian saying "bath"

me puedes ayudar? Una o dos vueltas en la aguja?

Most Oya is once around the needle, I think,  Bebilla is twice around the needle . - well, that is my understanding of it, anyway!

I am not an expert - just a learner still!!! 

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