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Ruff edging

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1600-1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Needle lace worked in linen thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given from the collection of Mary, Viscountess Harcourt GBE

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

The technique of cutwork used to make this piece of lace was the creation of a delicate structure of needle lace stitches across the spaces cut in a fine linen ground. It reached the height of its popularity in the late sixteenth and early seventeeth century, when it was used to decorate every type of linen and in particuar to draw attention to the face and throat in the form of collars and ruffs.

This short length of border may well have been part of a ruff, and it has been reconstructed in this way in the museum with the attachment of a linen support.

Physical description

Ruff edging of linen needle lace comprising of a row of cutwork squares with two alternating geometric designs, and attached by an outer row of cutwork pointed scallops also of two alternating designs. Narrow bobbin lace footing. The original border of needle lace has been attached to a modern piece of linen in order to reconstruct it partially as a ruff.

The upper part is of reticella, divided into squares in which two geometric patterns alternate. One of these patterns consists of a central circle from which radiate four groups of three leaves and four ovoid shapes with a quadrant device in each corner. The other pattern is a variation of this, also containing the group of three leaves. The lower punto in aria section consists of slightly reduced versions of the same patterns in rounded shapes from which depend patterned triangles.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably, made)


1600-1620 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Needle lace worked in linen thread


Length: 203 cm lace laid flat, Width: 11.5 cm lace laid flat, Length: 78 in, Width: 4.25 in, Height: 150 mm Dims as mounted, Width: 590 mm Dims as mounted, Depth: 255 mm Dims as mounted

Object history note

Exhibited in Treasures of the Royal Courts, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2013.

Descriptive line

Ruff edging of linen needle lace, probably made in Italy, 1600-1620

Labels and date

Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text:


The pristine whiteness of a lace ruff drew attention to the face. As lace making techniques developed, collars and ruffs grew increasingly elaborate. The early form of needle lace known as cutwork dominated fashion, reaching stylistic perfection around 1615. Cutwork consists of a delicate structure of stitches across spaces made by removing most of the threads from a finely woven linen ground.

Needle lace worked in linen thread, mounted on modern linen support
Given from the collection of Mary Viscountess Harcourt C.B.E.
V&A T.14-1965 []


Lace; Textiles; Clothing; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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