Vologda lace is a kind of Russian lace tatted with bobbins. Continuous smooth line, which never crosses and forms a pattern of Vologda lace, is a woven braid ('vilushka') over a thin openwork grid. Vologda bobbin lace tatting dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but the craft itself was developed in the 1st quarter of the 19th century.
Nobody knows how this wonderful craft appeared in Russia. Different researchers give contradictory answers to this question. Holland, Germany and even Spain can be justly considered ancestors of Vologda lace. As a matter of fact, it is not so important whose ship was the first to deliver precious lace to Russia. Precious in its direct meaning. Foreign lace was tatted from golden strings meant only for people who wielded authority.
But Russia is an unpredictable country. If an English mechanical flea should fall into the hands of our foremen it will be grounded. Before the ruling clique had time to show off foreign valuables, our foremen made lace on their own: golden meant for richer people and silver for people of moderate means; iron for those who cannot afford noble metals. Later provincials heard about this novelty. (Considering that a clever tongue will take you anywhere in Russia). Hundreds of foremen of different regions began to create different patterns of lace. Then they began to apply partially forgotten linen thread and impressed the whole world with snow-white, as light as down, Russian lace.
Country lace-makers began to tat at an early age. Lace-makers earned 20 rubles a year. That time decent sum of money. Suffice it to say that at the end of the 19th century kg of oil cost 50 copecks, and meat only 14. However, there were few people who tatted lace for sale that time. They made it for themselves or for a present. If a girl inherited a lace from the mother or grandmother, it was possible to sell it and get hammered silver-plated ear-rings; a dozen of spindles, and a pair of good combs instead.
It is rather difficult to learn to tat lace but it is more difficult to make it up. And before a girl tats the first lace kerchief another lace-maker should put her heart and soul into this work. Lace design is unnoticeable and almost forgotten work. Almost nobody knows, what wonderful secrets these people have.
Two threads are used in weaving: basic and shot wires; one is used in knitting, and lots of threads in tatting. Sometimes their number can amount to 60 and even more. Each string is winded around a separate bobbin, a kind of stick. Pleteya, it was the name of a lace-maker, fixes a string on a bobbin, puts it on her knee and rolls it out a little until a thread takes its place. After it kuftyr is used, a kind of drum stuffed with straw and made of textile fabric. It is fixed on a special support, previously having been wrapped up with paper peaces, which are very important in lace making. Inserting pins into holes and throwing over bobbins, pleteya interlaces threads. Like a computer punched card determines computer program, a peace of paper determines a lace pattern.
Vologda has always been one of the main centres of Russian lace tatting, and in the 19th century it became the most famous one. It was that time when lace-makers began to tat lace patterns in the form of wonderful stars and snowflakes. Vologda lace reminds of hoarfrost on winter glass, which will disappear under the first rays of the March sun. It looks like a thin spider line, which will be torn by a waft of wind. They are like symbols of something innocent and momentary. Like a madonna lily, Vologda lace could become a symbol of innocence.
In fact, in old times brides used to tat lace for dowry by themselves. The bride's house was always decorated with lacy "postilalniks", "ubruses", special towels, and "naspichniks" for a groom to come. And lace tatting itself was called "female scheme".