“We like to come here to see new things so we can learn to do them at home,” says Ms. Sabater, who lives in the village of Teià, about a half-hour’s drive from Barcelona. “If you see someone doing a stitch you don’t know, you say, ‘Can you show me how it’s done?’ and she teaches you.”
Organized by the Catalonian Lace Association, the 26th annual meeting attracted 2,200 lace aficionados on May 26, according to association president Maria-Jesus Gonzalez, as well as a handful of glad-handing politicians. Vendors set up tents around the perimeter where the women browse new patterns and buy bobbins and thread in an array of rainbow colors.
“Catalunya was a very important center for the lace industry in the 19th century,” Gonzalez says. Until mechanization all but killed off artisanal lacemaking, some 30,000 women were engaged in the craft. “In the 1960s there was a revival, and then people did it not for commercial purposes but only as a hobby.”
Like many of the women here today, Sabater came late to the game, at the age of 46, part of a recent wave of renewed interest in this astonishingly timeintensive art. Working about three and a half hours a day, she’s on track to finish this 10” x 20” handkerchief in about two months. Her three granddaughters have started to learn, but it hasn’t quite stuck.
“Youth is not for these things,” Sabater says, cocking her chin at the sea of gray and white heads surrounding her. “Just look around.”
Helena Fornier is an exception. At 12 years old, she’s already been making lace for four years.
“My grandmother always did it, and since I was little I liked it,” she says as she works on a delicate flower design. “It relaxes me.”
Helena’s grandmother, Maria-Rosa, picked up her bobbins again about 12 years ago.