Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Madras vs. Nottingham

A Tale of Two Laces

Almost all of the lace curtains that are currently available are fabricated in one of two different weaves: Madras or Nottingham. Most of the patterns that you see are Nottingham: it's less expensive to produce and there are several companies with Nottingham looms. A pattern is created by a number of different stitches that allow a variety of shadings. The lace is "flat", meaning that there is no outside or inside, and the panels are reversible.
Madras lace, on the other hand, is made by only one mill in Scotland, and it is a far more painstaking process. First, a layer of scrim is produced; imagine a very soft, fine piece of cheesecloth that is woven and then put back on the loom. Then, the pattern of choice is applied on top of the scrim and then the excess is sheared off. While there are only 2 or 3 "shadings", the detail is much crisper and delicate. There's also a fair amount of waste, and the looms are much slower. Madras lace also has a "fuzzy" side, which typically looks best facing into the room.

Here's the difference between the two:

I borrowed a friend's Nottingham curtain with an Arts and Crafts "Square Rose" motif and photographed it:
And below is a section of our Hunter Rose in Madras. Note that both roses are roughly the same size:

If you can blow up the shots, you can see their textural differences quite dramatically. This blog is not a judgement between the two weaves; both are great, but it's always nice to understand the difference.

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