Italian Rosaline:  Made In Italy for Lord and Taylor

This lace-trimmed handkerchief is labeled:  “Made in Italy for Lord and Taylor.”

Lord Taylor Italy over096

Always be suspicious of labels on antique lace and the items they embellish.  They easily could have been attached by mistake; the person labeling the lace may not have know what it really was.  Any number of issues.  Identify for yourself what the object and lace really are, then judge the accuracy of the label.  We want to know a couple of things.  First, was it really made in Italy, and second, what kind of lace is it?

As our own detectives, we will follow the approach outlined in “Be Your Own Sherlock” in this website:

- Look at both the object, a handkerchief, and the lace that embellishes it.

- Look at design, technique (what skills were required to make the object and the lace), workmanship,  (how well was it done?  If we were appraising or valuing the handkerchief, we would also consider condition  and rarity, the sum of the preceeding elements.

- In looking at the lace itself, we use the COMBO approach, looking at the Clothwork, Outline, Mesh, Bridges, Ornament.


First of all, the object:

The small size of the handkerchief , between 10 and 11 inches square, is very typical of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when department stores like Lord and Taylor in New York, Marshall Field’s in Chicago, and yes, Selfridge’s in London were scouring the world to bring the most interesting and exotic selection of merchandise to their customers.  A whole department with dozens iof cabinets and hundreds of drawers of handkerchiefs was the norm.  The  rolled hem and hemstitching is very typical of both the early 1900s and Italian needlework.

Lord Taylor crop hemstitch

What can we really learn from the label?  First of all, it is attached to the “right” or front side of the handkerchief.  We would expect the label to be on the back, rather than the front.  The label itself is crudely attached.  Also, there is a suspicious extra set of clipped threads very close to the label.  Suspecting that it might have been removed, or came undone and was reattached, let’s look at the lace and decide if it makes sense that it was made in Italy.

About the lace:

For starters, the woven appearance of the cloth parts of the lace and they way the threads trace the pattern tells us it is bobbin lace.  A couple of things strike me about the design of this lace.  The round flower looks kind of like Rosaline, but the curling tendrils do not.  They look like those in Italian Cantu.  Is this some sort of hybrid?

Lord Taylor Italy lace o098

Lets compare the lace on this “made in Italy” handkerchief with Italian Cantu (sometimes known as “Italian Rosaline”) and Belgian Rosaline. Clockwise from top right:

Triangular corner of the Lord and Taylor handkerchief.  Contains elements of both Italian Cantu lace, bottom, and Belgian Rosaline Lace, top left.

compare ital rosaline117

They all share some design elements.

The Lord and Taylor handkerchief lace has the round flowers of Rosaline (green) with the same distinctive filling stitch (orange).  The Lord and Taylor handkerchief lace also has the distinctive scrolling tendrils of Cantu (blue).  

compare italtrio color code

There are various outline methods, or edge treatments on the clothwork of the Lord and Taylor handkerchief. Parts of the motifs have a sewing edge (Pink)

Lord Taylor sewing edge pink

 and parts (photo below) are smooth (blue).  Some of the tendrils have the rope of threads (green)  carried along the edge so distinctive of the Cantu bobbin lace as taught by Mary McPeek of the Great Lakes Lace Group in Michigan in her beloved Cantu bobbin lace classes. 

Lord Taylor blue green

and still others (below) have little bumps -- not quite picots, more like a “winkie pin” edge, where the pair that weaves across the clothwork emerges at the edge, is twisted around a pin, then goes back into the weaving (orange)..  

Lord Taylor winkie pin orange

There is still another key difference between the lace on the Lord and Taylor handkerchief and traditional Belgian Rosaline.  Even if the round flowers with tiny picots, and “winkie pin” edge are rather reminiscent of Rosaline bobbin lace, a Belgian or Flemish style of bobbin lace, the raised outline clearly is different.  It is much more tightly worked in the Belgian, more of a flap of clothwork in the Italian.

compare rose edgecolor code

Adding up the clues in the handkerchief corner, there is more of the free-wheeling Italian design and technique influence than the traditional Belgian.  Even if the label was removed and replaced on the handkerchief all that clues add up -- it most likely is Italian. 

Now I remember a controversy from decades ago when Mary McPeek was teaching Cantu bobbin lace.  The argument was that Cantu was also called “Italian Rosaline.”  I never understood that reference.  To me, I could not see the resemblance.  Now, in the lace corner on this handkerchief, I do.  This lace is not exactly either.  It is instead a sort of hybrid of the two.  

Regarding the lace: if ever there was a place for the label “Italian Rosaline” the lace on this little handkerchief would be it!   


June 25, 2013

I currently have antique napkins with both rococo and Cantu lace availble for sale at

For more information on the COMBOs that define these laces, see Guide to Lace and Linens.      219-659-1124    Elizabeth Kurella 2014