Maltese Lace is distinguished by the term ‘Bizzilla’. This particular craft flourished in Malta towards the middle of the 17th century. The next 200 years witnessed a shift in lace-making.Hand-made bizzilla (lace) in Malta A small group of Gozitan women became specialized in this craft. Genoese lace makers were brought to Malta in order to revive the industry during the early part of the 19th century. Maltese lace is a direct descendant of Genoese lace. It is distinguished through it’s own character, often highlighted by the Maltese Cross.
Bobbin lace is made with various threads, each fastened to an elongated spool or bobbin. ‘Ghazel’ is the Maltese term used to describe the technique. A pattern is initially drawn on parchment paper. Holes are pricked to show where the pins should be placed. These pins serve to maintain the linen threads stable whilst the lace is made. The parchment is placed on a cushion throughout the whole process.
Lace figured amongst the objects sent from Malta to the ‘Exhibition of Industries’ held in London during 1881. The commercial potential of Maltese bobbin lace led British missionaries to copy and introduce local patterns in China and India. Initial patterns were copied in silk. Later copied patterns introduced linen and cotton threads.
Gozo working lace (bizzilla) motivated by positive demand, the art of lace-making spread from mother to daughter and across neighbors and friends. Before long, lace-making proved its worth as the product was sold to the island’s upper class community and abroad. The resulting income raised the general standard of living for some Gozitan families, traditionally belonging to an agricultural society.
A quick stroll across Gozitan villages could reward you with a glimpse of this folklore. Traditional women proudly sit next to their doorway and charm passers-by with their lace-making techniques.