The Maltese word for lace bizzilla, suggests a comparatively
recent origin. In fact its introduction to these islands cannot
date further back than the 16th century, when the art of lace-making,
probably introduced into Venice from the East, began to spread in
From Venice the new technique was soon taken up by
Genoa, where pillow lace, as distinct from Venetian point lace,
developed. Modern Maltese lace is descended directly from Genoese
lace. Characteristic is also the Maltese cross in the patterns and
the cream or black silk in which the lace is usually worked.
Lace figured among the objects sent from Malta to
the Exhibition of Industries held in London in 1881. The commercial
potential of bobbin lace as developed in Malta led British missionaries
to copy and introduce local patterns in the Far East, both in China
and India. Patterns were copied first in silk and later in linen
and cotton thread.
There is a steady demand for lace by tourists.
To ensure the survival of this ancient craft, lacemaking is taught
in Government trade schools for girls, while private bodies such
as the Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce also hold special
evening classes. From time to time exhibitions are held. Besides
arousing public awareness of the cultural importance of this aspect
of Maltas national heritage, such initiatives also inspire deeper
study of the history and techniques of local lace among womens organisations
and in academic circles.