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The collections

The Lace

The stock of the lace-manufactures which forms the basis of the museum collection is composed of different types of lace which are divided in 5 main categories :

- Metered lace
- Designs to be inserted
- Lace for clothing
- Liturgical ornaments
- House linen


Metered lace

The history of the production in Haute-Loire goes back to the 17th century since several texts mention cuts and length measuring several "aunes", that is length showing the regular repetition of a set design. As far as the history of the manufacture is concerned, the first signs of metered lace dates back to items made in the Regis Experton manufacture in the years 1860 to 1870. These designs were most likely used as a basis for the "Experton Frère & Sœur" manufacture then for the "Auguste Experton & Fils".

These designs are made as far as the 17th century to frame table napkins, bed linen and dress trimmings. These items were sold singly in the boutique or by salesmen. The trade of metered lace was considerable until 1970.

Hand-made metered bobbin lace is the most important stock of the "Auguste Experton & Fils" manufacture. It is made of white and off-white lace which constitutes an impressive mileage since the stock is estimated to be 220 kilometres long. The metered lace assembles more than 9000 designs indexed in sample books. It is separated into two types : straight lace to be inserted and edging frills. The study of the collection shows a system of indexing metered lace according to their type : Torchon, Cluny, Guipure, etc...

A part of the metered lace collection

lace to be insertDesigns to be inserted

Designs to be inserted would have appeared in Haute-Loire around 1851 according to what was put in trust in the "Prud'hommes" council in Le Puy-en-Velay. These designs offered a very diverse and spectacular iconography.

As far as the stock of the manufacture is concerned, it is interesting to note the wide range of the scenes that are represented : greeck, roman or egyptian divinity, angels and cherubs, a representation of the archangel Michaël killing a dragon. These designs sometimes took their inspiration in works of embroidered net but also in certain publications of designs for ladies work, such as Cesare Vecellio or Federico Vinciolo.

Once made the lace items were to be used in ladies work to be inserted in bedspreads, tablecloths, pillow-case and followed the same trading route as metered lace. One must take note that part of these items were also used by the firm for its manufactured production.

At the present time, the museum stocks some 19500 items of lace worked from 3500 different designs.


The items of lace to be used for clothing

Beside the usual production, the firm also offered items for clothing. The stock preserved by the museum ranges from the end of the 19th century to the end of the 1960's.

Yokes, collars and shirt-frills :

The collection consists of shirt-frills, collars, panty-frills, yokes for slips and blouse-fronts. This production seems to have been developed very early in the manufacture, probably at the begining of the 20th century. According to the way of thinking at the time, this production was sold as lace items to be assembled by the customers themselves. The production of collars led to a great variety of often remarkable designs which were to be worn in an ostentatious manner. As far as the yokes were concerned, their production seems to collapse in the 1930's since the lot was found loosely packed in a cardboard box.

The stock is estimated to be 80 collars and 80 yokes. The Manufactures' Museum does not have collars as ready items yet 250 items of yokes and panty-frills.


The pocket-handkerchieves :

The fine pocket-handkerchief was until the 1970's a precious and luxurious object to give as presents for special occasion such as first communion. These pocket-handkerchieves were the object of a very important and symbolic production of the region of Le Puy-en-Velay since the end of the 19th century.
The manufacture developed this production very early around 1910. They were worked in the same type of lace as metered lace : Torchon, Cluny, Russian, Art Deco, etc.… These handkerchieves are worked as a fine lace frame sewn onto a cloth, usually lawn. It was also proposed for sale as just a lace frame to be assembled by the customer.
The manufacture preserves around 450 designs for pocket-handkerchieves as prickings.


Baby clothes :

This production, quite restricted until the 20th century seems to have developed around Retournac after 1945. In the "Auguste Experton & Fils" manufacture, small bobbin lace items representing cats, rabbits, … were sewn on craddle sheets or on bibs and napkins and napkin-holders.

The museum preserve 22 different designs for a lace item stock of 97 bibs, 1 craddle sheet and 14 sets of bib and holder.



The liturgical ornaments :

The production of liturgical ornaments goes back to the birth of lace in the 16th century to decorate altar clothes but also albs, ratchets and supplices for priests. In the Velay, this production starts early since "the ladies of the Visitation" in Le Puy own an alb which most likely dates back to the 17th century.
The manufactures in Retournac developed these productions in the begining of the 20th century and produced albs and ratchets of admirable designs. The "Auguste Experton & Fils" manufacture made it a speciality of theirs which is being commercialized nation wide and world wide. Prestigious liturgical ornament makers like Poussielgue-Rusand, Chéret or Biais inParis used the Experton Family as suppliers for albs and ratchet lace.

The stock comprises 749 items, ready shaped as such :
- 143 items for narrows albs with sleeves and their duplicates
- 26 items for ratchets and their sleeves adding to 118 items
- 2 items for wide albs meaning 4 pieces ready shaped and their sleeves.


House linen

House linen represents a very important part of the production made in the manufactures of Retournac as much on the quality level as on the quantity. The stock is made of linen in the " Cluny " style, linen in the Art Deco style and linen showing wild flowers.

The linen in the " Cluny " style :

The house linen in the Cluny style was one of the most important activity of the workshops of Retournac. This production needed the set-up of an operational chain of work for the preparation and finition of these items. According to the historians, the activity would have appeared in the 1880's but the expansion of this production would have taken place in the 1900's.
The Experton family developed this linen at the begining of the 20th century and created several new designs. One can find in this production tableclothes, curtains, blinds and bedspreads. These items often take their inspiration from antique items from the 16th and 17th century. These were commercialized world-wide. Some designs were reserved for the big department stores in Paris like "Le Printemps" or "la Samaritaine" which catered for well-to-do customers. This Cluny house linen was overtaken in the 1920's by the house linen in the Art Deco style.
The manufacture stocks 20 ready tableclothes and around 960 lace frames ready to be assembled to make tableclothes, 2 finished pieces for curtains and blinds. As far as bedspreads are concerned, the stock holds 1950 items of embroidered net and 1080 needle lace items to be inserted.


The linen in the "Art Deco" style :

This type of linen appeared in the 1920's and was then termed as modern by the lacemakers and the workers of the manufacture. The lace was usually off-white and set on coloured cloth. The range of design of this linen was less important than for the Cluny variety and mainly concerned table linen, a few bedspreads and some blinds.


The development of the Art Deco style in table linen follows the Art Deco mouvement at the time. It is worthy to note that the commercialization of this linen follows the same pattern with the same custom as the Cluny linen. The only difference is the sale of the production according to the season, with at each new season a new design which will not be found the following year.
The stock holds 1490 finished items and 1800 lace frames to be assembled.


The "coloured flowers" :

This type is very similar to embroidery since lace is only used for punctual "appliqué" design, linked together by embroidered patterns with a simple narrow lace framing edging. Apparently, it was the firm "Claire Experton & Cie" which started this production in 1937. Embroidery in these models is fundamental as it is used to represent the stems and leaves of the flowers used in large floral compositions.


The stock of house linen said to be in coloured flowers is composed of 136 finished items and several thousands of small flowers to be used as "appliqué". Except for an unsuccessful trial on the part of Paul Experton, it would seem that no new style appeared in house linen other than the Cluny, Art Deco and coloured flowers style.


Bed-sheet sets :

If it is possible to define an evolution in the different styles of house linen, it is not clearly possible to have such a clean cut period of styles for sets of bed-sheets. Styles mix and last in a different maner.
A bed-sheet set would include usually a top sheet and two pillow-cases. As far as trade went, the manufacture sold finished items as well as lace edging ready to be assembled.
There are 120 items of lace ready for assembly to be used for sheets and pillow-cases.
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