Dentelle au point d'Alençon

A stitch in time with Alençon lace

In Alençon you never lose the thread! It’s amazing what you can learn from Alençon needlepoint lace, listed by UNESCO as intangible heritage. You’ll be left speechless by the intricate technique behind the Alençon needlepoint lace pieces exhibited in the museum. Admire the displays and discover this exceptional French savoir-faire.

Alençon needlepoint lace, an intricate technique 

An example of French craftsmanship, the technique of Alençon needlepoint lace, a symbol of elegance, was developed in 1660 thanks to Marthe La Perrière who, with the Royal Manufacture, made it the “queen of laces”. The Alençon needlepoint technique consists in using a needle to create, stitch by stitch, a patterned fabric with no weft thread or warp. It requires great patience and is said to have made some lacemakers go blind! Lace from Alençon was first used by royalty in the 18th century. Stitch by stitch, thread by thread, it became the favourite lace of Louis XV who named it “winter lace” because of its density. In decline following the Revolution and mechanisation, Alençon lace later won recognition as a unique example of  French craftsmanship.

Témoin du savoir-faire français et symbole du raffinement, la technique de la dentelle au Point d’Alençon prend essor en 1660 grâce à Marthe La Perrière et à la création de la Manufacture royale pour devenir « la reine des dentelles ». La technique du Point d’Alençon consiste à confectionner à l’aiguille, point par point, un tissu qui forme un dessin sans trame ni chaîne. Quelle patience ! Il paraît que certaines dentellières en perdaient même la vue. Au XVIIIème siècle, la dentelle alençonnaise fait son entrée à la cour. De fil en aiguille, la dentelle d’Alençon devient la préférée de Louis XV qu’il renomme « dentelle d’hiver » en raison de sa densité. Elle décline lors de la Révolution, synonyme de mécanisation, avant d’être reconnue comme savoir-faire français d’exception.

Stitches in time at the Alençon lace museum

The art of needlepoint lacemaking has survived the passing of time to become a part of French heritage. Its long and rich history can be best appreciated at Alençon’s Fine Arts & Lace Museum. In the “lace” section you’ll find the wonders of Orne with items of all styles and from every period. Just picture that tablecloth spread on the royal table, and imagine the lacemaker concentrating on her meticulous work. Surprisingly, there’s also a section devoted to Cambodia which retraces the Khmer culture, while the Fine Arts section presents French, Italian and Nordic artists from the 15th to 20th century. A whole variety of pleasures!

Section Dentelle, Musée des Beaux-arts et de la Dentelle © D. Commenchal

A day out in Alençon

As the former city of the dukes, and capital of the French department of Orne, Alençon is a charming town in which to lose yourself. Take a stroll in the Saint-Léonard district, AKA old Alençon, to admire the facades, windows, spiral steps and wrought-iron balcony railings that make these ancient streets so appealing. Don’t miss a visit to Alençon’s basilica, with its enchantingly extravagant Gothic doorway and dazzling stained-glass windows. Along the way, you’ll come across the Maison d’Ozé, a building that now houses the Tourist Office but retains its medieval charm.

Alençon © JE Rubio

Discover the Ecouves forest trail-running site!

trail ecouves © AYAimages

Discover the 7 running & hiking trails and do your fitness training at the 4 dedicated sites.

On the outskirts of Alençon, the “Town of Dukes”, the Ecouves Massif has itineraries that combine the intimate atmosphere of the edge of the forest with rocky ridges, wide open plains and the wooded countryside of Normandy. Your chance to spend a holiday between nature and heritage.