Pillow lace making
The production of gossamer-thin lace is closely interwoven with mining in the Aurina/Ahrntal valley and an early example of (involuntary) women’s emancipation.
Pillow lace is made by pinning linen threads to a pillow, called a “Pinggl” in the local dialect. Bobbins hang on the ends of the threads and the pattern is produced by winding them between the various points.
The history of pillow lace making in the Val Aurina/Ahrntal
After 500 years or extracting copper ore the mines at Prettau closed in 1893, depriving many families in the valley of their income. In adversity the resourceful women had the idea of turning lace-making into a full-time occupation. The village priest and the aristocrats who owned the mines sponsored three talented lace-makers, sending them to Vienna to learn the skill. A lace-making school opened in Predoi/Prettau in 1894 to enable the women to teach the craft to others in the valley. Their products were successfully promoted at exhibitions at home and abroad, as well as in fashion magazines. In fact the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy became regular customers although at the time machine-made lace was already on the market. Considering the work involved, a lace-maker’s income amounted to little more than pocket money and the earnings from a 17-hour working day were often directly exchanged for food. The First World War divided South Tyrol from Austria and the women consequently lost their suppliers of raw materials in Bohemia. Their cottage industry only took off again in the 1930s with supplies of thread from Milan. The Association of Lace-makers was founded in Prettau in 1994 with the intention of passing on the knowledge of this technique to future generations. Today their lace adorns traditional costume blouses, Sunday clothing, table cloths and Christmas tree decorations. Lace-making demonstrations and exhibitions are put on in the Haus Prettau village hall, in the Kornkasten mining museum at Steinhaus and in the Nature Reserve Visitor Centre at Kasern.