Bobbin lace–making is the skill or craft of making lace by crossing, twisting, braiding, and interweaving threads wound on bobbins. In addition to the bobbins—carved and shaped pieces of wood—that hold the thread, lace makers also use a cushion (Sln. bula) placed in a basket (jerbas) or on a stand. The pattern (papirc) is pinned onto the cushion. A small crochet hook (heknadl) is used to join individual pieces of lace, and threads are wound onto the bobbins using a spinning wheel for bobbin-winding or a modern machine run by hand or with an electric motor. Bobbin lace–making was documented in Idrija by the end of the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century lace-making as a putting-out craft also spread to rural areas near Idrija. The techniques were first passed from family to family, but later a lace-making school founded in 1876 had a significant impact on its development. The school was part of the Central Lace-Making Course in Vienna, and its first teacher was Ivanka Ferjančič (1850–1879), herself from Idrija. After returning from Tyrol she introduced a new lace-making technique, the “wide band” technique, which became the characteristic style and pattern of Idrija lace. Numerous ambitious sellers also contributed to the recognition of Idrija lace at the end of the nineteenth century. Lace-making stalled during the First World War, but new life was breathed into it afterwards: due to the influence of the Italian lace market, the “wide band” technique gave way to the simpler “narrow band” technique. The lace-making school is still in operation today, now offered as an extracurricular activity to groups in Idrija, Spodnja Idrija, Cerkno, Col, Črni Vrh, Godovič, and Podkraj. From 1993 to 2000 there was also a vocational lace-making program in Idrija. Handmade Idrija lace has had a Protected Geographical Indication since 2000.
All Idrija lace lace-makers are responsible for the cultural value of Idrija lace. Some of these lace-makers are individual members of the Society of Idrija Lace-Makers, and others belong to local lace-making societies (e.g., the Črni Vrh–Godovič Lace-making Society). The Idrija Lace-Making School also has a role in preserving and transmitting lace-making skills, with its classes in Idrija, Spodnja Idrija, Črni Vrh, Godovič, Cerkno, Col, and Podkraj. The Idrija Municipal Museum and the International Center for Idrija Lace are responsible for documenting lace-making heritage and presenting and representing bobbin lace–making. Galleries and shops with Idrija lace also indirectly contribute to lace-making as a cultural value, as well as the tourist information center (Idrija TIC), the local development agency (Idrijsko-Cerkljanska razvojna agencija d.o.o.), and, finally, the brand name “Idrija Lace.”
Bobbin lace–making frequently has a direct role (i.e., the lace-making craft) or indirect role (i.e., marketing, lace exhibitions, research on lace-making heritage, teaching at the Lace-Making School, creating patterns, and using Idrija lace in modern design) in locals’ ways of earning their main wages or supplemental income.
Bobbin lace–making has development potential, which has partially already been exploited, both at the international level (e.g., hosting the OIDFA international conference in 2016, the brand name Idrija Lace used by the International Center for Idrija Lace), the national level (e.g., the protection of Idrija lace as a product with a geographical indication; hosting the prominent Lace-Making Festival; using Idrija lace in contemporary designs for clothing, shoes, and interior decorating), and also the regional or local level (the operation of the Lace-Making School as an extracurricular activity for children, the operation of numerous societies for lace-makers, and galleries and shops with Idrija lace). Some of the more significant examples of this include the Municipality of Idrija’s “Land of Lace” project of 2004 as part of the Culture 2000 program; the permanent exhibition of Idrija lace “A History Written in Thread” at the Idrija Municipal Museum won the Valvasor Award in 2008; Slovenia was selected to host the OIFDA international conference in 2016; the annual Festival of Idrija Lace in June including exhibits, competitions of lace-making skills, lace-making workshops, lectures, and the sale of lace-making tools, lace, and products with lace.