Alençon Lace is world-renowned but at the beginning in the twelfth century lace-making in France was politically complicated. The uniquely-styled needle lace, made with threads said to be finer than horsehair, did not emerge until around 1665. The factory still exists in the town today but it has been turned into a museum with only a few women still working there, mainly to demonstrate the intricacies and complexities of making this particular lace; to educate and keep the history alive. Working under bright lights, the conditions are completely different from those experienced in the previous centuries when an apprenticeship lasted ten years and girls could start learning at the age of five, by which stage they already knew how to hold the tiny needle. After long lives filled with working in poor light, most of the lace-makers went blind.
Sally Hedges Greenwood is a documentary and conceptual photographer and the author of the books in the fully illustrated ‘With Photography®’ series, she is an Associate of The Royal Photographic Society and has a degree in Applied Photography and Digital Imaging.