In this little fragment of The Dogaressas of Venice, Edgecumb Staley gives the origin of Venetian lace weaving. There’s an idea I’ve had in earlier writing for the podcast, although not so much in the formal line, that the representation of a thing grants a weak material bonus related to that thing. So, if a herb has +6 healing, then a painting of that herb has +2. Basically to me this explains why the decorative arts seem to matter so much in magic item creation. Following this line of thinking, according to the following folklore, Venetian lace is a representation of coral, and as such it offers +3 versus demons. As a piece of clothing, it has move self +2, protect self +4, transform self +4.
Also this myth points out that lacemaking and netmaking are the same craft, so if lace is, for all purposes, a type of decorative net, it gains the bonuses for nets (Immobilization +5) If you are having trouble making the connection between nets, I’d ask you to consider the intermediate historical forms of filet lace, which is a lace woven onto a decorative net of squares or diamond-shapes, and reticella, which was originally made by pulling thread out of fabric, but eventually developed into making decorative netting. The ancestor of lacemaking, punto a groppo, is still practiced today, although it’s known by the a French version of its Turkish name macrame.
Upon the smiling little islet of San Giorgio in Alga, midway between the Punta di Santa Maria — the westernmost limit of Venice proper, and Fusina — the principal port of the Laguna Morta, there lived, once upon a time, a good-looking young fisherman. Zian Zorzio della Laguna,— so named after his patron Saint, Saint George of Cappadoccia, — as skilful in his calling as he was comely in his person. Zorzio had wooed and won the prettiest girl in all Rialto, as hard-working as himself and as good to look upon. One day Bella offered her lover an extraordinarily fine fishing-net which she had, unknown to him, knotted with her own fair hands; and, Zorzio delighted with the gift, tossing it over his shoulder, went off to dedicate it to his saintly patron in the island Sanctuary.
Kissed on both cheeks, coloured with the ripest peach-bloom, her golden hair coiled neatly around her shapely head, save for one rebellious love-knot upon her brow, the beauteous innamorata waved lovinsf farewells to her Zorzio as he sculled off in his light barca to make trial of his treasure. With a daring cast the spider-web-like mesh sank beneath the gentle ripples of the lambent water, and the young fellow, confident of a worthy haul, presently began to pull in his net. ” Per Bacco!” cried he, for something eerie had caught itself in the all but invisible strands of Bella’s handiwork. A piece of petrified sea-weed,—very delicate in form, very beautiful in colour, very exquisite in texture, verily a scudding flake of opalescent sea foam transformed by the mermaids of the deep into lovely coral lace,—yielded itself to his ready hand. Zorzio had never beheld such a perfectly beautiful object, and in a transport of delight he hailed his prize as the pledge of his success in life. Speeding homewards in the evening he made Bella the sharer o of his good fortune, and she locked up the bit of coral lace safely in the simple home they had prepared against the next festival of the ” Brides.”
Alas, the even tenor of their lives was rudely shattered by a call to arms, and brave Zorzio was enrolled among seamen drafted for service in the Orient. Broken-hearted Bella surveyed his empty seat, and her tears fell fast. Should she ever see her Zorzio again she wondered and whispered. Looking up at last, her eyes fell upon her lover’s gift—the lovely spray of coral seaweed. An inspiration seized her mind, and with alacrity she reached down her lace-pillow, and guided by an unseen power, she crossed and crossed her bobbins of fine thread until she had completed, in interlacing arabesques, a similitude of her treasured model. Thus was invented the far – famed and precious merletto a piombini—the point-lace of Venice. It is a charming story and it has a striking moral. That piece of coral seaweed was the mascot of the Venetian Renaissance.
The one problem with this story is that bobbin lace became popular in the 16th century, but we can push it back in history for game purposes. Venice’s most famous lace isn’t this bobbin lace: it’s a sort of needle lace made on the island of Burano. There’s one form of lace which magicians could develop faster than mundanes. Punto et aira was the first lace designed to be stitched without a substrate of fabric (hence its name “stitched in the air”). A magician could make the substrate using Creo, so that it simply vanished after the piece was complete.
Bobbin lace was made, in period, all over the place, but is particularly centred on the island of Pallestrina. It’s again, a bit ahistorical for Ars Magica, but it adds to the desired themes of women’s magical craft. Larger pieces of bobbin lace are made by women working in groups, each doing a particular subskill in which they have the greatest talent. This seems a great excuse to get the coven together and weave spells.
Bobbins are made of bone or lead, generally, because they need to be of identical weight. That being said, mostly-ornamental ones have been made of glass, precious stones, and whalebone, although I’m not sure of this last one for Italian lace. Different weight materials could make spellcasting easier, and a set of weights might make an unusual talisman.