Delicate bilro lace


In the early eighties, when the beautiful dunes of Canoa Quebrada, in the Northeastern state of Ceará, where still ignored by the masses and the media, you would see the local ladies spread beautiful lace on the sand, to be bleached by the sun. They would then travel to Fortaleza, the capital, to be sold for nickels to marveled tourists. This type of lace, known as renda de bilro or birro, is typical of several Brazilian states, mainly in the Northeast, but also in the South,  in Santa Catarina, Rio and Minas Gerais, where elder ladies are trying to keep the tradition.

Its delicate technique was probably brought to the country by the Portuguese immigrants of the Azores islands, but similar lace is produced in several other European countries. Till these days you can buy something very similar lace in the shops of Bruges, the old medieval town of Belgium.

To observe the rendeiras in action is a pleasure by itself. They use a cylindrical fabric cushion, on a wooden support, where they set a card with the pattern to be followed and the pins that will hold the thread. Then a series of wooden sticks, the bilros, are transferred from right to left, as in a rustic loom. The pins are moved to follow the progress of the job.

All these wonderful photos were made by Otávio Nogueira/Flickr in Ilha Grande, state of Piauí.