Lace window shades will give plain windows a unique and beautiful look. They are also a very good alternative for sheer fabrics, especially if you want something with a bit more 'body' and substance.
If you're competent with a sewing machine you can make your own. Or you can buy them from many stores, and they are also available online.
Lace making is an ancient art, and has been practiced all over the world. There are many different types of lace making, but the ones we are most familiar with had their origins in the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. One theory is that it began in the 14th century in Flanders (a region between France and Belgium).
Linen and silk were often used in making the lace, and to a lesser extent gold and silver threads were added for a rich effect. Nowadays cotton is the most common thread used, although synthetic fibres are finding their way in as well.
Lace can be hand made, but most of the lace available commercially is machine made. There are quite a few independent lace makers in existence, especially in regions with a lace making tradition.
When to use lace for your window treatments
Because lace is best seen on its own (without any linings behind it), it's most often used as sheer curtains. This method allows for privacy, as it's difficult to see in from outside, and enhances what may otherwise have been an unattractive window.
The same argument applies to lace window shades - they look their best when you don't need any linings. This means they are perfectly suitable for roller shades, roman shades and festoon shades. You may also be able to get vertical shades made from lace, but these are often laminated to a transparent backing.
Roller shades work well in lace, and these are readily available from many suppliers. Sometimes the lace is treated to stiffen it so the shade can function more reliably, but this doesn't detract from its looks.
Roman shades in lace are not quite as successful, but it can still be done. They work best if the lace is quite substantial, but you still tend to see the rods and other fittings, and you probably won't find many suppliers eager to oblige.
Festoon shades are ideal for making in lace. It's a good idea to use transparent tapes (which hold the rings for the cords to run through) so they are almost invisible from the front. Another tip - put more fabric into the shade than you would normally do; they'll look much better for it, especially when they are pulled up.
For more general information go to the fabric window shades page
Don't assume that if you buy you lace to make your own lace window shades that it will come in a standard width! Most fabrics these days come in standard widths such as 4' 6" (approximately 135cms). Depending on where the lace originated it could be any width, so make sure you check before ordering.