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every thread, watching it closely as she draws
it off the distaff; and that she may see it the
more distinctly, a piece of dark blue paper is
used as a background for the flax. Whenever
the spinner notices the least unevenness, she
stops the evolution of her wheel, breaks off
the faulty piece of flax, and then resumes her
spinning. This fine flax being as costly as
gold, the pieces thus broken off are carefully
laid aside to be used in other ways. All this
could never be done by machinery. It is
different in the spinning of cotton, silk, or
wool, in which the original threads are almost
all of uniform thickness. The invention of
the English Flax-spinning Machine, therefore,
can never supersede the work of the
Belgian Fine Thread Spinners, any more than
the Bobbin-Net Machine can rival the fingers
of the Brussels lace-makers, or render their
delicate work superfluous.

The prices current of the Brabant spinners
usually include a list of various sorts of thread
suited to lace-making, varying from 60 francs
to 1800 francs per pound. Instances have
occurred, in which as much as 10,000 francs
have been paid for a pound of this fine yarn.
So high a price has never been attained by
the best spun silk; though a pound of silk, in
its raw condition, is incomparably more
valuable than a pound of flax. In like manner, a
pound of iron may, by dint of human labour
and ingenuity, be rendered more valuable than
a pound of gold.

Lace-making, in regard to the health of the
operatives, has one great advantage. It is a
business which is carried on without the
necessity of assembling great numbers of
workpeople in one place, or of taking women
from their homes, and thereby breaking the
bonds of family union. It is, moreover, an
occupation which affords those employed in it
a great degree of freedom. The spinning-
wheel and lace-pillows are easily carried from
place to place, and the work may be done
with equal convenience in the house, in the
garden, or at the street-door. In every
Belgian town in which lace-making is the
staple business, the eye of the traveller is
continually greeted with pictures of happy
industry, attended by all its train of concomitant
virtues. The costliness of the material
employed in the work, viz., the fine flax thread,
fosters the observance of order and economy,
which, as well as habits of cleanliness, are
firmly engrafted among the people. Much
manual dexterity, quickness of eye, and judgment,
are demanded in lace-making; and the
work is a stimulater of ingenuity and taste;
so that, unlike other occupations merely
manual, it tends to rouse rather than to dull
the mind. It is, moreover, unaccompanied by
any unpleasant and harassing noise; for the
humming of the spinning-wheel, and the
regular tapping of the little bobbins, are
sounds not in themselves disagreeable, or
sufficiently loud to disturb conversation, or to
interrupt the social song.

In Belgium, female industry presents itself
under aspects alike interesting to the painter,
the poet, and the philanthropist. Here and
there may be seen a happy-looking girl, seated
at an open window, turning her spinning-
wheel or working at her lace-pillow, whilst at
intervals she Indulges in the relaxation of a
curious gaze at the passers-by in the street.
Another young Speldewerkster, more
sentimentally disposed, will retire into the garden,
seating herself in an umbrageous arbour, or
under a spreading tree, her eyes intent on her
work, but her thoughts apparently divided
between it and some object nearer to her
heart. At a doorway sits a young mother,
surrounded by two or three children playing
round the little table or wooden settle on
which her lace-pillow rests. Whilst the
mother's busy fingers are thus profitably
employed, her eyes keep watch over the
movements of her little ones, and she can at the
same time spare an attentive thought for some
one of her humble household duties.

Dressmakers, milliners, and other females
employed in the various occupations which
minister to the exigencies of fashion, are
confined to close rooms, surrounded by masses of
silk, muslin, &c. They are debarred the
healthful practice of working in the open air,
and can scarcely venture even to sit at an
open window, because a drop of rain or a puff
of wind may be fatal to their work and its
materials. The lace-maker, on the contrary,
whose work requires only her thread and her
fingers, is not disturbed by a refreshing breeze
or a light shower; and even when the weather
is not particularly fine, she prefers sitting at
her street-door or in her garden, she
enjoys a brighter light than within doors.

In most of the principal towns of the
Netherlands there is one particular locality
which is the focus of lace-making industry;
and there, in fine weather, the streets are
animated by the presence of the busy
work-women. In each of these districts there is
usually one wide open street which the
Speldewerksters prefer to all others, and in which
they assemble, and form themselves into the
most picturesque groups imaginable. It is
curious to observe them, pouring out of narrow
lanes and alleys, carrying with them their
chairs and lace-pillows, to take their places in
the wide open street, where they can enjoy
more of bright light and fresh air than in
their own places of abode.

"I could not help contrasting," says Kohl,
"the pleasing aspect of these streets with the
close and noisy workrooms in woollen and
cotton manufactories. There the workpeople
are all separated and classified according to
age and sex, and marshalled like soldiers.
There domestic and family ties are rudely
broken. There chance or exigency separates
the young factory girl from her favourite
companions, and dooms her to association with
strangers. There social conversation and the
merry song are drowned in that stunning din