Idrija has always been considered an important centre of lacemaking knowledge, from where the skill of designing and making lace artwork spread to the world.
It is not known when and how they started lacemaking in Idrija. It is believed that the knowledge of this local craft was brought from the German or Czech lands more than three centuries ago. From there, many miners and mining experts came to work in the Idrija mine with their families.
The oldest source that testifies to the presence of lacemaking in Idrija dates back to 1696. The term lacemaking includes several types of making lace. In terms of the method of making, we distinguish between needle, crocheted, knitted or bobbin lace. In Idrija, only bobbin lace is made. It got its name after specially designed wooden sticks called klekeljni (i.e. bobbins), on which cotton or linen thread is wound. At first, lace was made of coarse, linen thread, intended primarily for the domestic market for the decoration of churches and liturgical vestments as well as for adorning home textiles and clothing items of wealthier people. Lacemaking knowledge was mainly handed down as a tradition. Gradually, patterns and techniques developed in Idrija, which gave its lace a distinctive trait.
Due to the growing demand for quality lace on the market, schools were established. Their aim was to improve the knowledge of lacemakers and raise the quality of lace. The Lace School was founded in Idrija as early as 1876, and has been operating continuously ever since. During this period, Idrija lace gained its recognisable shape. The generally established technique included seven pairs of bobbins. With lace, merchants penetrated foreign markets and won the highest awards at world exhibitions. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, bobbin lacemaking spread to the Cerkljansko area and the Trnovski gozd plateau, as well as to the Selška and Poljanska dolina valleys. Courses were held by Idrija teachers. The women of Idrija clung to local crafts en masse. Although they were relatively poorly paid for their work, lacemaking brought them a steady source of additional income.
With the Italian occupation in 1920, the requirements on the lace market changed. Idrija could only compete with a larger amount of lace. Thus, lace had to be simplified and made with only five pairs of bobbins. Idrija lace became cheaper and accessible to a wider circle of people.
Today, the richness of Idrija lace can be seen in permanent and occasional exhibitions both in Idrija and abroad, in specialist shops and studios, not least in Idrija homes and business premises. It is also placed in a contemporary way on many objects or installations.