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The Island of Lace - Drawn Threadwork on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean

The Island of Lace

Drawn Threadwork on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean

By Eric A. Eliason
Photographs by Scott Squire
Hardcover : 9781496823625, 208 pages, 326 color photographs, June 2019

A comprehensive history of a renowned lace working tradition and the women who make it


Nicknamed the “Island of Lace,” the Caribbean island of Saba is the smallest special municipality in the Netherlands. Folklorist Eric A. Eliason, at the behest of the president of the Saba Lace Ladies’ Foundation and Saba’s director of tourism, traveled to the island with the intent to document the history and patterns of Saba lace. Born out of his research, The Island of Lace tells the story of lacework’s central role in Saba’s culture, economy, and history. Accompanied by over three hundred of Scott Squire’s intimate photographs of lace workers and their extraordinary island society, this volume brings together in one place an as-complete-as-possible catalog of the rich designs worked by Saban women.

For 130 years, the practice of drawn threadwork—also known as Spanish work, fancy work, lacework, or Saba lace—has shaped the lives of Saban women. And yet, as the younger generation moves away from the island, it still survives. Sabans use drawn threadwork to symbolize the uniqueness of their island and express the ingenuity, diligence, bold inventiveness, pride in workmanship, love of beauty, and respect for tradition that define the Saban spirit.

Along with recording and honoring the creative legacy of generations of Saban women, this book serves as a guide to folk-art lace patterns from Saba so that practitioners can reference and perhaps re-create this work. The Island of Lace is the most comprehensive volume on this singular tradition ever published.


"This book is a tremendous contribution to the work done by the women of our small island community of Saba. No one that I know of has ever gone as deep into the history of Saba lace as Mr. Eliason has. "

- Will Johnson, former senator, the Netherlands Antilles

"I have a special affinity to this art form and the ladies who put so much time, effort, and creativity into producing this beautiful unique craft. Congratulations to Eric and all who have assisted in helping to keep the art of lacemaking alive and promoting it to the outside world. "

- Glenn Calvin Holm, director of tourism, Saba

"Deftly combining the anthropology of Saba lace with the meticulous care of an art historian, The Island of Lace: Drawn Threadwork on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean fills a critical gap in Saba’s cultural history that has never been the subject of a thorough study."

- Ryan Espersen, Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies