Goodbye (Saħħa)! A modern Maltese lace (bizzilla) handkerchief (24x23cm) waves from below to the disappearing falcon and simultaneously on the reverse invites viewers onto the closing suit: “Ring-a-ring o’ roses, A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down”, the still popular 18th-century playground singing game springs to mind. Its reverse, fluttering down and falling into the suit, indicates that the ♣s are last to play, ‘packing it in’ they will say.
Bobbin lace was introduced into Malta by the Knights of St John (→2♦, Jack♦ and ♥) in the 16th century as a clothing accessory to embellish garments and gloves of noble and ecclesiastical vestments (→Queen♦ and red Joker). The craft, which flourished from the mid-17th century, was handed down from mother to daughter and often sold to the upper class and abroad. In 1881 Queen Victoria was presented with a Maltese lace tablecloth which she adored; her seated statue in front of the National Library on Republic Street in Valletta (→5♦) shows her wearing a Maltese lace headscarf. As the old generations of lace makers passed away, this craft was on the verge of extinction by the mid-20th century but has seen a revival over the last two decades and is now also being practiced by men. A three-year lace course became available in 1996 and since 2004 the Diploma of Lace Studies is being offered at the University of Malta, Gozo Centre.