The oldest document that mentions Idrija's lacemaking is from the very end of the 17th century, but the tradition almost certainly dates back much further as at this time tradesmen were already buying finished lace products from local women who produced it in their homes while their husbands were at work in the mines. Far from being just a hobby, the craft provided a valuable second source of income for local families. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the production of lace moved from individual homes and become a more standardised industry in Idrija.
Credit for this transformation is often given to a young local lady, Ivanka Ferjančič, who brought lacemaking to the attention of some important people in Vienna and lobbied for the establishment of Idrija's first lacemaking school in 1876. Ms Ferjančič became the school's first teacher, but unfortunately died three years later at the age of only 29. However, her memory will never be forgotten, and thanks to her work the school is still operating today with up to 400 part-time students at any given time.
Of the many exhibitions and galleries located in and around Idrija's old town, the best place to view the history of the tradition and the see exquisite examples of finished lace products is the multi-room exhibition at the City Museum that was opened in 2008. And of course there is also the annual Idrija Lace Festival, which is held on the third weekend in June and is now in its 32 year.