Wednesday, 12 August 2020

The Tebbs sisters and the art of bobbin lace

Louisa Tebbs was a lace teacher in the early twentieth century, first at the Northern Polytechic in London and later at her own School of Bobbin Lace and Embroidery in Baker Street, where she was assisted by her sister Rosa. They produced two hugely successful books, in 1907 and 1911, about lace design and lacemaking and taught numerous pupils. I’ve recently been having another look at the books after reading a very interesting article by Gwynedd Roberts about the sisters in the latest issue of Lace, the Lace Guild magazine. The Lace Guild is planning an exhibition of 20th century lace in which some of the Tebbs’ original patterns and lace samples will be exhibited, which will be worth a visit.

Louisa taught what she describes as sectional bobbin laces, such as Italian point de Flandre, Bruge guipure, Duchesse , Honiton and Bruxelles. In other words those laces that are worked in sections and only require ’18 bobbins (often less) for the most elaborate patterns’. Her instructions are clear and practical. She notes that she ‘encourages the pupils to rely whenever possible on their own intuition and intelligence’. She also encourages them to design their own patterns as she feels that will engage their interest and also suggests that pin holes are not pricked in advance but made by the worker as she progresses to suit her individual work.

The new student begins with the ‘Italian’ lace edge of shamrock shapes shown above but soon progresses to the Honiton flounce shown here. The books also include instructions for various filling stitches and patterns for lace that can be applied to net, like the Honiton flounce, as well as Honiton raised work. The books are clear and very encouraging but I think the pupils had a better grasp of needlework than we have today, for example there are no instructions for attaching the lace to fine net it is just assumed the reader will know how to do this. If you can find them the books are an interesting read, as is Gwynedd’s article, and the exhibition at the Lace Guild should be interesting too.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Tape lace designs

I’m still considering using tape lace for a series of lace doilies incorporating text, which I want to make to highlight issues relating to women. I’ve made some preliminary sketches but am still not sure whether to run the lettering from the same tape as the border into the centre of the mat or whether to make a circular mat first and then add the lettering with other filling stitches to the centre afterwards by sewing in. I’ve done some rough sketches trying out both alternatives and I think I prefer the text that runs on from the border into the centre, mainly because the lettering is slightly less defined and therefore more hidden within the doily. I want the result to be quite subtle and the lettering not to be too obvious. The aim is that people look at the mat and think ‘Oh another lace doily’ and then realise what it says and that it is a doily with attitude! I need to mull it over for a while until I’ve made a final decision and then draw up a working pattern.


Thursday, 30 July 2020

Lockdown lace


Today’s prompt for the mid year lace challenge is ‘lockdown lace’ which made me consider the lace I have made since lockdown for the Covid 19 virus began in March. I started off by finishing the pieces I was working on before the virus struck. This was quite a large body of work inspired by Amy Atkin and other early twentieth century women who were obliged to leave work on marriage. It is made up of four table mats with needlerun lace inserts tacked in place in a reference to Judy Chicago’s Dinner party. That project was underway before the virus struck but lockdown did give me the time to complete it during that glorious weather we had in spring. After that my thoughts turned to designing future projects. One is a group endeavour inspired by a research trip to Japan last year. My pieces will include a three dimensional bobbin sculpture and two needlerun lace panels. The other is another lace doily including wording for which I’ve been researching tape lace. However I think my real lockdown lace is the bobbin lace I’ve been making for the fan series I started years ago. I made the first fan inspired by the element water for an exhibition at Valtopina and had always intended to make fans based on the other three elements. Well, lockdown has given me the time to make the lace for fire and air and I now have the bobbins wound for earth. I would never have got round to making them if it hadn’t been for the lockdown!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Battle of Britain machine lace grounds


The Battle of Britain commemorative machine lace panel made in the mid 1940s will be back on display at the Nottingham Castle Museum next year in the new lace exhibition. However if you can’t wait that long, one of the panels is on permanent display at Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore, London. The reason I’m blogging about it today is because I’m taking part in Jane Fulman’s lace challenge on Instagram and today’s prompt is ‘grounded’. A panel about an airborne battle may seem a strange choice for grounded but in fact I’m referring to the numerous ground stitches within the panel which give it such a sense of shading and three dimensionality. For example the wheat ears include five different stitches and even the shamrock leaves include two woven areas, one slightly thicker than the other. The image above the edging shows the ruin of St Clement Danes, which was devastated by incendiary bombs in 1941. It has since been rebuilt and dedicated to the RAF. The level of shading on this, and the other images depicting the bombing of London, is amazing and allows the details of the scenes to be shown. The Battle of Britain panel celebrates the bravery of those who took part in the battle but also celebrates the skill of the machine lacemakers who made the panel.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Fans for the four elements


I made the first fan in this series for an exhibition at Valtopina Lace and Embroidery Museum several years ago. The theme was a fan based on one of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. I chose water for my theme and incorporated a bobbin lace design of water droplets into silk paper to make a small pale blue fan – you can see how I did it in a blog I wrote in September 2014.
I was pleased with the water fan and decided that I’d like to make a series of three more fans for the other elements. I made the ‘fire’ lace a while ago in red and orange threads but then got diverted into other projects and put the other pieces to one side. Looking through some images of my lace the other day I came across one of the water fan and as I have nothing on my pillow at the moment I decided to make the lace for the air and earth versions. I’ve now chosen a palette of grey, silver and neutral threads for air, and brown, copper and green ones for earth and have finally started on the lace.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Tape lace dress ornament


I designed and made this tape lace dress ornament a while ago and as I’ve been studying some Russian lace recently I was reminded of it. Much Russian lace is based on tapes or ribbons of lace arranged very cleverly to form intricate patterns. One of its advantages is that you only use a few pairs of bobbins at any one time so it is fairly quick but the disadvantage is that you have to keep joining parts of the lace to each other, something that isn’t necessary in continuous laces.
My design is a contemporary lace collar in broadly a triangular shape with a curved neck side and a point at the base. It is made up of one continuous braid that curves throughout the entire design, sometimes getting wider or narrower, and every so often branching out into leaves or plaits. I’ve been thinking about making lace mats using a similar technique so thought I’d revisit my previous attempts and get some expert advice. I’ve been looking at Bridget Cook’s book on Russian lace making for some tips on joining techniques and using fillings and I’ve found some useful videos online so I’ve got plenty of resources to get started with.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Lace curtain design


I love this design for a lace curtain by Marcel Tuquet that I found in a loose-leaf portfolio of designs published by Christian Stoll of Plauen because it has an unfinished look and shows how the design is built up in sections. The curtains are undated but I think this one probably comes from about 1900. The designs also have doodles round the margins, which suggests that they were used as inspiration by lace designers in Nottingham, which is where I found these. This design follows the layout for designing lace curtains set out by Arthur Silver in his instructions for fabric design students in 1893 and consists of a central design, borders and insertions. The central panel in this case is based on a free design that is not symmetrical on either side of the central fold. The bottom border is slightly wider than the side borders but contains the same elements just in different proportions. The delicate three-point flame shapes and lines are also mirrored in the central design linking the two aspects together. There is also a wide insertion between the side border and the central design made up of delicate flowers and leaf shapes that reflect those in the central panel. These separate elements are all beautifully drawn and cleverly linked together forming a very pleasing lace curtain design.