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.
Wednesday, 24 June 2020
This little piece of curtain lace is only 15 cm wide and 20 cm in length and is an advertisement for Stiebel lace curtains. The lettering at the top shows that it was made for Skegness carnival and the fisherman going for a bracing walk was first used on a poster for the Great Northern Railway in 1908. I do not have a date for the lace panel, but it is made from synthetic fibres which did not come into use until the 1920s. The fisherman image was also reused by the London and North Eastern Railway in 1925 to promote travel to Skegness, so the lace may date from that period, when the image became more widely known. I think the lace was an advertising handout, much in the same way as one would hand out a flyer or leaflet. I’ve seen similar pieces of machine-made lace advertising Peach lace curtains, but they weren’t linked to any other event in the same way as this one, and I assumed they were intended to be placed in a display at a wholesale lace fair or in a shop window. The question is why would anyone be advertising lace curtains specifically in Skegness? Perhaps this carnival was a popular event that attracted a large audience of people who were likely to buy lace curtains. Skegness carnival still takes place annually and local businesses are encouraged to hire stalls and support the event so perhaps this is what the local haberdashery store was doing. Stiebel itself is a lace manufacturer based in Nottingham so is unlikely to have directly supported a carnival in the Lincolnshire town of Skegness, unless there was a large market for lace curtains in the area or the company had a special link to the town. If you know anything about any link or indeed anything more about curtain lace advertising do let me know as I’d be interested to find out more.
Wednesday, 17 June 2020
These two bobbins were clearly owned by young women who knew their own minds. One reads ‘Joseph is not for me know it’. Poor Joseph is being told quite publicly that his attentions are not wanted or reciprocated. In contrast, the other bobbin states that the owner has found her true love and is not interested in any other young men; it states ‘My hart is fixt I cannot rainge I like my chise to well to chang’ (My heart is fixed I cannot range, I like my choice too well to change).
This large bobbin (on the left) was probably made by Jesse Compton who lived from 1793 to 1857. He was a prolific lace bobbin maker and his speciality was inscribed bobbins and those decorated with pewter inlay. In general his inscriptions are made up of dots arranged in a spiral up the length of the bobbin but some of his larger bobbins have the inscription written horizontally, like this one. His spelling was not always accurate and on this bobbin the final word ‘chang’ is squeezed onto the line with no room for the final ‘e’. The bobbin could also have been made by his son James, who was also a lace bobbin maker, but I think it is Jesse’s work because his bobbins tend to have a bulbous head, like this one, and James’ lettering is neater than his father’s.
I think the second bobbin, on the right, was made by the maker the Springetts call ‘The blunt end man’ who was working in the mid nineteenth century. The name comes from the simple ends he gave his bobbins. His lace bobbins usually have bands of red or black round the top and tail and the same colours are used for the lettering. The messages are written horizontally along the bobbin and his lettering is quite distinctive. It would be nice to think that both bobbins were owned by the same lacemaker and formed a narrative but that is pure speculation!
Wednesday, 10 June 2020
I’ve been reading the book produced by the Simon May lace company of Nottingham to celebrate their centenary in 1949, which is full of interesting information including a couple of pages about their lace curtain department. Apparently the lace curtain and curtain nets section was one of their original departments and they claim that ‘the present range of products and markets is probably as wide as it has ever been’. They certainly cover a wide range of curtain types including panels, allover designs, brise-bise, vitrages (a light curtain fabric), valance nets as well as tablecloths and bedspreads. They note that during ‘the recent war’ all curtain machines were turned over to producing sandfly nets for the troops. The two-page spread is illustrated with some prize winning curtains including one that won a special award at the Vienna exhibition of 1873 (a detail is shown in the image) and another depicting the story of Don Quixote, which won an award at the 1876 Philadelphia exhibition. I was lucky enough to see both of these prize-winning curtains in 2015 when they were loaned to the Nottingham exhibition ‘Lace in the City of Lace’ by Malcolm Baker.
Thursday, 4 June 2020
I’ve been taking a break from lace making this week to do some sewing. I’ve had some lovely material in the cupboard for ages waiting for me to make something with it and being at home in lockdown has given me the time to do just that. I’ve made myself a top, based on one I bought years ago which was really comfortable and one of my favourites. I have been to great efforts to maintain the original top but it literally wore away in a couple of places because I used it so often!
Its made of linen, and was quite expensive, so I was upset when, soon after I bought it, it developed small brown marks. I couldn’t wash them out and I think they were something to do with the material rather than dirt. To hide them I embroidered the front of the top (see the image above) and that worked well, in fact some people even complimented me on the patterns. However, when the top developed worn patches I realised couldn’t wear it anymore.
I then decided to make a new top using the old one as the pattern and this is the result. I’m pleased with it, it’s easy to wear, and, yes, the front is supposed to be shorter than the back – the frill graduates down the sides!
Wednesday, 27 May 2020
I’ve been experimenting with three-dimensional bobbin lace sculptures. This has involved cutting out lots of paper shapes and then manipulating them to form three-dimensional shapes. My aim is to make flat pieces of lace and then twist them to form mini sculptures. I’ve found they work best if the shapes have a mixture of wide and narrow areas and that half stitch works well in following the contours of the shapes, as you can see from the one in the image. I’ve also tried to keep one colour around the edge to give definition to the main shape, but I feel the mixture of colours in the central area works well and gives it some shading. The piece in the image was made with fairly thick thread which stands up well but I’m not sure whether the final pieces will need stiffening. I don’t want them collapsing half way through an exhibition!
Wednesday, 20 May 2020
More progress has been made on my lace mats based on research into early twentieth century women who had to leave work on marriage. In the end I decided to embroider the text using couching so the four mats each have a phrase from the marriage ceremony: ‘for better; for worse; for richer; for poorer’ embroidered across them. I bottled out of using a marker pen for the writing because although it seemed to disappear quite effectively when I ironed it on my sample I was worried, probably unjustly, that it might not work properly on the final mat so I wrote the text on paper in indelible ink and used that as a pattern under the fabric. I also had to make some decisions about attaching the lace to the mat.
The lace represents the creative work of Amy Atkin and women like her and I wanted to show how easy it was to strip that work and life away. My initial thought was to use pins. I like the sharp piercing nature of pins and their hint of veiled aggression, which seemed to match with the subject, but I decided that it would be difficult to send the pieces to exhibitions like that as they might come loose or even injure someone! I therefore decided to tack the lace in place instead. I wanted the tacking to be obvious though, so I decided to use a red thread, which is often used to symbolise women. I think the red thread works well and I can always add a line of pins as well if I’m exhibiting the work myself.