Wednesday, 21 October 2020

#MeToo doily bobbin lace


As you can see my new bobbin lace doily is underway. The idea of using a tape lace construction was that I would need fewer bobbins and I wanted to see if it was a quicker way of working. Well that hasn’t been the case so far, mainly because I’ve started at the most difficult place where I’m incorporating the text #MeToo into the design. However working the grid filling has been interesting as I’ve only needed two pairs of bobbins for the entire thing, as they just work up and down there are no four plait crossings as there would be in Bedfordshire lace, which is the style I’m most used to. Instead of crossings, one of the pairs is hitched under the previously worked plait and the other pair linked through it to make a join. The books about tape lace suggest only one thread need be hitched under but I found that didn’t make a neat join and using a pair works better for me. It’s also a learning curve trying to work out the right length for each plait in the filling when you complete the ‘crossing’ on the following row, I think I’m getting the hang of the tension but I find four plait crossings easier. I guess it’s just what you’re used to! I wanted the text on the mat to stand out so I gave up attempts to include the text in cursive script and I’m using Bedfordshire style techniques to work it, hence the increased number of bobbins. Once the text is finished I should be down to a handful of bobbins for the outer mat though. It’s certainly an interesting way of working and great to be learning some new techniques.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Troubled love lives in lace bobbins

I’ve been winding bobbins for my latest bobbin lace project – the mat I’ve been designing in tape lace, which I’ll blog about once the lace is underway – and I came across these three bobbins about troubled love lives. They are inscribed with Love don’t forsake me; Let no false lover gaine my hart 1842; and Its hard to love and canot be love again. One poor lacemaker is trying to hang on to her boyfriend, while the other two have clearly had romance problems in the past. The one who doesn’t want a ‘false lover’ suggests she’s had one in the past who cheated on her. While the last one implies she’s found a boy she likes but he’s not interested or that she too is having problems getting back into a relationship. At least it shows that these problems did not start with social media – they’ve been going on for centuries! In fact T L Huetson in his book on Lace and bobbins records one with the inscription ‘Place no confidence in young men’ – a warning that any young girl would be wise to bear in mind! I think the first bobbin on the left was made by Bobbin Brown of Cranfield, the middle one was probably made by Jesse Compton and the one on the right is probably by David Haskins who came from a family of bobbin makers.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Lace pattern designing

I’ve decided to continue my series of subversive lace mats with a message. The first one was made in Bedfordshire style lace and had ‘get off me’ worked into the lace. It’s been exhibited in many places and always draws interest so I thought I’d make a series of them which could be shown together. However, this time, as I’ve become interested in Russian tape lace, I’ve decided to use that style for the new mat. I’ve never made that type of lace before so it’s a bit of a leap in the dark and my piece will definitely be in the ‘style’ of Russian lace rather than being a model example!

I’ve found Bridget Cook’s book ‘Russian lace making’ to be very useful and, as you can see from the picture above, I’ve started designing my pattern. The great thing about this type of lace is that if you design the pattern well you can make the entire mat in one go with only a few pairs of bobbins, there is very little tying in and out. I have incorporated what I would call a ninepin edge in part of the design just so I can make it in the Russian style with only two pairs of bobbins! You start working from one edge of the main pattern and work a plait for the lower half of the edging, joining it to the footside as you go, then when you reach the end you turn back and work the top half of the edging, joining into the bottom half as you work until you return to the place you started from – isn’t that clever! That’s the theory anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out! My main problem at the moment is how to include the text into the central area of the mat and what filling stitch to use. I’m not sure if I can make the text in a continuous line, I may have to work that part as a separate motif and tie into it. It’s definitely a work in progress and I’m learning new things all the time!

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Pillow lace by Mincoff and Marriage

Having recently revisited and blogged (12 August 2020) about the lace books written by the Tebbs sisters I have been browsing other early twentieth century bobbin lace instruction books on my bookshelf. Elizabeth Mincoff and Margaret Marriage published their book in 1907 as a result of learning how to make Torchon lace on a holiday in Freiburg but finding on their return to England that there were few patterns or instruction available. The book is quite comprehensive with chapters on equipment, history and design as well as clear instructions on how to make a series of lace designs. They explain that, unlike some other authors, they have not used codes or symbols in their instructions but instead rely on clear diagrams and short explanations. They begin with some ‘Russian’ or tape lace patterns with simple instructions and pleasing results, which only require a few pairs of bobbins on the pillow so are ideal starting pieces (the image shows the first three pieces taught in the book). They then progress to Torchon patterns requiring more bobbins and then move on to Maltese and plaited laces. The book is written as a course and it is suggested that the reader works through the chapters sequentially. The Tebbs sisters also start the beginner off on tape lace which I did think was a good choice as it is fairly easy to achieve good results with it, which is encouraging for the student, and also easy to understand the design method for those who want to produce their own patterns.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Earth fan bobbin lace

I have finally finished the piece of bobbin lace based on earth for the fan series I’m working on inspired by the four elements. I’m pleased with the colour combination and putting it together with the lace for the other two I’ve recently finished (air and fire) they work well together. I made the water fan a while ago for an exhibition in Valtopina, Italy and I want to make the other three in the same way so they form a group. For that fan I embedded the lace in silk paper and used a simple wire frame to make the fan shape so I’ll do the same with these. I’ve been looking through my silk fibres to see what colours I have and I think I’ve got the right colours for earth and air but I may have to dye some for the fire fan. I also need to make the wire shapes to attach them to. Perhaps my excitement on finishing the lace was misplaced I still seem to have quite a lot to do for this project!

Friday, 18 September 2020

New lace projects

The beginning of the autumn and the return to school is always an exciting time as it heralds the beginning of a new academic year and new projects. I have to admit I’m still finishing one of my lockdown projects – the series of bobbin lace fans inspired by the four elements but I’m half way through the lace for the last one based on earth so I feel I’m getting on well with it. I also have a couple of new lace projects underway, one inspired by the research trip to Japan I went on last year with other members of the UCA textile department, and another which is an extension of my lace doily work on subversive domestic lace. The Japanese work is interesting because we are all making work expressing our impressions of Japan and it will be shown in two parts, one is made up of miniature work and the other comprises larger pieces. Most excitingly, for the miniature exhibition we will be joined by many of the Japanese artists and masters we visited in Japan who are also generously contributing miniature works so it will be an Anglo-Japanese exhibition. The exhibitions are entitled Tansa – the Japanese word for exploration – and the miniatures exhibition will be shown at the Craft Study Centre in Farnham and Gallery Gallery in Kyoto (dates are given on my website I’m also busy writing two papers about different machine lace designers so I have plenty of new projects to start the autumn!

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Antique bobbin lace pricking

This antique bobbin lace pattern, or pricking, probably dates from the nineteenth century. It is a simple narrow insertion with a footside on each edge and a simple pattern of flowers and leaves running down the centre and would have been made using a Bedfordshire style of lace with plaits linking the different elements of the pattern, rather than the net ground used in Buckinghamshire lace. We now tend to use cardboard for our prickings but this one is made of parchment which suggests it is quite old. It is very sturdy and was made to be used many times, over and over again. The pattern is pricked before the lace is begun using a pointed pricker tool, often using a previous pricking as the template by pricking through it onto the new parchment.

The cloth attached to the ends would have made it easier to handle the pattern without making it greasy from too much handling and was the point at which the pattern was attach to the lace pillow. Thomas Wright in The romance of the lace pillow says that most parchments were about 14 inches long (this one is about 10 inches) and each was called a ‘down’. Thus the lacemaker would say she had made a down when she finished the length of the pattern. He also says that the linen ends were called ‘eaches’ which means an extension. Variations on the spelling are eche, eke and etch and the term is linked to the phrase ‘to eke something out’ meaning to extend it to make it last longer.