Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Knitted lace medallions

I’ve been reading Mary Thomas’s Book of knitting patterns and came across a chapter on medallions. She says that medallion knitting was popular in the 18 and 19 centuries as people used round medallions as bonnet caps and those in other shapes for making up into bedspreads, blankets and cushions. Round medallions are also the basis for lace doilies as well. The image shows a detail of an early 18 century sampler of bonnet backs. She explains how to build up the shapes using four or more needles and shows how this can be done in a geometric or straight fashion or with a swirl or bias to form hexagonal shapes. When drawing up a chart for a medallion she notes that you have to put in the building units first and then add the ornamental units that make the pattern. That’s one of the things I like about Mary Thomas – she doesn’t just provide a pattern she explains how you can build your own.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Brussels lace shawl

This beautiful Brussels lace mantle is illustrated in an interesting book I bought during my last visit to the Lace Guild. It’s a catalogue entitled Lace in fashion 1815 -1914 and was published to coincide with an exhibition of lace at Utrecht Museum in 1985. It includes some beautiful illustrations as well as two interesting essays about changing fashions for lace by Mary de Jong and Patricia Wardle (who also wrote the catalogue) and obviously brought together a range of lovely pieces from some of the major museums and collectors in the Netherlands. I thought the Brussels lace shawl, or more correctly mantle, in the illustration was an interesting example from the third quarter of the 19 century, as it is made of bobbin lace applied to machine net and embellished with needle made fillings, showing how all three types of lace could be combined. The design is also quite light and open and reminiscent of the Chantilly shawls that were also popular at this time. I wish I could have seen the original exhibition as it includes some lovely lace

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Plauen lace curtain design

I found this lovely design for a lace curtain in a folder of Plauen lace designs, it isn’t dated but they are probably from the early twentieth century. I blogged about Plauen lace a couple of weeks ago when I was researching lace collars. It is generally considered one of the chemical laces in which the design is embroidered on to a backing material using a Schiffli machine and once it’s completed the backing is burnt away chemically leaving the embroidery. This one seems to be quite an open design though so must have been embroidered on to net or a fine backing. I can’t find any Plauen lace curtains in any of my old lace sales catalogues but combination guipure curtains are being sold in 1904 for 17 shillings for a pair measuring 4 yards in length and 72 inches wide.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

War lace bobbins

These bobbins celebrate battles from the Crimean War (1853-1856). It was one of the first conflicts from which British newspaper correspondents sent back reports and photographs so the population at home were aware of the conflict and many lacemakers would have had relatives in the army and therefore had a personal interest in the outcome. The war began following arguments about access to Christian sites in Palestine and Russian attempts to obtain land in the area. In September 1854 the British, French and Turkish forces landed at Eupatoria and began marching to Sebastopol, the capital of Crimea and the base for the Tsar’s Black Sea fleet which threatened the Mediterranean. On the way they fought the Russians at several battles including Alma and Inkerman, which are also commemorated on the bobbins. The siege of Sebastopol lasted from October 1854 to September 1855. The conflict ended with the Treaty of Paris in which Russian power was curbed and the Turkish state was reinforced. The battles and the conflict clearly attracted public interest. These bobbins were probably made by James Compton and the Springetts in their book ‘Success to the lace pillow’ suggest that they were made as stock rather than as special orders so there was obviously a market for them.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Lace collars from 1904

I found these lace collars being advertised in a catalogue by the Samuel Peach & Sons lace company dated 1904. It includes collars, stoles and scarves made from a variety of machine-made laces ranging in price from 1/ to 10/3. 

This circular collar in Plauen lace is almost 8 inches wide and cost 2/-. Plauen lace was popular at the time as it was quite intricate, yet reasonably priced. The design is embroidered using a Schiffli machine either on to a net background or on to a backing material which can then be burnt away chemically to leave the stitched pattern. The lace collar with long stole ends in the main image is guipure chemical lace also produced in this way. Pat Earnshaw in her book on machine laces includes four patent summaries from the late nineteenth century explaining different techniques for producing chemical lace. She also notes that ‘the manufacture of guipure lace was associated particularly with St Gall (Switzerland) and of net laces with Plauen (Saxony).
This scarf is labelled as being of real Maltese lace. It is 45 inches long, 6 inches wide and costs 10/3. From the illustration it is hard to tell whether it is handmade bobbin lace or a machine copy. It is much more likely to be machine made as at this time the Leavers lace machine was capable of producing a good imitation of Maltese bobbin lace. In contrast, the pattern seems irregular in places suggesting that it is handmade, although this may just be errors in the reproduction of the image, and it is more expensive than the other collars. The Peach company clearly imported lace from companies in Plauen and St Gall but whether they would have imported handmade lace from Malta I do not know. It just seems a different business approach. It’s a shame we can’t see the actual lace and know for sure.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Filet lace panels depicting Jacobean figures

I saw this interesting piece of filet lace at the Lace Guild exhibition ‘Hidden in stores’ last month, labelled in the catalogue as depicting ‘the sons of Joseph’. It was loaned from the Dr Spriggs collection and is thought to have originated in Italy in about 1600. That date or slightly later fits in with the costumes of the figures in fashionable Jacobean dress. However, I think the panel actually depicts the sons of Jacob, as Joseph only had two sons and this is clearly a large panel with many characters. Jacob famously had 12 sons including Joseph, Benjamin and Levi whose names can be seen in the image. Their story is told in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Federico Vinciolo’s pattern book for lace and embroidery, published in 1587, includes several figures but these are in classical rather than contemporary dress. However many examples of filet lace from that time (there are some in the V&A) depict figures in fashionable costumes so perhaps these panels were one-off designs specifically created for this piece of lace.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Marking time with lace and pins

I’ve been busy this week writing about net curtains and lace panels – one article about my Battle of Britain lace panels and the other about my PhD work. The Battle of Britain article looks at how the original panels were designed and made and how I went about producing my contemporary response to them. The other article is looking at the net curtain as a metaphor for women who feel home is both a sanctuary and a prison. The work is based on female gothic novels and sensation fiction from the nineteenth century, so books such as Jane Eyre and The woman in white, but with parallels to today. In the research I used pins and needles on net curtains to produce tally marks counting out units of time, as this sewing equipment would be what the gothic heroine had to hand to record her plight. I also use the idea of the net curtain trapping whispers, secrets and the memories of the home. It’s been interesting going back to the PhD work and rewriting it for a different publication – still a way to go though, it’s not finished yet. I might start counting off the days with pins!