Wednesday, 22 January 2020

‘Valance’ lace curtains

I found these ‘valance’ net curtains in the Lace furnishings catalogue for the 1933-34 season. Unfortunately the catalogue does not include either a manufacturer’s name, although all the curtains are all ‘made in England’, or the name of a shop. There was probably an insert in the original including an order form which would have included those details. However, it gives an interesting glimpse into the styles of lace furnishings fashionable at the time. Six ‘valance’ curtains are advertised in a page at the end of the booklet ranging in width from 18 to 28 inches. The term valance is used with quotation marks round it in the catalogue. The name suggests that they were used at the top of a window dressing as a valance either with full net curtains hanging behind them or as a type of frill across the top of a window with no other nets. They could also have been used across the bottom half of a window like cafĂ© curtains or in pairs across the top and bottom of a window. Three of them have eyelets at the top suggesting they would have been gathered but the designs are also suitable for use as flat curtains. They are all more deeply scalloped than the other curtains in the catalogue suggesting that they were used in a different way so perhaps they were all used as valances at the top of the window. It’s such a shame that the catalogue has no images of the curtains in room settings to give us a better idea of how they were used.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Anne Bronte 200 artists 200 pages

The Anne Bronte p200 exhibition, marking her bicentenary, is now open at Woodend, Scarborough and will run until 8 February. 200 artists were each given a page from her most famous novel The tenant of Wildfell Hall and asked to respond to that page and to Anne’s life in general. Each artwork had to be the same size as the original page and incorporate it. Most artists, including me, chose to work straight on to the page, but that’s where the similarity ends – the responses and the media used are so varied. The accompanying book, which I highly recommend, includes a two page spread for each artist, one side includes a full page illustration of each piece of work and the other a piece of writing by each artist. Some of these are descriptions of what inspired them, others are letters, poems, or quotations and give a fascinating insight into how Anne Bronte’s legacy continues to inspire and have relevance for us today. I blogged in October about ‘Wedded bliss’, my response to the project, and my admiration for Anne Bronte, but I would also like to thank Lindsey Tyson who conceived the idea for the project, organised it and produced this thought-provoking exhibition and publication. If you’d like a copy of the book it’s available from

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Lace inspired by Italian roof tiles

This Torchon style lace was inspired by old Italian roof tiles which are half cylindrical in shape and lovely ochre, orange and brown colours. I spent several summers drawing and painting interesting rooves and chimneys and this work and four other lace pieces were the result. Some are based on square or diamond shapes, which is how the tiles appear when you see them face on, and others reflect the long cylindrical appearance the tiles show from the side view. I’ve used the same rich brown threads for all of them. They are all mounted on hand made paper and strips of Italian newspaper to suggest rafters underneath them. Some like this one suggest some wear and tear at the edge, reflecting the fact that many of the most interesting and older tiles are found on crumbling buildings.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

January lace challenge

Happy new year! I’ve taken on an Instagram lace challenge for January. It’s been organised by Jane Fullman and involves a different prompt for every day of the month – for details have a look at Jane’s Instagram account jane.fullman_bobbinandwire. Some of the prompts are fairly easy like ‘bobbins’ but others such as ‘spring’ will require a bit of lateral thinking! It starts today with ‘your story’ so if you’re on Instagram why not join in, it’s a great way to promote lace and lacemaking in all its varieties to a new audience. I’m going to try and respond to every prompt as I enjoy the challenge but you can just respond to a few if that’s what suits you. If you do decide to join in remember to use the hashtag #lacechallenge_january2020 so that all the posts end up in the same file. I’m looking forward to an interesting month of lace.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Lace edged cards

I saw an exhibition of these lace-edged devotional cards in Bruges last year. This one was produced by Turgis of Paris, probably in the nineteenth century, and depicts Saint Vincent de Paul and the children of charity. The Turgis company printed many types of cards celebrating different saints and the holy family; they were printed in black and white with a surround of punched out lace. The company also produced cards to celebrate personal life events, such as first communion. Most have a prayer on the reverse and were designed to be kept in a prayer book or bible. I like the way several different lace designs are used in this example and especially the way the stars, moon and tree are depicted on the left hand side – they made the scene seem quite Christmassy!

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Antique Christmas lace bobbins

I’ve been trying to find some antique Christmas lace bobbins for the festive season but have had no success. Many current bobbin makers produce bobbins celebrating Christmas but I have found no old ones and neither T L Huetson nor the Springetts mention them in their histories of lace bobbins. Both sources describe some religious bobbins and Huetson does record a bobbin inscribed ‘Easter’ which he thinks was given as a gift. Many are inscribed with Mary and Joseph but these could also be commemorating friends and family of the lacemaker as they were popular Christian names. I do have one inscribed Jesus though (see the pic above). For most lacemakers religion would have been an important part of their lives, shaping the calendar of the year with celebrations such as Easter and Christmas, but also their own personal lives with christenings, marriages and burials. Many would have followed nonconformist Christian doctrines which emphasise a personal relationship with God, hence the bobbins in the image with the messages ‘Thou O God seest mee’ and ‘Jesus for me died’. Other popular inscriptions were ‘God is love’, ‘Love one another’ and ‘I love Jesus yes I do I do’. I was surprised not to find any mention of Christmas bobbins especially as the Victorians keenly celebrated Christmas and many nonconformists wrote the carols we now sing at Christmas. Perhaps the gift of a bobbin at Christmas was considered unsuitable because it was a working tool and Christmas was considered a day of rest, like a Sunday. Or perhaps there was no spare money to buy bobbins at Christmas time. The nineteenth-century bobbin makers certainly don’t seem to have them in their general stock so there was clearly no demand for them.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Japanese lace fan

Just to show that my interest in Japan and things Japanese goes back a long way I thought I’d blog about this Japanese lace fan I made for City and Guilds many years ago. I remember researching Japanese patterns for kimono fabric and finding one depicting weeping willows, on which I based this design, and another of fan shapes which inspired the idea of producing a single fan as a hanging. The leaves and stems are all lace plaits and leaves, with four plait crossings where they intersect. I also added small gold beads at intervals to catch the light and add some highlights. The golden full moon was also inspired by another kimono fabric. The sumptuous black, red and gold colours epitomised Japanese style to me and were picked out from the clothing of some Japanese dolls in my collection. As part of the C&G exam I remember producing design boards to accompany the lace with all these samples on them, as well as showing the various stages of the design process, stitch samples and images of the lace being made. It was a lot of work but a good exercise in recording every step and formalising the process of designing. I learnt a lot from it - it’s a great shame that C&G in lacemaking no longer exists.