Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Renaissance lace patterns

I’ve been looking at the similarities between old filet lace patterns and the designs used in nineteenth century machine lace curtains. Both are based on a square grid and it seems reasonable to think the curtain designers may have based some of their designs on old patterns. This week I’ve been looking at the little book of Renaissance patterns for lace and embroidery by Federico Vinciolo. It was originally published in 1587 and contains designs for reticella needlelace as well as grid designs suitable for filet lace or cross stitch. Vinciolo was a Venetian designer who went to France, probably at the request of Catherine de Medici, where he had the monopoly on manufacturing lace ruffs. His designs cover an array of styles including geometric, floral and the more pictorial designs shown here of a stag and squirrel, and the goddess of flowers representing spring.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Lacer threads in machine lace

Lacer threads are used in machine lace production to allow bands of narrow edgings to be made as one continuous piece which can then be separated later in production. This allows the edgings to be handled as one piece for procedures such as scouring and dyeing, rather than having to cope with a tangle of thin ribbons of lace. Pat Earnshaw discusses lacer threads in her book about machine lace and notes that the most important thing about a lacer thread is that it can be easily removed.
She says this can be done in three ways. First is to use a rover or straight knitted pillar which unravels when one end is pulled. Second is to use a rover that is made of a different yarn from the rest of the lace so it can be chemically removed by immersing in a solvent. Third is an inlay or draw thread which can be pulled out easily and these are the ones used in the examples here. This removal of the thread was called drawing and was traditionally carried out by young women, either working in the factory or at home as piece work.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Early filet lace designs

I’m hoping to spend some time over the Christmas break reading more about the history of filet lace and some of the early designs. I’ll be starting with Pauline Knight’s two books which contain a lot of historical information. I’ve only dipped into them before, mainly to find out how to produce the net background required for filet lace and to learn how to work the stitches. I have to confess that despite learning how to make the net I used finer meshed machine-made net to work the stitches. One of the things I’m interested in is whether there are albums of design sources for these early pieces of filet and if so whether machine curtain lace designers would have had access to them when producing their designs. Curtain lace and filet lace are both based on square grids and it would make sense for the later designers to use or adapt the patterns of the early ones.  

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Friendship lace bobbins

These three inscribed bone lace bobbins all celebrate friendship. ‘May our friendship never part’ and ‘When this you see remember me’ were both probably made by James Compton who lived in Deanshanger in Buckinghamshire from 1824 to 1889. The alternate red and blue letters were made by drilling holes in the bone which were then filled with powdered colour mixed with gum Arabic. The other bobbin inscribed ‘Don’t forget me’ was probably produced by William Brown who lived in Cranfield from 1793 to 1872. His letters are more elaborate than Compton’s and tend to have a slight serif. I love using these bobbins that celebrate friendships forged well over 100 years ago and which link us to the lacemakers of the nineteenth century.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Lace inspired by geology

Geology seems an unusual subject for lace but some of the lace I exhibited at the Makit Fair last weekend was a series of work inspired by geological formations and flints. It includes a group of necklaces made up from layers of free lace worked one onto the next by sewing the edge into the layer above as I worked them. The colours of these pieces were based on the strata of different levels of soils and rock and a detail of one is shown above.
The colours of the flint laces were based on the myriad of colours seen on flints in museum studies. Some of these are necklaces, such as the section shown above which links lace and fabric in a large lace collar. For this one the fabric collar was made first and then the lace made as a continuous circle around the fabric sewing into the fabric as I went. Some of the other flint pieces are small handmade silk boxes with lace lids worked round a wire shape allowing the lace to be seen from both sides when the lids are raised.
Although the hard, solid edges of rocks and flints provide a complete contrast to the fluidity of lace they do make an interesting starting point for lace designs.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Lace exhibition at Cranmore Park Makit Fair

I’m looking forward to exhibiting some of my lace at the Cranmore Park Makit Fair on Saturday. I’ve decided to show some of my veils inspired by the gothic and some work based on scientific themes. The black veil in the image was inspired by the story of Dracula and includes references to fangs and blood drops in the lace design and red glass beads. ‘Belladonna’ is another black bobbin lace veil, celebrating the deadly nightshade plant, and suggesting that the widow may have had a hand in her husband’s demise.
‘Pinned down’ in the photo above has a fringe of pins which sparkle from a distance, reflecting the allure of marriage to the gothic heroine, but the sharp pins reflect the hard reality of married life. Other white veils include one celebrating the brief married life of Charlotte Bronte and another reflecting Jane Austen’s equivocal views of marriage.
Much of the scientific lace represents biological images such as cells and other tissues, as well as some reflecting geological strata and flint structures. There will be both large and smaller works and most are bobbin lace. The veils are either black or white but the scientific lace includes subtle colours so there is quite a variety of styles and work. If you come to the Fair do come and say hello.    

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Designing all over lace patterns

Researching lace patterns in the archive this week has made me think about the way all-over lace designs are produced. The laces we were looking at were all designs from the early 1900s. Most lace designers at that time followed a national curriculum at art schools but there were also several books about design that they could consult. For example in Modern practical design, the author provides some diagrams showing how units of pattern can be repeated and positioned in ‘drops’. This can be based on square, diamond or zigzag shapes in a horizontal or vertical alignment. There are two ways of using repeat patterns as they can either be emphasised or disguised. In many geometric designs the repeats are emphasised and made a feature of the lace, whereas many floral and scrolled designs are repeated in a way that disguises the repeat and gives the appearance of a continuous all-over design. The designs we saw this week ranged from simple small square motifs to large floral repeats approximately 50 cm square with overlapping leaves and scrolls, but they all followed the same system of repeats and drops.