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.

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