Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Lace curtain design

I love this design for a lace curtain by Marcel Tuquet that I found in a loose-leaf portfolio of designs published by Christian Stoll of Plauen because it has an unfinished look and shows how the design is built up in sections. The curtains are undated but I think this one probably comes from about 1900. The designs also have doodles round the margins, which suggests that they were used as inspiration by lace designers in Nottingham, which is where I found these. This design follows the layout for designing lace curtains set out by Arthur Silver in his instructions for fabric design students in 1893 and consists of a central design, borders and insertions. The central panel in this case is based on a free design that is not symmetrical on either side of the central fold. The bottom border is slightly wider than the side borders but contains the same elements just in different proportions. The delicate three-point flame shapes and lines are also mirrored in the central design linking the two aspects together. There is also a wide insertion between the side border and the central design made up of delicate flowers and leaf shapes that reflect those in the central panel. These separate elements are all beautifully drawn and cleverly linked together forming a very pleasing lace curtain design.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Curtain lace advertising panel

This little piece of curtain lace is only 15 cm wide and 20 cm in length and is an advertisement for Stiebel lace curtains. The lettering at the top shows that it was made for Skegness carnival and the fisherman going for a bracing walk was first used on a poster for the Great Northern Railway in 1908. I do not have a date for the lace panel, but it is made from synthetic fibres which did not come into use until the 1920s. The fisherman image was also reused by the London and North Eastern Railway in 1925 to promote travel to Skegness, so the lace may date from that period, when the image became more widely known. I think the lace was an advertising handout, much in the same way as one would hand out a flyer or leaflet. I’ve seen similar pieces of machine-made lace advertising Peach lace curtains, but they weren’t linked to any other event in the same way as this one, and I assumed they were intended to be placed in a display at a wholesale lace fair or in a shop window. The question is why would anyone be advertising lace curtains specifically in Skegness? Perhaps this carnival was a popular event that attracted a large audience of people who were likely to buy lace curtains. Skegness carnival still takes place annually and local businesses are encouraged to hire stalls and support the event so perhaps this is what the local haberdashery store was doing. Stiebel itself is a lace manufacturer based in Nottingham so is unlikely to have directly supported a carnival in the Lincolnshire town of Skegness, unless there was a large market for lace curtains in the area or the company had a special link to the town. If you know anything about any link or indeed anything more about curtain lace advertising do let me know as I’d be interested to find out more.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Lace bobbins celebrating love and romance

These two bobbins were clearly owned by young women who knew their own minds. One reads ‘Joseph is not for me know it’. Poor Joseph is being told quite publicly that his attentions are not wanted or reciprocated. In contrast, the other bobbin states that the owner has found her true love and is not interested in any other young men; it states ‘My hart is fixt I cannot rainge I like my chise to well to chang’ (My heart is fixed I cannot range, I like my choice too well to change).
This large bobbin (on the left) was probably made by Jesse Compton who lived from 1793 to 1857. He was a prolific lace bobbin maker and his speciality was inscribed bobbins and those decorated with pewter inlay. In general his inscriptions are made up of dots arranged in a spiral up the length of the bobbin but some of his larger bobbins have the inscription written horizontally, like this one. His spelling was not always accurate and on this bobbin the final word ‘chang’ is squeezed onto the line with no room for the final ‘e’. The bobbin could also have been made by his son James, who was also a lace bobbin maker, but I think it is Jesse’s work because his bobbins tend to have a bulbous head, like this one, and James’ lettering is neater than his father’s.
I think the second bobbin, on the right, was made by the maker the Springetts call ‘The blunt end man’ who was working in the mid nineteenth century. The name comes from the simple ends he gave his bobbins. His lace bobbins usually have bands of red or black round the top and tail and the same colours are used for the lettering. The messages are written horizontally along the bobbin and his lettering is quite distinctive. It would be nice to think that both bobbins were owned by the same lacemaker and formed a narrative but that is pure speculation!

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Lace curtains by Simon May and Co of Nottingham

I’ve been reading the book produced by the Simon May lace company of Nottingham to celebrate their centenary in 1949, which is full of interesting information including a couple of pages about their lace curtain department. Apparently the lace curtain and curtain nets section was one of their original departments and they claim that ‘the present range of products and markets is probably as wide as it has ever been’. They certainly cover a wide range of curtain types including panels, allover designs, brise-bise, vitrages (a light curtain fabric), valance nets as well as tablecloths and bedspreads. They note that during ‘the recent war’ all curtain machines were turned over to producing sandfly nets for the troops. The two-page spread is illustrated with some prize winning curtains including one that won a special award at the Vienna exhibition of 1873 (a detail is shown in the image) and another depicting the story of Don Quixote, which won an award at the 1876 Philadelphia exhibition. I was lucky enough to see both of these prize-winning curtains in 2015 when they were loaned to the Nottingham exhibition ‘Lace in the City of Lace’ by Malcolm Baker.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A tale of two tops

I’ve been taking a break from lace making this week to do some sewing. I’ve had some lovely material in the cupboard for ages waiting for me to make something with it and being at home in lockdown has given me the time to do just that. I’ve made myself a top, based on one I bought years ago which was really comfortable and one of my favourites. I have been to great efforts to maintain the original top but it literally wore away in a couple of places because I used it so often!
Its made of linen, and was quite expensive, so I was upset when, soon after I bought it, it developed small brown marks. I couldn’t wash them out and I think they were something to do with the material rather than dirt. To hide them I embroidered the front of the top (see the image above) and that worked well, in fact some people even complimented me on the patterns. However, when the top developed worn patches I realised couldn’t wear it anymore.
I then decided to make a new top using the old one as the pattern and this is the result. I’m pleased with it, it’s easy to wear, and, yes, the front is supposed to be shorter than the back – the frill graduates down the sides!

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

3D bobbin lace sculptures

I’ve been experimenting with three-dimensional bobbin lace sculptures. This has involved cutting out lots of paper shapes and then manipulating them to form three-dimensional shapes. My aim is to make flat pieces of lace and then twist them to form mini sculptures. I’ve found they work best if the shapes have a mixture of wide and narrow areas and that half stitch works well in following the contours of the shapes, as you can see from the one in the image. I’ve also tried to keep one colour around the edge to give definition to the main shape, but I feel the mixture of colours in the central area works well and gives it some shading. The piece in the image was made with fairly thick thread which stands up well but I’m not sure whether the final pieces will need stiffening. I don’t want them collapsing half way through an exhibition!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

‘Marriage lines’ lace table mats

More progress has been made on my lace mats based on research into early twentieth century women who had to leave work on marriage. In the end I decided to embroider the text using couching so the four mats each have a phrase from the marriage ceremony: ‘for better; for worse; for richer; for poorer’ embroidered across them. I bottled out of using a marker pen for the writing because although it seemed to disappear quite effectively when I ironed it on my sample I was worried, probably unjustly, that it might not work properly on the final mat so I wrote the text on paper in indelible ink and used that as a pattern under the fabric. I also had to make some decisions about attaching the lace to the mat.
The lace represents the creative work of Amy Atkin and women like her and I wanted to show how easy it was to strip that work and life away. My initial thought was to use pins. I like the sharp piercing nature of pins and their hint of veiled aggression, which seemed to match with the subject, but I decided that it would be difficult to send the pieces to exhibitions like that as they might come loose or even injure someone! I therefore decided to tack the lace in place instead. I wanted the tacking to be obvious though, so I decided to use a red thread, which is often used to symbolise women. I think the red thread works well and I can always add a line of pins as well if I’m exhibiting the work myself.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Amy Atkin lace table mat project

I’ve been making decisions about my lace table mats inspired by the life of Amy Atkin. If you follow this blog you’ll know I had some decisions to make about the appearance of the mats. Well, I’ve decided to insert the lace into the fabric of the mats rather than attach it at the side. I’m using ready made mats and I think if I cut them in half I can use half a mat, then my lace, then a section slightly less than a quarter of the mat. I came to that decision by folding the mats in different arrangements and adding the lace then photographing the result and comparing all the variations. The mats will also have the words of the marriage service ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’ embroidered on them in a reference to Amy, and other women of her generation, having to give up work when they married. I’ve been experimenting with fonts for the text. I want something cursive and old fashioned so I’ve been seeing what’s on the computer and trying a bit of writing. I’ve also been experimenting with some embroidery stitches for the text. I’m favouring couching at the moment having tried stem stitch, running stitch and chain stitch. Progress is being made – watch this space!

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Amy Atkin lace project

I’m getting on well with my Amy Atkin project – you’ll remember that she was the first female machine lace designer in Nottingham. The final piece will be four table mats with lace insertions in a reference to the theme of The dinner party by Judy Chicago which celebrates the lives of influential women. I’ve now made the lace for all four place mats using a needle run technique, which is basically embroidery on machine net, similar to Limerick lace. Although I don’t think Amy designed for needle run lace (her designs are all for machine lace), the early Nottingham laces were based on fine embroidery on machine net so I feel it is a suitable technique for the project. It also means that although I’ve been inspired by her designs my four designs have been specifically made for a different technique. One of the interesting things about Amy’s career, and that of other women of her time, was that she had to give up work when she married so my work will reflect that. The lace will only be temporarily attached to the fabric of the mat so that it can be removed at a moments notice, rather like her career, and the mats will each be embroidered with the words of the marriage ceremony ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’. My current preoccupation is deciding how big the mats should be, whether the lace should be inserted or attached to the side, what font to use for the text, and which stitch to embroider it in. A work in progress!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Block printing in India

Block printing was another one of the interesting crafts we saw being made in India. Block printed fabrics were on sale in many outlets in varying colours and degrees of complexity. Some places also had the blocks for sale and they made a lovely display. We saw several demonstrations of printing and in the Amber Fort we also watched a craftsman making blocks using a thread operated drill.
The same exhibition also included a printer making a small printed square. We saw him using three blocks with different colours, first a blue to outline the border and the central motifs, then a turquoise to fill in some of the areas and finally a block with a red dye to add flower shapes.
Later on in our tour we visited a workshop near Bhuj where we printed our own fabric. It was interesting to choose complementary blocks to print on to the cotton and try to envisage what they would look like in the final version.
We first used a brown resist paste with one large block for our main design motif, then used a smaller block to print highlights in black dye that roughly fitted into the main design. There is a definite knack to block printing! It’s important to make sure you have a thin, yet even, spread of resist or dye on the block and then you have to apply it to the fabric with a sharp tap.
Once the printing was dry the fabric was dyed in indigo and the resist removed. I have to say that the final result ended up looking far better than I hoped and I’ve now hemmed my piece of fabric and will use it as a scarf.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Handmade buttons Indian style

We saw some interesting variations on handmade buttons during our travels in India. The blue ones in the picture above were made from small circles of fabric. The material is then gathered round its edge, the centre is filled with scraps of fabric and then pulled up to form a ball. These ones are decorative and quite soft, but with a firmer centre they could be used as functional buttons.
The other type of handmade buttons we saw were fashioned from simple wrapping. During a workshop at one of the women’s cooperatives we visited we were shown this technique for button making. Our teacher there produced a beautifully neat button by rolling a small amount of thread into a ball and then wrapping the remaining thread round and round the outside in a circular motion. She finished it off by passing the thread through the centre of the ball with a needle. The buttons in the image here were made using the same technique but less skilfully as they look a bit lumpy!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Parents celebrated on lace bobbins

Many lace bobbins celebrate relationships and these include parents. In some cases the bobbins were gifts from parents such as the bobbin on the left made by Jesse Compton which is inscribed ‘A present from my father 1836’. The date on this one is hard to read I wasn’t sure whether it was 1886 or 1836 but as Jesse Compton died in 1857 I’m assuming it’s the earlier date. Others, like the two following bobbins, are simpler and just say ‘Dear father’ or ‘Dear mother’. The next bobbin, which I think was made by Bobbin Brown of Cranfield, is inscribed ‘My dear father’. These would have been stock bobbins held by the bobbin makers but, the last bobbin, ‘Sarah Ions my d[ear] mother’ is a more personal message and would have been made specially for the lacemaker who ordered it. I love these old bobbins and the messages they convey. Do they commemorate special events such as birthdays or were they bought as thank you gifts? I wish I knew more about their history.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Indian shisha mirror work

Shisha (glass) mirror work is unique to India. According to Anne Morrell’s book on Indian embroidery it is thought to have developed in Baluchistan or Gujarat and may originally have incorporated naturally occurring mica rather than mirrors. Blown glass is used now which is broken into pieces and then cut into shapes, most often circles. However in one of the examples I bought the ‘mirrors’ seem very flexible and more like cardboard than glass (see below).
Anne describes the traditional technique for holding the mirrors in place with two vertical and two horizontal threads forming a cross across the face of the mirror. This cross forms the base for the top stitching which comprises buttonhole, herringbone, or chain stitch forming a circle round the edge of the mirror. It’s important to get the tension of the holding stitches just right as if they are too loose the mirror falls out and if they are too tight it’s difficult to work the circle of edge stitches.
That’s the traditional technique, however at one of the women’s cooperatives we went to we were shown a different method. The embroiderer made a ring of thread round her finger, worked buttonhole stitch all the way round it to make a ring and then slip stitched it over a mirror on the base fabric which was held in place with stitches through holes in the mirror (see above). Embroiderers, particularly those working for a living, will always use faster ways to produce the desired result if they can, because time is money. Whatever the method and the materials used it is a beautiful technique that is unique to India.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Indian chain stitch embroidery

Chain stitch can be made using a needle, a hook or mechanically using the Cornely machine. Anne Morrell in her book on Indian embroidery suggests that chain stitch was probably introduced to west Gujarat from Baluchistan although there is also a theory that it was imported from China. Although chain stitch is seldom used in contemporary Chinese embroidery it has been found in textiles in ancient tombs. If you are embroidering chain stitch by hand it is quicker to do it using a hook rather than a needle and it results in a more regular line on the reverse of the work. The hook is similar to the ari (the shoemaker’s awl) used to embroider leather for footwear (see my blog of 25 March), although, because it is held differently, the handles of the two types of hook are different.
Embroidery with a hook is generally easier if the fabric is fixed taught in a frame. For needle work the fabric may be held in the hand or in a frame. Anne Morrell notes that when embroidering chain stitch using a needle, the worker generally stitches away from herself and this makes it easier to produce small even stitches. The two pieces shown here are variations on the same pattern produced as a sheet of square pieces approximately 10 cm in size, which are cut up to allow the purchaser to buy as many as they want.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Mojari - embroidered Rajasthani footwear

In Jodhpur we saw these beautifully embroidered traditional slippers being made. These are for a wedding; those with the open back for the bride and the ones with the closed back for the groom. These ones are expensive and are also embroidered on the soles as well as the uppers (see below). Although there is a distinction between male and female footwear the shoes can be worn on either foot, they aren’t shaped for right or left.
The embroidery is worked in chain stitch with a hooked awl called an ari. The work is similar to tambour work but the stitches are worked through fairly stiff leather which means the ari have a working life of about 12 days and then they have to be sharpened or replaced. The hooks are made of metal and the ones we saw had been constructed from the spokes of an umbrella. An awl is also used to attach the embroidered upper to the leather sole of the shoe.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Tie dyeing in India

Among the many crafts we saw being made in India tie dyeing was one of my favourite. One of the things I like about it is that you never quite know what the end results will be and the moment when the threads used for the ties are pulled apart and the pattern is revealed is quite magical. At the workshop we went to, the owner showed us how the pattern of dots is transferred on to the fabric and then told us how each dot is pulled up into a spike and thread wound round it to form the resist for the dyeing process.
He showed us how he wound the thread round the spikes of fabric to create the ties, but he was working over a piece of fabric with spikes already tied on it. When I asked him how he made the original spikes he said he just pinches the fabric by hand to make them. I have seen similar techniques in Japan (see my Nov 2019 post) and there they either use a small hook to pull up the fabric or place the fabric over a nail to push up a spike of fabric. The Japanese technique seems more effective and quicker to me but we didn’t actually see the original spikes being made in India so it’s hard to tell.
Once all the ties have been made the fabric is dyed, further ties can then be made, as we were shown, and the piece dyed again to give a subtle colour to the fabric. There were some beautiful pieces in the workshop and the owners obviously experiment to produce interesting colourways and patterns, keeping the tradition alive and up to date.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Women’s textile cooperatives in India

One of the things I enjoyed most about my recent textile tour to India with the retreatrecreate group was the interaction with local women. We visited formal textile cooperatives as well as women working in their villages and were welcomed so generously everywhere by the women and their curious smiling children. They all gave us small cups of masala chai while we admired their work as they showed us the techniques they use and answered our questions about their work and lives. All the members of our group were craftspeople so we appreciated the work being done and were genuinely interested in the details of the techniques.
At the Sadhna group in Udaipur we learnt how the group trains and encourages women in local crafts such as embroidery, applique and block printing. Over 600 women work on a piece work system and are given the materials they require as well as access to sewing machines. We joined some of them in a workshop where they showed us how to embellish fabric with shisha mirrors, how to work fine applique and how to make small round fabric buttons. I was delighted my teacher praised me for my neat stitching in the applique work as I felt I’d passed the test!
At the Sambhali Trust in Jodhpur we joined the women in their workshop to see their embroidery for cushion covers and fabrics for soft toy making. They were a lively group and were very interested to see photos of our children and grandchildren and to find out about our lives. The Trust is a non-profit charitable organisation which provides free education to women and girls and trains them to earn their own living through stitching. After our time in the workshop we joined some of them for a cookery demonstration and a delicious lunch.
At other times we visited women in their villages sitting in the shade working on their embroidery together in sociable groups. These settings suggest a simple life with no cares but the reality is that these women are supplementing the family income as well as carrying out all the responsibilities women have throughout the world – their life is not easy. They all had stocks of beautifully made crafts for us to buy at what we hoped were reasonable prices and most of us bought pieces at every place we visited. At least the money goes straight to those doing the work and it places a value on women’s work and gives them some status as breadwinners in their villages.
It also allows them to work in their homes while keeping an eye on their children, rather than having to travel to find work or to labour in the fields. Hopefully, the fact that we had travelled specially to see them also raises their status within their community. Despite the differences in our economic circumstances I felt that at the end of the day we empathised with each other as women and stitchers – I hope they felt the same.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Filet lace designs

I haven't been blogging for the last few weeks because I've been on an amazing textile trip to India but that does mean I'll be writing about some of my Indian adventures so there will be lots of news to catch up on. In the meanwhile back to some lace! These filet lace designs are taken from a pattern book I have entitled ‘VII Le Filet Ancien au Point de Reprise’. They seem to be aimed at the home needlewoman and book includes adverts for two types of thread they suggest the pieces should be worked in. The fact that this book is number seven in the series suggests that they were popular. I assumed the designs were for an antimacassar and matching arm covers but the index refers to this page as designs for a window ornament and two brise bise so they are evidently meant to be worked on a large scale. The larger curtain would have been designed for a main window and the smaller two for the lower part of a window hung from a thin rod or wire along the scalloped edge. The term brise bise means ‘wind-breaker’ in French. Unfortunately there is no date on the book but brise bise became popular in the early twentieth century so it probably dates from that time.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Amy Atkin project - needle run lace

As you can see I’m getting on well with my Amy Atkin lace project. This is the first panel and I’ve almost completed it. The design is mine, based on motifs taken from Amy Atkin’s designs housed in the Collection of the Nottingham City Museums. I’m using needle run lace on machine made net. This is an old technique originally used in the nineteenth century before the invention of lace machines that could produce patterned lace. At that time all patterning had to be added to plain machine made net manually by young women called ‘lace runners’ using needles for embroidery, small hooks for fine chain stitching, or fine sewing for adding material in an applique technique. I’m using needle running in a more fluid modern way to outline my design and produce some areas of shading. Of course, Amy Atkin’s designs would have been produced on modern Levers lace machines that would have produced the net and pattern at the same time, but needle running is the closest I can get to a traditional lace technique working from my studio

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Amy Atkin lace designs

I’m making progress on my Amy Atkin lace project. The image shows my sketchbook and preliminary ideas for the finished lace. Amy Atkin attended Nottingham art School in the early 1900s and claimed to be the first female machine lace designer in Nottingham. Some of her designs and other items are held in the Collection of Nottingham City Museums, which is where I saw them. I decided against working her designs directly because they didn’t fit the short narrow format I’m using and also because I am working them in needle run lace on machine net rather than using a lace machine, which is what she designed them for. I’ve designed four panels using motifs from her designs and working in the same way as she did with a large motif at the base of the design and stylised flowers and foliage leading up from that. I’ve just finished the first panel and found the needle run lace worked well. It’s a technique I used on my response to the Battle of Britain lace panel and has relevance to the early machine lace trade, before the invention of the jacquard pattern system, when much decorated lace was made by using a needle and thread to add the pattern to plain net, so it seems relevant to the work of a machine lace designer.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Surreal images and decadent decay at the V&A

I had an enjoyable day at the V&A recently admiring the surreal images of the photographer Tim Walker and the decadent decay of Darren Waterston’s ‘Filthy lucre’. Filthy lucre, part of which is shown in the image above, is a re-imagining of James Whistler’s Peacock Room, expressing the opulent extravagance of the original, which he decorated for the shipping magnate and porcelain collector, Frederick Leyland. However Leyland refused to pay for the work in full because the room was over-decorated, leading to a long dispute between them. In Waterston’s immersive installation gold drips from the painting, shelves break under the weight of fine china and shards of porcelain litter the floor all to the mournful accompaniment of a cello.
Tim Walker is a well known fashion photographer, but that description doesn’t do justice to his amazingly surreal imagination. I loved the images from his fashion shoots for Vogue and other magazines of oversized sets and imaginary worlds. His portraits also grasp the essence of the sitters; I especially liked his witch-like portrait of Margaret Atwood, as she did too, according to a recent interview.
As well as his older work, the exhibition also contained images from his recent encounter with the V&A collection. I particularly liked the images he produced from the conservation store using the storage covers for the historical costumes.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Joan of Arc lace panel

Joan of Arc is the subject of this curtain lace panel on display in Calais lace Museum. It depicts important points in her short life - she was burned at the stake when she was about 19 years old. These include images of her seeing visions, and then riding into battle, as well as her death in 1431. It was made by the Nottingham lace company of Dobson and Browne in 1875 and exhibited at the Paris exhibition of 1881. It is a large panel (480 x 153 cm) made on the curtain lace machine and follows the design of other lace curtain panels made at the time with a wide central area, two narrower side panels and a scalloped edge. This panel was the inspiration for the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel, also made by Dobson and Browne, in the 1940s.

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.