Wednesday, 15 September 2021



I have a sketchbook for each project I do because they are a useful place to keep all my ideas, samples, images of the exhibition space and any reviews after the event. The idea is that they are a repository for all the information to do with that project and are also a record that I can learn from for the future. Many entries are text rather than images and I also include invoices, receipts and copies of important emails. These are so useful, for example, when I start a later project and can’t remember where I bought a particular thread or fabric and how much it cost.

I also keep general sketchbooks where I keep samples and things I’ve tried out as well as images of interesting things I’ve seen or read about. My sketchbooks are not particularly beautiful or full of lovely drawings but they are indispensable documents for future projects.  

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Colour in bobbin lace


Colour is the textile prompt for today so I thought I’d take a look at colour in bobbin lace. The piece in the image is a detail of the lid of a small container I made from grey silk and felt with embroidered edges. When I start to make a lace design in colour I generally start with a idea of the general colour I want and then choose a selection of threads in that colour palette with a few contrasting threads, making sure that I have a variety of thicknesses of thread as well. I then just start working adding in new threads as I need them and removing others when I no longer want that colour any more. I find in that way that I can lighten or darken the work as necessary and also include some texture when I need it. I generally include a fine worker thread in a neutral colour as well to tie areas of colour together and include little spots of contrasting colours to highlight certain areas. I usually find at the end of the work that I haven’t used all of the threads I chose at the beginning but gathering a colour palette together does help to crystallize my ideas about the overall look of the final piece.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Website updates


I’m taking part in the Seam Collective 2021 Instagram textile challenge for September and for the first prompt we have to introduce ourselves so, as I’ve just updated my website, I thought it would be a good time to let you all know about it. Apart from adding some new papers I’ve written to the CV section and updating the section on exhibitions, to add some I’ve been in and those planned for next year, my main changes to the website were in the gallery pages and in the Subversive stitching gallery in particular. This reflects the fact that most of my practice recently has been in the area of feminism, considering women’s place in the home and textile responses to that in the form of subversive stitching. The two main projects I’ve been working on over the last year have been my research into Amy Atkin the first female Nottingham machine lace designer and the requirement for her to give up paid work on marriage and a continuation of my ongoing series of lace doilies with a voice. If you’re interested you can explore the website for yourselves at If you’re thinking about setting up your own website I can also recommend Bright Sea Media who designed mine for me – they are very helpful and easy to work with.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Marcel Tuquet Nottingham lace curtain designer

 I’ve long admired the lace curtain designs of Marcel Tuquet and am lucky enough to have a folder of some of his Plauen designs published in 1900. I had always assumed that he was based in Germany or somewhere else in Europe but I have discovered a reference to him in Nottingham. The reference comes from the London Gazette in 1890 and is a notice that the partnership between Marcel Tuquet and Marcel Boudard, described as lace curtain designers, is being dissolved by mutual consent. It states that Marcel Tuquet will carry on their designing business in Nottingham and his partner will continue their lace manufacturing business. I’m now interested to know whether Marcel Tuquet moved to the continent by the time the design book was published or whether he remained in Nottingham and sent his designs from there to Plauen. If anyone can enlighten me please get in touch.


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Square cut beads on lace bobbin spangles


Many nineteenth century lace bobbins have spangles of square cut beads. They are made of glass, are a square shape, and have an indented or pitted surface. Most of those in the image are clear or transparent red, the most common colours, but two are opaque blue. The bobbin maker Robert Haskins in an interview with The Bedfordshire Times and Independent in 1912 described how they were made. They were not cut at all but melted off a stick of glass one at a time. They were twirled on a copper wire to make the central hole and pressed with files to make the square shape and the surface markings. Haskins was taught to make them as a bobbin maker but beads like the two blue ones were also used for trading in Africa so might have been more commonly available. The Pitt Rivers Museum has sample cards of beads labelled ‘Trade beads for South Africa’ sold by a company in London. Whether the beads used in the bobbin spangles were obtained from the same source or whether they were made by the bobbin makers is not known, perhaps it was a mixture of both.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

16 century open lace ruffs


By the end of the sixteenth century lower necklines became fashionable and the appearance of ruffs also began to change. Many were now worn open with the edges attached to the neckline on either side and pinned to the corners of the bodice. Ruffs were still wide and could be made entirely of lace or made of fine embroidered fabric edged with lace. Both the ruffs illustrated here are made of lace and edged with handmade needlelace.

Both images depict Queen Elizabeth I, the top one is by an unknown artist and was painted in 1590, the second is known as the rainbow portrait by Isaac Oliver and was painted in 1611. The ruffs would have been supported by an underproper (more on those another day) and the diaphanous veil behind would also have been supported with wire. In both portraits the Queen’s bodice is also embellished with fine needlelace so the whole effect would have been quite magnificent.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Imitating handmade bobbin lace

The allure of handmade lace has always held a premium. In the nineteenth century the aim of machine lace manufacturers was to produce lace that was indistinguishable from handmade lace. In the case of Chantilly lace this was very successful. The image above shows some handmade Chantilly lace but it can be difficult to distinguish it from machine made lace and identification depends on fine details such as the thread paths, the use of outlining gimp threads and their picot edgings. However I hadn’t realised until I read Heather Toomer’s book ‘Embroidered with white’ that this imitating of handmade lace also occurred in the eighteenth century. At that time it was whitework embroidery imitating Brussels bobbin lace and Valenciennes bobbin lace, both of which are quite dense types of white lace. All three of these techniques were handmade, time consuming and required great skill but the bobbin lace was more fashionable and expensive. Heather suggests that the bobbin lace would have been worn at court while the whitework would have been accessible to the growing European middle class population. Both the whitework and the machine-made Chantilly would have been desirable and expensive items but neither had the ultimate caché of being handmade bobbin lace.