Thursday 28 June 2018

Swiss and combination lace machine stitching

I’ve been studying some of my images of the original Battle of Britain lace panel trying to determine the different stitches used in it. The books on the panel say the lace is Swiss and combination and I’ve been trying to find out what that means. Apparently, the Swiss guide bar is linked to the bottom board threads, which are usually the second finest in the machine. Lace samples I’ve seen labelled as Swiss include the V shaped stitching seen in the photograph and it can vary in length and width depending on how many threads it crosses or moves down per stitch. It can also be fine and close together or thicker and more spaced out depending on the thread used to produce it. The book I have about ‘Lace furnishing manufacture’ by Keith Harding gives detailed instructions for the gears and Jacquard cards required for all types of stitch combinations. Discussing Swiss and combination he says that the warp bar makes a single nip combination on one motion and the Swiss bar makes its effect on the other motion, so they are working together to produce the final lace. I can’t help feeling it would be much easier to understand if I could see the machine in operation rather than trying to work it out from diagrams!

Thursday 21 June 2018

Craft Study Tour to Gawthorpe Hall

I was delighted to travel to Gawthorpe Hall yesterday to take part in the Crafting Futures UK Textile/Craft Study Tour. There were seven people on the tour, all craft curators or practitioners from Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines and it was interesting finding out about their practices and the collections held in the museums they had come from. They had already had a busy week visiting textile collections and museums in Nottingham and Manchester as well as places in between. At Gawthorpe they were given a guided tour of the collection on display, to show how the permanent collection is curated and displayed, and then a talk about Ruth Singer’s contemporary exhibition showing how she was inspired by the pincushions in the collection to make a body of work. We also saw the original Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel displayed in the Hall and then I gave an illustrated talk about my contemporary response to it, to explain the impetus for the commission and how I went about producing the new work. We then had a quick look round the Hall and visited the gift shop before travelling down to London by train. I was pleased to be part of such an interested and interesting group and hope I have the opportunity to meet up with them again in the future. The Tour was organised by Craftspace on behalf of the British Council.  

Thursday 14 June 2018

Tambour lace

I spent a couple of days at Newstead Abbey this week doing some research in the Nottingham textile archive. I was there to study some lace curtain designs and associated material but incidentally saw some lovely tambour lace equipment which started a discussion about how they were used. Tambour lace is basically a line of chain stitching on a net background, and I used that technique for the curtains in my ‘Whispering’ series. In contrast to my basic hook shown in the image above, the archive holds a very fine tambour hook, the stem of which is made of bone or ivory, which was light to hold and would have been a pleasure to work with. The top of it also unscrewed to reveal a small hollow in which spare metal hooks would have been stored. When I made my tambour lace I pinned my pattern below the net, but this meant I had to keep moving it out of the way to make the chain stitches, which is time consuming. In the archive I saw a large printing block which would have been used to print a design onto net. This would have made the work of tambouring much quicker and easier; both considerations when the work is being made commercially. However, whether you have a pinned or printed pattern, it is essential to keep the net taught in a frame and hold the hook vertically as you work, so it doesn’t get caught on the net. The way I’ve attached my net also allows the work to be moved up easily when you move to a new section.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Belladonna black lace veil

Now I’ve finished my belladonna lace I’m busy making it up into a veil. I had some netting left over from my previous series of black veils and luckily there’s enough for another one so I’ve just cut it out. I’ve also bought some artificial flowers and a small comb to attach it to. I couldn’t decide whether to attach the lace to the edge of the net so it would hang down or to lay it over the bottom of the veil so it has a backing of net. I think I’m going to attach it like a braid along the net just in case it is ever worn – you never know, I might visit Whitby - as I’m worried it’s such an open design it might catch on fingernails or earings. The idea behind the veil is that it is a mourning veil but the lace trim, edged with gold, represents the poison deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and suggests that the widow may not be too surprised or upset by her condition! It is part of my series of veils linked to the gothic and will be displayed as part of my exhibition in Bruges in August.