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. 

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Stylised Japanese foliage for lace designs


I’ve been working on the design for my Japanese pieces and am trying to finalise the design for my medium sized hanging which is to be an impressionic interpretation of foliage. My inspiration is an overhanging bough of maple leaves I photographed while I was in Japan but I’m trying to see how other types of foliage are depicted in Japanese designs. The image above comes from a woodcut of a variety of leaves showing how a several leaves can be used together.

I also rather like the way these bamboo like leaves are silhouetted against the moon and I might incorporate something of that style in my larger hanging.

The way these willow leaves overlap is also very pleasing and I do have a willow tree in my larger design so I might try and emulate the way the leaves overlap each other. Even though I’m working from my own photographs of foliage I can’t just copy what I saw, to make an effective design does mean I have to translate the photograph into a textile design which needs to have clear outlines so seeing how others have done that is proving very useful.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Brussels application lace veil

This beautiful lace veil was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 by the Belgian company Delahaye. The description in the Art Journal Catalogue published at the time and from which this image comes states ‘‘The patient labour and perseverance necessary to complete these exquisite additions to the toilette of beauty can scarcely be understood by those who have not witnessed their slow growth in the manufactory, in which years are consumed in the production of a single veil’.

Brussels application lace was indeed beautiful and time consuming to produce as it included both fine bobbin lace and exquisite needle lace. Patricia Wardle in her book on Victorian lace describes the manufacturing process and the specialised workers it involved. The drocheleuse made fine strips of bobbin net for the background net, which were joined together by the jointeuse. Flower motifs were made by the pointeuse in fine needle lace and the relief or more three dimensional areas were worked by the brodeuse. The bobbin lace motifs were also made by two specialist workers; the platteuse made the solid parts of the design and the formeuse added the intricate filling stitches. All of these elements were assembled into the final piece in the workrooms of the lace manufacturer by highly skilled striqueuses. By 1851 when this beautiful shawl was exhibited the background net was much more likely to be machine made rather than the drochel of the early nineteenth century but the other parts of the work would still have been made separately and joined together with ‘patient labour’ as the catalogue suggests. 

Thursday 8 July 2021

Spangle attachments on lace bobbins


Spangles are the rings of beads, looped on brass wire, that are attached to the tail of East Midlands lace bobbins to weight them on the lace pillow. They can be attached to the bobbin in different ways but the oldest method is thought to be a staple, made from a brass pin, driven into the tail of the bobbin to make a loop, which the wire of the spangle can be looped through. The easiest method for the bobbin maker is probably just to drill a hole in the tail of the bobbin through which the lacemaker can loop the spangle to the bobbin (see the image above).

However, many of these types of bobbins have a small loop of wire passing through the bobbin to make a loop through which the spangle can be looped (see here). A few bone bobbins have hinged spangles where a slit has been made in the base of the tail and a piece of shaped bone inserted with a hinge often made from a brass pin passing through the bobbin and the shaped ‘spangle’. Looking through my own bobbins the majority have a simple hole through the tail with the spangle threaded straight through it like the bobbins at the top of the blog.