Wednesday 29 September 2021

Trade beads in lace bobbin spangles


Many of the beads on these lace bobbin spangles were originally made for trading in Africa and North America. Trade beads were made in varying sizes and colours and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has several trade cards of beads in graded sizes and colour ranges labelled according to the market they were made for. The card labelled ‘Trade beads for South Africa’ has round, plain beads coloured blue, brown and yellow like those in the spangles in the photo. The beads on the Central African trade card are much more decorative with patterns and come in a variety of bright colours and lozenge shapes as well as spheres. The beads were sold by weight and are also known as pound beads. They were imported from Amsterdam and Venice and although their main destination was the shipping companies of Liverpool and Bristol some must also have been sold in the home market as they are quite common on lace bobbins. The traditional beads on lace bobbins are the square cut type made in the lace making areas (like the clear ones on the second bobbin on the right) and I’ve not been able to find out where the lacemakers obtained these trade beads. Perhaps the bobbin makers acquired them and sold them or the lacemakers bought them from travelling salesmen.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Texture in bobbin lace

 Texture is the prompt for the Instagram textile challenge today so I thought I’d write about texture in bobbin lace to go with my image. The easiest way to introduce texture into bobbin lace is to use textured threads such as chenille or something with a slub in it. Just as accent threads though, using all textured threads would probably result in a rather dense unlace-like textile. Adding beads or snippets of trapped thread also adds texture. However, more traditional ways of introducing texture into lace include using a thicker gimp thread to outline areas of work or produce patterns within the work.

Raised tallies and leaves worked over flatter areas of ground are also a traditional method for including texture. Tallies are small dense rectangular woven areas worked generally with two pairs of bobbins, while leaves are made in the same way but shaped with pointed ends to resemble leaves. Both can be used in open work or made over flatter parts of the work. As you can see in this piece I’ve worked a branch of leaves over a half stitch background. This was done as the work progressed not added later and the bobbins were incorporated back into the work.

Rolled tallies were also used in East Midlands lace in which a rectangular tally is made and then rolled back on itself to incorporate the bobbins back into the work leaving a raised rolled line of weaving on top of the lace. This image shows a couple of rolled tallies made in the cloth stitch ground and a line of paired leaves in the background all adding some texture to the lace.

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.