Wednesday 27 October 2021

Lace napery and tablecloths


As part of my research into machine made lace I’ve recently been reading about the history of the Simon May lace company, which was based in Nottingham but had many branches worldwide. I was surprised to discover that their napery department, a general term for table linen of all types, was only inaugurated in 1920. This surprised me as tablecloths were made using the Nottingham lace curtain machine and I assumed curtains and tablecloths would have been part of the same department. I also knew Simon May had been producing curtains since the middle of the nineteenth century. However, further reading about this napery department showed that it produced dinner and luncheon sets, tea cloths, runners, and dressing table sets with lace insertions, edgings or embroidery. So it seems that in this department they were making motifs and edgings rather than tablecloths. This section of the book is also illustrated with a photograph of a lace tablecloth so it wasn’t just me who was confused! Another interesting image accompanying the article shows rows of women working at what look like sewing machines presumably making up the table mats. Subsequent reading revealed that tablecloths and mats were indeed made in the curtain department but the ones requiring hand finishing were made in the napery section – puzzle solved!

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Lace for ‘Tansa: Japanese threads of influence’


I’m still working on my lace for the ‘Tansa: Japanese threads of influence’ exhibitions. My pieces are inspired by Japanese textiles and gardens and the sensibility of shin-gyo-so – broadly expressed as ‘the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract’. The abstract piece is a small three-dimensional bobbin lace sculpture but the other two pieces are black net hand embellished with black thread. Both of these two pieces are hangings, one based on kimono cloth and the other on wrapping cloth. I’ve used this needle run technique before but previously I used white thread and net so I’ve had to make a few adjustments this time. For example, previously I’ve outlined the elements of my underlying pattern in thick black permanent pen but that is very confusing with black thread so this time I’ve outlined everything in red, which shows through the black net much more successfully. Also the black thread shows up more effectively on the black net than the white on white version so I’m adding some net overlays to soften the effect. Both interesting effects that I’ve only realised by actually working with the materials. All three pieces will be exhibited next year in the UK and Japan. The first venue for the lace sculpture is the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham from 4 January to 19 February and the lace hangings will be at South Hill Park, Bracknell from 23 February to 3 April.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

The rebato – supporting the lace collar

Many lace ruffs were starched to stiffen them and keep them in shape but larger lace collars such as this one were attached to a supporting frame to show off the lace. There were various types of supporting frame but today we’re focusing on the rebato.

Rebatos are wire frames made up of twisted wires, which often appear quite lacelike in their own right. They would have been made by silkwomen and some are wrapped in plain or coloured silk or even metal threads which would glint through the lace collar at the front and appear quite distinctive from behind and probably looked stunning in candlelight. Many, like this one were covered in gauze or cotton with a simple lace edging attached round the edge but others were left plain.

The lace was sewn onto the frame using simple oversewing so it could easily be removed for laundering, although many incorporated a black silk edging round the neck edge so the dirt wasn’t too obvious! A basic frame could also be reused for a different lace collar and any lace scallops protruding from the edge of the support, like the ones here, would have to be stiffened with starch to make them stand up.

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Caroline Bartlett exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre


I had a very enjoyable day earlier this week at the Crafts Study Centre (CSC) in Farnham seeing Caroline Bartlett’s exhibition ‘A restless dynamic’ - the image is a detail of ‘Every ending has a new beginning’. The exhibition includes new work that she has made in response to the archive of Lucie Rie held at the CSC and her collaboration with Issey Miyake.

Looking at continuity and change as it affected both her own work during the pandemic and that of Lucie Rie, Caroline has produced pleated circular shapes that reflect on Rie’s use of the potter’s wheel and her colour palette, as well as referencing the pleated fabrics of Miyake. The shape of the pieces materially indicating the continuity of the circle while the subtle colour changes within the pleated fabric speak of change.

The exhibition also includes work Caroline has previously made in response to other venues and archives including ‘Stilled’ made in response to Salts Mill (image above) and ‘Listening in’ responding to time spent in the Whitworth textile archive. There are some interesting themes here and the work is beautiful, I have just given you a taster, so do go and see it if you can. It runs at the CSC until 11 December, but note that it isn’t open on Mondays.