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!

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