Wednesday 15 December 2021

Feminism, Amy Atkin and lace in Textile journal

 I’m delighted that my paper based on the life and work of Amy Atkin has now been published in Textile the Journal of Cloth and Culture. The title is ‘Neo-Victorianism, feminism and lace: Amy Atkin’s place at the dinner table.’ It was published online in the summer but is now in the printed journal which means I have some free copies to give away! As you will know by now if you follow this blog, Amy Atkin was the first female Nottingham machine lace designer but relinquished work on marriage as did so many other women of her time. The paper and my practice response focus on this aspect, looking at the domestic constraints women experienced at the beginning of the twentieth century and comparing Amy’s training and career with that of other female designers of the time, such as those at the Glasgow Art School. I used lace mats for my practice response entitled ‘The marriage bond’ which was inspired by the use of place settings in ‘The Dinner Party’ by the second wave feminist Judy Chicago. Each mat includes a lace design inspired by Amy’s work tacked in place to suggest how easily women’s careers can be torn away. They also include wording from the marriage ceremony ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’ highlighting the change in women’s circumstances on marriage. Neo-Victorianism reflects on the justification for using Amy’s life to comment on feminism from the viewpoint of the twenty-first century. If you’re interested there are 50 free copies available from the link below – first come first served!


Wednesday 8 December 2021

The pickadil

This strange object which looks like some type of ancient helmet is in fact an early seventeenth century pickadil which was used to support an open lace ruff or a standing band of linen and lace. It gave its name to the famous London street because a local tailor, named Roger Baker sold pickadils from his shop and house on what was originally Portugal Street but which subsequently became known as Piccadilly. 

Although the pickadil was used to support a lace ruff or band so only the lace could be seen from the front, it was designed to show at the back of the head. This example from the Victoria and Albert Museum reveals decorative stitching at the back and eyelet holes through which ribbons were slotted to attach it to a small stiffened collar on the gown. It is made up of several pasteboard sections joined together and covered in silk and is padded on the inside of the neck edge to make it more comfortable to wear. Making pickadils was skilled work and clearly very profitable in the case of Roger Baker.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Stars in filet lace


I posted some images of filet lace earlier in the week and was asked how the star motifs were made. My answer was that I didn’t know but luckily I’ve found a woman who does – Therese de Dillmont, who has the answer to almost every needlework question in her amazing encyclopaedia. The star she shows us how to make in the book covers 16 squares of net. She tells us to fasten the thread to the centre of the panel then carry it in a diagonal line from left to right, under the far corner of the block and back to the opposite corner of the square, under the corner, and repeat (she repeats it three times).

Once you’ve done that you make the same stitches across the first diagonal to make an X. Then do the same with vertical and horizontal lines over the X to make a plus shape with the threads on top.

Once you’ve formed the basic star shape like this you weave the thread round in a circle over the straight threads and under the diagonals but not through the net and fasten off at the back. It sounds quite straightforward and does give a lovely effect. The example from the encyclopaedia has more rows of threads in it than the one in the top image but the latter was worked commercially so speed and sparing use of thread was probably more important than an ideal technique.