Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Copying lace styles


Having seen ‘imitation lace’ being described in my late 19 century needlework dictionary as a type of tape lace (see last week’s post) I was interested to see how Pat Earnshaw defined it. She wisely does not use the term imitation lace but does discuss copying and convergence in her book on the identification and care of bobbin and needle laces. She suggests seven possible permutations of copying, starting with ‘same time; different area; different technique’ in which she includes all the machine lace copies of different handmade lace techniques, such as machine-made Chantilly lace. Chantilly lace is the fine black lace seen in the image above and the handmade and machine-made versions are often difficult to tell apart. Initially I thought the example above was machine made because of the way the outlining has been done but on closer examination I found the lace had been made in fine strips, later joined together, which is a feature of handmade Chantilly lace.

Under ‘same time; different area; same technique’ Pat mentions the convergence between Bedfordshire lace and Maltese lace, as well as that between Honiton and Brussels laces (image above). In ‘different time; different area; same technique’ she includes the raised needlelaces of the 17 century, which were copied in the 19 century for sale and exhibition as well as for the domestic lacemaker as we saw in my previous post about imitation lace. There were also laces in the category ‘different time; different area; different technique’ such as the 16 century reticella designs that were copied in the 19 century using the Schiffli machine. I think Pat Earnshaw has confirmed my original scepticism about the label ‘imitation lace’. Most laces seem to be influenced by ideas and techniques from other places, and as Pat suggests sometimes this is copying and sometimes convergence. However it was always with the aim of selling more lace to the consumer, by keeping up with fashions and making the lace more cost effectively.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Imitation lace – one late 19 century view


I was amused by an entry in my 1882 Dictionary of needlework on imitation lace, as surely that is a description that could apply to most types of lace. However, it seems that the focus of the entry is those types of lace made from machine-made braids and handmade fillings that were popular with the domestic audience who would have been reading the Dictionary. The book gives five examples of different ways the technique can be used and the end results are very effective considering the simplicity of the materials. The imitation Venetian lace in the image above is a simplified version of Venetian gros point; an elaborate needlelace that was made in the seventeenth century.  To make the lace you have to trace the design on to calico then tack down machine-made, half inch wide, cloth braid, doubling it where necessary and smoothing it round the curves – by no means an easy task! Then run a fine cord all the way round the edge of the design. When that is done, the open parts of the pattern can be filled in with needlelace stitches of your choice and the main elements of the pattern are then joined together by buttonhole bars. Finally, you have to work buttonhole stitch over the raised cord, all the way round the design in the same way as the original Venetian lace. You can further embellish this raised cordonnet by working a lace edging along its length if you like. The lace can then be removed from its calico backing.

Another example is an imitation Honiton lace. For this one, three types of braid are required; a straight one for the edge and two types of braid made up of continuous leaf shapes, one of half stitch leaves and the other of cloth stitch leaves. The lace is made on a calico foundation as above and you start by tacking down the foundation line of braid at the top. Then the half stitch leaf braid is tacked in place, up and down, just touching the upper braid, to make a zigzag edge. The cloth stitch leaf braid is then laid over the half stitch one, in the same way to make a zigzag, filling the gaps. However, for this one, every other cloth leaf is folded over to make it look like a leaf stalk. Another straight braid is laid under the pattern and the leaf pattern repeated using just half stitch leaves. Where the braids touch they have to be sewn together and bars added to join the sections together. The instructions blithely suggest sewing ‘an ornamental lace edging to the lower edge of the pattern’. This piece certainly seems easier to work than the imitation Venetian lace, but all the designs assume the reader has a detailed knowledge of needlelace stitches and the skill to carry them out with little instruction.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Early twentieth century filet lace


I’m delighted with my latest purchase – an early twentieth century booklet about filet lace which explains how to make it and use it around the home and in clothing. Filet lace was a popular female hobby at the time as were a number of other needlecrafts. This booklet is number 66 in a series of practical needlecraft journals. Most of them assume quite a high level of competence from their readers and this one is no different, although it does recommend a further booklet in the series if the reader requires more help with making the foundation net.

Filet lace is made using two techniques. First the background net is made with a shuttle and it is then ‘darned’ with a needle and thread to make the pattern. However, it was possible to buy readymade net which must have been a boon to many lacemakers because ensuring evenly spaced net is a skill and if not done well can ruin the entire piece of lace.

Filet lace was mainly used for decorating household linen as shown in the section of a bedspread above, which combines filet lace squares with a type of embroidery called broderie anglaise. The booklet also suggests several collars, edgings and insertions for blouses and you can see an example of the front cover of the magazine.   

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Nineteenth century English lace schools


Lace schools were generally held in a room in the teacher’s house and little was learned apart from lacemaking. The teacher charged a small fee of about 4 or 5 pence per week for each child – often slightly more for boys because they were naughtier and not as biddable as the girls! Children started at the lace school at 5 years of age and remained as pupils until they were about 14, but the boys often left earlier to work in the fields. The day was long, starting at 6 in the morning in the summer and 8 in the winter, and the children had to produce a set amount of lace every day. Every 4 or 5 weeks the lace buyer came to the village to buy lace from the adults working at home and the children at the school. Known as ‘cut off day’ the children were often allowed the afternoon off from lacemaking once the lace had been sold. By 1880 most of the lace schools had closed. One reason for this was the 1867 Workshop Act which prohibited the employment of children under 8 years of age and allowed only part time work for those aged between 8 and 13. Education was also made compulsory in 1871 and all children had to go to school for at least part of the day to become literate and numerate. Lacemaking was still taught in schools in the lacemaking areas but as part of the normal curriculum rather than as a trade or money-making activity.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Netted lace

Netting has been practised for centuries and was used by early people to make fishing and bird nets and can also be used to make hammocks and lawn tennis nets. However the type of knot used for lace netting, seen in the image above, is slightly different and less bulky than that used for these utilitarian articles. Netting was a popular pastime in the early nineteenth century and in her novel of 1847, Charlotte Bronte describes Jane Eyre sitting in a corner netting a purse while she observes Mr Rochester and his guest in the drawing room after dinner. My 1882 Dictionary of Needlework gives several instructions for making a variety of netted purses for ladies and gentlemen as well as doilies (like the one below), antimacassars and a variety of other items.

Netting is made from a continuous thread wound on a netting needle and the knotted loops are made, starting from a foundation loop attached to a cushion, round a stick to ensure all the loops in the row are the same size. Skill is required to keep the work even as the knots are hard to undo once they are made! The basic net structure can be varied to make different patterns including star netting, looped netting or fringes, and it can also be embellished with beads. Once the net has been made it can be embroidered in the same way as drawn thread work or be used as the basis for filet lace. What seems like a simple technique can actually be made in many decorative forms and shapes. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Confetti beads in lace spangles


The spangle is the ring of beads attached to the end of English East Midlands bobbins to give them weight and ensure they lie flat on the pillow. They are generally made up of six square cut beads (three each side) with a larger bead at the base, although there are many variations. The larger bead is often more ornamental than the others and those in the image all have added dots of glass. The one on the second right is a confetti bead which was made by adding small chippings of brightly coloured glass to the surface of the bead as it was being made just before it solidified. The large green bead seems to have had the white dots added after it was made as they are slightly raised. The bead at the top is known as an eye bead as it has a series of dots on top of each other, loosely resembling an eye. The most famous of these types of bead is the Kitty Fisher eye bead, which is made of grey glass with small red and blue spots inside larger white spots, supposedly representing the beautiful face of the actress. These dotted beads may have been made locally or purchased from travelling salesmen as many beads were made commercially for trade in Africa and would also have been available for lacemakers to buy (see my blog post of 24 September 2021).

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Machine lace curtain draught


Apart from being a beautiful painting this is the draught, or coded instructions, required for a curtain made on the Nottingham lace curtain machine. A draughtsman would have painted it by hand following the original design drawn up by the designer. The draughtsman therefore had to be artistic and also know about the workings of the lace machine in order to translate the design into a workable pattern. This draught would then have been passed to the card puncher who would follow its instructions to produce the sets of jacquard cards needed to work the pattern on the lace machine. In general, red squares indicate back spool ties and green indicate Swiss ties, although there is no standard colour code and some manufacturers used different colours. This draught also has handwritten instructions along the length of the pattern describing among other things the width of the entire piece of lace (360 inches) and the type of lace (two gait Swiss). It also tells us that this is a 10 point lace which means that it is of medium fineness. I think these lace draughts are beautiful but the fact that they carry so much coded information makes them even more special.   

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Filet lace curtains


The patterns for these lovely curtains appear in a booklet of filet lace from the early twentieth century. In the index they are labelled as a store curtain and matching brise-bise curtains in the style of Louis XVI. They could have been used on the same window with the store curtain hung on the upper part and the brise-bise curtains hung against the lower panes or they could have been used separately. Brise-bise curtains are what we know as café curtains and only cover the lower half of a window.

The instructions for making the curtains, which are all in French, suggest that the lace should be worked in blocks of 1 centimetre. The dimensions given are 141 blocks for the store curtain and 85 x 55 for the smaller ones. I assume from looking at the pattern that the measurement given for the store curtain is the width. This booklet gives no instructions for working the filet lace but another volume I have, from the same time, shows how to make the background net and work the stitches so I think the expectation was that the lacemaker would know how to do both.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Lace tells

Lace tells are the songs, or chants, that children in the lace schools would sing as they made their lace. They were designed to keep the children focused on their work and to keep up the pace of lacemaking. Many of them were linked to the number of pins, and therefore the amount of lace, each child had worked. An example is the Buckinghamshire tell which begins ‘Knock, knock at your door. Who’s there? It’s me. Come in. Does your little dog bite? Yes. How many teeth has it? Six, seven next time, eight when I call again’. The children then had to remain silent while they worked eight pins of their pattern. This quiet period was known as a ‘glum’ and the children competed with each other to be the first to call out ‘My glum’s done’. Some other counting tells included a forfeit for any child who broke the silence of the glum. Another Buckinghamshire method of counting called ‘All round the town’ required each child to call out the name of a householder in the village every time they put up a pin. Other tells recount quite lurid tales of murder and mayhem, one of which ends ‘Shall I be so when I am dead?’ to which the answer is ‘Yes, you’ll be so when you are dead’ after which all the children pretend to be frightened and cry ‘Oh!’. I’m sure that singing the lace tells made the day pass more quickly for the children and encouraged them to work more efficiently. They remind me of the rhymes and games we now play with children on a long car journey to help pass the time.   

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Chantilly lace

Chantilly lace is a very fine black bobbin lace characterised by its light, airy appearance, subtle shading and outlining threads. It was originally made in about 1840 in Chantilly, a small town in northern France. The town had been known for its blonde lace but as fashions changed the lacemakers started to use grenadine, a black silk thread, for their work. It became popular and by 1850 other towns in France and Belgium were also making Chantilly style lace. The delicacy of the fine black lace was shown to advantage draped over the large crinoline skirts of the time, but it was also used for parasols, gloves, lappets, veils, flounces and edgings. These large pieces were made by a team of lacemakers each working one section of the design, which would then be joined to the next part using a stitch known as point de raccroc. This technique is so subtle that it is usually extremely difficult to find the seam although it also forms a weak point in the lace which sometimes unravels. Using teams of workers in this way allowed the lacemakers to compete with the rapidly developing machine-made laces. The jury report from the 1851 Great Exhibition praises the design and workmanship of the handmade Chantilly lace exhibited but notes that machine lace imitations are ‘admirable’ and the ‘price is 75 per cent’. The Chantilly lacemakers survived by maintaining the quality and designs of their work and marketing their lace as a luxury product. However, at the 1889 Paris exhibition Chantilly lace was described as ‘more of an art than an industry’. By 1904 a report about the lace industry noted that Chantilly lace was no longer being made commercially. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Nottingham lace curtains

This beautiful example of a lace curtain was made on the Nottingham lace curtain machine, which was also used, despite its name, to produce other furnishing lace such as tablecloths and bedspreads. The machine was invented in Nottingham in 1846 by John Livesey to make large pieces of patterned lace. It differed from other lace machines by working the bobbin threads across two warps instead of across all the warp threads. This method of working makes a fabric made up of a series of square meshes which gives this type of lace its distinctive appearance. Although beautiful patterns can be made using the lace curtain machine, the early curtains made in this way were prone to unravelling along the length of the bobbin threads. Following adjustments made to the mechanism to reduce this tendency, lace curtain manufacturers were at pains to point out in their advertisements that their lace curtains were durable during use and when they were laundered. However, as you can see from the lace in the image, these old curtains do become weaker along the bobbin lengths as they age. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Broken hearts on the lace pillow


These two nineteenth century lace bobbins have a sad tale to tell. The one on the left is inscribed with the words ‘Love don’t forsake me’ and the thinner one on the right says ‘A kiss from my true love will ease a wounded heart’. We don’t know the story behind them but someone has been upset in love and is trying to remedy the situation. Were these bobbins a gift to the lacemaker from her boyfriend upset that she had broken off their relationship or were they bought by the lacemaker to console herself after a boyfriend had moved on? ‘Love don’t forsake me’ could also be a plea from a lacemaker to a young man not to leave the village to improve his lot or join the armed forces. The neat lettering and yellow and red rings on each side of this bobbin suggest that it was made by William ‘Bobbin’ Brown of Cranfield in the mid nineteenth century. The thinner bobbin with its tight spiral message looks like the work of Jesse Compton and was probably made slightly earlier, in the 1830s. Both bobbins are still in use today even though the romances they commemorate may not have lasted.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

‘inside:outside’ inspiration and construction


The Tansa exhibition of miniature works at the Crafts Study Centre has just ended and I’ve now repacked my work ‘inside:outside’ for its journey to Japan and a new exhibition at Gallery Gallery in Kyoto from 23 April to 8 May. The piece was inspired during a textile research visit to Japan by the atmosphere of contemplation in many temples and gardens. It also reflects the Japanese sensibility of ‘shin gyo so’ which can broadly be expressed as the juxtaposition of the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract. This little sculpture reflects the abstract aspect of the theme and is a representation of a corner of a temple roof. It is constructed from a flat piece of bobbin lace manipulated to form the three-dimensional shape. This method of construction aims to suggest that the inside and the outside of these areas of peace are indistinguishable and interdependent. The image shows the flat lace and the final manipulated construction.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Bobbin lace doily project


It’s so nice to have some bobbins back on the pillow and be making bobbin lace again. The last couple of projects I’ve done have involved needle run lace on net which have been interesting and allowed me to work on a large scale but it is lovely to be using some of my bobbins again. It also marks a return to my subversive lace project after a break to produce work for the Tansa exhibition inspired by a textile research trip to Japan, which I’ve blogged about recently. This doily is one in a series that subverts the traditional idea of doilies being comforting domestic items made for the home using undervalued craft techniques. This doily has a mind of its own and a message for those who belittle it.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Four cloth based works from the Tansa miniatures exhibition


These four miniature works were all inspired by a textile research trip to Japan and form part of an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. One of the highlights of the research trip was a visit to the studio of Jun Tomita and for this exhibition he has woven this beautiful piece entitled ‘P. Kasuri No. 237’ which is subtly shaded and folded to reveal the patterns within it.

‘Fleeting impressions’ by Gina Pierce recalls the myriad experiences of the research trip and the layers of memories that remain and continue to inspire.

Chika Ohgi was our guide to the town of Arimatsu, its museum and shibori workshops. This piece ‘Twisted checked pattern’ recalls that day and uses the technique of ita-jime shibori to produce the check patterned cloth which is twisted to form new shapes.

Another highlight of the tour was a visit to the workshop of Yasumasa Komiya, a Living National Treasure, where we saw him and his son carrying out the painstaking Edo Komon stencil printing process. For this exhibition Yasumasa Komiya exhibits three squares of precious dyed cloth that reveal intricate pattern stories when seen close up. The work is entitled ‘Kobukusa presentation cloth’ referencing the precious squares of cloth used in the tea ceremony.

There’s still time to see the exhibition ‘Tansa – Japanese threads of influence’ which runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Three small sculptures from the Tansa miniatures exhibition


These three miniatures were all inspired by a textile research trip to Japan and form part of an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. Suzumi Noda’s ‘Korizato Rock Candy’ references a quote from the Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa comparing the French author Maupassant to ice and rock candy. The Japanese kanji characters for korizato are ice, sand and sugar and korizato is a rock crystal sugar candy known as Rock Candy.

‘Facets’ by Reiko Sudo is inspired by the lapidary finishing of gemstones. It shows the warps and wefts of fabric combining to determine how light reflects, refracts or is absorbed in the same way as the faceting and polishing of gemstones.

‘Inversion’ by Beverly Ayling-Smith was informed by a visit to the Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum where we saw bundles of gold leaf papers wrapped with leather. In this piece Beverly wraps thin sheets of lead in paper embellished with gold leaf inverting the idea of the wrapping being less valuable than the contents.

There’s still time to see the exhibition ‘Tansa – Japanese threads of influence’ which runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto.

Monday, 14 March 2022

Some miniature cubes in the Tansa exhibition

These four miniature textile pieces in the Tansa exhibition are all based on a cube form and like all the pieces in the exhibition were inspired by a research trip to Japan. ‘Beyond blue’ by Janice Gunner is inspired particularly by Indigo Blue. Janice combines vintage and contemporary shibori, which we saw in Arimatsu, with her own interpretations, to pay tribute to the textile heritage of Japan. The inclusion of gold Mizuhiki cord in the work references the gold leaf artisans of Kanazawa.

Noriko Matsumoto’s ‘Organic cube’ is the result of a collaboration with an organic cotton company that aims at zero waste. Noriko aims to represent our co-existence and co-prosperity with the ichimatu, which is an auspicious pattern in Japan @norikoweaver.

‘Beyond duality’ by Peta Jacobs was inspired by two illuminated experiences from the research trip. First the flood-lit Yukuzuri rope structures that protect the trees in the Kenrokuen Garden in Kanasawa and second the immersive interactive Borderless exhibition by team-Lab which reconfigured experiences of space, time and light.

‘Apollo’ by Yasuko Fujino @y.f.weaving is named for the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing but expresses a desire to create something tangible from the ineffable. Yasuko says that the starting point of the work is a need ‘to create something in front of me that is not already here, and make it real’.

There’s still time to see the exhibition ‘Tansa – Japanese threads of influence’ which runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto. 

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Miniature indigo pieces in the Tansa exhibition

These three miniature textile pieces in the Tansa exhibition are all linked by their use of indigo. ‘Shindigo 23-01’ is the work of master indigo dyer Hiroyuki Shindo whose studio was one of the highlights of our textile research tour of Japan. He expresses the hope that the Tansa exhibition can be ‘a bridge tying the UK and Japan’ and an opportunity to discuss tradition, nature and environmental issues.

In ‘Compressed’ Linda Brassington references Japanese itajime resist dyeing which occurs between clamps, in lengths of cloth compressed into tightly folded packages. Protruding pins support the wrappings, while many sheets of washi paper are hidden between the folds where they act as a wick drawing up the dye. It is only when the wrappings are untied that the unseen spaces hidden between the clamps are revealed.

Kendall Clarke is a weaver who has studied the Japanese resist dyeing technique shibori. In ‘Formation’ she uses woven shibori to create a three-dimensional miniature sculpture, which is given texture and form by gathering the ‘pattern’ threads once the cloth is off the loom. The piece is completed by dyeing it in an indigo vat.

There’s still time to see the exhibition ‘Tansa – Japanese threads of influence’ which runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Miniature Tansa textiles with natural materials

This collection of miniature textiles from the Tansa exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre all incorporate natural materials. ‘Beckons to be known’ by Annette Mills was inspired by the exteriors of traditional wooden buildings in Kyoto. The vessel is made from willow bast and nettle to enclose a shadowed interior and is designed to be held in the hand and reflected upon in the same way as bowls in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Hermione Thomson was inspired by the tactility of old paper scrolls to produce ‘Mottainai: Making ends meet’. This reference to sustainability and the reuse of papers to produce a protective outer wrapping recalls the cloths traditionally used to encase quilted and patched Boro cloth.

‘Containing beauty’ is the title and theme of Sian Highwood’s miniature. Reflecting the Japanese expectation of finding beauty in the everyday this piece uses petals to form a three dimensional sculpture inspired by Oshibana, the Japanese art of pressed flowers.

Chiyoko Tanaka uses mud in her woven textiles to permeate the cloth enabling a transformation of time coherence into space. ‘Mud dyed cloth twig and white dots #6.7.7’ is part of her continuing practice to transform time into space and space into time.

The exhibition Tansa – Japanese threads of influence runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto 

Monday, 14 February 2022

More miniature Tansa textiles


This time I’m looking at four of the miniature textile works from the Tansa exhibition expressed in spherical form. The image above is ‘Embedded’ by Dawn Thorne , a multi-layered open vessel containing a solid core of memories reflecting the intimate relationship between the acts of holding, engaging and exploring.

Jennifa Chowdhury also uses a spherical form enclosing a core in ‘Abhyantara’ to symbolise life, unity and diversity. Inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘Ma’, the space within which we exist, this work embodies the unoccupied space – energy filled with possibilities.

‘Fates’ by Gail Baxter @gailbaxterlace was inspired by the rows of o-mikuji, the predictions of fortunes for the coming year, at the Toyokawa Inari shrine in Tokyo. These rows of knotted papers are presented in a sphere to reference the balls and spherical jewels held by the Kitsune statues at this shrine.

‘The memory catcher’ by Paula Reason  is a hand embroidered pebble of recollections that connects the past to the present and takes its spherical form from Japanese Temari thread balls.

The exhibition Tansa – Japanese threads of influence runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Tansa – Japanese threads of influence exhibition of miniature works


This exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre includes miniature textiles made in response to a research trip to Japan organised by Professor Lesley Millar in 2019 for researchers with links to UCA. Each of the researchers and nine of the amazing Japanese artists the group visited during the trip have each made one exquisite miniature piece of work for the exhibition. It is impossible to single out individual pieces so I will talk about them all in a series of blog posts, for the purposes of which I have grouped them into themes which speak to me. Today I’m starting with four pieces that I consider to be lacelike. The image above is ‘Japan in colour’ by Evie Francis which incorporates the spectrum of colour seen throughout the trip, expressed in handweaving.

Jennifer Jones also uses hand weaving to express the relationship between fibre and structure in ‘Concord’ inspired by shibori techniques but using weaving to produce the effect of lightness and structure.

Susan Blandford was inspired by the shrubs supported by Yukitsuri frameworks in Kenrokuen Gardens to produce ‘Poco a poco Little by Little’ in crochet using gold and indigo dyed threads.

My own piece ‘inside:outside’ was also inspired by gardens and temples and the Japanese sensibility of ‘shin gyo so’ broadly expressed as the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract. It is constructed from a flat piece of bobbin lace which is folded to form an abstract representation of a temple roof. This manipulation of the inside and outside mirrors the reflective nature of these spaces of peace showing that the inside and outside are interdependent and indistinguishable.

The exhibition runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto. I will be covering more of the exhibits over the next few weeks – watch this space!     

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

The lace industry and fashion in the early 20th century

I’m writing a chapter for a textile book looking at how the demand for lace changed after the first world war. This image comes from a Samuel Peach catalogue of 1904 and shows a typical blouse of the time made of lace and net. James Laver in his History of Costume notes that at this time there was ‘a passion for lace in every part of the gown’. However by 1910 fashions changed, with the introduction of narrow skirts and drapery, and Laver says that the favourite trimming was no longer lace but buttons. Pat Earnshaw in Lace in fashion describes most of the early twentieth century lace collars as Irish crochet, handmade Maltese lace, or chemical guipure lace, with silk bobbinet being used for cravats. She notes that patterned machine laces were popular among those who could not afford ‘real’ lace. However ‘real’ lace was time consuming to make and at the 1910 Brussels International Exhibition the machine lace on display was so original and artistic that the prestige of handmade lace began to decline. From then until 1920 machine lace was popular for evening wear but, during the war, clothes in general were simpler and did not include lace. In 1919, after the war, silhouettes became tubular and little lace was used at all. Despite the attempts of institutions like the Bucks Lace Making Industry, in the English East Midlands, and others in continental Europe, which tried to maintain the hand lacemaking industry through charitable commissions, handmade lace production was no longer commercially viable. Machine lacemaking continued for a while but was to decline throughout the century.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Lace responses to Japan


This image of a pagoda at Toji temple in Kyoto is part of my needlerun lace response to the Japanese textile research visit I made with other artists from UCA Farnham a couple of years ago. This piece entitled ‘stone: water: leaf’ is made up of two hangings, one is a realistic image of the pagoda and the temple grounds, the other is an impression of willow leaves. Together with another piece, a three-dimensional miniature bobbin lace sculpture reflecting the roof of the temple, they represent the Japanese sensibility of ‘shin gyo so’, broadly expressed as the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract. The miniature, abstract, piece (image below) is currently in the exhibition ‘Tansa: Japanese threads of influence’ at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham until 26 March and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto where it will be exhibited from 23 April to 8 May.

I’ve been finishing off the two larger pieces today, making channels for the acrylic supporting rods across the top of each hanging and checking they hang well side by side. I also contemplated adding weighting to the bottom of each hanging but have decided they probably don’t need it despite me having dyed some curtain weighting at the weekend to do the job! I also wanted to add a touch of gold and red to the pieces, as the miniature also has a fine outline of both, but I knew I need to see them both hanging up together before I could decide where to add it. Well, as soon as I hung them up, it was obvious where the colour should go to tie both pieces together and link them to the abstract miniature, so adding those threads will be my final task. These two hangings will be exhibited as part of the ‘Tansa: process and making’ exhibition at South Hill Park from 26 February until 3 April.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Heartache inscribed on lace bobbins

The inscriptions on these two lace bobbins read ‘Love don’t forsake me’ and ‘A kiss from my true love will ease a wounded heart’ although the bobbin maker didn’t have room to spell out the final word so just used a heart shape instead. I think he was Jesse Compton as his bobbins are quite slim and often include very tightly packed lettering alternately coloured red and blue. Most of his bobbins date from the early nineteenth century and some like this one have discoloured to a yellow colour. The bobbin with red lettering was probably made by William Brown of Cranfield who was working during the middle of the nineteenth century. His bobbins are quite distinctive with neat lettering and several rings of coloured bands at top and bottom. Whether these bobbins were bought by the lacemakers or their boyfriends we will never know, but I do hope that the first wasn't forsaken and the second did receive that kiss of true love.