Thursday, 11 August 2022

Subversive doily project

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing papers and chapters for books so today it was a real treat to spend some time making bobbin lace in a shady spot in the garden. I’m still working on my subversive doily project which uses the form of the lace doily to comment on the domestic environment and women’s place in it. The doily I’m working on at the moment follows the same design as the previous one with text in the central circle embedded in a lattice of plaits and leaves, surrounded by a border of Eastern European style tape lace. I finished the central area a while ago, which involved a large number of lace bobbins, and have now moved on to the tape lace border where I’m only using six pairs of bobbins. Although I’m not using many bobbins, this style of lace does mean that I have to keep stopping to attach the work to the edge of the previous row by looping one of my working threads through a previously worked pin hole and the passing the other working thread through that loop, which does tend to slow the work down. However, this part of the work is much less complicated than the central area so it is quite relaxing to sit in the sun listening to a podcast and making the lace.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Advertising lace curtains as imitations of ‘real lace’

 

At the turn of the nineteenth century even those selling lace curtain were advertising them as ‘imitations of real lace’ and ‘very artistic reproductions of real lace’. The image comes from a catalogue produced by the department store Whiteleys in about 1910 describing some Nottingham lace curtains. The curtains are sold in pairs and cost 9/11 for a pair measuring 4 yards by 72 inches, so quite a sizeable amount of lace. The claim to be an imitation of real lace is obviously a marketing ploy to suggest the curtains are similar to handmade lace, which was experiencing a revival at the time thanks to the philanthropic efforts of various groups particularly in England, France and Belgium. However the only link to ‘real lace’ seems to be in the design the outer border of which is based on renaissance needlelace motifs.

The second image from the same catalogue claims to be ‘reproduction cluny lace’. Cluny lace was a fairly solid bobbin lace with pattern areas linked by plaits and leaves rather like English Bedfordshire lace. This pattern does include some areas that look like leaves but the swags and ribbon shapes seem quite alien to cluny lace so this may just be early advertising blurb.

The final image is labelled a ‘facsimile of old darned knitting’. Why anyone would want old darned knitting at their windows is a mystery to me, but this copywriter obviously thought it would appeal to someone. The central area does look a bit like a blanket made from crochet squares so perhaps that is what inspired the design.

Although these curtains have been labelled by the person assembling the catalogue who probably knew little about lace (or knitting!), I find it dispiriting that machine lace curtains aren’t being advertised as a marvel of industrial ingenuity but rather as copies of ‘real lace’. They clearly aren’t genuine copies of handmade lace so why not appreciate the design and manufacturing effort that has gone into them.