Wednesday 26 October 2022

Some clever machine lace production techniques


If you follow this blog you will remember that I recently received some samples of machine made lace from the 1970s designed for the lingerie industry. They also illustrate some interesting production methods used by the machine lace producers. For example, the image above gives an idea of how scalloped edged lace trims would have been made in one piece of lace with open net areas linking the two pieces, which would have been cut away once the lace came off the loom to separate the two scalloped edges, thus allowing the lacemakers to produce many strips of lace all together and save production time. The image below shows some strips of lace made in a similar way, linked together by joining threads which would have been pulled out once the lace was finished leaving the ribbons of lace.

The pretty black lace below was made on the Levers lace machine. It has a fine background pattern and an outlining thicker gimp thread highlighting some of the motifs.

The heavier black thread would have been used to outline one motif and then been allowed to run loosely down the side of the lace pattern until it was required for the next motif, which meant that the loops of loose thread had to be cut and trimmed once the lace left the machine. Both sides of this lace also show remnants of the threads that joined it to the other strips it was made with.

These two pieces of lace have picot edgings on both sides, but the white piece still retains a thin thread along its righthand side which was used to help form the picots and as a joining thread between this strip of lace and the one next to it. Many of the joining threads between the strips of lace were designed to be pulled out quite easily but some types had to be removed by heat treatment using a tool like a soldering iron and others had to be cut with trimmers. Much of this work was carried out by women working at home on a piece-work system.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Tatted lace


I need a small portable lace project to take on a trip I’m making and I thought tatting would be the ideal thing as it’s easy to pick up and put down and the equipment is quite small to carry about. I haven’t done any tatting for a while so I’ve been back to the instruction books to remind me how to make the double stitch that is a feature of the work. The image above is the edge of a little doily I bought years ago at The Lace Guild which shows the distinctive rings and loops that are used to make the patterns that are joined together as the work progresses by looping through the picots made at intervals between the double stitches.

I found tatting difficult to learn from a book as the secret to the technique is the transfer of loops from one thread to the other – you’ll know what I mean if you’ve tried it! The written instructions for this always tell you to make the first half of the double stitch by looping the thread round your fingers then passing the shuttle thread through the loop and then pulling the thread taut with a sharp jerk – in my experience this always ends with a knot on the thread not a loop. The secret is not a sharp jerk but a slight and careful pull to transfer the loop. It is much easier to learn with two colours of thread so you can see the transfer and also if a friend shows you how to do it. I was lucky enough to have such a friend who showed me how to tat on a long flight to the USA, which also means I always associate tatting with travel so to take some on a trip seems very appropriate!

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Lingerie lace

Recently, a friend sent me some samples of machine made lace that her mother bought in Nottingham market in the 1970s and they are a lovely snapshot of the lace available at the time. I’m just showing a few here but I think they are all made for the lingerie industry. This was a time when women and girls wore petticoats, slips and vests as well as bras and knickers so there was plenty of scope for lace embellishment. The scalloped lace on the left would have been used on a bra as it can easily be cut to fit on a variety of cup sizes. The fine black lace would have made a lovely trim for a petticoat or slip. The straight white lace is an insertion, a type of lace which could have been used to join two pieces of fabric forming a beautiful transparent band of lace between them. The apricot coloured lace on the right is designed to include a ribbon slotted along its length so could be used as a strap for a petticoat or vest or could also be used as a trim without the ribbon.

These dainty white edgings are all laces that could be used to trim any type of lingerie. The two at the top both mimic traditional Buckinghamshire handmade bobbin lace styles and could be used to edge women’s or girls’ underwear. The lower three samples are all elasticated but are a little too narrow to be straps so were probably used as trims on vests and knickers attached to fabrics that needed to be flexible. All these laces were made on the Raschels lace machine apart from the black lace which was made on the Levers machine. This difference in production methods is also an interesting thread that I’ll blog about another time. Who would have thought that a bundle of lace off cuts from the market would prove to be so interesting.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Lace lappets


Lappets are long strips of lace or fine embroidery that were attached to women’s headwear and generally fell down onto the shoulders. As a writer in 1849 noted ‘lappets give grace, lightness and elegance to the whole costume’. A pair of lappets was usually attached to the back or sides of a cap but they could also be fixed to a bonnet or hat. They were fashionable for a long time during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and during that time their size, shape and positioning changed as fashions altered. For example a one time it was fashionable to pin the lappets on top of the cap and at others tie them under the chin. I have found it impossible to find an image of someone wearing lappets, which seems odd as they were such an ubiquitous style for so long, but Heather Toomer in her book on white embroidery suggests that this is because they were generally used for formal wear and most portraits depict informal settings. Pairs of lappets are found in many museum collections generally as separate strips of lace because they are so beautiful and when the fashion for them eventually ended it was possible to remove them from the cap and store them easily, therefore many have survived. Some have also been repurposed as scarves and dress decoration. Several were displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851 including some in black Chantilly lace and others in blonde lace made of white silk thread as well as lappets of silk and gold from Caen. In the Paris Exhibition of 1867 lappets of Brussels needlepoint lace were exhibited. That they were made in many different styles of lace, were fashionable for so long and have been kept and donated to museums means they are a great source of information for lace researchers.