Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Lace bobbins with pewter inlays

These lace bobbins are all inlaid with pewter in different patterns – the bobbins with rings or stripes are called tigers, the V shaped ones are butterflies and ones with spots of pewter (not shown here) are known as leopards. The one on the far left has a thicker layer of pewter, which may originally have included lettering, and the second from the left also includes the inscription Joseph with the six letters separated half way through the name with the butterfly. The Springetts, who are modern bobbin makers, discovered that these bobbins were made by cutting grooves in the bobbin, placing it in a fired clay mould and then pouring the molten pewter into the grooves. They also found that the bobbin makers sawed an angled cut at the bottom of the groove to stop the pewter from coming loose. Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead, although sometimes antimony was added as well to make it look more shiney. In some of these types of bobbins the metal inlay is so shiney, through constant use, that it is often mistaken for silver but molten silver would set a wooden bobbin on fire and would damage a bone one so silver could never have been used and it would also have been too expensive for the lacemakers to afford. Unfortunately many inlaid bobbins have lost their pewter over the years, including part of the one on the far right, so it is common to find a bobbin with grooves but no pewter. In some cases the cause is corrosion of the pewter due to the interaction of perspiration from the hands on the tin in the alloy. This is especially the case for bobbins by Jesse Compton who ironically used good quality pewter with a high level of tin. The corrosion makes the pewter expand and feel rough to the hands and also to snag on the lace pillow so some of the lacemakers may have removed it on purpose to make the bobbins easier to use.  

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