Thursday 23 February 2023

Lace making in the workhouse


Any kind of work in the workhouse sounds grim but I hope the lacemakers at least enjoyed somewhere to sit and a bit of peace although the lighting was probably bad and ruined their eyesight. Thomas Wright in his survey of the Buckinghamshire lacemakers includes some information about the Olney workhouse. Work was not optional and all inmates had to do something for their keep. Often men were employed breaking stones or doing other hard physical work and the records show that although spinning was the original employment for women the policy changed after 1720 and from then onwards they had to make bobbin lace instead. All the strips of lace were sealed at the end while they were on the pillow to stop anyone cutting any off and they were sold for the benefit of the parish. The workhouse regulations noted that anyone stealing or cutting off the lace seal would be severely punished. The Olney workhouse accounts showed that selling bobbin lace produced an income of about £30 per annum but that had to be offset by the costs of thread and equipment. Lacemaking was not well paid at the best of times and having to make it in the workhouse must have been quite disheartening.  

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Lace designs by Marcel Tuquet


Marcel Tuquet was a prolific lace designer working at the end of the nineteenth century. His designs are generally floral and incorporate a more decorative band at the side which also runs along the bottom of the lace.

A notice I’ve seen from The London Gazette of 1890 records that he and Marcel Boudard were partners in a lace curtain design business in Nottingham. They not only designed lace but are also recorded as the owners of a patent for a double action jacquard (the mechanism by which pattern was applied to the lace machines). They were not the inventors of the jacquard system but had obviously patented a modification to the system that was already in general use. The purpose of the notice in the London Gazette was to dissolve their partnership. This seems to have been an amicable split, with Tuquet taking on the lace design part of the business and Boudard the manufacturing side.

The designs in the images here were all made later in Marcel Tuquet’s career when he supplied lace curtain designs to the Christian Stoll company of Plauen, which produced design inspiration folders for the European lace industry. Whether he had relocated to Plauen by then (approximately 1900) or remained in Nottingham but sent his designs abroad I have yet to find out.

Thursday 9 February 2023

Limerick run lace fillings


One of the beautiful features of Limerick run lace is the lovely filling stitches that are used to add shading and depth to the main designs. This delicate little curtain includes several flower and leaf motifs interspersed with individual flower heads. This type of lace is made by embroidering machine made net, held taught within a frame, using a needle and thread. The main design is outlined in three strands of thread and the filling stitches are then worked inside those areas.

These three leaves are filled with tent stitch; a series of diagonal stitches worked across the underlying lace net. The leaf on the right has been worked at a different angle to the other two, giving a different appearance to the leaf.

Cobweb stitch has been used to fill these three leaves. This is made by zigzagging the thread to form a shape like the crenellations on a castle wall. If the rows of stitches are worked as a mirror image of each other, as they have been here, the finished work gives the appearance of a series of tiny holes.

The final three leaves have been filled with a variation on tent stitch in which the main stitch is elongated and an extra small stitch made between each of the main stitches. The three filling stitches described here just reveal a sample of the many filling stitches that can be used and give an idea of the range of effects that can be produced in this lovely lace.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Paper trail lace veil


Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy was the inspiration for this veil. It references the note that Tess wrote to Angel Clare on the eve of their marriage telling him about her past, in case that knowledge would cause him to change his mind. Unfortunately he did not find the note and it is only after their marriage that Tess realises this and confesses her chequered past to him, whereupon he rejects her. The disintegrating paper in the veil represents the hidden note as well as the hidden secrets and shows how vulnerable and fragile marriage can be. Although the veil is delicate and beautiful it hides within its folds decay and vulnerability and hints at the future, as the threads of the story unwind, leading eventually to Tess’s trial and unhappy end.