Friday 29 September 2023

Subversive doily project

I’m back working on my subversive doily project which has been a running project for many years that I add to gradually as time allows. I’ve recently finished writing a couple of papers and a chapter for a book and although I have a very interesting practice project in the pipeline, the curators are still finalising the funding so I can’t make a start on it just yet, hence I’m working on the latest doily. I’ve already finished the central area which includes the wording (f off in this case, which seems to me just the expression a doily would use when employed to look attractive, keep quiet and be used as a mat!). This part of the lace has been worked using Bedfordshire lace techniques, which I find give me the freedom to work lettering as well as a background of leaves and plaits. I’m making the wider edge of the doily using a tape lace technique which means I only need a few pairs to work the lace but I do have to make lots of joins into previous worked areas so there are pros and cons to the technique although on balance I think it’s quicker than Bedfordshire, for example, and the finished results are just as pleasing. It’s certainly good to be getting on with the project and I hope soon to have made enough doilies to exhibit and write about them.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Thinking through practice – Amy Atkin and The marriage bond


Much of my work involves practice-based research and this study of Amy Atkin, the first female Nottingham machine lace designer, combined written research and a series of lace table mats inspired by her lace designs. Amy’s lace designs are beautiful but she had to relinquish her career on marriage, which I thought seemed a great waste of talent. I made four lace table mats to include the words from the marriage ceremony ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’ to reference her loss of work following her marriage. The idea of using table mats came from the work of the second wave feminist Judy Chicago who used place settings to commemorate inspiring women in her famous installation ‘The Dinner party’. The lace in my table mats is only tacked in place to indicate the temporary nature of Amy’s career and show how quickly women’s livelihoods can be torn away from them. If you are interested in reading more I published a paper about the research in Textile: the journal of cloth and culture entitled ‘Neo-Victorianism, feminism and lace: Amy Atkin’s place at the dinner table’ which you can access at

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Winding lace bobbins clockwise and anticlockwise

Traditionally English lacemakers wind the thread on their bobbins in a clockwise direction and continental European lacemakers wind theirs in an anticlockwise direction – why the difference? According to Pat Earnshaw, in her book on Threads of lace, It is all linked to the S and Z twists on the threads they used. She notes that in the nineteenth century, continental lacemakers generally used a hand-spun Z twisted, S plyed linen thread, while English lacemakers had easier access to mechanically Z spun cotton threads. The twist of the thread is important in bobbin lacemaking as the cross and twist of the basic stitches itself introduces an S and Z twist, respectively, as the work progresses. Therefore each twist will partially unwind an S spun thread while each cross will restore its stability. Thus English lacemakers were attempting to counteract the effect of their Z spun thread by winding their bobbins in a clockwise direction. Pat also suggests that the ring of beads, or spangle, that is used as a weight on English East Midlands bobbins may also have been a response to counter the twisting of the thread on the bobbins.