Tuesday 24 October 2023

Miss Channer’s research into pricking lace grounds


Miss Catherine Channer was a lacemaker, teacher and researcher who was actively involved in the revival of the English East Midlands lace industry in the nineteenth century. As well as teaching lace, as part of the revival, she collected lace patterns and recorded information from older lacemakers with a view to preserving the history of the lace trade. Reading about her work recently I came across her ideas about the origins of some East Midlands laces. She considered that most of the designs had been brought to the area by lacemakers from Flanders and had since merely been altered and adapted by the local designers. She reports that when she asked some old designers in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire how they pricked the grounds (the patterns for the background net) of their patterns, they replied that they used the ‘cards’. She asked what these cards were and was shown some white cards pricked with holes in the correct placement for working point ground (the simplest net background also known as Lille ground); with different cards for different sized meshes. She asked where the cards had come from and was told “We’ve always had them”. She suggests that the cards had been brought from Flanders by the original lacemakers. Miss Channer was impressed by the accuracy of the cards and after analysing them discovered how to prick the ground on graph paper for the benefit of designers who did not have access to the cards. She explains how to do this in her 1928 book ‘Practical lacemaking’ and explains how to use the pricking for point and honeycomb grounds (both shown in the lace in the image above) as well as kat stitch. I think this shows not only that Miss Channer was a remarkable woman but also the importance of a researcher knowing the craft she is studying and therefore realising the importance of her discoveries.   

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