Wednesday 28 February 2024


Prickings are the patterns of dotted holes that lacemakers follow to make bobbin lace. Technically the pricking shown in the image is only half complete as I am pricking the holes for the pins as I work the lace. Traditionally, the pattern would have been pricked in its entirety before the actual lacemaking began. Most prickings were made from an existing pricking or a copy of the pricking. Copies were made by placing a piece of thin paper over the reverse side of the pricking then rubbing over it with something like heel ball to leave an impression of the dotted pattern on the paper; in the same way as brass rubbings are produced. The reverse of the pricking was used because pushing pins through card or vellum leaves the top feeling smooth but causes a rough surface on the underside where the pins have displaced the card.

Copies were made by placing the original pricking (or the rubbing) over a new piece of card on a cork base, then pushing a pin through the existing holes of the pattern or the marks on the copy to produce a new pricking underneath the original. This was done using a pin permanently fixed into a holder, like a bobbin shaft, or using a pin vice (shown here) which holds the pin firmly in place. Using a pin on its own would be extremely fiddly and probably hurt your fingers as pricking lace patterns requires firm, precise, pressure. This image also shows how a pricking for a length of lace can be cut so the two pieces interlock and a continuous length of lace can therefore be made by alternating them.

Sadly the phrase “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes” has nothing to do with lace prickings. It is said by one of the witches in Macbeth and is used to describe an ominous premonition, so it’s a creepy feeling rather than an overuse of lacemaking equipment!

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Bungalow lace curtains


I discovered these ‘bungalow’ lace curtains in a Lace furnishings catalogue for 1933-34. What unique features they have that makes them suitable for bungalow windows I do not know, but the period between the two world wars was a peak time for bungalow construction in the UK, which would correspond with the publication of this catalogue, so perhaps the manufacturers were just trying to tap into a new market.

There are six designs and they are all floral, with side borders that tend to take up about a quarter of the curtain each, and a bottom border of the same width. They range in size from 35 inches wide to 40 inches and are all 2.5 yards long and are sold as a pair. However, four of them are also available as fabric bought by the yard, presumably so the homeowner could make up curtains to their own specifications. The other designs in the catalogue seem very similar but they tend to be wider and longer than the bungalow curtains. Unfortunately no prices are given for any of the curtains.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Miss Channer’s lace mat


Catherine Channer was actively involved in the revival of the East Midlands handmade lace industry in Britain in the early twentieth century. She was a lacemaker, teacher and researcher and I’ve written about some of her work in this blog before. Today I’m looking at Miss Channer’s mat which she designed in the early 1920s using the technique for pricking the ground that she had developed following research into old lace patterns and their origins (see this blog of 24 October 2023). An image of the mat was published in her book Practical lacemaking published in 1928 which was one of the few textbooks for students and gave instructions and patterns for Bucks point lace. 

The mat in the book had been worked by Mrs Dixon of Clapham, Bedfordshire in about 1926 and is now in the collection of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in Bedford. The mat became famous as a challenge for skilled lacemakers in 1991 when Ruth Bean published Anne Buck’s book about Miss Channer entitled In the cause of English lace. A supplement was published at the same time comprising an image of the mat and a full sized pricking of it, which had been adapted by Patricia Bury from an earlier version in her collection. Since then many lacemakers have worked it and their handiwork can be seen by searching for ‘Miss Channers mat’ on the internet. No instructions were given for the original mat or for the version published in 1991 so it is also interesting to see how it has been worked by different lacemakers and the varying number of pairs of bobbins they used to complete it. I have never made Miss Channer’s mat but I do admire the skill and patience of those who have.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Admiral Nelson inscribed lace bobbin

This lace bobbin is inscribed 'Nelson' in a spiral reading from the base to the top and is a patriotic inscription celebrating the famous admiral. Nelson was born in 1758 and died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He commanded the British fleet against the French during the Napoleonic wars and after winning several victories, including the Battle of Trafalgar, he was shot by a French sniper and died on his flagship HMS Victory. His body was returned to England and he was given a state funeral and buried in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Several years later it was suggested that a memorial to him, funded by public subscription, should be erected in Trafalgar Square in central London. The competition for the monument was won by Willian Railton and work on his column and the statue of Nelson (made by E H Baily) began in 1840. The column was completed and the statue raised on to it in 1843.

I think this lace bobbin was made by James Compton because the style of lettering is unmistakably his and the dark red and blue colours are also typical of his work. I assumed that the bobbin had been made to commemorate the death of Nelson, but James Compton lived from 1824 to 1889 so he could not have been making bobbins in 1805. Having done some research into the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square and the competition to produce a memorial to Nelson I now think that the bobbin was probably made during the early 1840s when Nelson’s column was installed. This would have been of national interest and there would have been images of it in newspapers and magazines. Also, at that time, James Compton would have been in his late teens and well established, helping his father as a bobbin maker.