Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Commonwealth flowers in lace

I was intrigued to see that Megan Markle’s lovely wedding veil was edged with the floral emblems of the 53 Commonwealth countries. For my recent Battle of Britain panel I also use the floral emblems of some Commonwealth countries to represent the allied airforces involved in the battle (some are shown in the image above). My task was easier than that of the royal embroiderers as I only had a few to find, however, I do understand the process they must have gone through as trying to embroider plants you’ve never seen is not easy. I had to look on the internet for images of wattle (for Australia) and silver fern (for New Zealand), which is probably what the royal embroiderers had to do, and I guess that Harry Cross, the designer of the original Battle of Britain panel in the 1940s would have had to use an encylopaedia. Our styles of lace are also different, Harry Cross’s design was produced on a lace machine, while mine is handmade needlerun lace on net. I haven’t seen good close ups of the royal lace yet, but some of it seems to be applied to the net rather than worked into it – it may be a mixture of the two. Some of the images I’ve seen suggest that the flowers were embroidered on organza which was then cut out and appliqued on to the veil. It is certainly stunning and I hope to see some more images soon.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Lace designs in Nottingham

I’ve had a very exciting few days in Nottingham looking at the lace and designs in several archives. The lace in the image is a lovely piece of mixed Brussels lace I saw in the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University. The main focus of my visit though was to look at curtain lace designs. I saw so many interesting things but the highlights were a collection in the textile archive at Newstead Abbey from the Town family, which included three generations of curtain lace designers and some lovely designs for curtains and napery from the John Ivor Belton collection in the industrial archive at Nottingham Castle. Those two collections were quite a contrast because the Town one included lots of inspiration drawing and training pieces with some small and medium size designs whereas the Belton collection included some very large designs that covered the entire table. Both included letters and newspaper cuttings and images the designers had kept for inspiration. It’s so good to find that this material is being kept and archived. I’ll definitely be returning to do more research.    

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Fashions at the 1831 royal coronation

My 1831 edition of The Ladies Pocket Magazine contains a section about the coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide  - shown in the image in her coronation robes. It explains the details of the service, the order of precedence and the regalia but unfortunately does not go into great detail about the clothes and lace worn by the royal couple. However, a chapter entitled ‘Reminiscences of the coronation’, which is set out as a letter from Lady Julia F to her friend the Hon Maria is much more entertaining. She tells us her chaperone was her cross aunt, Lady Jane, and how they disagreed about most of the fashions, which her aunt found quite revealing, either because they were low cut or for their use of flimsy fabric. Julia describes the fashions in general as comprising a lot of tulle, crape, and gauze, mainly in white and light colours. There seems to be a fair amount of lace on show, mainly blond, which her aunt seemed to disapprove of, preferring point lace. Julia describes her own dress as ‘white gauze de Paris, which offers a perfect imitation of blonde lace over a white gros de Naples slip’. She continues ‘A low corsage, trimmed with a double fall of blond lace, set on very full, comparatively narrow at the back and front, but forming very deep epaulettes’. It seems blond lace was more fashionable than the point lace preferred by Lady Jane. Julia is quite forthright about some of the fashions she sees, describing some of the noble ladies as beautifully dressed but others as vulgar with mismatched clothes. Unfortunately she does not describe the queen’s attire only saying ‘Everyone agreed that the queen never looked so well’. The service was clearly quite lengthy and Julia reports that many of the ladies produced biscuits or sandwiches from their reticules and one even produced a small silver goblet and bottle of Madeira wine. Inevitably Lady Jane considered eating in church vulgar and would not partake, as for sharing wine from the silver cup ‘ she shrank from it as if it had been a poisoned chalice’.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Needle lace sample

This beautiful little piece of needle lace epitomises what I love about lace – with just a needle and thread, and obviously a lot of skill, you can make the most exquisite lace. The whole thing is handmade using mainly buttonhole stitches looped through the row above. There is very little shading or use of filling stitches but the fineness of the design and the outlining with the thicker cordonette gives it some depth. In fact I think the worker has used a cordonette composed of a bundle of the threads she used to make the main lace rather than using a thicker thread. The stitches in the more open ground work are a little haphazard but I quite like that evidence that the work is handmade. There is also a bit of variation in the motifs at the dip of each arch with some having more ground stitches than others. It’s a lovely piece of lace and I bought it for next to nothing in a bundle with some other lace samples!

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Painted lace curtains

I was recently given an interesting lace curtain (thank you Gail!) - the image shows a detail of the main motif. It has been coloured not by using differently dyed threads within the lace, but by printing colour on to it after it was made. This was probably a quicker way to add colour than rethreading the lace machine with different coloured threads, which would also have had to be wound on to bobbins and disguised within the body of the lace net in areas where they weren't needed. A similar technique of printing on to lace is used in the famous Magga Dan lace panel made by Stiebels of Nottingham, which celebrates the ship’s history of Antarctic exploration and includes ice floes, explorers and penguins in its design. The lace curtain in the picture also shows an interesting use of floss thread to form the crests of the waves and the main design of the setting sun. The lines of floss representing the rays of the sun would also have caught the light when hung at a window and, especially with the yellow colouring on them, would have given a warm depth to the design.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Mother and babe lace bobbins

I’ve got four mother and babe style bobbins on my lace pillow at the moment. Christine and David Springett in their book ‘Success to the lace pillow’ define mother and babe bobbins as ‘miniature bobbin or bobbins enclosed in a pierced shank’. Three of the bobbins in the image would definitely fit that classification. They would probably describe the wooden bobbin as a lantern as it encloses small beads in a pierced shank. However it is also a whittled bobbin, which they describe separately, and the bobbin and beads were probably carved from a single piece of wood. T L Huetson in his book ‘Lace and bobbins’ describes all bobbins with pierced shanks as church window bobbins whether they contain a smaller baby bobbin, beads or nothing at all. The Springetts use the term church window only for bobbins with empty pierced shanks. I think the Springetts have done an enormous amount of research into bobbins and their makers and I find their use of the different terms helpful in describing bobbins more precisely so I think I’ll stick with their terminology.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Instructions for tambour lace

I’ve been looking at some of the net-based embroidered and needle-run laces as I found the technique quite successful in my Battle of Britain lace panels. This week I’ve been reading Irish lace making by Eileen C O’Connor (the image comes from the booklet), as these types of lace are particularly associated with Ireland and, in fact, are now most commonly known as Limerick and Carrickmacross lace. I was very surprised to read her instructions for tambour lace which say that the working net should be tacked onto the design marked on linen paper. If you have ever done any tambour lace you will realise that the tambour hook passes through the net and picks up the thread that makes the chain stitch from below the net, therefore you can’t do it with something tacked on to the net! Further reading discloses that the designs ‘are intended to be worked with a needle and thread’. That makes sense as far as the working is concerned – you are making chain stitches with a needle and thread through the net, above the pattern, which is removed when the lace is finished. However, can it be described as tambour lace? I had always thought the definition of tambour lace was that it was made with a tambour hook. Perhaps that’s wrong, and it just describes lace patterns on net utilising chain stitch, after all if the result is the same does the technique matter?