Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Victorian lace from the Great exhibition

Another lovely lace design from the Art Journal Illustrated catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851. This white lace scarf imitating Brussels point was exhibited by Mr Urling of London, an ‘extensive manufacturer of lace’. Although the term manufacturer implies to us that Mr Urling produced the lace, this term was used in the lace trade to indicate someone who acted as the middleman for all the processes required between the lace machine operator and the person who bought the finished textile – I learnt this from Sheila Mason’s book on Nottingham lace. The catalogue describes the scarf by saying: ‘the date 1851 is encircled by the rose, thistle and shamrock. The straight lines of the border are embroidered in gold, and worked upon a clear fine net, for which Mr Urling long ago obtained a patent. The design for this scarf was, we believe, made expressly for the manufacturer by Miss Gann, a clever pupil of the Government School of Design.’ It is nice to see the designer acknowledged, and interesting to discover that the design was made for Mr Urling, which suggests that he was involved in the lace process from the beginning.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Fashionable lace bonnets from 1831

These very fancy bonnets decorated with lace are illustrated in my copy of The ladies pocket magazine of 1831. The one on the left is described as the front view of a half dress cap, composed of blonde lace embellished with twisted rouleaux of gauze ribbon. The view on the right shows the back view of a morning cap. This is described as being composed of English lace with a twisted band of gauze ribbon encircling the caul. Unfortunately the lace is not drawn very accurately and the design seems similar for both bonnets. It looks quite wide though and the caul of the morning cap seems to be made up of two gathered pieces of lace with the scalloped edges running down the centre of the head. The fashion correspondent for the magazine also informs us that ‘Headdresses of blond lace, forming a front in the cap style, but without any caul, and trimmed with light sprigs of flowers, are more in request for dinners of ceremony’. It’s nice to see lace being used for day and evening millinery.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Free bobbin lace

Preparing a talk about my lace I’ve been looking back at some of the work I made when I started designing and making bobbin lace in a free style. The photo shows a detail from a necklace inspired by looking at flints in a museum. I drew and painted some of the flints to explore their shapes and the myriad colours they contain and decided to make some necklaces based on those images. For this one I first made a rough necklace shape using triangles of fabric in the colours of the flints, trying to bring out the different golds, browns and blues of the originals. I glued the shapes together and then worked bobbin lace over the top of them, using the edge of the fabric as my footside, and sewing in by piercing the fabric with a crochet hook, pulling through one thread of the worker pair and looping the other through it. I tried to keep the lace open so glimpses of the fabric could be seen behind it and worked round the necklace making triangular shapes with the lace. It’s interesting to see how something as sharp and angular as flint can be used to inspire bobbin lace.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Lace at the Great Exhibition 1851

I was delighted recently to buy a copy of The Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition showing beautiful engravings of many of the items exhibited including some of the lace. The image here shows the border of a Brussels lace veil exhibited by M Delehaye and notes that the company also exhibited gracefully designed lace handkerchiefs, although sadly none are depicted in the catalogue. The caption to the lace says ‘Brussels lace, that magnet of attraction to ladies, is contributed in great abundance and beauty, by many famed manufacturers of the Belgian capital’ so a visitor to the exhibition would clearly have seen many more beautiful examples of lace. What has struck me is how clearly the engravings depict the details of each item in the catalogue, whether they are textiles, metals, ceramics, glass, furniture or machinery. It must have been a mammoth task to draw and engrave so many items in such detail, yet as far as I can see there is no acknowledgement of any of the people involved in the production of the catalogue, in the same way as the craftsmen who produced all the beautiful exhibits remain nameless.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Photographs for Battle of Britain lace commission

I spent a very useful day in London visiting all the places depicted on the Battle of Britain lace panel and taking contemporary photographs of the sites. It’s interesting to see how some places have been restored completely and look no different such as Buckingham Palace and the Guildhall, while others like the City Temple have been changed quite radically, and some such as the buildings in Queen Victoria Street have been swept away and replaced by a modern building. London has changed a lot since 1940 and several of the original views are now obscured by modern buildings and trees, however the aim was to photograph them as they are today which is what we achieved. The last venue on our itinerary was Buckingham Palace so I also visited The Queen’s Gallery, and saw the exhibition of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice and some of Rome. Both cities have changed little over the years so it proved to be an interesting contrast with London.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Lace in fashion in 1831

I was delighted to buy a lovely little book recently called ‘The Ladies Pocket Magazine’ printed in 1831. It includes all sorts of snippets of information, poems, stories and tips on etiquette, but what attracted me to it in the first place were the hand painted engravings of fashions. The two illustrated here are a dinner dress and a walking dress. The accompanying text describes the dinner dress as ‘a dress of gold coloured gaze popeline over white satin, the corsage cut rather high, and made with a little fullness is finished by a falling tucker of blond lace’. The skirt is also decorated with ‘very narrow blond lace’. The walking dress is described as a ‘gros de Naples dress’ and the colour as ‘a new shade of Chinese green’. The lace in this one isn’t specified it just says ‘lace collarette and gauze scarf’. The author then describes the latest new fashions (presumably from London). This is followed by a section on Parisian fashions in which two specific outfits are described (a dinner dress and an opera dress) although sadly there are no illustrations of these two especially as the dinner ensemble includes a blond lace cap. Although the information is scanty, my little book is providing a fascinating insight into the fashions and concerns of 1831.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Belladonna lace

The Belladonna lace is underway! See the blog of 10 May for the creation of the design and the thinking behind it. I decided to go with a simple pattern of a leaf and two berries either side, which is quick to work and doesn’t require any adding or removing of pairs as I work. I will have to make quite a length of it to go round the edge of a veil so I do want something quick and relatively easy to work. I’m making it in black because it’s supposed to be a mourning veil. However, because black thread always seems to fill the space more fully than white I’m trying to keep the design fairly open. I’m working the small berries in whole stitch and the leaf shape in half stitch. I decided to add a pair of gold threads on both the upper and lower edge to give it a touch of glamour and to suggest that the mourning may not be entirely sincere! I now need to determine how long the piece needs to be and to time myself working a repeat so I can see how long it will take me to complete the whole thing.