Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Needle lace

I’m now well into my project producing a response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel – I’ve finished all the designing and have been to all the sites in the original panel to take new images. I started work on some of the ancillary pieces doing some canvas work for the ‘drafts’ and working on shapes for some of the pieces I’m going to apply, but hadn’t started the needle lace on the main panel until a couple of weeks ago. I think I was unsure whether my technique would work and worried about ruining the net background, so I was nervous to start it. Well I needn’t have worried! The net is quite firm and shows no signs of fraying at the edges, also because it is so firm I haven’t had to work on a frame. This has made working much easier because I have just laid the net over the pattern and can see the whole design rather than just a section of it. It also means I have to move round the table to work it which is better than just sitting in one place. I’m also pleased with the ‘drawing with thread’ approach I’m using, which allows me to transfer my design directly to the net using needle and thread. At the moment I’m outlining the entire design and I’ll add shading in a lighter weight thread afterwards. It’s always a relief when something you’ve been working on for ages suddenly seems to come together!  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Machine lace equipment

In my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel I’ve decided to include simple images of some lace machine equipment to represent those who made the lace and the machines they used. I’ll be including images of the bobbins and carriages shown in the picture as well as representations of jacquard cards and drafts. The bobbins and their holders will probably be made of fabric and applied in a Carrickmacross technique but the cards and drafts will be separate applied pieces. I’ve made a start on the ‘drafts’ using stitching on canvas to give me the appearance of a design using rectangle shapes but I’m still deciding how to represent the rows of holes on the jacquard cards.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Battle of Britain central lace panel

A busy week doing more on my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel. I was going to work the central needlerun lace panel on an embroidery frame, but I’ve started by running in some of the main outlines on the flat, on a large table, and that seems to be working well, so I may not use the frame after all. At the moment I have the pattern and the net clipped together at the top but not the bottom so I can roll up the net to see the pattern more clearly if I need to. The ribbon is just to stop the clip snagging the net. I drew the design using pencil and was going to redraw it on to fresh tracing paper with a waterproof pen, but I’ve found that just adding another layer of tracing paper over the top still allows me to see the design, so that has saved me a job. I was also unsure whether the net I’m using would fray at the edges as I worked but it seems to be keeping its shape and keeping it flat rather than winding it on to a frame will probably help that too. So far so good!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Inscribed lace bobbins

In my collection of lace bobbins I have a group of four named Jane Holmes, Ellen Holmes, Thomas Holmes and Eli Holmes. I assume they were all from the same family and I bought them as a group many years ago. Reading Christine and David Springett’s book leads me to think that they were made by Bobbin Brown of Cranfield in the mid nineteenth century. They distinguish his work by the neat lettering in red, the dome like shape of the bobbin’s head, and the red and black stripes and spots on the length of the bobbin. The sharp eyed among you will have noticed that there are five bobbins in the picture! That is because years later I found another bobbin with the name Eli Holmes on it. I don’t know if this is the same person as in my original group but I like to think it is. Also I’m not sure who made this one –the head looks like one of Bobbin Brown bobbins, but the shape of the bobbin and the tail look different and the lettering particularly the H and M look different as they have serifs unlike the lettering on the other four. Anyway I was delighted to find this additional bobbin and I do use them all so they are still in use after all this time.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Battle of Britain response lace design

I’ve been busy this week working on my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel. I’ve decided to make three thin panels rather than one large one, as in the original, for two main reasons. It will make mine different from the original, after all I’m not trying to make a replica I’m producing a new response to it, and it will make it much easier to work. It also allows some flexibility in hanging as the panels can then be displayed next to each other or apart. I’m incorporating digitally printed images of the bomb scenes in the original, showing how they appear today, and all those pictures have now been taken and digitally amended except for one which I’ve planned to do next week. I’ve now finalised the design and bought all the materials and have started working on the net. The design is mainly needle run lace but will also include some Carrickmacross techniques as well as some silk paper and some counted thread work. I’m now drawing up a schedule for those inclusions as they can be made and worked on away from the frame I’m using for the main net. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

‘Unconventional’ lace

Coming across this machine embroidered lace recently set me thinking how many types of ‘unconventional’ lace there are. Most people when they think of lace don’t really consider how it’s made, they just like its appearance. Giving talks about lace I find that most people have heard about bobbin lace but far fewer know about needle lace. Many have come across knitted or crocheted lace through domestic lace they’ve seen at home, such as doilies, tablecloths, bedspreads and shawls, made by their mother or grandmother. Also many people have heard of tatting but don’t actually know what it is, and often mistake bobbin lace for tatting. The lace that most people probably come across every day is machine lace in contemporary clothing, curtains, and napery. Again this can be made in a variety of ways, each giving a different style of lace, just think of the Raschels, Barmen, Leavers and curtain lace machines, as well as embroidery techniques like the Schiffli or Cornely machines, and woven laces like Madras. I think my initial reaction to the embroidered lace was that of a lacemaker trying to classify it – but I realise that the beauty of the lace is what really counts rather than the technique used!  

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Draughting the Battle of Britain lace panel

Now I’ve had the chance to study the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel, as well as the paintings the designer made from the original tracings, I’m impressed by the way the design was simplified for the lace panel. Harry Cross, the designer of the lace, would have produced his design and then handed it over to the draughtsmen who interpreted it into the instructions for the lace machine. Designers and draughtsmen always worked closely together as the success of a design depended on their mutual understanding of the effect the designer was trying to attain and what could be achieved using the lace machine. This mutual regard is expressed in the panel as Harry Cross includes his own name, as the designer, at the top of the panel, as well as the names of the two draughtsmen, J W Herod and W R Jackson. Mr Herod began the draughting of the panel but sadly died before it was completed so Mr Jackson took over the task. I was particularly interested in the way the New Zealand silver fern, pictured above was interpreted for the panel. The original design (based on the painting by Harry Cross) is quite intricate and subtly shaded and includes many overlapping leaves, which I thought would be difficult to transfer into lace, but even though the draughtsmen have simplified the shapes they have still managed to retain the outline and delicacy of the plant, which is a great testament to their skill.