Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Lace archive research

Having spent the last few weeks finishing off my Battle of Britain panels I’m having a change and spending next week doing some archive research. I’m going to Nottingham to study some of the archives relating to lace curtain manufacture held at the University of Nottingham and also hoping to spend some time in the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University looking at samples of lace curtain patterns and design. I’ve been searching online to see what the various archives hold but it’s difficult to know exactly what to order- some things seem promising but turn out not to be useful, while others turn out to be hidden gems. I’ve ordered a selection of material and hope it will be useful, or at least lead me on to things that are! I’m also going to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture in London to see some of their net curtain designs as well, so it will be a busy week. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Flowers and leaves in lace

Last year, when I was designing my response to the Battle of Britain lace panel, I made a study of all the different leaves and flowers Harry Cross had used in his original panel. However, whereas Harry Cross had used them in borders to separate the images of the bombed areas of London and as adjuncts to the various air force badges, I decided to include them in my central panel. After much thought, I decided that the central panel would have a sweep of flowers and leaves going upwards, which would be contrasted with lines of aircraft sweeping downwards, above the image of St Pauls Cathedral. I started my upward sweep with the protea of South Africa, followed by acorns and wheat ears. I had originally thought the wheat ears looked like barley but on doing some research discovered that there are various types of wheat, including one with long whiskers! After them came the thistle for Scotland, shamrock leaves for Ireland, maple leaves for Canada, the rose for England, and daffodils for Wales. After the daffodils, the line of plants diverges to give the silver fern of New Zealand on one side and the wattle of Australia on the other. Just above the wattle is my addition to the panel – two poppies, which were not on the original but which I have added for remembrance.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Love and romance lace bobbins

Many lace bobbins have a story to tell and these five are all concerned with love and romance. You can envisage a young man giving his girlfriend a bobbin inscribed ‘Love give me a kiss’ or even ‘Kiss me quick my lovely darling’. But you wonder what has upset the romance when you see ‘Love don’t be falces [false}’ inscribed on a bobbin. And ‘Wright [write] my altard [altered] true love’ brings to mind images of a lacemaker working at her pillow and expecting a letter from her boyfriend in the army or navy, which never comes. Let’s hope she eventually received a love letter from her absent true love. And what about the lacemaker who declares ‘I wants a husband’ – let’s hope she wasn’t disappointed when she found one!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Lace net embroidery

I’ve been looking through my Weldons encyclopaedia of needlework at the section on embroidering on net to produce lace. It gives some lovely filling stitches and a great variety of them. One of the other things I like about this book is that it also gives examples of antique lace for all the techniques. I realise that during my recent foray into net embroidery for my Battle of Britain lace panel I have broken most of the rules! For example it says that you should use only the best quality net and the way to measure that is by inserting a stiletto (like the ones used for broderie anglaise) through a mesh, if it stretches without breaking it’s a good quality. I deliberately chose a net that didn’t stretch at all and was as rigid as possible. However, I did use a blunt needle and a long thread for working as recommended. Luckily I didn’t tear my net, or cut through it while I was using a Carrickmacross technique, but had I done so, Weldons has step by step instructions for repairing a hole in net, which looks very effective and the result blends in beautifully with the surrounding net – I suspect that kind of result takes years to perfect though! 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Commemorating the Battle of Britain lacemakers

As part of my response to the Battle of Britain commemorative lace panel I wanted to remember the people who made the lace as well as the aircrew and civilians involved in the battle. To do that I decided to include representations of their tools in the panel, in the sections separating the images of the bombed buildings. I took photographs of the equipment used in machine lace making and decided that I would represent the draught pattern, the jacquard cards, the bobbins and their holders. The draught pattern is used to transfer the original design into a grid form and to distinguish the threads used for the pattern and for shading. It is a skilled job, as the success of the design rests on how well it is converted to the grid. Harry Cross the designer of the panel obviously recognised that skill as he acknowledges the two draughtsmen, J W Herod and W R Jackson, in the panel. The next step after draughting is punching the jacquard cards from the draught. These are sewn together in a long line and as they run through the machine they control the stitches being made. Also essential to the process is the smooth running of the thread from the bobbins so I decided to include the bobbins and their holders as well. I’ve made textile representations of these four tools and used them to form the patterns between the main images to remember all those people who made the production of the lace panels possible. Unfortunately I can't seem to add new images to my blog atm so I've had to use a picture I've used before of the bobbin and holder.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Bayeux tapestry

The original Bayeux tapestry is displayed in Normandy but I discovered in 2012 that Reading Museum has its own copy, embroidered in1886 by 35 members of the Leek Embroidery Society. It tells the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and like all history is written from the perspective of the victors, so William’s right to the throne is emphasised and much is made of the oaths of fealty William forced Harold to swear. It is over 70 m long and about 40 cm deep and is displayed in a purpose built gallery so you can walk round and see all of it. The original is thought to have been embroidered in Kent but the names of the embroiderers are not recorded. In contrast, along the lower edge of each panel of the 1886 copy the name of the worker is embroidered. This is the only indication that the panels have been worked by different embroiderers as the work is an exact copy of the original, apart from one naked man who has been given a pair of shorts in the Victorian copy. The tapestry is beautifully displayed and well worth a visit. The Museum website about the tapestry also provides images of the entire work and lots of extra facts.

In 2013 I discovered that embroiderers in Alderney had completed three new scenes to complete the story of the Bayeux tapestry. The famous tapestry (in fact it is embroidered) ends in frayed threads and several embroiderers over the years have designed and worked panels to complete the story. The three new Alderney panels show William dining on the battle field, accepting the surrender of the English noblemen, and his coronation at Westminster Abbey. Previous endings to the tapestry have been made by Jan Messent, Annette Banks, and Jack Thomas. Jan Messent also published a beautifully illustrated book (The Bayeux tapestry embroiderers’ story) describing her research into the project and her new panels.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Silk paper and presentations

Another busy week working on my Battle of Britain lace panel. I’ve made some silk paper, which I’m using to represent the smoke and flames around the image of St Paul’s Cathedral. I always find making silk paper very relaxing. Assembling all the equipment and finding a spray dispenser that works can be frustrating, but I love the feel of the soft silk as you pull it from the skein and place it on the surface. It also has to be made in a calm mood as sudden movements are liable to displace everything, causing the cushion of silk fibres to blow away in a tangle. I also like the unpredictability of it. It isn’t an exact science and the final results are always a combination of how the fibres and medium are interacting on that day. The piece I made this week is still drying so I won’t know the final outcome until it dries completely and I can remove the outer holding layers of net.

As well as the silk paper, I’ve also been finalising a talk I’m giving at Bentley Priory next week about the old panel and my new ones. Putting that together has been very interesting as I’ve had to think through all the steps I’ve been through and the reasoning behind each decision in order to make a coherent presentation. I’ve also had to choose images to accompany the words and take more photos to fill the gaps where I don’t have an image of what I’m talking about. It has been very helpful to get everything sorted into a proper account and I’m sure it will be useful for talks later in the year as well.