Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Needlerun lace

I’ve been doing quite a lot of needlerun lace recently for my Battle of Britain panel so was interested to find this example in the UCA Textile archive. It’s a collar worked by hand on a diamond-shaped machine-made net and while I’ve just been using outlining stitches this includes blocks of shaded areas as well. Embroidering on net was the first type of ‘mechanised’ lace and in the early nineteenth century numerous lace runners were employed in Nottingham to embroider the net produced on machines designed by John Heathcoat and John Leavers. Although lace machines were then developed that could produce patterned lace, the technique of needle run lace continued to flourish, particularly in Ireland. It had been introduced to the country by Charles Walker who took 24 skilled English women to Limerick in 1829 and set up production there using machine net imported from Nottingham. They trained local women to make needlerun and tambour lace and the technique soon spread to other towns although it is always referred to as Limerick lace. The reason I’ve been using the technique is that it is fairly quick and covers a large area quite easily – bobbin or needle lace would take considerably more time because you’re making the net as well as the patterns. Also, in my case, I wanted a technique that referenced the origins of the original Battle of Britain lace as a net curtain panel and working on machine net gives that link to machine-made net.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Lace fashion reports 1930

I recently spent a day in the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University doing some research and came across a folio of lace fashions from the 1930s. It contains reports of the Paris fashion shows written for the lace manufacturers in Nottingham showing the latest trends. It is all quite detailed and as well as the report, which includes some sketches, the correspondent has sent samples of the lace and photographs of it with detailed measurements. There were also photos of ladies wearing lace fashions at the races. This type of information was obviously useful to the manufacturers in designing lace and finding out what the trends for the coming year would be. In fact the report is marked ‘Confidential’ so it was obviously highly sensitive information.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Exhibition dates for my Battle of Britain lace project

I’m delighted to have finalised the dates for my Battle of Britain lace project. It will be exhibited in three venues but I think will look quite different in each. It will first be shown at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham as part of the ‘Lace unravelled’ symposium being organised there from 15 to 18 March. The space there is a large room at the top of the building with amazing views over the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to hang anything in the room though, so my three panels and a facsimile of the original Battle of Britain panel will be placed on long tables that can be walked round. That also means that the installation part of the project – stylised paper parachutes representing the airmen killed in the Battle of Britain - cannot be hung either so that aspect of the work will be absent from Wollaton.

The next venue is Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire where it will be exhibited from 7 July to 4 November 2018. Gawthorpe is a beautiful old house well known for its textile collection. The Gawthorpe Hall collection also includes one of the original Battle of Britain commemorative lace panels and it will be on display at the same time as my new work. The parachute installation will also be displayed with the new panels. This aspect of the work is very important in this setting because there is a strong family connection to the Battle of Britain - Richard the 2nd Lord Shuttleworth served in Fighter Command and died in the Battle.

The third venue is Bentley Priory in London, which was the headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. The exhibition there will be open from 17 November 2018 to 30 March 2019. The exhibition room is circular and my panels will hang on the wall with the parachutes hanging from the ceiling in a huge circle radiating from the central pillar. The parachute shapes are being made at Bentley Priory as part of their family and school learning activities. Bentley Priory also received one of the original Battle of Britain lace panels and has it on permanent display so that can be seen as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the panels and the parachute installation come together to highlight aspects of the original panel at each venue.  

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Muslin dress from the Great Exhibition

This beautifully embroidered muslin dress was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 by Messrs Brown, Sharps & Co of Paisley. The accompanying text notes that ‘These manufacturers have long been famous: having obtained eminence not only for the excellence of their work but for the purity and beauty of their designs’. It continues by explaining that they use artists to produce the designs who are not ‘merely Provincial’ and apologises for the inadequacy of the engraving in not conveying the full beauty of the needlework. The actual embroidery in this sample is 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. It must have been a lovely piece. However, it does not receive much praise in a later essay in the same volume discussing ‘The exhibition as a lesson in taste’ by Ralph Nicolson Wornum (for which he won a prize of 100 guineas). He notes that although there is a ‘rich dress exhibited by Brown Sharps & Co’, in general, regarding the level of design in lace and embroidered muslin, the exhibition ‘contains very little that is good’. I think he was being a little harsh!

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!