Every year our group of lace makers books a weekend with a visiting tutor, Kitty, in the turquoise sweater - right - who makes the most exquisite lace herself and also experiments with other materials besides thread, for example, wire, plastic bags, and string! We were sticking to thread for our masterpieces though, as you will see in the next lot of photos.
There were more than a dozen of us, including invited guests from the Edinburgh Lace Club, and a lady from Teesdale in the north of England, all doing our preferred type of lace – Torchon – below right,
The last three are types of lace from Belgium which is a country famous for its lace, while the first two are generally made in Britain, but originating from Europe and brought to this country by French Protestants – Huguenots - fleeing from religious persecution in Roman Catholic continental Europe in the 16th century. Flanders lace and Binche look pretty complicated to me, but the patterns are beautiful. Pat and Yvonne were working on these, Pat was making edgings for handkerchiefs, and had patterns for each of her grand-daughters, all equally gorgeous. The patterns are known as ‘prickings’ because before any work begins the pinholes must be pricked through the card with a sharp needle-like point The markings are a guide to the pattern to be worked. The one on the right is the one above left.
Then the pricking is fastened to the lace ‘pillow’ – a hard cushion-like board that will hold the pins securely during the work. The bobbins hold the threads as you can see above right – these are European continental bobbins - and by flicking the bobbins left and right in a particular order form stitches that are held in place by the pins. Quite often, the finer the work, the closer the pins so they appear like little forests generally hiding the recent work from view. As work progresses you can remove pins from further back, and you hope that by removing them you are not going to reveal a glaring mistake. Oh I’ve done that before, by which time it’s too late to go back and fix it.
The bobbins Marjorie – right – and Edith – above, near the top of the page - are using are Midland (of England) bobbins. The difference from continental bobbins is that the English bobbins (used also in Scotland) are thin with a ring of beads at the bottom, while the shanks of continental bobbins end in a bulb shape. The reason for the difference is that in Britain the threads are more highly twisted than in Europe, so need something to stop the twist from unravelling, hence the beads. They also give a bit of weight to the bobbin to help with tension.
Yvonne and Ann are using the continental bobbins. Sometimes it gets quite hard to see where you are going when the pins are so close together so you often find a magnifying glass handy. Ann wears hers!
Catherine is also working on a piece of continental lace, and on her working diagram she is pointing out where she made a mistake! She says that undoing her lace is what she does best! Don’t believe it! Actually Catherine was a reluctant lacemaker when she first came for lessons. She liked and collected the bobbins – Midland type in the beginning – but eventually decided she ought to learn how to use them, and I have to say that she, out of the whole Peeblesshire group, has been the most adventurous, trying out different types of laces and going off on courses to Bruges and other areas to learn more!
Edith and Mairi are fairly new to lacemaking and as they were working on the same piece they helped each other interpret the pricking, and learn how to make the stitch patterns! This is Mairi’s, a square worked quarter by quarter, in four triangle shapes. I think she has done very well.
I have to show you this picture with the mountain of bobbins fastened into their wooden holders. Morag – not my pal Morag from Peebles – actually revealed the piece she has been working on for a year or more, here hidden under cover cloths (to keep it clean), and with only a tightly packed host of pins visible hiding her most recent work. It was an edging, about 3 inches/8cm wide, a piece of lace that will be sewn onto a piece of fine cotton or linen in due course, and was the most exquisite pattern of a peacock with tail feathers trailing behind shaped like tear drops, and various stitch patterns and embellishments around it. Each side of her edging will have two peacocks facing each other, so several years to go till it is finished, We all duly admired her work, quite full of awe really, but I was not permitted to take a photograph of it! Was I disappointed! Take my word for it I have never seen a more beautiful piece of lace, and hope that some day she will relent and allow a photo – though I will have to go along to the Edinburgh Lace Club to take it! Maybe my sister will do it for me! She’s a member up there!
As for my own lace, I was just beginning a motif in floral Buckinghamshire Point lace, one that I began before but found my thread was too fine. So with a less fine thread I began again. It will need 130 bobbins or thereabouts, and I didn’t get too far with it in the two days. I took the photo once I got the first few pins in because I liked the composition rather than the work itself! Progression was very slow over the weekend, but I was quite happy with what I had done. I forgot to take an ‘end of weekend’ picture! When I go to Knoydart in April I will take another one or two. Hopefully by then all the pin holes in this picture, and more besides, will have pins in them supporting the threads!
Everyone enjoyed the weekend which passed very quickly – too quickly – but we have already booked Kitty to come back next year. In the meantime we are left to our own devices! Hmmm!
Talk again soon.