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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Is Lacemaking a Lost Art?

 

Is lacemaking by hand a lost art? This weekend, a friend of mine gave me a book titled A Manual of Lace, published in 1947 by Cassell & Company. As I was turning the pages in awe, I realized that they just don’t make it like they used to! But is this the case? So I looked up some lacemaking resources…

It seems that “real” lacemaking (as found in this book) is pretty rare, although a few types of lace still enjoy popularity, and some, it seems, are making a come-back.

My first venture into lace-making was a short bout with bobbin lace. Visiting one of the Smithsonians in DC one summer, I was lucky to arrive at the textile section of the museum as a demonstration of bobbin-lace was going on. The smooth and easy motion of the bobbins being twisted and carried from one side of the pillow stand to another, back and forth, twisted, lifted, moved…. oh, yes. It was mesmerizing, and I was hooked! I bought the supplies and settled in to learn the art. Um… well. What can I say? It’s about the only handwork that I am certain cannot be learned from a book – for me, anyway!

Needle-run lace, such as Carrickmacross and Limerick lace, caught my attention about two years ago. This led me to tambour lace, so I invested in a tambour needle and some tulle to give that a try. It was a bit more difficult than I expected, but once I got the hang of the needle, it worked up quickly. A tambour needle is basically like a tiny latch-hook needle, without the latch. The technique works almost the same way that a sewing machine works, it seems, as the needle goes down into the tulle and catches the thread below, pulling it to the front of the fabric to create a chain-stitched line.

The author of my new old book, Jeanette E. Pethebridge, insists that “lace-making is a handicraft that can be practised by anyone who possesses aptitude with the needle.” Considering that many forms of lace are embroidery on a ground fabric (such as tulle), I agree. With needle-run lace, I found something I could relate to, though I felt like a fink for dropping the bobbins so quickly!

If you “possess aptitude with a needle” and want to see what lace-making is all about, try the following links. You’ll at least enjoy browsing through them, and you never know – they just might inspire you to jump into lace-making, where you may find your embroidery niche!

Antique Needle Lace is a collection of some gorgeous pieces of lace. You can see close-ups of the photos to get an idea of structure.

Lace, Lacemaking Supplies, and Antique Lace is a somewhat difficult website to love, only because of the busy structure of the site, but on it, you’ll find supplies for different types of lace, including princess lace, battenburg, and bobbin. They also produce or are connected somehow to Lace Magazine.

At Lacis, you’ll find all kinds of lace-making supplies, including tambour frames and needles. In fact, at Lacis you’ll find just about anything you could want for any handwork project. They have a great selection of books, too.

At Iva Rose productions, you’ll find refurbished vintage books and patterns for all kinds of handwork, but for lace techniques in particular, check out the Carmela Testa books and the Mary Fitch books. Most of the techniques have to do with filet lace in particular – either crocheted or needle run.

Bobbinmaker focuses mostly on bobbin lace, as the name suggests. They make bobbins.

Catchpin Lacemaking Supplies has a variety of books on bobbin lace, tatting, etc. as well as supplies.

Snowgoose has a new online catalog, where you will find kits for different types of lace, as well as supplies for all kinds of techniques.

The Lacemaker has supplies for lace making as well as videos and books.

So, given the list above, which is only a mere fraction of what you would come up with on a Google search, it seems that lace-making may not be completely extinct. If you’re looking for “the” source for supplies, I’d start with Lacis!

Have fun with it!

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(5) Comments

  1. I love your website. I think lacemaking is not a lost art (yet). Well, I hope we continue with it for a long time. I “know” Irish Carrickmacross needle lace and bobbin lace… crochet, hand embroidery, “fagotting” or bridging and smocking… and hand sewing… Sometimes there is some machine embroidery and machine sewing. Congratulations again! I live in Puerto Rico (USA territory) in the Caribbean!

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  2. Hi Mary –

    I know this thread was posted last year, but I just wanted to say that I too have been mesmerised by bobbin lace, and recently kitted myself up to self-teach from a book. I don’t know if I was just using a good book, or if my brain was especially turned on that day, but I picked it up instantly with no teaching whatsoever. I am still building my knowledge of lacework, which is difficult because most books that seem to have a great deal of information are from Europe and in various languages. Having a Maltese heritage, I am very interested in learning Maltese lace, but haven’t found any references to instruction books for this technique. I might have to wait a bit for my skills to build and then use a picture of some lace and try to replicate. I hope to increase my knowledge and be able to teach lacework later in life, I think it is a beautiful artwork and one that I would hate to have die out.

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    1. Hi, Zara – I’ve actually been thinking lately about trying out bobbin lace again. It was quite a while ago that I tried it, and I remember I set out with a bit of trepidation, pretty certain that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out. When I revisit bobbin lace – someday! – I think the experience will be different. Well, I hope! Thanks for your comment – and your enthusiasm! ~MC

  3. Hi I’ve been searching around on the internet to find a tambour kit that has the needles, and the wood paneling to hook the fabrics on, Can anyone help me out where to order these from? I live in Canada, thanks.

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  4. I have a dream of attending the University of Malta, where they have established a lace-making certification/degree program for learning to make Maltese lace (my favorite type). Until then, I’ll have to make do with tatting (which you can learn from a book!), and maybe someday I’ll find someone who can teach me the basics of bobbin lace making.

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