A lifelong love affair with lace…

For some, it’s their first love and others come to it completely by chance… but one thing’s for sure. Once you’ve been bitten by the lace bug, that’s it!

Some of our Lace Guild members and followers of our Facebook page recently took time out from their lockdown projects to tell us how it all started for them…

For some lacemakers, lace has always been in the family. Cathy Kitchiner got into bobbin lace making because her great grandmother was a lace maker, and Leona Thomas found out through doing family history that her four times great grandmother was a lacemaker in Bucks.

Sabine Ernst recalls: ‘When I was a teenager there were stories about my maternal grandmother being an expert lace crocheter, among other skills. I’d never got to meet her, but there were doilys she had made, plus patterns, cotton thread and hooks. I was already into crocheting and started exploring – I made a doily first in thick cotton, and then repeated in fine cotton. I was hooked, and still am.’

Marika Camilleri added: ‘My ancestors are lace makers so we have it in our veins….. couldn’t avoid it. I love the never ending possibilities and endless techniques that one can apply to acquire the desired result.’

Lesley Potter says: ‘My mum wanted to start making lace and wanted me to do it with her. She passed away nearly 26 years ago now and I have continued lace making.’

Others came to lace later in life. Sue Gardner says: ‘I first saw it being made on the streets on a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Grenada in my teens and was fascinated. Fast forward many years and met a lady on the Guild stand at the NEC from my town who taught lace…’

For Elizabeth Mongiovi, it was love at first sight: ‘I went to a festival near me and saw the local lace guild demoing. I knew what Tatting was but then I saw Bobbin Lace! I told the friend I was with I was going to learn it. The guild members are a second family to me. I can’t wait to see them all in person soon. I love lace and seeing sometimes learning new lace. I’m in love with Idrija but try just about anything!’

Keeping tradition alive…

Some learnt lacemaking at school or later on at one of the many adult education classes offered to women in the 1970s and 1980s in the UK.

Diana Blackburn (work pictured above) left her textiles course when lace entered her life: ‘I was doing a City and Guilds textiles course when I had a day lesson from Kate Riley on bobbin lace. I ditched the textiles course….took up bobbin lace and have never looked back.’

Elaine Baker remembers: ‘I didn’t choose lace making as such, it chose me! Courses were offered by the local education board for young mums to attend whilst their children were at school. The course I wanted to do was over subscribed so I was offered Lacemaking.

‘I started, loved it, got hooked, made some lovely friends and really looked forward to ‘me’ time using my brain instead of ‘mum’ mode! My favourite style is Bedfordshire, and I also enjoy Torchon. I’m getting back into lace again now after a very long period of time away from it but loving it again now.’

Got it made…

Here are some comments from our lacemaking community on the joy of making lace and what keeps them coming back for more…

Gillian Membury

It’s so pretty! I love that traditional techniques are modernised with use of thread colour and textures.

Jan Gardiner

I was shown some lace made by a friend of my mother’s and was completely blown away with the craft. That was in 1983. I wen to evening classes to start my journey. Since then I have become a designer, teacher and supplier to the lace fraternity. I still love lace, as much now nearly forty years on, as in the beginning. I have never stopped learning something new about our craft.

Christine Kingsley Chase

We went to Kirkby Lonsdale Victorian Fair 1980/81 and saw three ladies demonstrating outside a shop. One was our great teacher Marjorie Hanson. After that I went to a Lace Fair in the Brewery Arts Centre. I was hooked from then on. Torchon first then Bedfordshire, Bucks Point… But my favourite at the moment is Binche.

Jane Potts

I took my daughter, then aged seven, to a children‘s lacemaking class every Saturday afternoon on the Isle of Man. It was too far from home to be worth driving back home and back before collecting her at the end, so after a few weeks I asked if I could join the class too. Almost 30 years later, I am still making lace. My daughter knits, but gave me her bobbins.

Sandra Muir

At a craft fair in my local town in early 1989 there was a lady demonstrating; she had been taught by Val Paton and agreed to start classes using Val’s teaching materials (with permission). We started with Bruges Bloemwerk and went on to Torchon and Flanders. I taught myself Bucks from a book. I’ve dabbled in other types but my current favourite is Binche. It is so intricate and keeps my mind active and focused.

Nicole N Ashley Bywater

I saw a demo at Budleigh Salterton museum, whilst on holiday at my Nan’s. They sold kits in the gift shop but I wasn’t allowed to get one. Later that year, got one for my 12th birthday. I taught myself from that kit and I am currently navigating Binche after working on Flanders and Valenciennes lace. I also love Honiton and Bucks Point style laces.

Gloria Nelson

I saw a tatted doily in an artisan boutique while on vacation and I knew it was not knit or crochet and had to buy it. I asked my husband’s grandmother what it was… she told me “frivolité” (French for tatting). I became obsessed with figuring out how to make this frivolité! I like tatting because it is all based on only one stitch (double stitch) but you can create so many unique pieces. It is also the only lace that needs to be made by hand (no machine can make it). I also like it because the history is mysterious… we have books from the mid-1800s but nobody really knows how it came to be “tatting”. Some say it’s derived from fisherman’s knots, or “knotting” but tatting is unique and we don’t even really know what country it originated from! A mystery!

If you would like to find out more about a lace group near you, The Lace Guild (based in the UK) has more information at its website. Although many won’t be meeting in person, it could be worth looking up groups local to you, to see if there are activities online.

The Lace Guild has received a Recovery Grant from Arts Council England through the West Midlands Museum Development Programme, with additional funding from Art Fund.

The grant assists organisations looking to reopen and helps with public engagement.