The love of lace lives on… how makers are uniting across the globe

The world of lace was rocked by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic this year… but lace makers have proved that they will stay in touch, no matter what.

People of all ages have been getting to grips with new technology and ensuring that meetings, events and exhibitions still take place online… one bonus is that everyone gets to make their own tea these days and there’s no risk of spilling it on fresh work or exhibits.

Here’s how guilds and groups across the planet have been coping during Covid-19 restrictions…

Early Days

A look back at how some UK lace groups kept their members informed during the shock of the first lockdown back in March and April:

18 March

In line with recent Government advice The Lace Guild will temporarily close to visitors from Wednesday 17 March until further notice. At this time our priority has to be the health of our visitors, volunteers and staff but we will continue to review this situation and provide further updates via our website and social media.

#safe&well #update #lace

09 April

Dear friends,

We hope that you are all well and that you and your families are staying safe. It is unlikely that we will meet again until at least July or August, but in the meantime, we wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Easter weekend.

It will be lovely to see everyone when this is all over and share what we have all been up to.

Best Wishes from Preston Lacemakers Committee

18 April 

It looks like Stratton Lace Makers won’t be meeting for some time, please check for emails and messages from me to confirm.

In the meantime, how much of a dent in this box of threads can I make? 

Surviving and thriving…

As the months went on and the extent of the pandemic became clear to all, more and more lace makers started to find innovative ways to be in touch with each other, all over the world. It’s striking that a virus that sent us all into isolation also led to an explosion in global digital communications…

International Community

Many overseas events were cancelled, as Alison Tolson observed, but as the old saying goes, ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’:

“The group of lace makers who normally attend a week’s lace design course in Prague met online for a week in July 2020 using Zoom, WhatsApp and private Facebook group.”

Elizabeth Mongiovi told how groups in New York are coping: “Members of the Genesee Country Lace Guild in Rochester area, NY, meet once a month via Zoom for about an hour and Heritage Village Lace Guild in Amherst, NY, also meet bi-monthly via Zoom.

Heritage Village Lace Guild

Lace maker Helen Bell said: “I Zoom with my group in Australia, and sometimes my Colorado group, and Google Meet with my Seattle group when I can.”

Janice Blair adds: “In the US, I Zoom with two of my lace guilds. The International Organization of Lace, Inc (IOLI) have frequent talks and presentations online and lace teachers do lessons over Zoom, too. There’s lots of show and tell.”

Tutor Louise West told how she’s run online meetings since March on Facebook: “I’ve now taken my evening class online and and started doing YouTube techniques videos to help lacemakers as well.

Back in the UK…

Jo Buckberry told how cancellations didn’t hold back one group determined to keep meeting online: “A group of us who were due to go to Knuston Hall to make Bedfordshire Lace this year have had FaceBook events where we share photos, chat and try and solve problems. This included a week long summer school, commemorative bobbins and, for our most recent weekend, a Zoom chat.”

Leyland Lacemakers

Liz Parkinson reports: “Members of Leyland Lacemakers have been meeting via Zoom most Wednesday afternoons since March. We had a core of four participants but now we are up to nine.

“It has been a great way to keep in touch. We usually ‘meet’ for two free 40 minute sessions.”

And Gillian Membury said: “I’ve run a virtual lace day on Facebook for the Stratton Lace Makers on the days we should have had our meetings.

“It’s been open to anyone posting from around the world with any craft. There have been some beautiful pieces.”

Lace panel by Olive, aged 93

Leona Thomas said: “Edinburgh Lace Club launched their website last year and it has kept people in touch. We also launched our Facebook page and this has proved even more useful in keeping people connected and chatting about lace – or anything else!

“In the last few weeks our technical wizard has also set up an online group meeting each fortnight where club members can meet and chat ‘face to face’ so to speak. Lockdown won’t get us down!”

And Andrea Gaskell told how Preston has been coping with lockdown.

“Preston Lacemakers have been meeting on Zoom on what would be our normal meeting day. The numbers are low, but I also write a regular email to keep in touch with everyone.”

Liz Parkinson, Preston Lacemakers

Looking out for everyone…

Lynda Morton explained how one group has been reaching out to members who aren’t so tech-savvy: “Bishops Stortford Lacemakers in Essex have been meeting monthly on Zoom throughout lockdown.

“For those members who don’t Zoom, we have set up dial in phone numbers so that members can still join in the conversation from their phones. Must admit, we chat more than we make lace!”

Jane de Pearle also observed how important alternatives are: “We at Christchurch Lace Society have a Facebook page and chat and share on there. We have also used email to keep abreast of developments.

“Some of our ladies are not on the internet so a phone call by another member has kept the word on the move. It will be lovely when we can met again as we reached our 40th anniversary in September and have been unable to celebrate it.”

Despite all the hardships faced this year, it’s clear that the lace community worldwide is united in its desire to keep in touch, and keep on making. 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.

Banner image of rainbow in hand-dyed rolled silk, Dianne Derbyshire, Preston Lacemakers