Lace Making Community Groups
Handmade lace is such an extremely slow process that it can no longer be done as a career. Today it tends to be a hobby activity. In order to find out about current handmade lacemakers and their thoughts about lacemaking, I contacted some lacemaking community groups. These were The Meridian Lacemakers (Peacehaven, East Sussex), Southwick Lacemakers (Southwick, East Sussex) and Aragon Lacemakers (Bedford). I asked the leaders of these groups if they wouldn’t mind sending on a questionnaire I had written to their group members, and the response was amazing! I received so many more completed questionnaires than I had anticipated. I am hugely grateful to all the lacemakers who took the time to complete my questionnaire.
I have decided to just take some quotes or pieces of information from various questionnaires for this blogpost. It was so lovely to see what role lacemaking plays in the members’ lives. It seems like lacemaking was a really welcome distraction during the lockdown.
If you are a lacemaker and would like to contribute, please tell me your thoughts in the forum! It’s always interesting to hear about current handmade lacemaking practise, and if you have any knowledge of old folklore and customs, I’d love to hear from you!
Results of the Questionnaires:
1. What encouraged you to start making lace?
Many of the responses spoke about how retirement encouraged them to start lacemaking as a new hobby.
Quite a few of the members took up lacemaking after moving to a new town, as a way to meet new people.
“I tried it at a WI taster event”
“An exhibition of lace in our local museum and a group of us young mums asked the curator if she could find a teacher for us and she did”
“I had lacemaking ancestors I thought I would give it a try.”
2. What is your favourite part of the lacemaking process?
“Actually making – You can lose yourself in the process”
“Turning threads into a beautiful fabric and the meeting of like minded friends”
“it’s a lovely hobby & has kept me busy in the Lockdown.”
3. For you, what benefits are there to being part of a lacemaking group?
“The friendship that you enjoy and the exchange of new ideas.”
“Other lacemakers have been incredibly supportive when I have needed advice for a tricky pattern.”
“We talk about whatever is on our minds… no subject is taboo”
Sometimes work on group projects
“The camaraderie of doing the same craft”
“We always put the world to rights”
4. Do you have a special attachment to any particular bobbins/other equipment?
A few people said that sometimes particular bobbins can trigger memories of a particular person or situation by which the bobbin was acquired. Favourite bobbins commemorate people or events. Someone mentioned their first bobbin was given by their parents; or buying bobbins from friends who have died.
“I love the bobbins I painted myself, a blue tit on one bobbin. The baby blue tits in our box fledged that very day. The other is my favourite flower, the poppy. I had no idea I could paint with such a tiny brush. (I can’t paint with a normal brush). I have an 8 bobbin set with painted Henry VIII, each wife on a separate bobbin and Queen Elizabeth.”
“I used to have a bobbin that one of my cats attacked and had a little toothmark in”
“I prefer using old wooden or bone bobbins as I like the patina of long usage by past lacemakers”
5. Do you have a favourite memory related to lacemaking?
Staying in Bruges convent with other lace making friends
Being gifted different laces from other countries – bonding with people in other areas
Being part of demonstrations to promote lacemaking to younger generations
“Teaching Ruth Goodman to make lace for the Victorian Farm TV series”
6. Do you have any family history of lacemaking?
“My mother was taught to make Bedfordshire lace and had to make 3 heads of lace an evening, by which time however hard she worked it was too late to go out with the boys…. She never went back to lacemaking… Put her off lacemaking for life!”
7. Do you know any stories from history related to lacemaking? Or do you know of any folklore or superstitions?
There is a wonderful story of when lace was highly prized and taxed. The Dean of Westminster died in France and his body was sent home wrapped in lace to avoid tax.”
“Some of the bobbins carry rhymes to protect the lacemaker against broken threads”
Lace Tell, ~”One Two Buckle My Shoe”
“its always shocking to think how poor the lacemakers were at the end of the handmade lace era”
Two lacemakers kindly also sent me longer versions of stories/legends they had heard about lacemaking. These will be shared in a seperate post!
Thank you so much to all the lacemakers for contributing! 🙂 Please visit the forum if you’d like to add any thoughts, or comment below.