Friday, 18 October 2013

Lerning Lace

A little under a year ago we went to the newly renovated ramm in Exeter. It has a stuffed giraffe, other embarrassing artefacts of colonialism, and, more importantly, some stunning textiles. My favourite part was the very large selection of lace. If you are local go check it out (and the underground passages while you are there!) if you aren't you can search the collections (part of them at least) from the comfort of your computer.

As well as the examples of lace there was an intriguing video of someone making lace, moving the bobbins backwards and forwards. I wanted to do that. if they'd have had some sort of lace making kit right there I would have bought it in an instant. But there wasn't so I went home to turn to Google.

Searching lace and Devon  I came across Honiton Lace. Honiton is a bobbin lace characterised by being built in motifs which are then linked together. Queen Victoria was married in Honiton Lace. I live in South Devon, not East Devon but knowing that there was a fantastic local craft out there that I didn't know how to do? It felt wrong. So we planned a trip out to Allhallows Museum in Honiton.

Allhallows Museum has some fascinating displays but I'm just going to skip right through them and talk about lace. It was stunning! Absolutely stunning! If you can, go see it. What especially struck me about the lace was that the motifs were almost all everyday, countryside things. There were dog roses, hips and hedgerow plants, even little insects. Everyday images, made by Devon lace makers and hung around dresses of posh ladies. Amazing.
Making my first stitches

Allhallows Musem sells a starter kit and after seeing the lace I really couldn't help myself. I don't know the current pricing but mine was £70 and there is no card machine so you have to pay in cash. They can also help you find a local teacher. The book that comes with it is put out by the Lace Guild and not the best thing if you haven't made lace before. If you have made lace before or if you have a teacher you'll be fine. I haven't and I don't so I struggled with it before giving up and asking Google for a better solution.

I then found the Honiton Lace Shop who also sell a starter kit but recommend you get a used copy of the book Introduction to Honiton Lace by Susanne Thompson. I ordered a hardback copy because it was the best price at the time, it came and Oh My God everyone I can make lace now!

After I made my first stitches I went back again and made them in perle cotton so I could see them
Okay I'm not exactly an expert or even a millimetre past beginner but in the last two weeks I've figured out stitches, adding bits, removing bobs, turning corners. I'm now on the first real pattern of the book. A cute little flower.
My first project. I'll let you know when it's done

I'm loving lace partly because I feel like my hands are keeping alive not only a great craft but a local tradition. But preservation isn't the only, or even main reason I'm enjoying making lace. Honiton lace still looks good enough to wear and people are doing some really cool things with lace that don't look traditional at all. Check out the Gallery of the 98 Lace Group for example. I feel like I'm staring at the tip of the iceberg just begging to realise there is something more. And I think I'm going to love it.

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