Toolspillow, bobbins, pins and prickings
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Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.
Bobbin lace is also known as pillow lace, because it was worked on a pillow, and bone lace, because early bobbins were made of bone or ivory.
Bobbin lace is one of the two major categories of handmade laces, the other being needlelace, derived from earlier cutwork and reticella.
Many styles of lace were made in the heyday of lacemaking (approximately the 16th–18th centuries) before machine-made lace became available.
Classification of traditional styles by technique
- Continuous bobbin lace also known as: straight lace or fil continu.
- Mesh grounded lace has motives connected with ground
- Guipure lace has motifs connected with plaits:glossary
- Bedfordshire lace (Beds) – this has flowing lines and picots (to foil the lace machines)
- Cluny lace – has radiating long, thin leaves, called wheatears
- Maltese lace – often has the 8 pointed Maltese cross as part of the pattern
- Yak lace – made of wool
- Genoese lace – usually a geometric design
- Part lace
- Honiton lace – very fine English lace with many flowers
- Rosaline Perlée – a mixed lace, but mainly bobbin lace
- Bruges lace – assembled from leaves scrolls and open flowers
- Brussels lace – Point d’Angleterre, Point plat appliqué, Point Duchesse
- Bobbin tape lace sometimes categorized as part lace (not to be confused with tape lace which uses prefabricated tapes)
- Russian lace
- Idrija lace
- Schneeberg lace – since about 1910
- Milanese lace
- Hinojosa lace
- Peasant lace
Bobbin lace may be made with coarse or fine threads. Traditionally it was made with linen, silk, wool, or, later, cotton threads, or with precious metals. Today it is made with a variety of natural and synthetic fibers and with wire and other filaments.
Elements of bobbin lace may include toile or toilé (clothwork), réseau (the net-like ground of continuous lace), fillings of part laces, tapes, gimp, picots, tallies, ribs and rolls. Not all styles of bobbin lace include all these elements.
The major tools to make bobbin lace are a pillow, bobbins, pins and prickings. The part laces also require a crochet hook, very fine types of lace require very fine hooks. There are different types of pillows and bobbins linked to areas, eras and type of lace.
The advent of machine-made lace at first pushed lace-makers into more complicated designs beyond the capabilities of early machines, then simpler designs so they could compete on price, and finally pushed them out of business almost entirely.
The resurgence of lace-making is a recent phenomenon and is mostly done as a hobby. Lacemaking groups still meet in regions as varied as Devonshire, England and Orange County, California. In the European towns where lace was once a major industry, especially in Belgium, England, Spain (Camarinas), northern and centre Portugal, France and Slovenia lacemakers still demonstrate the craft and sell their wares, though their customer base has shifted from the wealthy nobility to the curious tourist.
Still new types of lace are being developed such as the 3D Rosalibre and a colored version of Milanese lace by borrowing rolls from Duchesse lace to store various shades and colors. Other artists are giving grounds a major role by distorting and varying stitches, pin distances and thread sizes or colours. The variations are explored by experimentation and mathematics and algorithms. The lace maintaining its shape without stiffening is no longer a requirement. Inspiring journals, guilds and foundations show that old techniques with a new twist can challenge young people to create works that can definitely classify as art. A Dutch design graduate in 2006 discovered bobbin lace was a technique to make a fancy fence. The first fences became museum pieces. The fences are now produced in Bangalore by concrete rebar plaiters.
A will of 1493 by the Milanese Sforza family mentions lace created with twelve bobbins.
Bobbin lace evolved from passementerie or braid-making in 16th-century Italy. Genoa was famous for its braids, hence it is not surprising to find bobbin lace developed in the city. It traveled along with the Spanish troops through Europe. Coarse passements of gold and silver-wrapped threads or colored silks gradually became finer, and later bleached linen yarn was used to make both braids and edgings.
The making of bobbin lace was easier to learn than the elaborate cutwork of the 16th century, and the tools and materials for making linen bobbin lace were inexpensive. There was a ready market for bobbin lace of all qualities, and women throughout Europe soon took up the craft which earned a better income than spinning, sewing, weaving or other home-based textile arts. Bobbin lace-making was established in charity schools, almshouses, and convents.
In the 17th century, the textile centers of Flanders and Normandy eclipsed Italy as the premiere sources for fine bobbin lace, but until the coming of mechanization hand-lacemaking continued to be practiced throughout Europe, suffering only in those periods of simplicity when lace itself fell out of fashion.