Saturday, November 25, 2006

lacemaking 101

Leah's interest in lacemaking began when she learned that we were going on a trip that would include Belgium, and Belgium is well known for its skilled lacemakers. She popped in and out of lace shops through Bruges and Brussels, drooling over all the pretty work, chatting with the owners, who are generally importers at this point, not true lacemakers. When we visited the Begijnhof in Bruges, we were lucky enough to find a very kind lacemaker demonstrating her art.



(I just uploaded this video to YouTube and it's still processing, so all I'm seeing right now is a white box with a red X in it, but hopefully you'll be able to see the video soon. If that doesn't work, you could watch this video or this one.)

We also visited the Kantcentrum (lace center) in Bruge for many more examples of lace styles.

When we came back home, she came into my office one morning with a set-up of leftover sock yarn wound around colored pencils (as bobbins) in an attempt to figure out how to do this lacemaking stuff on her own. I knew then that she really did intend to pursue it, so we did a little surfing and were tickled to find that the New England Lace Group was having its next meeting and a demonstration at Old Sturbridge Village. So last weekend we got to go behind the scenes at OSV to see their antique lace collection and listen to knowledgeable folks discuss the history and details of each fascinating piece. They even have a fragile example of lace made of fine strips of straw! The OSV employee who showed us around is one we've known for years, as she is also the spinner we've spent much time with on our visits there. She recognized us quickly and we realized who she was once we figured out that it was the same person, but in current day clothing! (Strangely, it felt downright odd to see her in slacks and a cardigan -- no bonnet and skirts! Apparently I really do live in a warped little fantasy world.)

Anyway, the behind the scenes lace tour was fascinating and then we attended the lacemaking demo in the Visitors' Center. This is the kind of work the women of the group pulled out of their bags... Is that not gorgeous? Even as a work in progress, it's a beautiful sight.

The lacemakers welcomed Leah with open arms. I had been in touch with them ahead of time and they were all ready to get her hooked on lacemaking. Even though they tried to suck me in too ;-), I smiled and told them I already had enough hobbies. (Gee, d'you think so?!) Instead, I sat in the sunshine to knit and gave Leah her space. They set her up with starter supplies, loaner equipment, contact info for 2 lace teachers near us, and much encouragement and enthusiasm. A couple of hours later, Leah had completed her very first attempt at bobbin lace.
Sure, it's far from perfect, but three are three different stitch patterns in there and it's a start. Ready to try it again when she got home, Leah started to wind her bobbins and decided that was really slow and tedious, so she and Scott and Jesse brainstormed and came up with the idea to put a bit of rubber tubing on the bobbin winder of our sewing machine, stick a lacemaking bobbin into the rubber, give it a little support with Scott's hand, and voila! A zippy, spiffy, bobbin winder!
Here's her most recent effort. This too has a couple of different stitches in it. Still with some errors, but also some sections that are beginning to show some consistency.
Best of all, she is more excited than ever about lacemaking. Today at the library, I found a huge book with instructions for many, many (hundreds?) bobbin lace stitch patterns. Don't tell Leah yet because I'm holding off on bringing it home until after we get back from the lighthouse, but I think it'll keep her challenged and fascinated for a long time to come. Posted by Picasa

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