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CETG talk on Monday 13th June 2022

Risboro' Lacemakers - Buckinghamshire Lacemaking


Our June 2022 meeting was a feast of all things lace thanks to our four visitors from Risboro' Lacemakers,  a local group of lacemakers sharing their knowledge and love of this craft.  Alex Adkins, Rosemary Northam, Clare Randall and Juliet Chandler brought with them exhibits of various lace types, examples of their own lace, collection of decorated bobbins and lace making pillows with work in progress.


The evening started with a short talk about the history of lace making in Buckinghamshire. This skilled craft was much influenced by Flemish protestants fleeing persecution and settling in Buckinghamshire in the 16th century. Buckinghamshire lace typically has a net background on which motifs surrounded by a gimp thread are formed.


Lace making does not require complicated equipment: a straw-filled cushion to support the work, turned wooden bobbins to hold the threads, pins to help to create the patters and thread get you started. Complicated and intricate patterns can be created from simple, methodological movements of the paired bobbins.


In the olden times, girls would be taught this skill in special schools or by their family. Once learned, lace making would provide a woman (and some men too) a way to earn good money all year round, and not just during the growing season. Bucks lace was very fine and valued, but eventually machines could emulate this style of lace, leading to the decline of the cottage industry.


Different areas in the UK produced different types of lace, and we saw many examples of these type too.


Demonstrations of advanced lace making followed and it was fascinating to see how, what to the uninitiated looked like a disorderly pile of bobbins, actually had order and could produce intricate lace in experienced hands. The beaded decorations on bobbins not only helped to tension the threads, but also could be used to keep the bobbins in the correct sequence with a ribbon going through the loops.


Our visitors also had prepared a simple lace making exercise for us to have a go at. Seven pairs of bobbins – each pair holding a thread of a different colour – were to be moved in a precise sequence to form a woven pattern. Sounds easy, but in practice it was surprisingly difficult to remember the correct order of bobbins to move. After successfully producing a couple of correct patterns, a simple lapse of concentration and some free-form lace was produced! Definitely more practice is needed!


All in all, we had a very enjoyable evening. Thanks to Risboro' Lacemakers for visiting us!


If you want read more about the history of lace making in Buckinghamsire, here are some links for you to follow:


Risboro' Lacemakers


Words © Pirkko Soundy/June 2022

Photos © Pirkko Soundy

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