Not Dead Yet…

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One Square Inch

One square inch takes about 2.5 hours to complete by hand…so it should come as no surprise why bobbin lace was so valued in days of old. And when you use silk and precious metals to compose your unique symphony, then it becomes evident why lace was virtually considered ‘currency’ then, and a supreme symbol of wealth and power.

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On a recent trip to Salem, Ma and its House of Seven Gables, I encountered the charm and artistry of Linda, the resident lacemaker. Despite her advanced age, she was sharp as a tack – and watching her manipulated the bobbins was as I watching an elaborate ballet of the hands; each glissade just as daring as the next. She looks up to her pattern, marks a few notes, the proceeds to the échappé..

The bobbins are each decorated with Swarovski crystal for no particular reason. “It’s pretty,” Linda says…and she’s right.

I spent almost two hours with her…learning her history, and her love of the art.

Salem may have its witches…but this was clearly an angelic wizard spinning simple cotton into gold.

Bobbin Lace isn’t the same as tatting, and the artistry is a bit finer in its evolving patterns seen in well-known bobbin laces such as Chantilly, Guipure…and Bucks Point (or Buckinghamshire), one such pattern thought lost until more recent years, and one I had the fortunate honor of purchasing in the Seven Gables museum shop – returning to Linda, she told me its story…

It’s a fine torchon, one for a bride – Linda showed me where she began it…and where she completed the braiding of bobbin threads. She fussed over the inconsistencies seen only by her solemn eyes – and I will cherish it forever.

When we commented to others who popped in to witness Linda’s mastery, one said, “It’s a dying art.”

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To which Linda looked up and replied, “I’m not dead yet, dear.

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Learn more about the lacemaking arts here…

14 thoughts on “Not Dead Yet…

  1. Lace making is a world unto itself…I discovered it when I started knitting socks and shawls back in the early 2000s. And it is an immensely rich world. If I were a wealthy doyenne I would collect this stuff…I started out ages ago loving Scandinavian art pottery (studio type as well as the everyday mid-century stuff) and discovered I loved fiber arts as well, and then of course found lace along the way. It is such a rich field, you can immerse yourself in it and keep digging and finding out new things, techniques…I am not a girly type but I love fine work and the art of doing something amazing just for the look of it. I know it was used as a type of currency (or just as a statement of fabulous wealth and position) centuries ago…and I can easily understand why. I am so pleased to see that you discovered it at some point and came to love it too. But you are very much one up on me here…although I have seen a laid-out bobbin lace pillow with bobbins (Shelburne Museum in beautiful Shelburne, VT), I have never see it demonstrated. Lucky man you are! I feel more inspired today because of your post.

  2. just incredible. had a great grandmother Dolly, that tatted & made lace [not sure if the bobbin type as never got to watch how she made things] always wanted to learn

  3. PS, I had the thought that the crystals on the bobbins make them individual recognisable, even subsconsciously, which is useful when you have so many of them, even if origianlly it was just decorative.

    • I asked that…she seemed indifferent to the fact they were there. But when you look at the history…the bobbins are quite significant. Perhaps instead of using something like bone…this is her way to make them special to her. You think?

  4. Love that you invested yourself in following her for a few hours. You probably made her day (at least!) and learned an art that needs to survive! I’m thinking we might see this technique in an upcoming ooak?? You look wonderful! That post Paris glow!

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