Thursday, January 26, 2012

Urchfont Manor


Regular readers will know that for the last few years I have been going to the Distant Stitch summer school at Urchfont Manor near Devizes in Wiltshire and how wonderful it is there, a I am sure many have also been there themselves.  The manor is an adult education centre run by Wiltshire County Council offering day and residential courses, but its future is now under threat.  My tutor, Sian has explained the position on her blog post here – please take a minute to read it and then contact Wiltshire County Council to support the rescue plan.

Urchfont Manor


Regular readers will know that for the last few years I have been going to the Distant Stitch summer school at Urchfont Manor near Devizes in Wiltshire and how wonderful it is there, a I am sure many have also been there themselves.  The manor is an adult education centre run by Wiltshire County Council offering day and residential courses, but its future is now under threat.  My tutor, Sian has explained the position on her blog post here – please take a minute to read it and then contact Wiltshire County Council to support the rescue plan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Module 5 Chapter 2

Creating lace effects by removing the background and by joining small shapes.  I have grouped the samples here by inspiration rather than the order of making, (with a 2p coin for scale) and I decided to stay mainly working with white.  The photographs are ones I gathered as part of module 1 work and have referred to before, some converted to black and white to emphasis the patterns of lines.

Photo 1


Clockwise from top left – the photograph is the old Sevalco plant in Severnside

  • trails from hot glue gun forming a grid, coloured with gold and black acrylic paint.
  • stitching on dissolvable background using built-in stitches (some layered on top of each other) combining the grid with arcs taken from the bell movements in photo 3.  To be honest, the arcs have lost their curves. they could have done with more anchoring.
  • Grid stitched on zeelon (a new one to me, a non-woven material from the makers of lutradur etc but much thinner and softer, it drapes like fabric) with some filled in areas, cut out with a stencil cutter.

Photo 2


From left

  • trails from a hot glue gun join up spare clock hands (left over from making Cogitation).
  • snippets of thread were trapped between layers of zeelon, then shapes outlined by machine, cut out and rejoined with machine stitching.

lines of machine stitching using built in patterns on soluble paper – a few areas filled in with patterns of stitching.

Photo 3


  • left – machine stitching on soluble paper
  • right – three layers stitched separately on solusheet dissolvable using different thicknesses of thread and layers of built-in patterns on top of each other.

Photo 4


Patterns taken directly from the needlace design drawn in chapter 1 – clockwise from top left

  • heavy free machining on vanishing muslin.  This should have burnt off with an iron (and has before) but proved very stubborn this time.  the scorch marks are where I was a bit heavy handed with the heat gun.
  • same again on zeelon cut out with a stencil cutter – much lighter stitching supported by the outer border.
  • glue gun trails.

Photo 5


Three samples that don’t really fit with the others

  • left -   joining scraps of paper with machine stitching across the gaps.  The scraps are from the setting up instructions for a computer.  I have just thought that I ought to have made more of the content – eg turning it into a flowchart, making a line to follow – so I will have another look at this one.
  • right – trailing glue onto greaseproof paper leaves a definite right and wrong side as the back is flat, so to get around this I tried drawing with the hot glue gun into a dish of cold water.  It solidifies as soon as it hits the water and makes more delicate, rounded lines.  However, it tends to swirl and rotate so I couldn’t control it enough to make a planned pattern, but I like the random creations.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Lost in Lace– Gas Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I spent the day visiting this way back in November – so another very late blog post.  It is a marvellous bit of luck that this exhibition is on (it runs until 19th February) just as I am starting module 5 which is all about  lace and transparency .  One of the features I really appreciated about this exhibition is that each artist has supplied a small handling sample with a brief note on materials, and the accompanying book includes exchanges of emails between the curator and the artists, which gives a real insight into the technical challenges of mounting the exhibition.   Here are a few of my personal highlights, but there is much more – I have included links to images on the artists’ pages.

 Piper Shepard  Lacing Space – a remarkable piece of work hanging from floor to ceiling between  pillars, inspired by a piece of point de gaze lace in BMAG’s collection. the holes have been hand cut from the cloth.  The edges have been shaped around the pillars so that if it is shown elsewhere, they will appear as negative spaces. I was awed by the sheer amount of work as well as the beauty of this piece.

Liz Nilsson The Latticed Eye of Memory – a group of rectangular panels cut with a regular grid of circular holes hanging in layers, appearing to float.  The grids and shadows line up in different patterns as you walk around; the central layer is more colourful and can only be partially glimpsed.

Suzumi Noda Juxtaposition – constructed from jacquard punch cards, lacquered and knitted together.  these cards were used to control looms to weave cloth in a given pattern, and as such were the forerunners of computer programs. It all comes down to ones and zeroes, holes and solid areas, on and off.   Standing next to this piece, I had the odd feeling that it was trying to tell me something and I wanted to be able to read the code.  This is another piece that casts interesting shadows, this time across the floor as the daylight changes.

Lost in Lace Birmingham Museum (5)

Tamar Frank A thin line between space and matter.  A deceptively simple concept, a 3d mathematical drawing in threads which is stunning on a large scale (do you remember drawings curves in school maths lessons by joining grid points with straight lines like this?
Curve drawing
it is the same idea).  You walk into a small room lit from below by coloured LEDs then as the light fades, the phospherescent threads glow and the effect is  disconcerting, like falling into a tunnel.

Visiting the exhibition prompted me to look up other ways in which lace is being more generally used in design, contrasting the softness and delicacy of lace with hard materials .  Dutch design house Demakersvan  make lace industrial fencing and Cal Lane cuts into, among other things, steel beams.  Architects are also making use of lace-like facings such as the recent John Lewis shop in Leicester and the new central library in Birmingham (under construction).

Module 5 Chapter 1–Researching Stitched Laces

When I said that this would be my next post, I meant in the next day or so – still what’s six weeks between friends?  I have gathered images and notes onto  four A3 sheets – the photos are not clear enough to read the notes (despite several attempts) so I have cut and pasted them underneath.

Sheet 1 - Punto In Aria

Made in buttonhole stitch supported by a grid of threads left after cutting squares out of the linen ground (about 1/4 to 1/2 “ apart). You can see the grid in photo 2 giving a tiled effect. This developed into punto in aria in two ways 1) by replacing the cutwork grid with threads laid on parchment, which frees the lace from the grid structure and 2) by using raised work. This example of Venetian gros point has padded borders made by laying down thick threads and working buttonhole stitch over them – this type of lace has a right and a wrong side.
Captions for  photos clockwise from top right 
1) Venetian needle lace, 17th century, linen thread. Probably a border for eg a tablecloth. Note the edges are different – the footside is bobbin lace.
2) Italian early 17th century, cutwork and needlelace across the spaces of the linen ground. This type of work was used especially for collars and cuffs, so this may be part of a collar.
3) Venetian gros point.
4) Italian early 17th century, linen thread, border for fine furnishing.

Sheet 2 – Needlelace Designs by Federico Vinciolo 1587


A selection of designs from the 16th century (see references for full details) and my drawings of some of the details.

Sheet 3 – Stitches for Needlelace

The most common stitch in needlelaces is detached buttonhole with a straight return. Loops are made in one direction and the thread returns in a straight line underneath to become the support for the next row. It makes no difference to the final result if the loops are worked left to right or right to left, or if the motif is worked from the top or the bottom. The stitches may be left with gaps or worked tight together.
For a firmer texture, a knotted stitch is used – this is seen on lace from the 17th and 18th century. The return can be straight or whipped, in which case it twists over each loop.

Captions clockwise from top right -
Needlelace in tudor fashions. Portraits of Elizabeth I and Lady Mary Sidney show how collars and cuffs were worn.
Worked sample of variations of buttonhole stitch supported on black felt and to the left, diagrams of these same stitches.

Sheet 4 – Lace effect from punched or stamped patterns.


Decorating fabrics using these techniques is considerably quicker than making bobbin or needle lace and so relatively cheaper. 
Captions from left to right -
1) Detail of silk waistcoat stamped and embroidered, English 1785-1790.  Compare the pattern with this pricking of a traditional Bucks point bobbin lace design. 
Holes made by stamping, probably using a wheel to get the repeats. The fabric would be starched before stamping so that the holes keep their shape. The stamp pushes aside the threads without breaking them.
2) A large scale, contemporary use of punching by Piper Shepard for Lost in Lace at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Based on a piece of point de gaze lace in the BMAG collection.
3) Top right -  Detail of yellow silk gown, English 1760s. This shows pinking – making decorative holes with a metal punch. To do this, the folded fabric would be put on a block of lead and the punch struck with a hammer to make a pattern of holes.  Below -  My sample of pinking using a hole punch on folded calico, trying different size punches  - hard on the hands.

Historical Fashion in Detail 17th and 18th Centuries, Avril Hart and Susan North.
A Dictionary of Lace, Pat Earnshaw, Shire Publications 1984.
Bobbin and Needlelace Identification and Care, Pat Earnshaw, Batsford 1983.
Lace pricking taken from Bucks Point Pattern Pack, Pamela Nottingham, Batsford.
Lost in Lace Transparent Boundaries, Lesley Millar , BMAG 2011.
A Walk Through the Beginnings of Lace, copyright Robin L Berry 2004, rev.pdf
French National Library – I Singolari E Nuovi Disegni Di Federico Vinciolo, 1909 Italian facsimile of 1606 editions of pattern books first published in Paris 1587, available at
Chats on Old Lace and Needlework, Emily Lowes, London 1908 – Project Gutenberg ebook 2008,
Portrait of Elizabeth I from the National Portrait Gallery, London
Images of punto in aria from Victoria and Albert Museum,