Saturday, October 11, 2014

Some History of Lace

It is a long time since you have heard from me. Life got in the way.

I would like to introduce you to Janet Sunderani. Reading this Blog brought back her memories of growing up in the Nottingham area of England and the stories she heard from her grandparents and neighbours who worked in the stocking and lace industry. Official history does not record what it was really like to work in the textiles factories that have long ceased to exist. These recollections fill in the gaps between the official records, photos of machines and statistics and it is important that they be recorded.

Making lace by machine required technical innovation, experience and dexterity. The machinery no longer exists and the needed skills no longer exist either. Janet says that it is a lost art that is unlikely to be reborn.

Photo from

The article contains considerable information about the industry and the developers of the machinery.

Another interesting site is

Here you can watch the trailer of a movie. It shows the lace making machines and the jacquards that control the patterns. The white room where the ladies checked, cut and hemmed the finished lace is included. The jacquards are the cards that control the pattern that is being woven.

Of note is the Battle of Britain Panel. Thirty eight identical panels were produced; each one took a week to weave. They were presented to the RAF and Commonwealth units involved in the Battle of Britain, to important personages and to each of the Commonwealth countries. The panels each measured 14' 9" high by 5' 3" wide. They are national treasures. The machine used 40,000 jacquard cards all of which were destroyed after the panels had been completed. Below is a portion of the lowest part of the panel. To see more go to Googles Images- Battle of Britain Lace Panel. A search of the relevant sites is a very interesting experience.

Lace making machines were a development of the machines that made stockings. But that is for the next article. Stockings were produced in high volume whereas lace was a limited industry. During World War II, the factories and production were revamped to produce mosquito netting and camouflage nets.

Janet drives two hours each way to attend our Guild in Guelph. Her reasoning is that we are a teaching Guild and she wanted to learn new techniques. She is an immaculate stitcher and we enjoy her presence among us. She has enriched our Guild as much as we have taught her. And it is totally thanks to her that this article and the one to follow are here for you to enjoy.

To my followers in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Brian Farr said...

Hi Ann,
Regarding the Battle of Britain lace panel. I have located 33 of them to date and hope to publish in the new year.
I think the numbers of 44,000 cards in the Jacquard and a week to produce are incorrect. I have weaving notes that suggest it is impossible for 44,000 to be fitted. A more likely number is between 10,800 and 16,200.
Also the machines could produce 4 panels at a time in approximately 2 hours. I also believe that 26,000 MILES of yarn should be YARDS.