Prior to my formal challenging-in, I had begun work on two lace pillows - I needed a good surface to make my lace on.
My first ever piece was worked on the Lacis bobbin Lace kit dubbed the "Horror kit" by a few members of an Early Period Lace group I'm in. I must have not thought it too bad, because I enjoyed the project. I made a piece of Torchon bobbin lace (not period, but a good starting point for learning bobbin lace) and entered it into the Queens Prize Tourney, a low key/ low stress beginners A&S competition in the fall of 2013.
I really wanted to return to bobbin lace in the future, with better materials and tools, focusing on techniques that were more my time period.
RealLife (TM) saw to it that I wouldn't return to the art form until this summer. To me, my first priority upon return was to make a better pillow for myself. Lynx Lace has patterns for two styles of pillow: roller insert and cookie/flat pillow. I decided that the first pillow I wanted to make would be the roller insert pillow.
So off I went to Lynx Lace and printed the pattern. Unfortunately, the registration marks on the pattern pieces wouldn't line up for me (wild differences that couldn't be easily fudged through) so I decided to wing it and make something modelled after the pattern but in different dimensions,
The kicker about early period bobbin lace is not a lot of samples survived prior to the 1600s. We knew it was being made (pattern books), we knew it was being used on clothing (royal inventories, portraiture), but we don't many surviving pieces to look at - if anything survived, if was usually on an altar cloth that was lovingly preserved by the church. Because, church.
And the patterns used for altar cloths and pillows were not necessarily the same as would be used on clothing. This is where eyeballing portraits becomes more than just a passing fancy.
For instance, I'll point you towards the web presence of Kimiko Small - a lady who does a lot of Tudor costuming research:
The site owner speculates that the smock is edged in blackwork embroidery. I would counter that there is more flesh tone than white (blackwork would be embroidered on the white smock) showing through the pattern, which makes me lean more towards lace – could be needle or bobbin, cannot tell.
But it is all speculation :)
So, in order to make a guess at what patterns are appropriate for different applications, I found myself looking at some drool worthy period portraits - horrible, I tell you!
Another great resource for historical background and copies of portraiture in museums (not all of which have captured their full collections digitally) is Santina M. Levey's Lace: A History, published in 1983 with the last reprint made in 2004. You can find copies floating around on the internet, but you will pay a pretty penny for it. Ms. Levey was a textiles curator at Londons Victoria and Albert Museum (http://www.vam.ac.uk) who specialized in lace. Her book is considered to be a lace bible.
One portrait identified by Ms. Levey in her book is this lovely thing, thought to be painted between 1570-80 .
Ms. Levey believes that the cuff and collar are made with linen bobbin lace, while the surface bobbin lace is made with coloured silks (interesting because most of the surface laces I've found are usually made with metal threads - wear your bling!)
Another lovely is this portrait of an unidentified Spanish lady by Bernardino dei Conti, pre 1523
It features a plaited lace that worked with a fringe on one edge. I don't know if the fringe threads would have been sewn into the bobbin workings or if extra thread was let out from the bobbins (after securing stitches) and cut after to produce the fringe. One day I may try to find out.
My proposal generated some follow up questions and I had an opportunity to meet with a lacemaking Laurel from the Fian to talk about my project. We took an afternoon to further refine the idea to identify learning opportunities for skills and material experientation. We moved from five larger samples made in linen to five smaller samples each worked in linen, silk and metallic floss (I chose to go a metallic DMC pearl, as opposed to a real gilt thread, for these samples as a cost measure. I will be experimenting with the good stuff as a bonus piece).
I identified mutliple patterns that could be used for edgings, insertions or even surface decoration.
Below is a summary of changes to my proposal submitted to the Fian in late June.
Welcome to the SCA blog of Lady Jane Caldwell. Lady Jane plays in 1534 and is interested in early period lace. Lady Jane hails from the Barony of Skraeling Althing in Ealdormere. Lady Jane is also a clothes whore who will wear clothing from multiple periods to either feel pretty or feel comfortable.