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The Turvey Website The history and families of Turvey in Bedfordshire, England

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Lace Making Equipment

Lace making uses many different tools and equipment.  Here is more information on them.


The bobbins used in Bedfordshire and the locality are miniature works of art in their own right - elderly ones are now quite valuable.  The bobbins used for Honiton lace (single motifs or patterns) were simply of turned wood but those for Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire lace consist of a turned wooden or bone shaft with a wire loop of glass beads at the end.  This loop is called the spangle (sometimes jingle) and weighs the bobbin down to keep the lace's tension correct.

The shank (main body) of the bobbin was sometimes inscribed with short phrases, names, dates or patterns. These inscriptions could be personal love messages, to commemorate special occasions or just sayings. A few very ornate ivory bobbins have been seen, but these may well have just been for display rather than for use.. Other materials were used, such as glass or silver, but again these may have been ornamental.

Some turned wooden bobbins with glass bead spangles - glass beads on loops of wire.

This bookmark is Bedfordshire lace.  It took me about 6 hours to make.  This is very simple design, featuring plaits or trails between motifs and 'Bedfordshire Buds' - the flower like motifs.

Lace Pillow ‘in Action’

My first  lace making pillow was a simple polystyrene dome, covered in dark brown cotton.  There is another piece of cotton fabric pinned over the lower part of the pattern, to stop the threads catching on it.

The design I am working on is using 29 pairs of bobbins. The brown thing at the very back of the pillow is my pincushion.

This is a very simple design, wide pieces of lace could often have hundreds of pairs of bobbins.

The actual process of making the stitches is very easy.. however learning to interpret patterns and following complex ones without getting confused takes many years of practice and study.

Lace Prickings

Here are some old lace prickings.

The lace maker would be lent a master copy of a design, which she would then lay on top of a piece of parchment (nowadays we often use shiny cardboard).  She would transfer the design on to the parchment, often using chalk, then would prick all the holds in the design, very carefully, using a 'pricker'.  Then she would draw on any lines to show the way it was to be worked.

Many of these prickings are for Torchon laces - they feature bold geometric designs.  The uppermost pricking is probably for Bucks Point lace - you can see the continuous bold lines which show where the 'gimp thread' is to go.  This is a thicker thread that is used to outline patterns in the lace.

Lace Pricker

Here is a simple pricker for pricking out the patterns. It is just a sharp needle, embedded in a wooden handle.

The thing on the left is a piece of cork that I pop on the end when not in use - for safety.

Lace Equipment Video

Here is a Youtube video where I am talking about the equipment used to make Midlands (Bedfordshire & Buckinghamshire) lace.

Lace Making Equipment

The Horse - stand

Pillow - stuffed hard

Fine brass pins

Bobbins (loads!)

Beads to make Spangles

Prickers to copy patterns

Scissors to cut threads

Pin Cushion

Pins with glass heads

Bobbin Box (or bag)

Patterns for the lace

Bobbin winder

Candles (for light)

Flask - water filled globe

Irons for crimping

Flour bag to dry hands

Yard-stick for measuring

Lace Beginners Website

A wonderful sire with lots of instructions on how to make lace, ideal for beginners, is Jo Edkins’ Lace Website.

Turvey Lace

One the left is an old man making lace in a cottage in Olney (just a couple of miles from Turvey).  This picture dates from around 1870.

You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The man is using a round pillow which is balanced on a three legged stool.  Hanging at the back of the pillow is his pincushion, and there are is a little fabric double-pocket hanging on the side of the pillow - this is to store bobbins.

The man is working close to the window for light.

When evening comes he will use a “flask”, or focusing lamp which is the glass apparatus you can see on a stool beside him.  I have added a close up on the right.

He will light the candle that stands in front of the flask, then place the flask between the candle and his work.

The flask is made of blown glass and filled with water.

This diffuses the light and helps the lacemaker see to work.  

There is a lot more about Lighting for the Lacemaker on the LaceNews site.

Brian Lemin has written a fascinating article on how other types of lamps are often called lace maker lamps - The Great Deception.