Make, learn and talk about needle lace.
Elizabeth Kurella's new book Youghal, Irish Needle Lace for Connoisseurs and Lacemakers (Published by The Lace Merchant, 2014, 155 pages) has just come out. She sent me a copy and asked me to review it. The book contains many very good photographs of Kenmare and Youghal laces, with line drawings of motifs abstracted from the laces and suitable for modern lace makers to use.
She starts with a very basic description of the parts of a lace (aimed at collectors), and a description of the characteristics of Youghal and Kenmare which allow one to identify it. I am not an expert on Youghal so I cannot speak to the accuracry of her description. But one of Elizabeth's persistent strengths is that she urges lace makers and collectors to look at all the little details of a piece of lace, differences in stitches chosen, differences in thread sizes, density variations, and variations in how a design or motif is executed. In part she encourages collectors to look very closely at a piece of lace to enjoy it more by attention to the details. And in part she encourages lace makers to discover the possible, and historic, ways of varying a particular motif or element of the lace. She explains differences in how the lace industry was organized in Ireland and on the continent, and how this may account for the far greater variety in execution that is seen in Irish needle laces.
There are several sources for the examples.
1, One source was a folio book of photographs (with expired copyright), the Plauen folio, ("Kenmare Arbeit Spitzen aus dem Museum de Konigl. Kunst-Schule fur Textil Industrie zu Plauen)..
2. Another source is also a collection of photographs in a folio by Alan Cole, dating from around 1900.
3. But there are 2 laces depicted which are currently in Elizabeth's own collection. One is a small scarf end, and another is a truly glorious large flounce 12 inches by 6 1/2 yards.
4. Considerable attention is also given to a flounce in the collection of Anne Swift. But since the photos are fairly small and without as much detail I would have preferred, and since the piece was also part of the Cole folio of Irish lace, I think the photos of this piece may have been photos or scans of the folio photos. It would have been theoretically possible for the photos to have been made from the actual lace, but it is not clear whether this was done. Along with the Anne Swift piece are a few more smallish examples from the Cole collection of photographs.
5.The book ends with the entirety of Irma Osterman's book on Youghal technique (included with the permission of Irma's heirs). This is very useful, not only because the book is out of print, but because it gives the lace maker concrete ideas about how the photographs might be interpreted. (Irma explains how she learned Youghal, so the reader can judge the reliability of her explanations.)
Elizabeth searches through each piece, identifies the repeats, and isolates each group of sprigs. She then points out how the same sprig is not worked the same way each time it reappears in the lace as a whole, with photos of the same motif worked several different ways. Many of the photos are very good with considerable detail. This is especially true of her own large flounce. There is enough detail to see how the shading was achieved, to see fairly well how various parts of the motif were executed differently. With Irma's explanations at the end the lacemaker can make a very good guess on how to interpret the photos. The variety of interpretations is amazing and delightful. She has made line drawings of many of the sprigs incorporated in all of these laces, with variations in which leaves, buds and flowers are included. The whole thing becomes a gold mine of ideas for the lace maker.
I had never intended Youghal and Kenmare to be part of my needle lace journey. But Elizabeth has changed my mind about that.