Unlike bobbin lace, Needlelace remains relatively unknown. Just wondering how you all came of hear, or see, this wonderful ancient craft ....

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IOLI conventions...Tatting was my first lace, but at the convention you can usually take 2 classes, morning and afternoon. When I was registering for my very first convention, I knew that there was no way that I could physically tat for an entire day--my wrists and hands would never forgive me. I needed something that used a different "motion". Looking through the class catalog to find anything at the beginner level in any lace style, the only class I could find was something called "Carrickmacross" with Mary Shields. I loved it! So at conventions in following years, I sought the same balance--tatting and whichever needle lace was available. Finally, I reached the point where I was choosing to take all needle lace classes.

I think this switch to all needle lace at conventions was largely because I realized that it was really the only place I could find teachers and resources. There are so many tatting resources out there (books, online, and in my guild) I didn't need conventions to improve my skills or learn new techniques. I did not find the same with needle laces. Very few books, mostly out of print. A very small web presence until reletively recently (thank goodness for this site, and some of the awesome blogs that have been started!). There is only one person in my guild that does needle lace regularly, everyone else tats or does bobbin lace. So even though needle lace is relatively unknown still, I am happy to see it's presence expanding on the web which is making it much easier for me to "stay connected" and inspired, instead of just an annual trip to a lace convention!


I started bobbin lace about 1980, and in 1982 a bunch of us started the Chicago Area Lace Guild (now defunct). Through that guild and its activities I became aware of all the different methods of lace making and decided I should  understand how all of them were made, and try them out. So in the mid 1980s I experimented with needle lace, but did very badly at it. I knew of no one locally who did it, so there was no source for advice. I gave it up after a few pieces because it seemed that developing sufficient skill to make good looking lace was going to take too much time away from my bobbin lace.

But when I created needlelacetalk, that changed. With the advice of our experienced and skilled members I was able to greatly improve my technique

I never did get to embroidered tulle, Carrickmacross, filet lacis, or drawn threadwork. My experiements with sol lace were very basic. 

I first made "Battenburg" lace (I use quotation marks because my attempt was not a very good example of the type) as a sampler, after I found instructions in a Reader's Digest book of needlework.  For the Battenburg tape I used a shoelace!  I thought it was fascinating, but didn't follow up on it.  Who knows why?  Years later, after reading The Ruins of Lace, which was about bobbin lace, my interest in lacemaking was piqued again.  But my ways are wandering and my possessions (and projects) must be portable, so I didn't want to buy a bobbin lace kit with all its accoutrements.  Instead, I dove into needlelace again, glad to find that my embroidery and sewing skills transferred so easily.  For me, part of the appeal of needlelace is its rarety in today's crafting world.  It interests me to learn skills that most people haven't even heard of!

My introduction to lacemaking was from Golden Hands which ran a series on bobbin lace.   This was in the late 60s/early 70s.   I attended classes for bobbin lace as a result.   I can't remember when I first saw needlelace but I was at a lace day in Essex (my home county) when Nenia Lovesey gave a talk on lacemaking.   This was in 1981.  I bought her book and she signed it for me.   My association with needlelace was a bit hit and miss after that.    A young family and my husband's transfer for his job to Yorkshire probably delayed my investigation of needlelace.   But I did start a flower (brooch) in what looks like 40 crochet cotton in 1984(ish).   I then attended a private workshop at someone's house in 1985/86 which was when the Abstract piece was started and I went on to finish it at home.   Again a bit of a gap and I was able to attend some workshops at the British College of Lace (now defunct) with Carol Williamson.    After that life got in the way and it was several years before I got my needlelace out again.    This was because my local lace group were looking for ideas for workshops and I offered. (Well I was Chairman at the time!)    Had to think about that one, but the 3-d purple flower was the result.  As a result of that flower and the greeny/pink one I was asked to go to Edinburgh to teach lacemaking, bobbin, needlelace and Carrickmacross.   This will be my sixth year of going  there.   We need to get lacemaking into the public domain so that it continues in the future.    I will stop rambling now didn't intend to write 'War and Peace'.  

Hi girls, thank you so much for providing this fascinating insight into your journeys. It is amazing to read, not just for myself but for our greater audience too. Maureen, hasn't the purple flower stood time well. I thought you'd only recently created it.

It just goes to show that everyone has something they can bring to the table and share, regardless of ability.

Karen, still not got the book but will keep trying.
Amy, you must have loads of photos of Carrick Macross to share?
Lorelei, so glad with hindsight you didn't go with my suggestion and suggested this discussion instead!

Everyone else, please do join in!

I come from a family where my mother and both grandmothers did the traditional crafts of knitting, crocheting, quilting and such.  I learned to tat while in high school and that is my fall back activity when I have to have something in my hands but can't concentrate.  I found the local lace guild (Dogwood Lace Guild in NW Arkansas) in the early 90's at a local street fair and fell in love with bobbin lace.  With 4 young children, it took a couple of years before I could really pursue it but still remember walking into the meeting for the first time!  I learned bobbin lace and still love it but have had to set it aside for now.  One of the ladies in the guild is the daughter of Irma Osterman who was a wonderful needlelace teacher and collector.  I was fortunate enough to take a Point de Gaze class from Irma while she was still teaching.  There are a few in our guild who do needlelace so we inspire each other.  I have been so glad for this group and the wonderful lace that is shared!

Hi Glenda, thank you very much for your contribution. You are a very lucky lady to have taken a class from Irma Osterman! It's also great that there are a few of you doing NL together so you are able to bounce ideas off one another. I like the fact that you also like to have something else to do with yours hands when you're unable to concentrate. This probably resonants with many of us. There is something very soothing and calming about having ones hands busy!

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