Monday 11 June 2012

The Judith Hayle Samplers

Back in 2001 I went to an exhibition of embroideries at Dorchester Museum, it was called The point of the Needle. They had a series of talks, and one of the speakers was Edwina Ehrman of the Museum of London. Her talk was fascinating; she had been researching Judith Hayle, and her daughter Rebecca Thomson, who taught needlework in Ipswich at the end of the seventeenth century, beginning of the eighteenth century. I didn’t realise until recently that in 2007 Edwina published a book, “The Judith Hayle Samplers.” (ISBN 978 0 9552086 0 7)

Why is Judith Hayle so interesting? First, she is the first teacher to be named on a sampler. Elizabeth Meadow’s 1691 sampler says, “Elizabeth Meadows is my name and with my needle I wrought the same and Juda Hayle was my dame.” Secondly a lot, fifteen or sixteen, samplers produced by pupils of her and her daughter survive. Finally Edwina has been able to find out a vast amount about both Judith and Rebecca and their pupils.

Judith Hayle was born in Ipswich in 1649, married in 1669, and was left a widow with six or seven children in 1685. Edwina does not know when she started teaching, but the first samplers with her name were produced in 1691. When she died in 1706 she left a will, and the inventory indicates that at that time she was running a shop and from the contents, “bone lace- head rowle & wyers & musling & forms, Lynnen horses & other odd nifles,” she was producing headdresses.  Her pupils were, for the most part, not the offspring of gentry, they were the children of mercers, drapers, weavers, malsters and yeomen, the emerging middle classes.

The book is 91 pages long, well illustrated with lots of colour photographs, and has a fascinating story to tell. Well worth it. The story continues for in 2010 an unknown Judith Hayle sampler, dated 1696, was sold at auction. Further information on the book is at

Sunday 10 June 2012

Tuppenny lace (for non lace makers)

As several people have asked how to make the simplest lace attached to Elizabeth Isham’s letter to her father, here are my instructions based on the assumption that you know nothing about lace making. Apologies to those who do know how to make lace.

First thing to say is that most early bobbin lace (does not apply to needlemade lace) is not made with a ground as modern lace tends to be. If you go to learn lace – assuming you are British rather than European -  you will probably start with torchon, then learn Beds (Bedfordshire), Bucks (Buckinghamshire) and last (because it requires a different type of bobbin) Honiton. This is how I learnt about 30 years ago. I gave up when the children were little and developed a disconcerting habit of turning my pillow upside down.
Starting point

The tuppenny lace requires four pairs of bobbins. Two pairs for the footside – the side you attach to fabric – and two pairs of workers that weave through. This photo hopefully not to blurred, shows ready for a pattern repeat. Before I started writing this I thought how hard can it be. Now I think this is something you learn by “sitting next to Nellie”.
Adding the first twists

Close over the pin with a whole stitch, that is weave the worker pair through the footside pair, this is not lace terminology but it is aimed at people who don’t know. Put in two twists, that is for each pair put the right hand bobbin over the left hand bobbin twice. Put two twists in the inner footside pair, then whole stitch (weave) the worker pair through the inner footside pair, and put in a pin. Bring in the second worker pair. With the two worker pairs work a three half stitch plait. Put up a pin, close round the pin. Put in two twists. With the right hand thread make a picot. Put in two twists. Put up a pin. With the two worker pairs work a three half stitch plait. Put up a pin. Whole stitch one pair of workers through the inner footside. Put up a pin. Put in two twists. Whole stitch the pair of workers through the outer footside. You are back where you started.
Whole stitch

Half stitch
The photographs of stitches I have taken from my 1931 copy of Margaret Maidment’s A manual of handmade bobbin lace work.  I afraid I am not very good with a camera, so everything is blurry. 

Half stitch plait

Suzanne wedding bouquet of lace
The best piece of lacemaking I was ever involved with was my tutor's wedding bouquet. This is entirely made of lace. It won the John Bull trophy, everyone Suzanne taught was involved, and she carried it on her wedding day. I made a few stephanotis leaves.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Dummy boards of c.1620

On Saturday I went to Hinton Ampner House where I saw two lovely 1620s dummy boards of children. Dummy boards, also known as silent companions or conservation pieces are life size painted wooden representations of people. They were around mainly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and they are good sources for costume information, though beware copies were made in the nineteenth century and there are people who make reproductions nowadays

The two dummy boards depict a boy and a girl, and to me say about 1615-1625 and Dutch. The boy is unbreeched, wearing skirts but carrying a wooden sword, and with a muckminder (large handkerchief) attached to his belt. The girl has the very rigid style of coif that appears in many Dutch paintings of the time, and would appear to require a wire frame, which the Dutch call an Oorijzer, and I love the wicker basket.

I was aware of the dummy boards in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection, particularly the two c.1620 boards which are probably a pair, and possibly represent industry and vanity. The one representing industry has appeared in several costume books where she is usually described as a maid. She is not alone there are two almost identical dummy board figures of women with brooms, in Lullingstone Castle and Stoneleigh Abbey. Although described as a maid because she has a broom and an apron hitched to one side for working, her clothing has been considered too rich for a servant. She wears a shadow or cornet on her head, a falling ruff and turned back cuffs decorated with lace. These are very similar in style, though nowhere near as ornate, as the ones worn by Margaret Layton in the famous c.1620 painting of her wearing her embroidered jacket.

The companion piece, described as vanity, has her hair down and a mirror in her hand. She wears a pearl necklace and earrings, and the lace decorating her apron appears to match the lace on her cuffs and on the collar of her very low neckline. The low neckline is of a style often worn by James I’s wife Anne of Denmark as can be seen in a 1617 portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.  This dishabille style also appears in the portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton .  The pairing of industry and vanity, or similar, is common at this time, as in the title page of the embroidery book The Needles Excellency, where Wisdom (with a book), Industry(with her sewing) and Follie, are shown side by side.

There is a small Shire book on the subject: Claire Graham Dummy Boards and Chimney Boards 1988