A handmade lace consisting of intricate and delicate patterns, employing the technique of twisting and crossing threads held on bobbins or spools, bobbin lace is also referred to as pillow lace and bone lace. Bobbin lace-making has roots in the sixteenth century braiding traditions of Genoa, Italy and was passed to France, Germany and Scandinavia via the Spanish troops in the seventeenth century.
The lace is made with varied thicknesses of threads. Traditionally, it was made using coloured silk, bleached linen yarn, wool, cotton and gold and silver-coated threads. The primary tools to make bobbin lace are a pillow, pins, bobbins and prickings or pattern paper. Besides these materials, some laces would also need a crochet hook or other fine hooks. The process of making bobbin lace employs inexpensive tools and materials, making it more economical when compared to detailed cutwork laces. A simple piece of lace can require up to 24 bobbins, but only two bobbins – employing four threads – are in use at a time. The lace-making technique may appear complicated but only involves two moves: twisting and crossing. When the fastens have been made, pins are pushed through the pin-openings within the pricking into the cushion to make them firm. The motifs, which can be laid out with a gimp (a thick thread), are typically worked in a cloth stitch, similar to woven fabric or half fastening stitch. Bobbin laces can be made in three different ways. Straight laces are made in one nonstop cycle, which in some cases requires the utilisation of multiple bobbins; in part laces, the motifs are made independently and after that are joined with the base of the work, usually allowing a few lacemakers to work on one piece; and in lace braids, an interlace is worked with a couple of sets spread on the design with the bends sewed together. When the lace is finished, the pins are removed from the pillow and the lace is lifted.
Bobbin lace-making was encouraged and taught in charitable schools and convents. Brought to India by Christian missionaries, Kanyakumari became one the oldest clusters of bobbin lace-makers in 1897 and was started by two Catholic sisters; here craftswomen would make fine quality laces and export to the European market, especially Belgium. Another major cluster was started by Father Augusto Colombo in the mid twentieth century, who introduced bobbin lace-making as an occupational craft at Station Ghanpur, Jangaon district, Telangana. There the craftspersons use mercerised cotton threads and, on average, a bobbin lace of 22 cm diameter takes about 35–40 working hours, which may vary depending on the skill of the person and complexity of the design. From 2017 onwards, the Telangana State Handicrafts Development Corporation has been supporting and popularising the craft. Additionally, in 2005, Joep Verhoeven, a design student at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands created a decorative lace fence using the bobbin lace technique. The ornate galvanised steel fence exemplified the intricate bobbin lace-making process and gave it a different functionality.
Today, bobbin lace is made using both natural and synthetic fibres and unconventional materials such as wire, filaments, cable and thick wool yarn are used to create bags, scarves, cushions, etc. which are also decorated with beads and tassels. Factors such as a change in fashion and economical machine-made laces have reduced the demand for these hand made laces.
Avadhani, R. “The Art of Bobbin Lace remains uncelebrated.” The Hindu, November 24, 2017. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/the-art-of-bobbin-lace-remains-uncelebrated/article20735951.ece
Dye, Gilian, Thunder, Adrienne. Beginner's guide to bobbin lace. Tunbridge Wells: United Kingdom, 2007. https://www.worldcat.org/title/beginners-guide-to-bobbin-lace/oclc/163617814
Irvine, Veronika, Ruskey, Frank. “Developing a Mathematical Model for Bobbin Lace.” Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, Cornell University. 2014. https://arxiv.org/abs/1406.1532
“Bobbin Lace.” The Craft Atlas. Accessed, September 1, 2021. https://craftatlas.co/crafts/bobbin-lace
“Lace Fence artwork by Joep Verhoeven.” Museum of Applied Art and Sciences. Accessed, September 21, 2021. https://collection.maas.museum/object/472052
Shrikumar, A. “A criss-cross of art and history.” The Hindu, October 12, 2018. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/the-intricate-bruges-lace-from-belgium-finds-place-in-the-lives-and-hearts-of-the-people-of-mulagumoodu/article25204613.ece