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  • Alison Barlow

Nottingham, Lace they go together like Love and Marriage....Part 1

I've been interested in lace for a while.

I suppose it started as a child when I had a fascination about making wedding dresses and veils for my Sindy for some reason. I wouldn't say I was particularly girly girly otherwise.

I've always loved texture and lace, in all it forms has so many varied textures. There's also something otherworldly yet infinitely traditional about it.

Then I started selling lace at Mokshatrim and needed to find out what the different names were. I found that quite confusing but started to find out more about it's history, which is especially strong here in Nottingham, where I live.

We have lace machines in the local Wollaton Hall Industrial Museum but without interpretation they seemed big lumps of steel. Man's stuff.

Then I got the chance to attend their Lace Curator's tour and suddenly they made more sense, we saw how the machines evolved, lace designs and how they were translated to cards which were 'read' by the machines, all the bobbins and cones and how they interacted to make the design. So amazingly complicated, so unbelievable that in the industrial revolution there were minds like John Heathcote and Nottingham's own John Leavers (of Leaver's Lace fame) who could think up and develop such amazing machines to produce something so delicate and beautiful. And some understanding of the complexities of the ongoing process.

Of course then Nottingham was the centre of lace manufacture in the world. Which is incredible - how it could all disappear? I realised that we had 'The Lace Market' area in Nottingham but had never really thought about what that meant.

France of course still produces lace - but so much of the skills, design and production has now gone to China.

I wanted to know more. To see a machine in action - to truly understand the process - but all the machines in the museum stand still.

I knew about Cluny Lace - the last lace producers in the UK - and I knew they were not far - in Ilkeston. So I put a visit on my wish list.

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