Monday, April 26, 2010

Behind-the Scenes Lace Tour

Metal bobbin lace sample with needle lace trim


Last Thursday I attended a behind-the-scenes lace tour at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History. If you are interested in tatting and bobbin laces, this tour is well worth your time.

Silver bobbin lace


It was also Earth Day, so the Mall was bustling with activity. Wish I had snapped a photo of the rally. Activists holding whale tails and picket signs marched alongside Greenpeace staffers sweltering in full-body whale suits. You can see photos of them here:)

Thompson describing the pricking process


Volunteer Karen Thompson led the two-hour lace tour. Besides being marvelous, warm and patient, her love of lace epitomizes why we were all there. She was a font of knowledge with a clear passion for preserving handmade laces.


Here she is talking about lace ruffs. Actual lace ruffs were heavily starched or supported with boning. The goofy-looking model is yours truly.


Karen Thompson also teaches museum visitors to make lace each week from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. with one other volunteer instructor.



How did I hear about this backroom lace tour? Karen Thomspon's article in Piece Work magazine (July/August 2009) first tipped me off, but Shirley Hays' blog post (Shade Tree Art) with photos of tatting sealed the deal.


There was one bulletin-style board pinned full of tatting on display for the tour. My photos suffer from a bit of motion blur from holding the camera high above my head and tripping the shutter.


My intention was to take one overall shot and use PhotoShop to crop close-ups. The motion blur wrecks that plan. But you can still see enough of the lace to get a pretty good idea of the fine threads used and method of attaching individual motifs into larger shapes.


Karen Thompson told me that there was more tatting in the collection. Perhaps future tatters can ask to see some of the pieces in the storage drawers.

The tour is limited to eight persons.

Planning a trip to the nation's capitol? Call ahead and reserve your spot for the lace tour.

Many more photos of the lace tour, plus a few from the Ipswitch exhibit can be viewed from Orla's Flikr account.  Thank you, Orla for hosting them all!

MORE TO COME! Watch for the Bayeux Tapestry made in lace, black Chantilly lace and more.

7 comments:

Lace-lovin' Librarian - Diane said...

Now, that looks like a lot of fun! Some day...

Tatskool said...

The whale suits are fab.
How old is the tatting, did she say?
They need to display it on a better background so that it will stand out.
Great day out.

Gina said...

How cool is that??? I'd love to see it! I work at Purdue University and one of our meetings was scheduled at the school of Consumer Science (I think!) and we got to see the lace collection there. It was largely donated by one man's family who traveled extensively and appreciated lace, but it was almost all bobbinlace. Not a bit of tatting in it! Still, it was fascinating to see the fine threads and intricate designs.

Miranda said...

Thanks for letting us know about this! I'll definitely put it on my list of things to do someday.

Fox said...

Looks like an interesting afternoon.

I am stuck on the picture of the pricking process - like the "Pricker" in England during the Inquisition??? This sounds so painful and she is sitting there with her fingers Jammed into a little box.... ohhh.....

Fox the Fainthearted : )

N. Maria said...

By reading your blog, it seems you had a glorious and informative day!
Lucky you....

Carol Lawecki said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your visit and all the pictures. It almost felt like I was there too!