How I Discovered the Craft of Bobbin Lacemaking

Torchon sampler.jpg

“The Dying Art of Maltese Lacemaking”

I first came across bobbin lacemaking probably about 20 years ago. I was home from university for the summer. One Saturday afternoon (from what I can remember), I was sitting in my mom’s rumpus room, in the house I grew up in in Edmonton. Nothing much was going on, and I was watching the CBC. They were showing a documentary – or it might have even been a short segment in a general interest program – about “the dying art of Maltese lacemaking”.

And that’s it, really, that’s pretty much all I remember: “the dying art of Maltese lacemaking.” I remember very little of the show’s actual content, save an image of some older ladies sitting next to the ocean making bobbin lace. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the segment, the show or the day. The moment came and went, and my life continued on. I finished my undergrad, moved to Italy for a year, and then moved to England. Worked. Went to grad school.

But for some reason it stuck with me. That show, that segment. And although not always at the forefront of my mind, nor indeed at the back of my conscious mind, it was sort of always there… niggling… I want to learn the dying art of maltese lacemaking.

I moved to Bradford-on-Avon at the start of 2009. Bradford-on-Avon is a lovely town just outside of Bath, in Wiltshire. Once I’d settled into my flat, I decided that the time was nigh to find a lacemaking group. I had nothing to go on, no way of finding out if there was such a group anywhere nearby. I tried telephoning the Lace Guild, but they had no record of any Bath-adjacent groups.

Now you have to understand. Although lace groups are not uncommon in England – indeed, there are quite a few scattered about – they weren’t (and still aren’t) particularly well-advertised, and this was at the time of social media’s infancy. So on a whim I walked over to the Visitors’ Centre… and lo and behold, they had the name of a lady who ran a lace group in the town.¬†Finding a group located in the small town I had haphazardly decided to live in was fortuitous to say the least. And even more fortuitously, the group was run by a woman who turned out to be an excellent instructor. We met on Monday nights in her front room, at a cost of ¬£3 per session.

I was part of that group for a year, leaving only because I got a job in Australia. But that first year was seminal for me, providing me with enough basic skills and passion to stick with it, even when I wasn’t able to find an instructor while living in Sydney.

When I returned to England after 18 months Down Under, I moved to Kingston-Upon-Thames and joined the Epsom Lacemakers – another group, run by another excellent instructor who was kind, supportive, patient and generous with her time.¬† Indeed, now that I have returned to Canada she continues to mentor me from afar, skyping and emailing with me when I’m stuck or need a sounding board or just need some encouragement. I really miss the supportive group environment of my English lacemaking groups, which is one of the reason I wanted to set up a lacemaking group here in Edmonton.

I think I am very fortunate to have wound up loving the craft I spent so many years aspiring to learn. True, I haven’t actually learned Maltese lacemaking yet, having focused thus far on Torchon, Bucks and Beds. But one day…