Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lovely Laces

One of my absolute loves, from right back into my teens has been antique lace. When other young girls were reading teenage magazines on how to get the boy that they liked to like them or how to wear the "latest" look... I was reading doll collecting magazines, going to doll fairs and buying antique laces and millinery flowers with my pocket money. I have to admit though, it didn't make me the most popular girl at school and no, I never managed to convince that boy that I liked to like me back, BUT I had a lovely little collection of dolls, laces and flowers.

The fact that I am returning to my love of collecting laces & haberdasheries again feels like coming home. Only this time we live in the age of the internet and actually finding these pieces are far easier. 20 years ago my ability to access these specialty collections was problematic. Now, the internet allows me to access laces, flowers and buttons that I could only ever dream of.

Pieces like this late 19th century ribbon work on guipure lace is no more than a click away. However, being more available has also meant that antique haberdasheries are now far more expensive than what I ever remember them being. Perhaps an argument could be that they are more expensive because they are in fact becoming rarer... but I tend to also think the ability for people to access them has meant more demand on pieces. A small piece of valenciennes lace could reach almost $20 a yard, and sometimes more depending on the detail and rarity.

 Slowly my collection is growing, little bundle by little bundle. Being in the presence of this lace does leave me with quite a spectrum of emotions, excited that I have managed to have it come into my little home, awe at its beauty and a little sadness as well, because although we do make very fine reproduction antique laces still, the reality is that this level of quality is the exception, not the norm.

Its not until you really look at a piece of antique haberdashery that you connect with what we have lost. For me, Broderie Anglaise pieces are an absolute example of this fact. Compare a 100 year old piece to current eyelets for example and it is like chalk and cheese. I have 4 small pieces of Broderie Anglaise that are new/old stock and I cherish these pieces like gold.... the detail is truly exceptional and unlike anything being manufactured today.

I spent some time this week laundering some of my laces and winding them onto homemade bolt cards. As much as I love antique lace, the mustiness is not the most endearing quality about them. For doll making I prefer clean supplies. Even old/new stock that has never been used on its original bolts can feel stale and musty. The difference a bath makes is quite extraordinary.

Before laundering this lace was yellowed and very stiff.

 After laundering the same lace is soft to touch and a lovely white. Amazing that underneath nearly a hundred years of aging is this beautiful lace.
The Powerhouse museum has a wonderful file on washing antique lace that is very informative. I use Lux soap flakes to wash my laces, and the power of sunshine. Any stubborn stains can be treated with lemon juice and sunshine. And it is also very important to remember the fragility of these haberdasheries, try not to pull at wet lace, and if they do tangle during washing, wait till they are dry before you begin to straighten them out.
Mel xx


Luna und Luzie said...

I love laces so much. Your photos are besutiful. I also fall in love with your Dolls an bears!

Melissa Frank said...

Thank you Stefanie for your lovely comment... xxxx