How Lace Used to be Made

“The thread used was the finest of linen, sometimes of such gossamer spin that it could not be felt between thumb and fore finger. Since dry air would cause the fragile linen threads to be come brittle and snap at a touch, both spinning and lacemaking were often carried on in the damp atmosphere of a cellar, A single candle provided illumination for a number of workers — usually three or four. The candle stood in the center of a candle stand. Around it were placed globes of water, sometimes called “flashes,  positioned so that the light shining through one of them was magnified and projected onto the spot where a lacemaker was working. Sometimes there would be a second ring of workers around a candle stand, and incredibly, even a third ! Under such conditions and for mere pennies a day, laces of a beauty and delicacy unmatched in any age were woven. In order to see their detailing one needs a magnifying glass, if not a microscope! The world will never see its like again.”

Doris Southard: Lessons in Bobbin Lacemaking

photo is thought to be taken at Podington, c1940:

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