The Embroiderer's Story

Lace Answers

October 18th, 2008 by Tricia

When Jill emailed me questions about the Laton jacket, many of them focused on the lace details which were too hard to see from the photos taken outside the case. The lace was applied to the jacket later in
its life, but shows in the portrait and thus is contemporary. We know that it was added later because there are remnants of the silk ribbon ties sewn into the seam which was removed to add the lace.

One of the big questions was how the lace was started or ended. Was it folded back and by how much? The answer was surprising to me. There was no fold finishing or tacking of ends under the seams. The lace was cut and the pairs looked to be tied (I will let the lace experts look at the photos to confirm this) and then applied directly to the wings with that cut edge just hanging there. For the other pieces (cuffs and the one piece that runs all around the fronts, collar, and back edge), the lace comes back and meets itself and so
they tied the pairs of the opposite ends together. The join was in the ‘V’ opening in the sleeve for the cuff lace and the join was just under the right ear area of the collar for the largest piece.

The amazing thing was as crude as the joins were made, it took Susan and I awhile to locate them. Especially around the jacket edge. We had to turn the jacket around a bit to find it. Just goes to show that when there is so much going on visually, these rough spots just don’t show up!

I add a picture of our lace here to show an end. To me, this is very nicely finished compared to what I saw on the jacket – but again, I can’t wait to her Carolyn’s comments once she looks at the photos.


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4 Responses to “Lace Answers”

  1. Colleen says:

    That end looks nice because I think it’s a fold…both ends of the thread were wound onto bobbins and then the center is the end, so it’s nice and neat. If you are buying pre-made yardage, only one person would get that bit, unless you bought the whole piece.

    In order to tie off the lace, they would have had to cut the lace, then undo a bit, to get enough slack to knot…amazing, I’d think it was too expensive to do that! Unless it was made for the jacket? I wouldn’t expect that, either. I want a time machine!

  2. Follansbee says:


    I enjoy the parts about your trip to examine the original artifacts. good stuff…there is no way anything can substitute for the hands-on examination of the object. Ideally more of your embroiderers would at least have some access to period work, so they could really see & feel what they are trying to capture.

    the phrase “just goes to show that when there is so much going on visually, these rough spots just don’t show up!” sounds familiar.

    It’s just so frustrating that the institutions that hold these objects won’t let you post pictures, reading it without images is really irritating. Just a general complaint about museums these days. At least you got to see the jacket & panel first-hand without plexi in front of them. win some lose some, I guess.

  3. Helen says:

    I undertstand the frustration, a friend of mine did some research on some lace that was in the Met, she had to sign a non-disclosure/non-publication waiver before she was allowed to view her samples and do her research (reverse engineering a pattern from an extant example, including figuring out the proper thread size to use). I have seen her work, and it would be nice for other people to see it, but I also understand the museum’s desire to keep control of what is “theirs” (the images and the items they portray).

  4. Carolyn H. says:

    Tricia, your comments confirm my impressions about finishing the ends, impressions that I got from examining the lace at the MMA. I came away with a conviction that the way the ends were finished amounted to: “anyway they could”.

    I’m not entirely sure about Colleen’s hypothosis that the only way to have the knots at the ends would be to undo some of the lace, or to have the lace custom made for the jacket. In fact, one way that you would see knots would be if the lace was worked (to order) a certain length, and knotted. If the lacemaker then skipped a repeat or so and knotted the threads just above the pins that begin the next length, you might see knots at one or both ends.

    All just speculation, of course.

    I can’t wait to see the photos!


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