AN ART:  Cecily Black at work at a past display at the Royal Bulls Head Inn.
AN ART: Cecily Black at work at a past display at the Royal Bulls Head Inn.

Milestone moment the perfect time to pass on the lace

TOOWOOMBA Lacemakers celebrate 30 years in 2018 with a healthy membership and ongoing displays of their work planned, including two exhibits at the Royal Bulls Head Inn.

And two of its stalwart leaders, Barbara West and Cecily Black, both now octogenarians, have decided it's time to hand over to some younger blood, Gail Parish and Karlene Robinson.

Babara has been lacemaking for about 18 years, and will still be involved in the group, which she is delighted is in such good shape, with about 20 members including four teenagers.

She said the Have-a-Go Pillow was a winner at the group's many displays, allowing people to actually try their hand at what can at first appear a daunting craft.

"It's not as difficult as it looks," Barbara said, adding that beginners could start on just 10 pairs of bobbins, while experts could use up to 200 on a single piece.

EVERY PIECE DIFFERENT: Some of the delicate work of the Toowoomba Lacemakers on show.
EVERY PIECE DIFFERENT: Some of the delicate work of the Toowoomba Lacemakers on show.

Having said that, Barbara, who like many lacemakers has always been involved in crafts, believes lacemaking is "the pinnacle of all the crafts - it's really an art".

"Every piece you do is different and challenging and you can be learning all the time," she said.

The basic style of lacemaking is bobbin lace but, like knitting, with its plain and pearl stitches creating an amazing combination of patterns, lacemaking is only composed of two stitches, combined in a variety of ways into increasingly intricate patterns and using different threads, some as fine as cobweb.

Until recently, Australian lacemakers were very much influenced by traditional English styles, whites and creams, but the coming of the internet, as with everything, has broadened knowledge, and more contemporary patterns and colourful laces are now being produced.

While many people just think of doilies in association with lace, Barbara said there were any number of possibilities in the field including creating pictures, edges, scarves, fans, paperweights, bookmarks, even the lace cuffs and jabot (ruffle) on the Toowoomba Mayor's ceremonial robes.

Bobbin lacemaking is a form of weaving, worked on a "pillow" traditionally filled with straw, horsehair or sawdust, but these days using ether foam, on which you basically fashion your own loom.

A "pricking pattern" is created and glued onto cardboard, and bobbins are used to weave the thread and keep the tensions as the pattern is followed.

A special commemorative bobbin is among the celebrations being considered to mark the Toowoomba group's 30th anniversary.

If you are interested in learning more about lacemaking, Toowoomba Lacemakers will be among the traditional artisans showing their skills at the Royal Bulls Head Inn Open Day on Sunday, July 1.

They will also take part in the Royal Bulls Head's celebration of christenings at the inn on August 5, which will include a display of antique and new christening outfits and prams.

Also coming up at the inn on Sunday, August 18 is a service, picnic and historic talk to celebrate 170 years since the first church service was conducted on the Darling Downs at the Royal Bull's Head.

Toowoomba Lacemakers meet at the Cobb + Co Museum on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Contact Gail Parrish on 4693 7028. For more details on the events at the Royal Bulls Head Inn, call Debby Theodosis on 0490 363 719.

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