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Lacemakers of Central Ohio Uphold Centuries Old Craft

Randi Walle Randi Walle Lacemakers of Central Ohio Uphold Centuries Old CraftAll photos by Rani Walle.
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Handmade lace may seem like an interest of a bygone era to most, but for the Lacemakers of Central Ohio, Columbus’ branch of the International Organization of Lace, it’s a weekly event. Every Wednesday, members gather at the Gillie Center on Morse Road to work on handmade bobbin lace projects.

The art of lacemaking has existed for centuries, gaining popularity in the 1500s with the European upper class. Lace, which was often handmade by peasants, was in such high demand it could not be produced fast enough for those who could afford to buy it. The trend spread throughout Europe, and came to America with the early English settlers.

While there are only three types of stiches in bobbin lacemaking – linen stitch, half stitch, and whole stitch – there are hundreds of combinations to those stiches. The process begins with attaching a pricking (pattern) to a pillow stuffed with dried grass or straw. Straight pins are inserted along the pricking to indicate the design of the lace. Thread is wrapped around bobbins in the quantity the design requires, sometimes over a hundred bobbins on a single piece of lace. The bobbins are then braided and twisted in groups of four, working from left to right across the pricking creating the lace. This process is repeated until the design is finished.

The Lacemakers of Central Ohio got their start in the early 1990s when an Austrian Lacemaker began teaching bobbin lace classes in a craft shop in Dublin. She passed her skills onto a student, who taught another student, and soon a community of Lacemakers was born. Chartered in the late 90s, the organized group has been meeting regularly for nearly 20 years. The group is open to anyone interested in bobbin lace, both experts and novices. Dawn Borror is the unofficial teacher to newcomers in the group, helping them get started on their first project.

The group has 13 members, 10 of whom gather weekly. Each member brings her own project and supplies to the gatherings. Members encourage and support each other in their respective lacemaking endeavors. Amidst shared patterns and troubleshooting, members socialize and learn from each other. The gap of age, background, upbringing, and heritage is bridged through the common thread of lacemaking.

Each member of the group has her own reason for engaging in bobbin lacemaking. Rosalie Frazier, a historian, wanted to make her own lace to create authentic time-period costumes for her presentations. Niki Gnezda inherited bobbins from her grandmother, and enjoys the connection with her Slovenian ancestors while working with the heirloom bobbins. Other members have made lace for bridal garters, christening gowns, and wedding dresses, while some frame and display their bobbin lace as art work. The group regularly displays at the Ohio State Fair, among other educational and recreational displays and demonstrations around Central Ohio.

Those interested in the art of bobbin lacemaking are welcome to check out the group on Wednesday mornings. More information on the craft, history, and uses of bobbin lace can be found at lacemakersofcentralohio.simdif.com.


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