Mechlin Motifs Hidden in the Weeds

Hidden in the weeds of my niece’s overgrown backyard landscape are random exotic poppies.  The leaves blend with the thistles until their color fades to grey-green, and a bloom like an electric coral carnation bursts out on a slender stem.

That’s kind of like finding inspiration in the 18th century Mechlin bobbin lace in the nineteenth century Mechlin Makeover collar featured in Clues in the Threads.

The dense pattern of the lace, the stains, the patches and mends, and the cross-wise stripes of the makeover overwhelm the graceful little floral and leaf designs.  It is, however, worth taking a close look, again and again. A look from a different angle on a different day in different light can make something new pop up.

MECH MKOVR BACK O for copy this

MOTIF 2 color

This floral arrangement sprouts from a shell instead of a pot.  And is that a nautilus shell in the midst of the flowers?

The shell is sprouting from a wonderfully framed ornamental filling stitch.  

Each of the flowers and leaves within that group has a sophisticated shape.  No two petals are quite the same.  And what’s with the bubbles balanced atop the uppermost flower?  Everything about this design is fun.  Any little piece of it could be separated out and copied: 

Mechflower and berries

One flower, left,  with the leaf and berries,

Mech gimpflower and leaf

Another flower with a leaf,

Mech flower bubbles

The bubbling daisy.

Follow the paths of the gimp threads in any of these motifs ...

... see how a few simple twists can define and open wonderful details in the clothwork and give movement to the design..

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An ambitious and skilled lacemaker could attempt the whole of that motif,

 or this one, poised on the edge of oblivion in another stripe of Mechlin lace.

This one is in a Mechlin rather than a cinq trous (five-hole) mesh.

Don’t overlook the graceful asymmetry of the scrollwork atop the quatrefoil filling at the bottom.

Just because they originally were worked as Mechlin bobbin lace doesn’t mean any other lacemaker should be left out.  How about interpreting any of these in needle lace?

MOTIF Shell w contrast543

Instead of copying little motifs, why not copy ideas?

Like shading the density of the clothwork in this shell design. 

Darn  little motif COPY606

Or create little motifs of your own, then frame them with little bits of fancy background stitches?

What a fun way to create a sampler of fancy fillings.

Here are a selection of fillings from the lace pieces used to assemble the Mechlin makeover.  References refer to instructions for these fillings in Ulrike Lohr's book, Viele Gute Grunde Vols 1-4. 1100 samples with line drawings and worked lace. no ISBN. Publ. Germany. Available on ebay and through  References are courtesy of Kate Henry.

COPY FILL 2 diamond537COPY FILL 3 lozenge w ho538

Left:  Filling A-50  Lohr, Viele Gutte Grund.                                       Right:  Lohr, Filling A-101.

Left: A-27, right A-29                                                                       Right, below: B-85, B-99, B-147

COPY FILL 4 four lobe539COPY FILL 1 open and fle536

Finally, consider this little leaf-and-berry motif.

COPY Grape leaf cluster535

Reflected in this little motif is another whole story.  It was made in the mid-eighteenth century, about the time William Hogarth published his "Analysis of Beauty".  His serpentine lines affect our sense of beauty to this day. What county fair floral arrangement competition does not include a few displays paying homage to his famous S-curve?

And are those stems not just a little more dense than the surrounding leaves they support?  

Vintage lace is worth seeking out and studying in detail.  

Design, technique, workmanship -- inspiration is everywhere.

Oh -- and one more last thing.  Remember the subtle shapes of these motifs, how they are all a bit asymmetrical, the flowers a bit more stylized, a bit more exotic, and how the curves are just a bit different from what we are used to seeing today.

Those are the clues to identify and date pieces of antique lace.  Works both ways!


August 9, 2015      219-659-1124    Elizabeth Kurella 2014