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HONITON LACE

 

This article appeared in a Guide book to East Devon published c 1903:

 

"Honiton Lace is a pillow lace which takes its name from Hontion, a little market town some 16 miles east of Exeter.

"Bone lace" as it was called from the use of fish bones in place of pins, then scarce and valuable, was made in Devonshire in the 16th century, but it was not until immigrants from Flanders settled in these parts that the distinctive lace known as Honiton was made. The industry flourished throughout the 17th century but languished in the following one, and later suffered a severe blow on the introduction of machine-made lace. Honiton lace survived, however and under the fostering care of various organisations, which raised the standard of work and started centres for its sale, it has prospered again in recent times.

In Honiton lace, the sprigs or sprays as they are variously called, are first made separately on the pillow, then arranged in any desired shape, and the background, either pillow or needle, worked in. The designs of the sprays are mainly floral, such as the rose, thistle, fern and bramble, but the scallop shell and turkey feathers have been used. In the most debased days of the industry it is said that even frying-pans and bullock's hearts were copied.

Some years ago, it was a common sight to see women sitting at their cottage doors, pillow on lap, plying their bobbins or lace-sticks as they are called locally, and fixing pins with the dexterity born of long practice. The pillows are smaller and flatter than those for other laces, and the lace-sticks are usually plain, the thread being too fragile to stand the weight of heavily ornamented bobbins. Some of the workers, however, possess a few old ones, decorated with initials, a date and sometimes a motto carved or outlined in tiny holes filled in  with coloured wax. But the old workers are passing away, and the rising generation do not devote sufficient time to their pillows to attain the skill of their elders, so that good "raised" Honiton, as the best work is styled, is usually a sound investment, as it is likely to become more difficult to obtain. Depots for the sale of the lace will be found in most town of the lace districts, the ladies in charge being always willing to advise customers."

Lace maker c.1907

Believed to be Mary Ann Freeman of Otterton

Photographed outside her cottage in 1907

She was born in 1843 and had been making lace

since she was a young child

 

 
 
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