is Honiton Lace ?
lace is one of the many varieties of hand-made bobbin lace produced commercially
over the past few centuries, a lace that has become world famous for itís
intricate, delicate and very beautiful design. Honiton lace has been made
in the East Devon of England area since the late 16th century and during
that time has been purchased and worn by the wealthy of the world.
is it called Honiton Lace ?
Lace takes itís name from the East Devon town of Honiton where the majority
of the lace was made in the past. It is now a generic name for the techniques
and designs involved in making this type of lace and does not necessarily
have to be made in the town of Honiton, in fact there are people making
Honiton Lace throughout the world as a hobby today.
invented Honiton Lace ?
one "invented" Honiton Lace. Early bobbin lace from Flanders
in particular, is very similar to the Honiton Lace of the same period,
however, over hundreds of years the lace made here in East Devon developed
characteristics that are the ones now commonly recognised as Honiton Lace.
If lace was invented anywhere it was probably Italy, and from there spread
to many places with an existing textile industry. Honiton, being a wool
and flax area was ideally suited to taking up this new craft.
was Honiton Lace first made ?
is thought that lace making spread throughout Europe from Italy in the
early 16th century and probably came to the Honiton area in the later
part of the 16th century. There are few records of itís early development
and it is only in the 17th century that good documentary evidence starts
to appear referring to the extensive lace industry to be found in Honiton.
It is likely that lace making started in all of the major lace making
regions of Europe at about the same time.
lace making come from Flemish refugees fleeing persecution ?
there is absolutely no proof that there were any lace making Flemish refugees
who settled in this area in the 1570ís. The story is thought to have come
about during the 19th century due to poor historical research and writing
and has been passed on as a totally incorrect fact ever since. There are
no local records of Flemish sounding lace makers or other crafts people,
and no reason why they should have settled here when fleeing the low countries.
did lace making come to Honiton ?
had an early history of textile production prior to lace making and so
had many workers who could adapt and take up lace making for a living
when it became a highly desirable fashion accessory. Wool was woven in
the area, and more importantly flax was grown here to make the very fine
hand spun yarns used in lace making at that time. With many textile workers
already, it was natural that they should turn their hand to lace making
when it came about.
made the lace ?
was a complex manufacturing hierarchy in the lace industry. At the top
were the merchants or manufacturers who took the orders and sold the finished
product, they employed designers, lacemakers and finishers to make the
lace. The lacemakers often worked from home while the merchants had their
shops in Honiton and other local towns and villages. In the 19th century
the lacemakers were paid very poorly, often by tokens that could only
be spent in general stores also owned by the merchants. It was not a cottage
industry but a highly organised and regulated manufacturing process.
used the finished lace ?
fashionable gentry of Europe who could afford the very expensive hand
made lace used to adorn costume of the day. The lacemakers and locals
could not afford to wear lace and most of it was sold outside the area
with much of it being sent to London and abroad.
are the lace factories ?
are no lace factories now nor were there ever lace factories in Honiton,
any lace factories that you might have heard of housed the machine-made
lace industry of the Midlands, especially in the Nottingham area, although
Tiverton in ,id Devon housed the Heathcote works where some of the first
machine made laces were made.
is it not called Beer or Branscombe Lace when so much was made there ?
lace was made in Beer and Branscombe as well as many other East Devon
towns and villages. Honiton Lace refers to a technique for making a specific
type of lace that took itís name from the town of Honiton where the majority
of the lace was made or sold. Although Honiton Lace was made in many other
local towns and villages, throughout history it has always been known
as Honiton Lace. There is a Branscombe Point Lace which has itís own distinct
features, but apart from lace made by a few top designers, it is almost
impossible to tell where any individual item of Honiton lace was made.
the Royal Family use Honiton Lace ?
Victoria revived the declining Honiton Lace industry in the 19th century
by ordering much ceremonial lace including that used for her wedding dress.
many of her family used Honiton lace in great quantities and since then
the Royal Family have used the Royal Honiton Lace christening gown for
all the Royal christenings, and have also had a number of smaller pieces
of Honiton lace presented to them on special occasions.
is Honiton Lace made now ?
Lace is not made commercially anymore, the industry having died out by
the early part of this century. The only people now making Honiton Lace
are doing it for their own pleasure as a hobby. There are still classes
held on a weekly basis in Honiton for anyone wishing to learn the craft
and regular demonstration can be seen in the museum during the Summer
many people still make Honiton Lace ?
thousands world wide. As Honiton Lace is a generic name for the technique
it does not have to be made in Honiton to be called Honiton Lace. It is
thought that there are probably well over a thousand people capable of
making lace in the local area. There are still a few people prepared to
make Honiton Lace on commission, however it takes a very long time to
produce and is very expensive as a result. Some of our best customers
for lace equipment come from Japan and the Far East where handcrafts are
so popular today.
is Honiton Lace made ?
lace making such as in Honiton Lace is a miniature form of weaving. A
pattern is drawn onto and then pricked into heavy waxed card which is
then pinned onto a tightly packed barley straw pillow. Very fine pins
are inserted into the holes of this pattern or "pricking" and
threads woven back and forth between the pins to build up the lace. Using
a variety of different "weaving" techniques different patterns
are built up within the lace to give it a very intricate patterned structure.
Finally the finished lace motif has itís pins removed and is joined to
other motifs using similar techniques to create a larger finished item
such as a collar, handkerchief or wedding veil.
are the bobbins / bodkins / shuttles or sticks for ?
bobbins are thin turned wooden holders for the thread. They allow the
thread to be wound onto one end and are easily manipulated on the pillow
without getting the thread dirty or tangled. They are not called
bodkins, sticks or shuttles as many people think.
making makes you go blind doesnít it ?
this is a myth. As long as lace is made in good light so that you can
see what you are doing with out straining your eyes it will not cause
eye damage. There are no historical records of lacemakers going blind
due to their trade, in fact lace making may be easier on the eyes than
needlework because you are looking at the bobbins and lace which together
form a large area, and not to the point of a needle which is a much smaller
and could possibly cause more eye strain.
long does it take to make a piece of Honiton Lace ?
takes about 10 hours to make a square inch of very fine Honiton Lace,
less if the work is coarser or not very complex. Working on these calculations,
some of the finest pieces of lace on show in the Allhallows Museum must
have taken many tens of thousands of hours to produce.
I purchase a Honiton Lace tablecloth ?
Honiton Lace is much too fine too be used as a furnishing or table lace.
Traditionally Honiton Lace has always been a costume lace for collars,
cuffs, edgings, flouncing and wedding veils. If you want a tablecloth
or mats you will need a heavier type of lace such as tape, cluny, crochet
or even machine-made lace.
can I go to see Honiton Lace ?
Museum in the High Street, Honiton, has an outstanding collection of some
of the finest Honiton Lace ever produced. The collection spans nearly
400 years of lace making in the area. As well as the Honiton Lace, there
are regular lace making demonstrations from many of the towns best lace
makers. The museum has recently completely modernised its lace displays
and can now show the majority of its collection at any one time.
can I purchase Honiton Lace ?
only remaining lace shop in Honiton is The Honiton Lace Shop via this
web site or at The Grove Antique Center in the High Street. Here you can
view many fine examples of antique Honiton Lace for sale. These range
from small motifs mounted in a variety of jewellery and frames, to much
larger pieces for wearing or display. The shop always has an extensive
range of collars, handkerchiefs and wedding veils for sale. It is now
only open by appointment, please email us or call 01404 42416 for details
can I learn to make Honiton Lace ?
classes are held in Honiton at the local Community College for all levels
of lacemakers. It is quite possible to learn the craft at home such is
the quality of todayís teaching books. The Honiton Lace Shop sells a large
range of lace making equipment and books, and can put together a complete
kit for those wishing to take up the craft.
you have other questions regarding any aspects of Honiton Lace please
contact us and we will try to answer your questions.
For a complete history of the Honiton lace industry, you
really ought to read The History of The Honiton Lace Industry by
Dr H J Yallop.
Details of this book can be found by clicking