Downton Lace

Author: Kemp, Bertha

Title: Downton Lace.

Language: English

64 pages, hardcover, 1988.

Out-of-print but available second-hand.

ISBN 0-85219-745-4.

An instructional book with 25 patterns in point ground based on the archive of lace patterns (200 are point ground, the rest torchon) in The Salisbury Museum from The Old Downton Lace Factory when it closed down in 1965. Step-by-step written instructions, working diagrams and black-and-white closeup photos of finished lace. Edgings and a few insertions (no corners), requiring 28 to 84 bobbins. The prickings are all around 12cm long. Patterns are grouped by standard – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced. Coloured photo of five laces on the front cover.

Valuable (and critical) is the sequential numbering of stitches Kemp provides. Coloured photographs and an international colour code were unknown in 1988 so the modern lace maker will have to worker harder than usual. I had to guess which bobbins might start where from the photographs of the finished lace and where the headside passives might enter and leave the gimps. On pages 12 and 45, be aware there are six pins in the pricking and working diagram for each “egg” but the correct number is seven judging by photos of the finished lace and where it recurs in later patterns. Take care too to include reverse catch pins at stitches 62 and 70 on page 14. Finally, beware Kemp’s photographs: stitches vary from motif to motif (those in the bottom of the photos on pages 12, 15, 26, 34 and 52 tend to be more reliable than those at the top of the photos).

Kemp’s prickings call for 120 cotton thread and pearl cotton 12 gimp. She starts her work on the diagonal; Stukins by contrast is at pains to explain how to start on the straight, the traditional way in Downton. I found Kemp’s prickings suitable for DMC Broder Machine 50. There are 200 traditional point ground Downton patterns and Kemp indicates the traditional numbers and names on some of her patterns, but not all. I strongly recommend using contrasting bobbins for the footside and headside passives to avoid the misfortune of messy catch pins and purl pins.

If attempting Downton Lace for the first time, avoid starting with Kemp. Instead, work through Joan Blanchard’s 1990 book, “Malmesbury Lace” or Janet Stukins’ 1991 book, “An Introduction to Downton Lace: twenty Downton Lace patterns”, if you can lay your hands on a copy. Downton and Malmesbury Laces are virtually identical, though in Downton the headside is on right. Blanchard is clearer about what happens with the headside passives and purl pins, but more importantly both Blanchard and Stukins combine both patterns in torchon and point ground common to Downton Lace, making any transition from torchon lace to point ground lace relatively painless.

Required techniques are described very briefly. The reader whose background is only in torchon may well need to supplement this book with additional information, e.g. Bucks Point Lace in Pat Nottingham’s “Techniques of Bobbin Lace” in order to fill in the gaps left of Kemp (catch pin in particular) and LetsLace YouTube videos to fill in gaps left by Nottingham. Alternatively, work some of Elwyn Kenn’s “Point Ground Patterns from Australia”, or refer to Geraldine Stott’s “Visual Introduction to Bucks Point” or Louise West’s “Bucks Point Workbook” for a more thorough grounding.

Delicate and engaging lace, but start with books other than Kemp’s.

– Rod, 20/10/20