Malmesbury Lace

Title: Malmesbury Lace.

Author: Blanchard, Joan.

Language: English

126 pages, hardcover, 1990.

Out-of-print but available second-hand.

ISBN 0-7134-6615-4.

An instructional book with 30 patterns, graded from simple insertion braids to traditional point ground laces (edgings and insertions), culminating in 7 modern interpretations by the author (small motifs, bookmarks). Includes a short 20-page illustrated history. Brief written instructions, working diagrams and black-and-white closeup photos of finished lace identical in size to the prickings. The prickings are suitable for 40-50 wpc (DMC Broder Machine 50 or Finca 80 and pearl cotton 8 or 12 gimp), calling for 12-60 bobbins; enlarge the prickings for threads with less than 40 wpc (Sylko 40, Finca 60, Gutermann Cotton 50) and reduce slightly for threads more than 50 wpc (Tanne 80 and Finca 100).

Malmesbury is a town in Wiltshire with a long lace-making tradition going back to Charles II and probably earlier. It is close to Bath and Bristol and has had a close relationship with another lace town, Downton, 50 miles to the south near Salisbury. Malmesbury has its own unique bobbins (unspangled, long, thin and straight), a pillow similar to Honiton only football-shaped and unique lace making terms (tallies are “basket filling” and gimps, “bunting”).

Malmesbury is one of the “lesser” English regional laces,(along with Downton, Ripon, Devon East, New Pitsligo and Suffolk/Eye) done on a less “industrial” scale than better-known styles like Torchon, Bucks, Beds and Honiton.

Malmesbury Lace is almost indistinguishable from like Downton Lace and is largely Point Ground with some inclusions of Torchon (e.g. fans). Blanchard’s book, apart from being the definitive publication of Malmesbury Lace is also recommended as an introduction to Downton Lace. In Malmesbury Lace, the footside is on the right which makes it accessible to most; Downton uses the Continental method of footside on the left.

How to tackle the work? Blanchard’s patterns contain an orderly, graded introduction to handling headside passives and picots, but if possible consolidate your competency by doing Patterns 1-8 in Janet Stukins’ book of Downton Lace patterns, especially if your background is in Torchon. Attempt patterns in Bertha Kemp’s 1988 book, “Downton Lace” after you’ve worked similar patterns in Blanchard. After working the point ground patterns in Blanchard, you will have set yourself up nicely to tackle Bucks Point Ground.

If you are one to judge a book by its cover, be aware that the lace on the front cover is not traditional Malmesbury (it’s a local landmark done in Milanese with point ground filler) and there is no pattern for it in the book.

Without this book, Malmesbury Lace would be critically endangered. There was a flurry of interest in this lace throughout the 1990s, from the time of publication of Blanchard to its recognition at OIDFA in 1998, but there are no photos of Malmesbury lace done by contemporary lacemakers on the internet. A useful complement to lace materials (CD of patterns, repro bobbins, history booklets) sold by Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury via its website.

– Rod, 7/11/20