My Grandma’s Lace

My Grandma’s Lace

Hi all of you amazing felting and fiber Creatives! My name is Tesi Vaara and I do not work with felt but I really enjoy following this blog and seeing your work and your processes! Ruth Lane asked me to blog about some recent machine lace work I have done, so here goes! I met Ruth in Feb 2017 when we both began a journey with Gail Harker in LaConner, WA. USA. We spent two plus years taking Gail’s Level 3 Art and Design course together. I really admire Ruth’s art work and her journey to express herself through her work.

My maternal grandmother was always working on some type of project. She was a weaver who also did pillow lace and tatting and other fiber work. She had her own “tribe” back in her day that would get together every week. The women in her group were an important part of her life. They were a pretty tight group. When I was young, I would take her hankies that had tatting around the edges around to all our neighbors and sell them for next to nothing.

I recently took a Machine Stitch class from Gail Harker. One of the techniques we learned was to make lace using our sewing machines on wash away stabilizer. I was playing with some designs in my sketchbook and remembered that I had a box of my grandma’s lace pieces stored away. I’d never really studied her work before. I had watched her create her work, but she never taught me how to do any of it. I’m not sure that she had the patience for teaching a young child to do such fine work.

It was interesting to study her patterns and figure out if I could mimic them on my sewing machine. I felt a deep connection to her as I studied her work. I have a greater appreciation of her skills now. I don’t know if her patterns were her own design or if she followed someone else’s design.

This first piece is part of a table runner. Back then the threads she used all seemed to be white or off white.

The second photo is my interpretation of her work.

Her second piece is also from a table runner. This is some of her pillow lace work. My grandfather made many of the tools and devices my grandmother used for her work. Lucky her to be married to such an ingenious man! He made several different size pillows that she worked her lace on and I think he even made some of her bobbins. They had beads and trinkets hanging off them. I can still hear them clinking together as she worked. I have fond memories of watching her work on her pillow lace. I had strict orders to never touch anything but sometimes I just had to fondle her bobbins when she wasn’t looking and take a closer look!

The following is my version of her pillow lace work. My first passion is creating art quilts and I had envisioned placing this piece on a fabric background and adding machine stitch in the open areas to mimic the woven look of her piece.

Then the vision of this piece becoming part of a garden gate popped into my head. I had to quickly sketch that idea out for future use. I can make lace flowers, lace leaves, lace stems, lace pebbles!! My very own rabbit hole…

I’m pretty sure my love of lace came from my grandmother. I had designed and crocheted a shawl for an assignment in my Creative Clothing class to create a statement piece to be worn around your neck. A few months after I made the shawl I came across the box filled with my grandma’s work and found a pink shawl wrapped in tissue paper. It was pretty delicate after all these years but I was so amazed at how similar the two were! In 2018 I participated in an exhibit at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum called “Making It My Own”. It was a great honor to be able to exhibit my work next to hers at the museum.

Create passionately and without fear!

Thanks for letting me share. Tesi Vaara

19 thoughts on “My Grandma’s Lace

  1. The lace is absolutely beautiful. I used to make lace though mine was not in the same league as your grandmother’s! This type of lace is known as “torchon” and those spangled bobbins are “Midland” bobbins, distinct from those used for Honiton lace which are very plain and pointed, as they have to be passed through the fabric. I still have my spangled bobbins.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful heirlooms and I apologise for telling you what you may already know. 🙂

  2. We love your colourful interpretations Tesi! And your rabbit hole drawing is so full of potential.

    An interesting and touching post about the connection between you and your grandmother – thank you for taking the time to write.

    1. I totally agree – I connected with this on many levels including the links to grandmothers and my Mom. They all made lace, used it in projects and were very creative seamstresses, knitters, weavers and involved in multiple art forms. How I wish they were around to compare notes on the many avenues pursued now in the fibre arts! Thank you for this article and creative approach to your art.

    2. I bet they would all be amazed to see the lovely color and fiber sources we enjoy today!

  3. Tesi – The grandparents were both very talented. I see that was passed on to you and Kris.

  4. What beautiful work and what a wonderful story about your connection to your grandmother. I spend lots of time making memories with my granddaughters and I do teach them how to work in my mediums. Hopefully they will feel the connection like you in the future!

    1. Your granddaughters are super lucky to be learning how to be creative with you. Creativity and expression of our passion to be creative will hopefully rub off on them. Enjoy your time with them!

  5. Great post Tesi! I appreciate you sharing about your grandmother’s lace. My grandmother used to do some tatting but I never learned how to do that either. Your machine lace creations are wonderful, much more intricate than what I usually create that way. How big are they?

    1. Thanks Ruth! The round lace piece is 4″ diameter. The other is 11″ x 4″. Both of them are quite stiff and durable. I used rayon threads for both of them.

  6. Beautiful work from you and her!
    I was very interested to read your story. Last year I went on a river cruise from Paris to Normandy and although I am from Georgia most of the group were from the Pacific Northwest. I had with me a Nuno felted scarf that caught the attention of some ladies in the group and from that I was invited to contribute a piece to the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Show. I did submit a needlefelted piece that was accepted and in October made the trip to Washington State to see the show and visit the Quilt Museum. What an experience to see all those amazing pieces of Fiber Art, just like yours, up close and personal!

    1. Awesome that your piece was accepted and that you were able to see the show and visit the museum. The museum is a definite must see if you are in the Pacific Northwest. They have some wonderful exhibits. I feel very fortunate to live within a half hour drive and I visit it often. I hope you enter more of your work into their shows! Some of the felted pieces were jaw dropping gorgeous!

  7. Tesi, what a lovely story. Your creations are a very fitting modern-day tribute to the lovely works of your grandmother. I hope you will continue to treasure her lace and the spangled bobbins made by your grandfather.
    As a former hobby I studied the history of lace, the different styles from the UK and from Northern Europe, and their associated bobbins. I have a lovely collection of both which, hidden away, I’ve not thought about in a long time – I’ll go and enjoy them for a few minutes! Thank you.

    I’m lucky to have spent my very early years with gifted textile creators – sitting alongside my mother at the treadle sewing machine or by my great aunt (who also could just look at a garment and then cut out cloth to make a similar one), or with an ‘adopted’ grandmother who would crochet, teaching me the skill (I will still crochet anything, but ‘no’ to knitting!). This is definitely the origin of my love of textiles. But it was a different time – when we were content to sit, watch & ‘absorb’ whilst perhaps playing with the contents of the precious button box!

    1. I may have to study the history of lace some day as well. I hope you did take the time to look at your bobbins!

  8. What a lovely story of you and your grandmother and your connection to her. The lace both of you made is wonderful. All my aunts were and my mother is a knitter and It just never clicked with me. I was very happy to find felting for my medium.

    1. Thank you! Felting is a very wonderful medium. I have seen so many beautiful things that are felted!

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