In my attempts to seek better quality materials for my me-made wardrobe, I decided to look into one of my favorite types of textiles: lace.
Among my taste for skulls and tarot themed motifs and fabrics, I also love dainty and delicate things like lace, crochet, and knit. A lot of lace today is made out of cotton and synthetic blends, so I wanted to find something made out of 100% cotton.
While shopping for textiles for inspiration, I came across an Etsy shop called Penelope Textiles, a store located in Selkirk, UK. They specialize in antique and vintage textiles as well as haberdashery (for us non-British folk, haberdashery is synonymous with notions: sewing accessories).
According to Penelope Textiles, their lace is “made by the last remaining manufacturers in the UK, who produced the lace for Kate Middleton’s wedding and bridesmaid dresses… They can boast nine generations of lace making and clientele that includes Haute Couture houses and royalty.”
The city of Nottingham, located in Nottinghamshire, East Midlands, England, was known for manufacturing lace and hosiery from the early 19th century to the early 20th century.
Nottingham was the lace capital of the world. Lace used to be made entirely by hand with the first lace making machine being invented in Nottingham in 1760 (Nottingham Castle Project, 2023).
The largest markets for Nottingham lace were France, Germany, the United States, and South America with exports extending to Spain, Egypt, and India (University of Nottingham, 2021).
World War I marked the decline of lace making, and modernized economic practices have moved most lace manufacturing overseas. Today, Nottingham lace is kept alive through individual craftspeople who work with lace (Nottingham Museums, 2023).
I watched the Edwardian Farm series on Absolute History where there is a segment showing how it was made by hand. Although the demonstration is done in Honiton near Devon and not Nottingham, the tedious process is explained.
Ladies would congregate in groups in their homes. “One lady would make all the leaves, one would make all the certain flowers, but the more experienced ladies would collect together the pieces and they would do the assembly and joining together” (Edwardian Farm, 2010.)
I bought six different styles of Nottingham lace from Penelope Textiles with the intention of using the pieces as insertion lace in blouses and dresses, or as delicate trims for collars and cuffs. Overall, the quality is excellent. I bought three yards of each lace, and each one is delicately woven with no tears.
Off White English Nottingham Lace – Diamond & Floral Point Lace
This lace is made with 100% cotton. It has a beautiful scalloped edge that goes beautifully with the diamond and floral design. You get 1.5 inches / 4 centimeters of lace per yard.
This beautiful lace would make a beautiful trim for a collar or dress. I love the scalloped edges. I’m thinking about using this lace to line the tiers of a tired skirt, or to trim the hems of a dress.
Off White English Nottingham Lace – Diamond & Floral Point Insertion Lace
This lace is made with 100% cotton. This lace measures 1.25 / 3.5 centimeters wide.
I just love the delicate diamond motif. When I gain enough experience, I am hoping to create a beautiful Edwardian inspired blouse with it.
Ecru English Nottingham Lace – Raised Floral Galloon Lace
This ecru galloon lace is made with 100% cotton. This lace measures 2 inches / 5.5 centimeters wide. This is “galloon lace,” meaning that it has a braided or decorated trim with a lot of detail. The really fancy versions of the lace are woven with gold or silver thread.
Originally, I was going to use this to make a skirt inspired by Soo Linen’s Fitted Beige Hollow Out Wrinkled Fall Patchwork Skirt, but after some test patches and several looks in the mirror, the lace wasn’t wide enough and the skirt looked too patchy. I don’t have a plan for this one yet, but suggestions are welcome!
Ecru English Nottingham Lace – Very Narrow Raised Floral
This ecru narrow lace is made with 100% cotton. This lace measures 0.5 inches / 1.3 centimeters wide.
This lace has a raised floral design and dainty trim. This could make a beautiful trimming for a dress, collar, cuff. I am currently thinking about using it to line the bodice of a shirred dress.
Black English Nottingham Lace – Floral Point Insertion Lace
This black lace is made with 100% cotton. The lace measures 1.3 inches / 3.8 centimeters wide.
This is also insertion lace with a floral design. The black is very dramatic with beautiful double eyelet edges. I imagine this as being part of a v-neck blouse or dress bodice.
I really like the idea of using it in a the McCall’s 8285 dress for the bodice above the bust. I am thinking about using it to trim the bust and cuffs of the bodice.
Black English Nottingham Lace – Diamond & Floral Point Insertion Lace
This black lace is made with 100% cotton. This is another black insertion lace with a floral and diamond design. It measures 1.25 inches / 3.5 centimeters wide.
I envision this one on a dress or blouse as well. I am thinking a black button up blouse with Czech glass buttons.
BBC Absolute History, (2010). Edwardian Farm. “Video”. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZdMiFW7s4M
Nottingham Castle Project, (2023). Discover the story of Nottingham Lace. Retrieved from https://www.nottinghamcastleproject.co.uk/projects/power-of-art-and-making/nottingham-lace/
Nottingham City Council, (2023). Lost in Lace. Retrieved from https://nottinghammuseums.org.uk/lost-in-lace/#:~:text=Although%20the%20great%20industrial%20production,their%20works%20are%20highly%2Dprized.
Penelope Textiles : https://www.etsy.com/shop/PenelopeTextiles?ref=shop_sugg_market
University of Nottingham, (2021). New research lifts the veil on Nottingham’s history as global lace market hub. Retrieved from https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/new-research-lifts-the-veil-on-nottinghams-history-as-global-lace-market-hub#:~:text=Nottingham%20was%20not%20just%20the,knowledge%2C%20lace%20commodities%20and%20machinery.
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What a delight to see my home City here on your blog site .. Nottingham. I worked for many years in the textile trade working in Lingerie and within the design and first concept of garments for sale to leading High-street stores, using Nottingham Lace in their making. Lace, the proper lace hand made was something extra special. and I worked with many wonderful lace edgings for ladies underwear garments.. The Machined lace just as wonderful.
Wonderful to see the History and Nottingham’s old Market place Excellent post Christie <3
Wow, it’s incredible that you worked with the lace! I envy your experience. The lace from there is just so special. It’s a shame there aren’t many places left that make it, so it’s a relief to find shops here and there that ship overseas. Thanks for visiting, and I’m glad I could fairly represent your hometown!
Yes its special lace for sure Christie.. and I am glad you are able to source some from the UK.. 🙂