2016 Jane Austen Festival- Bobbin Lacemaking Demonstration

By Norah Glickstein

“O yeah, my grandma used to do that — tatting, right?”

Rock Castle 2010 D

Sorry, no.  It’s a question I hear 3-10 times per hour as I sit working at my lacemaking demonstrations, such as the one scheduled in Louisville, KY, this year on July 17-19th as part of the Jane Austen Festival, hosted by the Greater Louisville Jane Austen Society.  Definite kudos to your grandmother for being a craftwise woman, and kudos to you for recognizing lacemaking, but tatting is about 180º from what I do, which is bobbin-lacemaking.

For one thing, I don’t hold a single strand of thread on a shuttle in my hand, knotting around itself…tatting is a nice, portable craft.  Bobbin lace, however, relies on multiple threads braiding or weaving together, each of which is controlled by its own bobbin “handle”.  Sure, some patterns are very simple and have fewer than 2 dozen bobbins.  These patterns were worked by children in the past.   Most of the patterns I work are upwards of 70 bobbins, and several have been over several hundred!

Rock Castle 2007 B

What 300+ bobbins looks like.

Another difference is the purpose of these methods in history.  Tatting was developed around 200 years ago as a home-made, hobby-level craft used to trim simple garments and household items.  Conversely, bobbin lace was developed as a trade more than 500 years ago.  Those fantastic collars and ruffs we see on the paintings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries?  Bobbin lace.  Sure, there’s some needle lace in there as well (an embroidery technique, really), but trust me, not a single line of tatting to be seen.

I am also frequently asked what I do with my lace.  After all, we don’t live in a lacy culture in 2016.  Most of what I produce is applied to my reproduction gowns; after all, they’re entirely hand-sewn, why not go for the next level of authenticity and adorn them with appropriate lace?  Some, I give away as gifts to treasured friends and family.  However, the end product is not the focus of my presentation.  What I aim to do is bring to visitors at these 18th and 19th-century events a taste of a textile trade which is not seen in modern times.  A little taste of social history is what I offer, placing a woman’s trade in the context of the time-period of the event, representing eras when there weren’t a lot of trades open to women.  And if I can bring a little art to someone’s day at the same time, well that’s a bonus.

Abby's handkerchief 1

Abby's handkerchief, sewn to silk, 14 10 25, trimmed

silk gown - blonde lace 03



1000 pins, approximately 140 bobbins – the project I’ll be working on at 

The 8th Annual Jane Austen Festival

Locust Grove

561 Blankenbaker Lane,

Louisville, KY 

July 15, 16 & 17, 2016

Norah will be working on her bobbin lacemaking project throughout the day on Saturday, July 16th, and Sunday, July 17th, on the First Floor of the Main House.


About JASNA Greater Louisville Region

Non-profit organization celebrating the life of Jane Austen. The Greater Louisville Region is part of the national organization, Jane Austen Society of North America. We have members from Southern Indiana and the Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky area. Hosts of the largest Jane Austen Festival in North America that takes place each year in July at Locust Grove, located in Louisville, Kentucky.
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