Bobbin Lace - Antique Bobbins
Lacemaking started around the 16th century (see Quotations and Paintings). Bobbins were always part of the equipment, and you can often find old bobbins in antique shops. I am not an expert in this field, but I enjoy buying them! I think these are mostly Victorian. I'm afraid that I respangled some of these, so the bobbin and beads may have changed. But lacemakers of the past may have done this as well.
Click on a photo for a larger version.
Thin spangled bobbins -
Thick bobbins (thumpers) -
Other unspangled bobbins -
Thin spangled bobbins
||Dates 1870s - 1870s - 186os - 1890s|
Wood - metal studs
Wood - metal bands
Wood - wire
Wood - metal inlay
Wood - different woods
Wood - spiral (some rather worn)
Wood - circles
Wood - (mostly) plain
Thick bobbins (thumpers)
I don't think thumpers should really be spangled!
The following bobbins were bought (from an Oxfam shop) together, in a bag, so presumably are a lacemaker's set.
Other unspangled bobbins
These may not be old. They were bought in antique shops (but that doesn't prove anything!) One may be an English Midland thin bobbin, which is normally spangled. It has the hole for the wire. Perhaps it lost its spangles.
These were bough on eBay by my husband, with no story attached. They don't look old, but they are made without a lathe. Even the basic dowel shape has been made with a knife. Very home-made! The other odd thing is that they don't look as if they've been used. As a lacemaker handles a bobbin, it acquires a sheen from the natural oils in the fingers.
I tried using the above set of bobbins, and as I wound them, noticed that one had "ANNIE" carved on it. It doesn't show in the photos above - it must be underneath. Here it is:
By the way, I don't believe that these bobbins were ever used. The groove at the top for thread is fairly rough, and "catches" when you try to unwind the thread.
These spangles all contain square (or even cube) beads. I have read somewhere (sorry - can't remember where!) that these were common in old bobbins. They were easy to make, as you just soften a bit of glass into a blob, then flatten its sides with a knife. You'd need to make a hole, as well, of course. I'm not sure about this, as these square bobbins have a pitted surface, so they look as if they've been produced more professionally. But they are common in old bobbins, and they seem to be associated with old looking bobbins. Also, I have never seen such beads in a necklace or other jewellery. Remember that it's easy to respangle bobbins, so the beads on a spangle are not necessarily originally associated with each other.
Old looking beads (according to me!)
I'm not sure of the age, mind you! I've tended to notice if a bead looked clumsy, or well worn. There is also quite a limited range of colours.
I read a description of this type of bobbin, where it was called a birdcage (but no picture). I've just found this in an antique shop.
I heard a story that it was usual to give a lacemaker a wedding present of a bobbin spangled with fly buttons, showing how many previous husbands she'd had! I don't think this refers to the ones below, as the buttons are too smart to be flies. I'm not sure I believe the story, anyway!
Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson: "...every bobbin weighed with its bunch of bright beads and every bunch with its own story, which they had heard so many times that they knew by heart, how this bunch was been part of a blue bead necklace worn by her little sister who had died at five years old, and this other one had belonged to her mother, and that black one had been found, after she was dead, in a work-box belonging to a woman who was reputed to have been a witch." This shows how beads were reused, perhaps preserving memories of jewellery and the people who wore it. Of course, some of these may be modern beads. A modern lacemaker (or antique dealer) can spangle a bobbin which has lost its own, or never had them.
© Jo Edkins 2022 - return to lace index