To make the laces for my national costume, I had to learn how to make bobbin lace. So, in September, I enrolled in a course! It took me about four and half months to first learn the basics and then to make the lace for the collar and the three laces needed for the lace cap. At the same time, I learned a bit about the history of Finnish lace making.
Here is the video I made:
A very brief history of Rauma lace
The biggest and the most famous lace-making city in Finland is Rauma. It is believed that the craft came to Western Finland during the 16th century with Swedish and German traders.
The tykkimyssy cap is related to the Maria Stuart cap or so-called French hood. It came popular among higher classes during the 17th century in Sweden and Finland. At the beginning of the 18th century, this cap became unfashionable as big coiffures became popular. That led to this style drifting downward in the social ladder as the now unfashionable caps were gifted to servant women. Peasant women started wearing these caps during the latter half of the 18th century.
Among the peasant class the tykkimyssy caps became the sign of a wife. Young girls didn’t wear caps but decorated their hair with ribbons. In some areas, though, young women that were old enough to marry could wear these caps, sometimes without the lace underneath.
These caps and the silk scarves were also the exceptions to the sumptuary laws that forbid lower classes from wearing silk or lace. Still, more expensive brocades were frowned upon and the brocades were replaced with elaborate chain-stitch embroidery. During some periods, the width of the lace was regulated, which lead to the women sewing several narrow laces together to get the desired width.
Over the years the cap itself became smaller and smaller and the amount of lace increased. The need for lace resulted in the golden age of Rauma lace at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. During that time, almost all women in Rauma were able to make lace. Children started to learn the craft when they were 6 or 7 years old. The craft required dedication and the best craftswomen of Rauma never married as the craft didn’t allow time for family.
What do you need to make bobbin lace?
First, I got a pillow. I saw this ugly old pillow in the local Recycling center that despite its ugly cover, seemed to be in working order. So, I bought it and re-upholstered it. A fun detail: My pillow roll was stuffed with 12 very well-worn and several times darned stockings! 5 whole pairs and two extra ones!
I found all my bobbins second-hand as well. I made bobbin holders out of craft sticks, elastic bands, and old buttons. These are used to keep the bobbins from tangling when they are not in use or when transporting the pillow. They are crucial when you work with a huge amount of bobbins that can’t fit onto the pillow without some serious stacking. I also sewed a bobbin roll to store the bobbins neatly.
The laces for the national costumes are made out of fine linen. For the shirt collar lace, Bockens thread 120/2 was recommended but that is not available anymore. I thus had to buy 100/2 which is slightly thicker but still worked. Still, finding a thread fine enough seemed to be a problem historically as well. It was impossible to get fine enough linen thread domestically, so the thread was imported from Europe which, of course, increased the price of the Rauma lace.
The lace trim for the shirt
I started with the lace trim for the shirt as it only used 8 pairs of bobbins. I must admit that it wasn’t the easiest one of these laces. For somebody else, I’d recommend making the first of the cap laces first as that is much simpler pattern to get into. It took me a couple of weeks (that means a couple of sessions) to learn this pattern but then I started picking up speed.
Here is the finished bobbin lace. It is about 80 cm long to fit the collar.
Here is the finished shirt collar with the lace decoration:
The bobbin lace for the Askola cap
Here is the bobbin lace from the extant Askola cap:
This lace is a variation of Frimodiglai pattern that was one of the most popular lace patterns. Below is the Frimodiglai lace that is nowadays made for national costumes. It differs from the Askola lace slightly as it is a bit wider.
Another option recommended is the pattern called Floderi. It is based on this cap from Vehkalahti and it is a much simpler pattern constructed out of three different lace patterns.
As a beginner, I felt that Floderi was the safer option to go with. It was made with a slightly heavier thread than the collar lace. I ended up using Bouc 80/2 thread that I bought from one of the people on my bobbin lace course. After the collar lace the first lace was child’s play:
The next lace had many similar characteristics but it took me a while to understand how the fan and the diamond patterns joined together. The first inches of my lace had so many mistakes that I ended up making a bit longer strip of lace and then chopped off the mistakes at the beginning.
The third bobbin lace was the most challenging one. It used 30 pairs of bobbins and 3 gimp threads and one couldn’t fit all those bobbins onto the pillow at the same time. Furthermore, the threads in the patterns of the lace intersected so that you couldn’t just make a complete pattern bit at one go but you had to move back and forth between the patterns. But then, the result is the most beautiful of all these laces!
The three laces were then sewn together and attached to a small linen base that is called “bone”:
I then starched the cap over a wig head to curve it to the shape of the head:
And here is the lace with the silk cap:
Now my Askola costume only needs the wool jacket. Compared to the months of work and learning a whole new craft while doing it, making the jacket should be easy!
Have you ever tried making bobbin lace? Would you like to try?
Thank you for reading and see you soon!