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Bobbin Lace

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This silk lace was in the process of being made by Mrs. Anna McCatha (Williams ) Howard when she died in July 1822. This style of lace is called "bobbin lace". It was made using bobbins wound with thread that were attached to a pilow. A paper pattern showing a design of dots was also attached to the pillow. A lace maker would work from dot to dot by twisting, weaving or braiding the threads. Upon reaching a dot, a pin was inserted into the pillow to anchor the lace. This would have been a hobby for Mrs. Howard. The finished piece was probably used as decoration on clothing. Bobbin lacemaking was never very popular in the United States but has a stronger history and can still be seen being made to day in countries including Belgium, Italy, England, France and Puerto Rico. Other forms of lace could be made by knitting, tatting, crocheting or sewing. The silk thread was most likely imported from China or Persia, as part of the large international trade network the United States participated in in the early 19th century. The popularity of silk and the amount of money sent overseas to purchase it eventually caused concern for the U.S. government. In the mid-1820s, a series of initiatives were made to encourage a domestic silk industry. The measures were somewhat successful in the 1830s, but the industry suddenly collapsed in the fall of 1839 due to a series of bad frosts and tree blights.


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