Kaye Fisher is a lacemaker and creative spirit from New Zealand. She has been making lace for six years. In addition to making bobbin lace she is a knitter, embroiderer and a painter. Kaye retired a couple of years ago and is now able to have the pleasure of spending more time pursuing her creative interests.
When did you start making bobbin lace?
I have always wanted to make bobbin lace. I went to France in 2009 on holiday. In one of the beautiful villages in the eastern part of France I discovered a lovely lace shop owned by a gentleman lacemaker in his mid-forties. It was a family business that he came into, and he had the family lace pillow made of leather. He sat and made bobbin lace out at the front of the shop. I didn’t take much notice and went into the shop to look around. I thought the lace was beautiful and enquired about buying some lace. When I saw how much it cost (from memory the piece cost 100 euro) I was quite surprised and thought at the time that it was very expensive. I asked the gentleman why it was so expensive and he looked completely taken aback and said, “there’s a lot of work in that Madame”. Looking back I feel embarrassed that I asked that so naively because I now appreciate how much time and skill bobbin lacemaking involves. When I got back to New Zealand I made enquiries about whether there is a local lace group in New Zealand. I discovered Bridge Lacemakers and have been going along to their meetings since 2010.
What is your favourite type of bobbin lace to make?
I love making Torchon, but I have also made some tape lace and a Maltese cross.
What would you regard as your finest lacemaking achievement?
I made a Maltese cross in memory of my mother, who was born in Malta to English parents. My grandfather was an engineer and they went to Malta in 1903 because he was involved in building the breakwater. Mum was born in 1907 and they lived there until 1911. They came to New Zealand in 1913, and I was born here.
In 2013 my daughter Chanelle and I visited Malta and it was very inspiring to see the lace made in Malta. I bought a beautiful piece of bobbin lace made by an 82 year old lacemaker in Gozo. I walked past her house and she was sitting at a window making lace. We started talking and she told me that she had a stroke a few years ago and that her doctor recommended that she continue to make bobbin lace to aid in her recovery.
One of my favourite pieces of bobbin lace is a Biscornu pincushion (in Torchon) that I made in a 2-day class at Lace Trails in September 2015 in Cambridge, New Zealand. Lace Trails is an annual lacemaking weekend organised by Julie Todd and Robyn Denny, and it is a highlight on the New Zealand lacemaking calendar.
How did you learn to make bobbin lace and how do you keep on learning?
The ladies of Bridge Lacemakers got me started on my lacemaking journey. The group meets on a monthly basis and meetings alternate between Auckland and Cambridge.
In 2012/2013 I was fortunate enough to attend a series of Adult Continuing Education Classes in bobbin lacemaking with Sue Fayter at Fraser High School in Hamilton. These regular weekly classes really laid a very solid foundation for my lacemaking journey and taught me all the basic skills and more.
Once the course came to an end, a group of 5 or 6 lacemakers met at Sue Fayter’s house in Hamilton every Friday night to make lace, laugh, and unwind after a long week. Sue has been very generous with her knowledge and time and has inspired a whole new generation of lacemakers.
Best practical tips for a novice bobbin lacemaker?
If possible, join a local lacemaking group that has regular meetings. As a beginner, I found it very useful to have that weekly face to face interaction with an experienced lace tutor – to answer all my questions, get feedback, and be able to see a hands on demonstration of particular techniques. It made my lacemaking journey so much more enjoyable and gave me the confidence to keep going.
What are your favourite bobbin lace tools?
My favourite bobbins are the square continental bobbins. I love spangled bobbins, but find the continental bobbins work better for sewings. They don’t roll, and sit really well on my lace pillow.
In addition to making bobbin lace, you also do lace knitting
I started knitting when I was 14 years old. My first project was a jersey for my dad. My Nana and her sister were knitters, but they weren’t close by, so I had to teach myself.
I love lace knitting and I knit every night. I recently completed a series of knitted lace edgings that I used to decorate a pillow. The pattern was designed by Elonore Riego de la Branchardiére in 1846 and was published in Knitting, Crochet and Netting.
Do you belong to a local, regional, or national lacemaking group?
I belong to the New Zealand Lace Society. They publish a quarterly magazine which is a highlight for me. I also belong to Bridge Lacemakers – I love going along to the monthly meetings in Auckland and Cambridge. I find it very inspiring to see what the ladies of Bridge Lacemakers are working on, and have learnt so much from them.
Your favourite lace books?
I love lacemaking books. These are some of my favourites:
- Torchon Lacemaking: A step-by-step guide (Jane Tregidgo)
- Threads for Lace (Brenda Paternoster)
- Bayeux Lace: Yesterday’s Lace for Today (Marie-Catherine Nobécourt and Janine Potin)
- Introduction to Bobbin Lacemaking (Rosemary Shepherd)
What is on your lace pillow at the moment and what are your lace dreams for the future?
I am currently working on a Torchon fan. I am also busy knitting a lace fan. One of the items on my wish list is to attend the OIDFA congress in Brugge in 2018.
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