So far, so good?
Not really, because when I learnt, cloth and whole stitch were interchangable as terms and Cloth Stich & Twist was described as Cloth Stitch & Twist or Whole Stitch and Twist.
Now, there were a number of reasons that the International System didn't take off and the main one was limitations on printing.
During the resurgence of lacemaking in the 70s and 80s, colour printing was exceptionally expensive. Most designers would only have a colour cover and maybe one or two colour plates in their books. This wasn't an issue for looking at the lace patterns and finished articles because most, if not all the lace was made in the traditional white or black and the prickings were black dots.
Around the mid 90s, dual colour because easier to do so we started to see the addition of blue into the printing of a number of books, most noticably Pamela Nottingham's later books. This was followed by tri colour printing and we started to see red included in Geraldine Stott's and Bridget Cook's later books.
With the opening of the EuroTunnel in 1990, it now became easy for lacemakers in the UK to take a train to Belgium and holiday in Bruges, giving access to the Kant Centrum and attend OIDFA events in Europe.
Towards the end of the 90s, access to international books was also becoming much easier in the UK due to international lace suppliers attending events like the National Lacemaker's Fair at the NEC and teaching at summer schools.
Interest in books from outside the UK grew and UK lace suppliers found it easier to obtain books from publishers such as Barbara Vey.
It was around this time that multicoloured printing took off and we started to see the International Colour Code being used more and more in books and people started to realise that terminology isn't global. So, the use of C and T became the international language on many of the newsgroups such as Arachne so that lacemakers could talk to each other and understand what was being discussed.
So, why did Adult Education craft classes collapse in the 90s? Two key things happened in the UK. Firstly, in order to teach at an evening class, you had to have a tertiary teaching qualification. Secondly, funding was limited at this point and many 'non essential' classes suffered.
Don't get me wrong. Having a recognised standard of teaching is important. However, this was badly handled by the local authorities with many teachers being told during the summer holidays that they would need to be qualified by the start of the new term in September.
The groups that started in the late 80s and early 90s offered lacemakers a place to meet and more importantly, lace days where people could come from different groups, meet, make lace together and have access to multiple suppliers.
Lace fairs were a regular fixture in our calendars. June was the Bromley Lace Fair, September we all went to Rugby for the Springett Fair and Christmas was a trip to the NEC.
The first time I went to the Springett Fair in 1988, the whole of the back wall of the sports hall was filled with the teachers from the British College of Lace.
With a lack of teachers for lacemaking at the evening classes, the limited funding was often prioritised to courses where the markets dictated - those leading to qualifications such as languages or social classes such as cooking, which were always over subscribed following the new TV trend of cookery programmes feature Delia, Keith Flloyd or Gary Rhodes and the launch of Breakfast TV in 1983, with resident chefs told people that cooking food was accessible for all.
Single term classes allowed enough commitment (13 weeks) to learn a new skill without having to agree to 2 or 3 year commitment of a qualification such as City & Guilds.
City & Guilds offered a lacemaking qualification starting in 1987 and was launched at Knuston Hall. The qualification was taught at local colleges for over 20 years, however the biggest barrier to most lacemakers was the time needed to take the qualification. I remember inquiring about it when it was first organised and realising that it would cost me more than I could afford in both time and funding.
Effectively, the course needed a full time commitment and as I was working, I couldn't complete the units in the timescales needed. The cost per year, for two years, was the equivalent of 3 months wages for me, something which I just couldn't afford.
We must not limit ourselves to just one demographic - we have to make lacemaking accessible to everyone regardless of age or social background.
I accept students from the age of 8 upwards, but have been happy to teach young as 6 where they have an aptitude.
Lacemaking has gone through its ups and downs in the UK. From the decline when lacemakers moved into industrial centres to make more money, the women of Bedford, who left lacemaking to plait straw for hats, the lacemakers of Devon, who petitioned Queen Victoria for help, decline through World War II and it's ups in the 1980s to downs in the late 90s, what next for lacemaking?
The lockdowns may just have helped to bring lacemaking out of the it's doldrums this time.
People have turned to craft as a way to express themselves and online sharing and learning has become a way for people to support each other as they develop their skills.
In July 2020, Beginner Bobbin Lace Makers was created by one person as a peer to peer group to support lacemakers. They support each other through regular zoom meet ups, answer questions online and help each other through messenger.
As of May 2021 this group has over 1.7k members, worldwide.
Think about that. 1.7k members who regularly talk to each other.
Probably the saving grace for lacemaking in the UK is the fact that whilst people join the Guilds and Societies, the individual groups are not affiliated with any governing body. The recent demise of the Embroiderers Guild and the local groups were all tied up to it shutting has taught us all a big lesson.
Just as evening classes in the 70s and 80s opened up educational opportunities for women in the UK, online communities are opening up lacemaking to people who would not have access through traditional classes, worldwide.
I think that the next evolution of lacemaking has begun and it's happening online.