A delicate kind of net-work, composed of silk, flax, or cotton threads, twisted or plaited together. The meshes of this kind of net are of a hexagonal figure, in which thick threads are also woven to form the pattern according to some design; and these threads, which are called gymp, form the ornament of the lace. Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire have been for many years the counties most celebrated for the manufacture of the pillow or bobbin lace, so called because it is woven by women or children upon a pillow or cushion, by means of bobbins, (which are made of ivory or bone, and each of which contains a small quantity of fine thread,) in such a manner as to make the lace exactly resemble the pattern, which is fixed upon a large round pillow, and pins being stuck into the holes or openings in the pattern, the threads are interwoven by means of the bobbins. At the close of the last century, the manufacturers of Nottingham directed their ingenuity to imitate this species of lace by machinery, in which they have completely succeeded.
The Nottingham imitations of lace are of two kinds - point-net and warp-net. The point-net frame is a variety of the stocking frame, which was invented by Mr. John Morris, of Nottingham, in 1764; but it was not at first used to make lace, being intended to make the ancle part of stockings. The machine is an addition to a stocking frame, and operates on the thread in the same way as in stocking weaving for a great part of the process. The Nottingham lace, therefore, is only a modification of the stitch or loop of which stockings are made; all the meshes being formed by a continuance of one thread, which is by the machine formed into loops, a whole course at once, by pressing it down alternately over and under between a number of parallel needles; a second course is then made of similar loops on the same needles, and the loops of the first are drawn through those of the second in such a manner as to form meshes by retaining the first loops; the second are then retained by a third course, and this by a fourth, and so on.
The warp-net frame is also a variety of the stocking frame, but the parts are very differently arranged, the movements being produced by treadles, leaving the hands of the workman to manage the machine, which is a piece of mechanism applied in front of the row of needles of the frame. In the warp frame the piece of lace is not formed of one continued thread, as in the point-net frame, but there are as many different threads as there are needles in the frame; these threads are warped, or wound upon a roller or beam the same as a loom; and it is from this circumstance that the machine is called a warp frame. These threads pass through eyes in the ends of small points, called guides, which are opposite the needles; and these guides are fixed on two bars, each of which has half the guides fastened on it; that is, one guide is fast in one bar, and the next in the other, and so on alternately of the whole. Each of the guides presents a thread to its needle, and are all at once moved by the hand to twist the threads two or three times round the needles which are opposite them: the loop is now made in a manner similar to the other frame.
The next time, the alternate guides are shifted endways, so as to apply themselves to other needles than those they were opposite before: this crosses the thread so as to make a net; but the quantity which is shifted endways is altered every time, by means of the machinery, so as to move a certain number of needles, which number is altered every time to produce the pattern. In 1809, Mr. John Heathcoat invented a machine for weaving the real twisted lace, like that which is made on the pillow. The ground-work of the invention is to extend those threads which form the warp of the lace in parallel lines, and dispose the diagonal threads upon small bobbins, which are detached, and are capable of passing round the extended warp threads, so as to twist with them; by this means, the number of bobbins is reduced to one half. In this machine there are two horizontal beams or rollers, one to contain the thread, and another to receive the lace; also a number of small bobbins to contain the thread.
Since Mr. Heathcoat's first invention, the manufacturers of Nottingham, Leicester, Tewkesbury, and many other places, have vied with him and each other in the production of lace-making machinery. In 1824 the different descriptions of machinery for making lace were enumerated under the following heads: - the old Loughborough double tier, Heathcoat's; the single tier on Stevenson's principle; improved double tier, Brailey's, single tier on Lever's principle; the old Loughborough improved, with pumping tackle; the pusher principle; the traverse warp, Bevan and Freemans; traverse warp rotatory, Lindley and Lacey's; the straight bolt, Kendal and Mauleys; the circular bolt, Mauley's; the circular comb, Herveys; the circular comb improved, Herveys; and the improved Lever's. The foregoing comprehend the different principles upon which the machinery for making bobbin-net lace have been founded.
In 1824 Mr. Longford took out a patent for actuating several of the foregoing machines by rotatory motion, which were previously worked by a beating or lever action of the hands and feet of the operator. Since the last-mentioned period there have been a great many patents taken out for improvements, the description of which alone would occupy a large volume, and require some hundreds of engravings to render them intelligible. We can therefore only refer the reader to such works as are distinguished by subjects of this nature,- viz. The London Journal of Arts, The Repertory of Arts, the Register of Patent Inventions, and to the enrolled specifications, - for such further information that he may require.