This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Bobbinet. A machine-made cotton netting, consisting of parallel threads which form the warp, upon which two systems of oblique threads are laid in such a way that each of the oblique threads make a turn around each of the warp threads, producing a nearly hexagonal mesh.
The art of netting is intimately related to weaving, knitting and ma-chine-lace making, from all of which, however, it is distinguished by the regular knotting or twisting of the diagonal threads around the straight warp threads. Bobbinet, which is the foundation of machine-made lace, is made by the intertwisting of threads of fine cotton or silk.
Prior to the year 1800, laces of every description were made by hand. Amongst the most beautiful of these hand-wrought laces was a variety called " Brussels," which was distinguished by a portion of the threads being "twisted at regular intervals so as to form an open spot, in order to relieve the sameness of the tissue." The first attempt at the manufacture of lace by machinery was an imitation of this Brussels lace, probably on account of the great popularity of, and demand for this variety. The first step was to make this open work, (bobbinet) upon which to ground the pattern. In England several efforts were made from 1758 to 1809, but the first really successful machine for bobbinet (so named from the threads which cross the warps being supplied from bobbins) was that of Jno. Heathcoat, invented in 1809, and suggested by the machinery he had seen employed in making fishing nets. The principle of the invention was in the use of fixed parallel warp threads around which the bobbins worked as the "filling" of a fabric, one set going obliquely from right to left, and the second set obliquely from left to right. In the machine the warp threads to the number of 700 to 1,200 in a yard of width are stretched from a roller which extends the whole length of the thread beam, and the weft threads are wound each upon a bobbin, formed of two thin brass discs riveted together, leaving a narrow space between them for the threads to pass out. Each bobbin holds about 100 yards thread, and there are sometimes as many as 1,200 of them to a machine. About 30,000 meshes per minute can be made with improved machines. The pieces of bobbinet measure from 30 to 40 yards each ; the width is variable, being very narrow in Wash Blond and wider in Brussels and Darn net. In England at this time (1810), the bobbinet machine was regarded as the most wonderful and important invention that had been introduced. By the aid of one machine it was possible to manufacture in a day the same amount of netting that formerly required two-score men and women. The unfortunate work people in their rage organized a mob and destroyed Heathcoat's machines, and declared they would make scrap-iron and kindling wood of all he should thereafter manufacture. This caused him to remove to Nottingham, where the indignation was not so high, and where he began the manufacture of netting and machine lace. Prosperity shone upon the trade, and numerous individuals, clergymen, lawyers, doctors, and others, readily embarked capital in so tempting a speculation. Fabulous wages were earned during this period. It was no uncommon thing for an artisan to leave his usual calling and betaking to himself a lace frame, of which he was a part proprietor, realize by working upon it 20, 30 and 40 shillings a day. In consequence of such wonderful gains, " Nottingham and the adjoining towns became the scene of an epidemic mania; many, though, nearly devoid of mechanical genius or the constructive talent, tormented themselves night and day with projects of bobbins, pushers, lockers, pointbars and needles of various forms, endeavoring to get around or improve the Heathcoat patent, till their minds got permanently bewildered. Several lost their senses altogether; and some after cherishing visions of wealth as in the olden time of alchemy, finding their schemes abortive, sank into despair and committed suicide."
Many improvements have been made on the original machine, but to this day the principle still remains the same. [See Lace, Lace Curtains]