The expression ‘patience is a virtue’ comes to mind when looking at the miniature works of Nancy Graham along with the delicate works of Ann Parker and the Lansdowne lacemakers.
Ann and Nancy are residents at Lansdowne Park Village, a peaceful retirement village on the hill in Lansdowne, with magnificent views of the Tararuas.
In the lacemaking group, Ann and other members Sue Fink, Janet Palmer-Langley, Heather Smith and Glenis Cole, meet weekly to make lace, share ideas and chat over a long lunch.
Lacemaking is a tradition, particularly in Europe, with skills handed down from generation to generation.Liz Greville taught Ann, Sue and other Wairarapa ladies to make lace in the early 1980s, having learnt her skills in England. Ann and Liz ran The Embroidery Shop in Masterton for 14 years during which time Ann had a break from lacemaking to concentrate on embroidery, returning to lacemaking when they sold the shop.
“Traditionally in Europe you were taught the lace patterns of your region and you only made this one style or pattern. Even when you married outside of your area you could not take that pattern with you and had to learn that region’s pattern. “ says Sue. “Given that we are hobbyists we have the liberty of trying all different styles and patterns, from Binche, Valenciennes, Flanders, Bedfordshire to Torchon, styles from Belgium, England, France and Holland.”
Their work is intricate and time consuming but the delicate designs are magnificent, a work of art, and sadly a craft that is slowly dying out due to the fast pace of our world now.
“There is a Lace Society in New Zealand but the numbers have dwindled to about 150 now, compared to the 1980s when there was a resurgence of the craft. These days young people are just too busy with the demands of work, home and family and they don’t have the time for crafts such as lacemaking,” says Ann.
Heather, who also started in the ‘80s, likens it to a form of meditation and described becoming so completely absorbed in the process that hours can pass by before you realise it.
Looking at the complexity of the lace patterns it’s difficult to work out how you would go about starting such an intricate work. “To learn the basics you need a brain that can work methodically and really you don’t need that much time to make a start, just the passion,” says Ann.
Walking into Nancy’s ‘special room’ is every little girl’s dream. There’s a large two-storey Victorian dolls house filled with every imaginable piece of furniture, and dolls clothed in the style of that era. The hardware is bought from suppliers, but Nancy has created everything, from fire screens, topiary, teacosies, baskets, hats cushions to bedspreads, all in miniature.
Nancy’s skills require patience and concentration, as knitting in miniature is a very slow process using fine thread and extremely small needles, some as small as .75mm.
“Dolls house miniature is different from standard scale miniature as everything has to be made in a 1:12 scale,” said Nancy. “At first I used special patterns but as an experienced knitter I am now able to use my knowledge and knit according to scale. Each piece takes several hours to make and a great deal of patience is required, but it’s something I love doing.”
The inspiration for this type of miniature work came from seeing a doll in a shop in Australia some 15 years ago. Nancy’s work has evolved over the years and now combines beadwork with the knitting, threading the beads onto cotton to create beautiful skirts and purses.
These women are to be admired for the passion and patience they apply to their crafts and hopefully these skills will passed down to the next generation and the knowledge will not be lost.