How it all began
In September 1978 Christine Lardner began an evening class for beginners in lacemaking at Milham Ford School in Oxford. Although she specified a maximum of 15 students, the organizers, keen to gain extra revenue had enrolled 18! To be faced with 18 beginners when teaching lacemaking for the first time was a daunting prospect, but soon the students became proficient and hooked on lacemaking. Most returned for the second year, plus a few more until there were 24 in the class, which was now mixed ability, Torchon, Bedfordshire and Bucks Point Ground. Tutor and students began travelling to local lace days and soon decided that they would like to run their own. First a name for the group must be chosen. Eventually Isis Lacemakers was settled upon, Isis being the local name for the River Thames on its passage through the city.
In 1985 we decided that the evening class system was no longer suitable for our needs and so we formed a self help group which could meet all year round. The first meeting was in April 1985 and continues to this day meeting two evenings a month.
Isis Lace Days
The first Isis Lace Day was held in a small hall in October 1983. About 100 lacemakers crowded into the hall, to spend their money at the sales tables, listen to the talk, drink tea and sample homemade cakes. The day was a success and even made a small profit, allowing us to confidently plan for our next Lace Day.
Lace Days have been held each October since 1983, and are now held at Exeter Hall in Kidlington, just north of Oxford city. Exeter Hall has a large and a small hall allowing us to cater for around 200 lacemakers. Tickets are usually sold out about a month before the event. Of course there are a selection of lacemaking suppliers attending to cover all needs. There is a huge raffle for charity and a competition open to all, with inscribed bobbins as prizes.
In 2005, the Isis Lacemakers took over the running of Thame Lace Day, which is held in February each year. Originally held in St Mary's Church, and then in the Leisure Centre, we have now had to move out of Thame and Lace Days are now held in Benson Parish Hall. We renamed it South Oxfordshire Lace Day.
The Marion Welch/Isis Remembrance Trophy
Marion Welch was a founder member of the Isis Lacemakers and a committee member until she died, tragically early at only 56. She is well remembered by those attending our Lace Days as she always organized the raffle and so helped raise hundreds of pounds for charity. When she died, the group wanted to mark her life in some way and so the Marion Welch Trophy was born. Later, we decided to rename the trophy "Isis Remembrance Trophy" to commemorate all the members we have sadly lost. The trophy is a pewter model of a lacemaker and is held for a year by the Isis member who produces the highest placed piece of lace in our annual competition. The holder also receives a bone bobbin inscribed Isis Remembrance Trophy to keep.
Over the years the Isis Lacemakers have raised many thousands of pounds for charity by holding raffles and tombolas. At each event we try to support a local and a national charity.
The Isis Lacemakers today
The Isis Lacemakers is a very busy, friendly group, our current membership is about 30. We enjoy demonstrating lacemaking at various local craft fairs, shows and fetes etc.
Our evening meetings are mainly for lace and chat, including a refreshment break and small raffle. Three times a year we invite a supplier to attend to allow us to stock up on essentials.
In 2002 we moved our meetings to a new venue, St Nicholas Church Hall, Elsfield Road, Old Marston, Oxford. We meet on the first and third Tuesday of the month from 7-9pm.
Current subscriptions are £20 for Lace Guild members, £23 for-non members.
We always welcome new members, there is no charge for your first visit.