Lace: Beauty from Bobbins and Thread

In late July and early August ISIS Lacemakers held their first solo exhibition of lace and lacemaking in Thame Museum, Oxfordshire.  Using the Museum glass cabinets and display boards, we were able to present a wonderful display of lace made by our group members. 

 We themed our display with Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire laces alongside one another – which was really helpful in pointing out the characteristics of each lace to non-lacemaking visitors.  Other boards showed Torchon laces, Honiton, Milanese and Chrysanthemum laces as well as modern approaches to lacemaking.

A low-level cabinet housed our 144-lace square Millennium tablecloth as a backdrop for lace fans and a silk scarf.  The tall cabinets held a wide range of items including many framed and mounted pieces, cushions, examples of different types of bobbins, old and new, pincushions, more Honiton pieces and bobbin winders. We used a rolling slide show to share photos of lace and bobbins in addition to those on display, and also historical photos of lacemakers. 

ISIS the Elephant, made for and exhibited at Waddesdon Manor in 2014 proved to be quite an attraction, with some visitors coming to see him in particular – a lack of stewards on some days meant Waddesdon was unable to open the room where he was positioned.  Our other major exhibition pieces hung on the display boards – our Oxford picture, Fantasy Moths (previously displayed at Whitchurch Silk Mill) and our May Morning in a Woodland Glade (previously displayed at Farfield Mill, Sedburgh, Cumbria as part of the John Bull exhibition).

We enjoyed the usual high level of interest and engagement with our practice pillows and visiting children were able to take part in two competitions

As can be seen in our summarised feedback tables below, we welcomed visitors from near and far.  Torchon lace was the lace most frequently made by our visitors and they told us they belonged to some 20 different lace groups and organisations.

We found visitors to be genuinely interested and engaged with lacemaking and with our exhibition.  It is difficult to say which elements of the feedback offered pleased us the most.  The following examples provide a flavour, as do the ‘key words’ listed in the summarised feedback tables.


“The exhibition is very interesting, beautiful pieces of lace. I love everything, nice to be here, thanks”

“Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful craft with us all!  Lovely exhibition & a real inspiration”

“Brilliant exposition of all aspects of this wonderful craft & the dedication that ensures that it continues & develops”

“Breath-taking to see so much & such variety all together.  A real inspiration to see work by lace makers used in so many creative ways.”


We would like to thank all our visitors – it was lovely to meet you all and to have such interesting conversations.  We hope to see you again – maybe at one of our twice-yearly lace days, or at a future exhibition (we will need to create some more lace first!). Or, if you are local, why not come along to one of our friendly evening meetings - details are here on our website.



Many of our visitors at the exhibition signed our visitor book. Of the lacemakers that visited us, here is a summary of the types of lace they make or have made:

Type of lace Number of visitors making/ having made this lace
Torchon 20
Bedfordshire 10
Buckinghamshire 10
Bruges 5
Honiton 4
Milanese 4
Hinajosa 2
Chrysanthemum 1
Malmesbury 1
Free Lace 1
Tape Lace 1
Needle Lace 1


Key words noticed in visitor feedback:

Key words noticed in visitor feedback Number of mentions
Beautiful 15
Wonderful/Superb/Fabulous/Fantastic 11
Interesting 10
Lovely  9
Excellent/Exquisite/Amazing/Impressive 8
Inspiring/Inspirational 7


Lace groups and organisations that visitors said they belonged to:

Risboro' Lacemakers (5) Ealing Lacemakers (3) Bourne End
The Lace Guild (3) Newbury Bobtails (2) Lower Sunbury
Chinnor (2) Glevum Shipston-on-Stour
New Zealand Lace Society Aylesbury Buckingham

Faultline Lacemakers, Wellington,

New Zealand

Tilehurst Lace Group Calcot Lace Group
High Wycombe Portugal Vale

In addition to the local visitors from Thame, and from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire more generally, here are all the locations that visitors told us they had travelled from:

Ireland New Zealand Sheffield Maidenhead Vancouver
Reading Ruislip Kenya Wembley Thame (9)
Haddenham Chinnor (2) W. Heath Marlow Gerrards Cross
Aylesbury Bicester Flackwell Heath Chesham Oxford
Hatfield Wheately Cuddesdon Wycombe Lacey Green
Tylers Green Ekesham Stadhampton Eastcote Marsh Gibbon