When discussion turns to the production of lace, most baby boomers’ knowledge consists primarily of the Kingston Trio’s paean to “bonnie Jane” who “should be in silk and lace.” Teenagers 40 years later have rekindled a love for the ancient craft which makes them feel part of a larger tradition according to James Day, developmental psychology professor at the University of Louvain, because it answers “questions about life and about where [they] come from, and about grandparents, and forebearers.”
That greater cultural context is what informs the American Swedish Institute’s new exhibit, Treasured Threads: Nordic Lace, which opens this weekend in the newly renovated Lower Level Gallery in ASI’s Turnblad Mansion. Running July 21, 2012-January 13, 2013, the exhibit features lace made in various styles from the Nordic countries, highlighting pieces from the Österlens Museum in Skåne with items on loan from local Twin Cities collectors.
Once viewed as an appropriate trade for poor peasant women to adorn the clothes of aristocrats, Nordic lace making developed its own style and contributions to the craft. Torchon lace, for example, was originally made from flax and ideal for edging and underwear because of its strength and inexpensiveness. Swedish artisans were the first to employ the gimp, an outline of the pattern of their creations now used everywhere.
As one of the simplest types of bobbin laces to make, torchon lace was likely the first one learned by Nordic women who passed their knowledge and skills to their daughters and granddaughters. Lena Alebo, director of the Österlens Museum, will speak about this heritage in a related talk, “Pillows and Pins in Southern Sweden” on Tuesday, August 7th from noon to 1 p.m. in the Museum’s Folke Bernadotte Conference Room.
Other ASI-related presentations include:
- Ms. Alebo’s joint presentation with local lacemaker, Nancy Wellington, from 3 to 6 p.m. August 7
- Lace making demonstrations conducted by members of the Minnesota Lace Society on Saturdays: July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 22, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, Dec. 8, and Jan. 12 from noon to 3 p.m. in the Lower Level Gallery.
An exhibit on Nordic lace may not appear as exciting as the fourth iteration of Halo, but it might have more long-term rewards. As one recent convert confirmed, “I find [lace making] very therapeutic. You can lose yourself in it.” One would have to be pretty near-sighted not to recognize the physical and cultural benefits derived from that.