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Square bobbins

Originally someone made the statement:
[The only time I saw squared off Continental bobbins was in Canada - apparently they are a new design ]

Depends a bit on what is 'new', I only use them for gimps since several years, and will provide anybody with adresses or the bobbins themselves, if you like. Just let me know.

Zurich, Switzerland

We are finding in Australia that quite a few folk are using them now and certainly Neil Keats and myself are making them. But most of you will know by now that I am always asking what we call them.!! The only publicity about them that I can find was in the Canadian Lace Makers Gazette. An article by Henk Pel ( Vol 11 No 2.) Said that he had been making them for some four years. He is calling them the Canadian Bobbin and I would be happy to accept that but I do believe that others were probably ( hearsay) making them before him. As this is not an issue relating to antique bobbins, I will not get into any arguments, but I would like to hear from others as to whom might be the first maker of these bobbins. As I do not have the full reference I do not know the date of Vol 11 No 2 so I can not give you a year to go by.

Brian - Australia

These are regularly advertised in The Canadian Lacemaker Gazette, and are made by

Henk and Robert Pel
Box 239, Gore Bay,
Ontario, Canada, P0P 1H0
(phone) 705-282-2929
(fax) 705-282-0797.

The advertisement I have is from the Spring issue; they quote C$49/dozen (US about $35) in either maple or cherry, including taxes and shipping. I do not know if that price is still in ffect.
       Mrs. Pel is a lacemaker, who is said to have returned from a workshop with the bright idea for square bobbins. I have seen these in action - the woman I saw using these said she didn't need to have her whole pillow full of square bobbins, because as long as SOME of them didn't roll, the rest wouldn't roll either. I use continental bobbins and don't have a problem with rolling because I've adapted my technique to avoid it - but I do plan someday to order some of these bobbins and see how well they'll work.

Adele - Vancouver, BC

I have a number of bobbins made by our own JoAnn Pruitt and I really like them for tape laces with sewings. They don't roll, so that doesn't aggravate me, there are no spangles to mess up my sewings, and they sound like wooden windchimes. The price is very good.

Cherry - Lacemkr

Hi Brian and all,

Some of the first square bobbins I have found in literature are in Therese de Dillmont's 'Enzyklopaedie der weiblichen Handarbeiten' first published in 1886. She does not specially point them out, so maybe they were not anything special at her time. The name of the maker is only known with a special type of a square, where part of the shank was filled with lead for additional weight, helping beginners to handle the bobbins. This bobbin is called 'Patent Jamnig', so a certain Jamnig had the copyright of this lead-filled bobbin. This Jamnig most probably lived in Austria, as he made the bobbins for the BL schools of the Ministry of Commerce of the Austrian Emperor.

Zurich, Switzerland

John Aebi (sp?) in Indiana made fancy square bobbins called *Joburg* bobbins; don't know if he still does these. I had one which I passed on to a teacher in 1991 who was looking for a source for *South African square bobbins.  Can anyone in/from South Africa add to this?

The Lacemaker (now in Warren, Ohio) carries bobbins acquired from a little shop in Brugge, Belgium called *'t Apostelientje.* Two square styles are available: the long ones have double heads to match their Bayeux bobbins, and the short ones have single heads like other continental bobbins. Hope this helps.

Carrie Baum in Toledo, OH

Funny this should come up now. I was straightening out my lace supply cupboard recently and came across two sets of square type bobbins. Each set has a PAIR of square bobbins and is accompanied by a set of So. African postage stamps depicting wild life in that country. One set is Zebrawood, the other red ivory. They are each in a gift type box marked "The Bobbinmaker - Stamping Around". I purchased them from "The Bobbinmaker" from Johannesburg at the 1983 IOLI convention here in San Diego.He and his wife both attended the convention, but for the life of me I can't remember his name. Perhaps someone from that area can find out if he is still in business. They are beautifully made.

Marji - From the San Diego area

Someone was asking about square bobbins? I do make square ones, and they tend to be my favorite ones, because they stack like a dream, don't roll, and you don't need to spangle them! I love spangeled bobbins, but when I'm working on a piece with a lot of bobbins, the spangles tend to take up a lot of room. They also tend to be a bit difficult if I need to do much in the way of sewings. If you want to know more, buzz me and we can talk.

JoAnne "PhaserBait" Pruitt

Dear Brian,

I have 8 antique hand made ones from last century in Tasmania!!!!! Bet that puts a stumbling block in the way of naming them :) I also have about 50 antique bobbins from the UK in both wood and bone complete with their original spangles. Some possibly date from the 1600s I've been told because of the amount of wear on them. One bone bobbin in particular is about half its original thickness in the middle and the brass wire which originally spiralled down it has long since gone.

David in Ballarat.

Dear David,

Square bobbins have been something like a Pandoras box to me. I have always had it in my mind to find out more about them but had always assumed (!) that they were modern. What with Manuale's reference and now your collection they have become "squarely" antique and thus deserve my better attention. Of course many of the hand made bobbins were square, but I do believe that we are talking about a part turned and part square bobbin.

I guess that we are most likely to discover that they are continental in origin ( But who knows what will be our next surprise?) From a turners point of view, though the blanks need more careful preparation there is no problem in cutting a shudder to a square portion. They do it all the time with table legs, four poster beds etc.

Brian - Australia

P.S. - What do we know about 18thC 19thC lace making in Tassie? Who were the main immigrants that were likely to be lace makers?

A friend owns an antique Bucks thumper with one or two (haven't seen it myself) flat sides. Not quite a square but the purpose is the same. And no, I have no idea just how old it is, only that she's looking for another one to make a pair.... :)

And some of the early Czech bobbins (from the Austro-Hungarian Empire period, about the same time Manuela is talking about) were *triangular*. I can't imagine working with them -- they'd be hard to flick and even harder to pick up and I have no idea how wide-spread they might have been, but they sure as sure wouldn't *roll*.

When I decided that a universal answer to all of my problems would be a square bobbin, the few I saw were not *it*. Some lacked the double head (for me, a necessity of the first order). Several had *highly* carved bodies -- pretty but almost as much of a "trap" for threads making a sewing as spangles would be. Some were simply too long -- the longer the bobbin, the longer its "leash" (the distance between the lace and the head) has to be to make a sewing and I like to keep my "leashes" fairly short for better control.

So I designed my own "universal" bobbin. Originally, it was supposed to have interchangable tails (to allow for longer necks and heavier thread without unbalancing the whole -- obviously, me and Mr Jamning were on the same trail -- the joys of re-inventing the wheel (g), but that proved to be impracticable, so I am now a proud posessor of 60 pairs of one-piece, non-adjustable, partially - square bobbins which a friend of mine calls "T-Squares".

I may be looking for another supplier of them though (because my current one hates making them), so the discussion is of intense interest to me.

BTW, to add to the list of the suppliers, Simon Tousteau (sp?) from Canada had some of those in Ithaca in October. They were very much like the ones JoAnn Pruitt makes -- long and ornate -- beautiful but not my cup o'T.

It *is* true that a few squares "sprinkled" among the regular round ones will act as brakes and limit the rest of them rolling. But, depending on just *where* you tend to grab your bobbins, the difference might be to startling to your hands and, as soon as I had enough of the squares, I retired the round ones.

And it doesn't matter how much of the bobbin is square; a square flange between the neck and the body is enough to stop the bobbin from rolling (I whittled some prototypes to test that); the rest of the bobbin could be any shape you wanted it to be. I happen to dislike the look of the square-flanged bobbin and the inch or so towards the bottom provides a nice area for decoration but if you like the bulb at the tail to grab and hate the way Continentals can roll on even a slightly domed pillow (or at the edges of a flat one), a square flange might be your answer.

Re "cures" for untwisted thread due to rolling bobbins. I confess that, although I was taught to pick up and roll in the opposite direction as a cure for untwisted and frail thread, I have never been able to do it. Somehow, although I can see the thread is untwisted, I can never see in which direction it ought to be twisted to make it "whole"again.

So, my "cure" is to take the unplied thread and hang it on a pin way back of the work so that when it comes back into the work it's in good shape again. If there's more than one that threatens disaster at the same time, I just sternly tell it to wait its turn (no more than one thread per row is my rule of thumb).

Thankfully, the incidence of unplied threads is less and less as one gains experience. These days (what with the square bobbins an'all), the only times it happens to me is when I try to negotiate an unfamiliar corner and have to do, undo and redo several times -- my latest project has a *very* fuzzy turn at one point (and I won't be including directions on how to tackle it, either. I'm still not sure just how I got there, I'm not entirely happy with the way I got there and you can make your own mistakes), though I'm happy to report that none of the threads actually *broke* .

Tamara Duvall
Lexington, VA, USA

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