AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, Repair of 20th-Century Leavers Lace, by Annie-Beth Ellington

Lever’s Lace is a type of machine-made lace that provides a similar product to hand-made bobbin lace. Its structure and relatively low-status in museum collections have made it an uncommon target for conservation treatments. The author’s graduate thesis research for her MA at the University of Rhode Island both brings to light this historic textile and provides guidance in how to undertake stabilization of damaged samples.

In 1813 John Lever modified a loom to make Lever’s Lace, and subsequent addition of Jacquard technology in 1849 increased the range of the product. It was imported to the US in 1910 to make mosquito netting and other simple structures, eventually creating the decorative lace familiar to many people. Lever’s lace consists of a ground of twisted warps. Patterns or ornaments outlined by a heaver thread are accomplished with bobbins.

The author experimented with mock-ups of the structure to better understand the challenges of repairs. She then tensioned a piece of damaged lace over a black fabric-covered board. A photocopy of the pattern area was inserted beneath to act as a guide. Using a microscope, she floated 40 denier nylon threads across areas of loss following the pattern. The author quickly found that intervention could cause additional unraveling of damages areas, so she changed to using Jade adhesive on broken thread ends prior to repairs.

Repair of Levers Lace is slow and dyeing nylon thread to match colors would only add to the project time. However with further development this technique will guide future conservators.