Paula Case lacing at a Flemish and Milanese Tape Lace workshop, Bismarck, ND, April 1997. Photo: Ruth Case
Prairie Rose Lace Makers
When Mary Fors saw a woman demonstrating
bobbin lace making at a state fair in 1985, she was so
enthralled that she took lessons, and eventually began giving
her own mini-workshops. Upon moving to Bismarck in 1990, she
started a group of bobbin lace makers, who called themselves
the Prairie Rose Lace Makers. The group has continued to grow,
and learn more designs and techniques of lace making with help
from grants from the Dakota West Arts Council and the North
Dakota Council on the Arts.
This type of lace making is called "bobbin" because
threads are wound around long, thin wooden pieces called bobbins,
which are placed on a pillow holding the lace pattern. Some
intricate patterns require as many as 300 bobbins attached to the
pillow at a time.
In the 16th century, the art of making bobbin lace
originated in Genoa and Flanders, where it was practiced as a
cottage industry for several centuries; some villages' entire
livelihoods were based on lace making. Lace was considered a luxury
item, worn by both men and women. In England and other countries,
"sumptuary laws" forbid people of the lower classes the privilege
of wearing lace. Because of its value, clothing with lace, like
jewels, was considered currency. Lace was also smuggled from
countries whose laws forbid its importation. The art nearly died
when machines were introduced in the 1800s for lace making.
The Prairie Rose Lace Makers meet once a month to
exchange patterns and books, make lace, and socialize. They also
provide demonstrations at local and regional functions, such as
ethnic and arts festivals, state fairs, and historic re-enactments.
Their work is exhibited in art shows, galleries, and libraries.
Fors, who originally began the group to have company
while she made lace, now believes that the group's greater purpose
is to share the joy of lace making, and to preserve this art form
for future generations. By knowing and observing the art of lace
making, people can gain a better understanding of their ancestors'
lives and the culture that appreciated and valued lace.
Documentation includes a 17-page history of lace
making, newspaper clippings, 18 color photographs, and a video
featuring interviews and lesson.
Originally submitted by: Byron Dorgan, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.