Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beauty from Bobbins

photo by Ray Tabafunda

In Santa Barbara, Iloilo, the art of bobbin lace making started a livelihood project for women at the Western Visayas Sanitarium. It started when Sister Madeleine Dieryck, a Belgian Missionary Sister working for the Hansenites received an embroidered hanky as a gift from a young girl as a gratitude for her love and support to the people in the Sanitarium.

It was in 1991, when Sr. Madeleine introduced bobbin lace making that became an income generating activity to support the center and as a source of income to the women in the center. The Women United Through Handcrafted Lace and Embroidery, Inc. or W.U.T.H.L.E was established.

photo by Ray Tabafunda
Bobbin lace is produced with the use of many threaded bobbins. Early bobbins were produced in England sometime in the mid-16th century. They were made from bone, often from Ox or Mutton. Others also use metal, but wood became the most commonly used material and the most popular even up to this day.

The 18th century was the peak of bobbin lace making. However, industrialization led to the decline of this craft in the 19th century. Finer laces were produced faster by machines, although not all kinds can be reproduced by machine.  But despite the decline, bobbin lace making was still practised in many parts of Europe. Until this day, bobbin lacemaking became a hobby for most people.

Bobbin lace is done on a firm pillow supported either on the makers lap or upon a special stand. A pattern, called pricking, is pinned to a padded surface, the bobbin lace cushion or pillow. The pricked-out pattern is tacked and each twist of the bobbins is held in place by a pin.  The pattern is printed on blue card stock or heavy card and covered with clear or blue contact paper to keep ink from bleeding through to lace. Pricking the holes before making the lace makes it easier to find the hole.

photo by Ray Tabafunda
On each thread hangs a bobbin, which also serves as a weight. The threads are then braided in pairs. The structures thus formed are secured with more pins pushed into the cushion. For all its intricate and elegant appearance, there are only two different movements of bobbins in the formation of the lace: the twist and the cross. There can be between 3 and 200+ pairs on a cushion, depending on the pattern. The resulting lace is a filigree fabric, in which not only the threads, but the open parts as well make up the design. Some parts look like a net, others like woven fabric and some like braids.
Visitors can now see women engage in the art of bobbin lace-making and embroidery in W.U.T.H.L.E. at the Western Visayas Sanitarium in Barangay San Sebastian. It is a non-profit organization from Belgium by the ICM Sister’s Apostolate dedicated to improving the lives of women by involving them in handicrafts such as this traditional handicraft. The center produces fine laces exported worldwide and is known to be the only one existing in Asia. For more information, please call (033)523-7894.

photo by Ray Tabafunda
See the bobbin laces produced in Santa Barbara during the 5-day Arts Month celebration of the province of Iloilo on February 20-24 at the fountain area of Robinsons Place Iloilo.  The office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism will mount BUGANA, a showcase of local products from SMEs in the province.  The event is also brought to you by the Department of Tourism Region Vi, Department of Trade and Industry and Robinsons Place Iloilo.

For more information about the event, please contact the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism at (033) 3384910 or visit the Provincial Tourism Office, 3rd floor, Provincial Capitol, Bonifacio Drive, Iloilo City.

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