New England
Lace Group

Insertions & Borders - 16th & 17th Century Lace - Book 4, by Gilian Dye, published by Cleveden Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9553223-6-5, 60 pages, soft cover, amply illustrated in color and in black & white. Dedicated to the memory of Vibeke Ervø, Denmark

It is a celebration day when a new Gil Dye book arrives in the mail, because she always delivers new information that does not appear in other books.

As in Gil's earlier books in this series, reproductions of the earliest printed pattern books, actual surviving 16th and 17th century laces, and very detailed depictions of laces in period portraits are inspirations for her work. She recreates these laces for the benefit of 21st century lace makers, writing detailed texts, sharing patterns and prickings, and using threads that are available today.

It occurs to this reviewer that the early use of lock stitch (included in all 4 books of this series), instead of reliance on many pins, is something that may be of value to 21st century lace makers. Time-pressured lace makers might consider adding it to their bobbin lace repertoire.

It is interesting to observe Gil's thought process as she solves "problems".  For example, she was disappointed with the lace sample on page 26 because the threads did not fill spaces, as seen on the original lace. Her solution was to soak her sample in warm water, which plumped up threads. (Reviewer's note: It is suggested the water be distilled or de-ionized). This would be a good subject to discuss further at individual lace meetings throughout the world, and/or on

In looking at wide borders, it sometimes seems that several edgings have been joined. However, Gil's studies and experiments revealed that often a wide border was a single piece of lace, requiring many bobbins. She writes as if making samples is a wonderful lace puzzle game. The challenge is to get threads to where they are needed, and traveling in the correct direction. There is much to inspire and expand skills.

On page 34 is a memorable sentence worth keeping: "The flow of your work will be much better if you watch the threads rather than constantly referring to a diagram or traced lines...."

Quote from footnote 8 on page 56: Low resolution images of hundreds of 16th and 17th century portraits in public ownership can be found on the BBC "Your Paintings" website.

Quote from footnote 14 on page 57: "You should always look twice", on the Understanding British Portraits website.

In addition, there is a research paper by Gil on the Understanding British Portraits website. It will print out to 12 pages, and is enjoyable to read.

One interesting observation in Book 4 was with actual collar and cuff insertions on the same garment, the collar insertion being slightly wider than the cuff insertion. Gil realized a modern lace maker could make the collar lace insertion longer so part of the yardage could be pulled slightly for the narrower cuff lace. However, she concluded that two different lace makers made the originals.

We owe considerable appreciation to Gil for analyzing details of the many laces in this series. Should you wish to do your own research, she suggests studying cuffs, because they are less likely to be gathered. The book's cover photo of Sir John Done by Gheerarts serves as an illustration of this. Both cuffs are clearly shown against dark green sleeves. You'll love all the details in this portrait! (Lady Dorothy Done's portrait can be seen in the research paper cited 2 paragraphs above this one.)

First came the still-available 64-page acclaimed book: Elizabethan Lace, in 1995, which many lace makers have used and loved. In 2012, Gil Dye began issuing the series of four 60-page books devoted to 16th and 17th century laces, published by Cleveden Press (Jean Leader), in Glasgow.  All are lightweight and can be easily carried in a lace pillow tote bag, along with traditional lace equipment.

These books all complement costume books of the period, especially those written by the late Janet Arnold. Gil Dye's books are available in the U.S. from Van Sciver Bobbin Lace, Ithaca NY.

The conclusion of this series sets Gil free to embark on other long-planned research projects. We are fortunate to have experts of this caliber and commitment in our international lace community.

Jeri Ames in Maine USA
Lace and Embroidery Resource Center

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