A 30-year love of lace mak­ing

Woman from Beech Moun­tain prac­tices cen­turies-old craft.

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - LOCAL - BY JILL WHALEN STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: [email protected]­dard­speaker.com; 570501-3592

DRUMS — Bar­bara “Barb” McGuire was cel­e­brat­ing her 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary with her hus­band, Jim, in Bruges, Bel­gium, when she fell in love.

“We went to a cho­co­late fac­tory and there was a lace mak­ing school across the street. We went in just to peek around. The teacher was so wel­com­ing and told us to stay as long as we wanted. My hus­band and I were there for ages,” Barb re­called. “And I fell in love.”

That was 30 years ago, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that the Beech Moun­tain woman hasn’t made lace. It’s an in­tri­cate art, one that uses mi­cro­scop­i­cally fine threads to pro­duce or­nate de­signs and pat­terns.

When Barb re­turned from Bel­gium to her then-home in Con­necti­cut, she im­me­di­ately joined a lace mak­ing guild to learn the cen­turies-old craft. Over the next few years — and still even now — she con­tin­ued to at­tend lace mak­ing sem­i­nars and work­shops.

“I never stop learn­ing,” she said.

Grow­ing up, she said, she wasn’t in­ter­ested in cro­chet­ing or knit­ting.

“My grand­mother and mother knit­ted and tat­ted and couldn’t fig­ure out why I had no pa­tience,” she laughed.

Now, she refers to parts of her Beech Moun­tain home as a “mu­seum.” Framed pieces of lace — a trib­ute to her pa­tience — hang on walls. They’re in all shapes and pat­terns, in­clud­ing flow­ers, but­ter­flies and sea­horses. They’re in all styles, too — tra­di­tional pieces made by fol­low­ing pat­terns de­vel­oped by lace mak­ers from Bel­gium, Wales, Switzer­land and the Nether­lands.

“This is a sam­pling of dif­fer­ent kinds of lace,” she said, point­ing to one par­tic­u­lar piece. “Dif­fer­ent coun­tries have dif­fer­ent styles. This was very, very painstak­ing.”

Years of work can go into some projects.

She out­fit­ted a doll in a bil­low­ing dress of lace made of cream-col­ored silk thread and edged in thin strands of gold.

“This is hard on the eyes. I used a mag­ni­fy­ing glass when I was work­ing on that,” she said of an­other piece.

Lace mak­ing is a pop­u­lar pas­time in Europe, Barb ex­plained. She re­called a trip to Wales, and see­ing women gath­er­ing out­side their homes to work on their projects.

So most times, when Amer­i­can lace guilds or­ga­nize sem­i­nars, they’re taught by an ex­pert from Eng­land or Bel­gium.

Some sem­i­nars bring dozens to­gether.

“For three days or four days, we would do noth­ing but make lace,” Barb said.

Barb has demon­strated the craft dur­ing Eck­ley Min­ers’ Mu­seum’s Patch Town Days and at the Brain­erd Church Fes­ti­val in Sy­bertsville. She also re­cently ex­plained lace mak­ing to vis­i­tors to Benigna’s Creek Wine Shoppe at Lau­rel Mall.

Lace mak­ers work on what is re­ferred to as a pil­low. It’s a soft sur­face where they se­cure their pat­terns and lay out bob­bins of thread.

Barb pushes what seems like hun­dreds of straight pins into the sec­tion of the pat­tern she’s work­ing on. Then she “stitches” the fine threads around the pins. Even­tu­ally, a de­sign un­folds. It might be a tiny flower, or a dec­o­ra­tive edg­ing.

As she works, she counts the stitches. She winds one bob­bin around an­other, then re­verses direc­tions, only to go back again.

“It’s like minia­ture weav­ing,” she said.

Her hands work flu­idly, pick­ing up a few of the 40-plus bob­bins at a time and mov­ing them to where they need to be.

“Twist. Cross. Twist,” she says as she works. Twist means a move­ment to the left, while cross sig­ni­fies the right.

One par­tic­u­lar pat­tern made inch-wide lace. She can pro­duce about two inches of it within an hour.

“I’m fa­mil­iar with the pat­tern,” she said, “I don’t re­ally have to think very hard. I just keep go­ing.”

She noted that she has arthri­tis in her hands but feels no pain.

“It’s very re­lax­ing for me,” she said.

RE­NEE KOWALCZYK / CON­TRIBUT­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Bar­bara “Barb” McGuire demon­strates the cen­turies-old art of lace mak­ing dur­ing a re­cent visit to Benigna’s Creek Wine Shoppe at Lau­rel Mall.

The threads, bob­bins and pins that McGuire uses to make lace. While lace mak­ing is a pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity in Europe, McGuire is one of the few in the area who does it.

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