There was no question about it, we just had to go and stay in Geraldine on our South Island trip. All because my handy book “Museums to visit in New Zealand” listed Lillia’s Lace Museum as an attraction in this town. Dot and I called around to the museum while Robin and Derek checked out the Vintage Car and Machinery Museum. Jean Hall welcomed us to her small museum and gave us a potted history of lace making through the ages. She explained the different types of lace and showed us many beautiful examples of lace, bobbins and clothing.
The museum is named after Jean’s grandmother, lace-maker Lillia Landridge. Lillia was only 18 years old when she made the piece of Torchon bobbin lace on display with her photo.
Jean is a lace-maker herself and collects pieces from all over the world. Most of the lace displayed is hand made but there are also examples of machine made lace. Jean discovered that the patterns for these pieces are often destroyed after a run of items have been made, and felt that the commercial pieces also need to be preserved. The New Zealand Centennial lace piece is such an example, featuring a kiwi, ferns and New Zealand flag. I can remember my mother telling me that she went to the exhibition in Wellington.
There are many beautiful lace collars on display, and Jean explained how they can be dated by the fineness of the work. The amount of hours needed to make these beautiful decorative collars ensured that only the wealthy ladies could afford to buy them, I expect.
As well as more examples of beautiful lace, this cabinet also contained several other associated items. Such as a collection of old vellum parchment patterns used for bobbin lace. The candle on the right of the display is known as a “lace makers lamp”. The glass ball was filled with water, and the light of the candle is magnified as it shines through the glass ball.
Jean is an expert lace maker herself, but also works in wool. She spun the wool from her own flock, drew up the pattern, then worked the design in bobbin lace to make her fan.
Her beautiful long evening gown was an entry in the first “Wearable Art Show” held in 1987. Jean spun kid mohair wool, then hand dyed it in several shades of navy. Using her own design, the beautiful dress was hand knitted and is so fine that the wool used weighed only 5 1/2 ounces. The strapless grey wool dress is also an original and was knitted in 2 ply wool.
It was a delight to visit the museum, there was so much to see, and I can really recommend a visit to any who love textiles and are passing through Geraldine.