We often think of crafts and the people who make them as gentle and refined. But then, we craft and we aren’t always that gentle or refined. The fact is that people who craft, whether for amusement or a living, run a wide gamut. It’s also a fact that people have always been interested in the macabre.
And this leads to the story of hanging bobbins.
Bobbins are the tools bobbin lacemakers use to hold their threads. In most places, they are simple. For instance, the bobbins in this detail of Caspar Nectscher’s 1664 painting, The Lacemaker, shows a style of bobbin that’s similar to modern Belgian and German bobbins.
Note that they are simple wooden spindles with a somewhat bulbous end and little if any decoration to them. Their job is to be utilitarian and that’s it.
But for some reason, in the Midlands area of England, bobbins got a lot more whimsical. They were often decoratively turned, and since they lack the bulb on the end, they feature a ring of beads called a ‘spangle’ at the bottom for extra weight and better tension. Painting, decorative metal bitts, and even writing were not uncommon, as you can see from this photograph of Midlands lace bobbins from the Cowper & Newton Museum.