It’s #MarchMeetTheMaker and International Women’s day so we thought we’d celebrate by sharing the story of a woman who is incredibly inspiring to us here at Brighton Lace. Louise Hill is a talented lace designer based in Nottingham who is one of the only lace designers left in the UK.
We adore working with amazing women to create our lacies and are so greatful of the opportunities we have had to cross paths with some inspiring females since starting the business.
Lou met Louise over Instagram when she saw with great delight that we were using the Iris Blue vintage lace that she had designed some years earlier. We now have a series of laces that she has designed including our Tangerine Dream.
This #MarchMeetTheMaker we chatted to the incredible lace designer, Louise Hill – who’s lace has been made into some of our beautiful bralettes and knickers
Where did your journey to becoming a lace designer begin?
I took art A level and thought about an art degree but was worried that it might be too specific and was eager to start earning, after a miserable few months as a trainee retail manager, I saw an ad in the Long Eaton Advertiser for an “artistic young person” and thought – “that’s me!” Long Eaton has always been at the centre of the Nottingham lace industry and was very local but I never knew much about it.
What training did you undertake to become a lace designer?
Luckily I got the position at the lace manufacturer Long Eaton and was set on as a trainee lace designer. All my training was done in house alongside the draughting team for a lace manufacturer, so I was able to see the machines running which really helped me understand the technicalities of lace. I learned the main design aspects from tracing over existing laces, putting the motifs into repeat and countless thread runs ( I’ll send a picture of one of these, it’s the path of each thread) After about 18 months I moved to Guy Birkin’s which at the time was the world’s leading lace manufacturer and worked with them for another 10 years, where we had an amazing archive of lace and designs dating back over 200 years.
Have you always worked as a lace designer in the UK?
No, actually I haven’t After lace manufacturing disappeared from the UK and went overseas, I was lucky enough to be able to work from home for a South American company for 7 years. This was perfect timing for me as I had a young family and was able to fit in my work around that. It was only possible due to the internet and reliable broadband. I have been working for Neil Thorpe Design and Draughting based in Long Eaton, back where I started, for 9 years.
What inspires your work?
Inspiration comes from all sources of design/print and textiles. I love to look at William Morris fabrics for flow, Japanese silks for beautiful florals and African Batik fabrics for modern geometrics, Pinterest and Instagram are great for collecting different genres of design and we use the trend forecasters like Nelly Rodi. It’s all been done before but each design changes due to current fabric trends, yarns and machine types.
Which laces are you most proud of?
It’s always been a thrill to see a design of mine in store, the first one I remember was a geometric allover that was made into a T shirt sold in Marks and Spencer. My favourite was a butterfly that I developed for Panache about 20 years ago, they used a lovely iridescent yarn for the wings. But I still feel the same 30 years on, which is why I was so pleased to find your lingerie featuring my designs.
We adore the Iris Blue lace you designed. Can you explain the process of how this (or a lace in general) is designed and then created?
Thank You! I’m so proud of the Iris lace and your lingerie really shows off the full width of the lace well. It was inspired by a 1920s art deco print and as with all designs I began with a pencil sketch of the main motif, which I then turn over and put into repeat, this means you get a workable left and right facing motif (unless it’s a symmetrical design) next comes the thread run which plots the path of each thread, this is what makes it a lace design rather than just a pretty picture and from experience I can imagine this path as I design so that I am confident that my designs will work. Next I scan the pencil sketch into photoshop and produce a flat colour CAD with each weight of yarn and type of net shown in a different colour, so that I can then fill in each area with our own specially developed textures. The finished CAD can then be emailed to the customer, uploaded to our website and printed for our range, it looks so close to lace that we can usually place the finished product on top of the design and it will fit perfectly.
It’s a specialist job, do you know how many people are lace designers in the UK today?
Although there is no manufacturing left in the UK, a few design and draughting houses remained and I like to think we have a reputation for quality work and innovative designs. There are only a handful of us in Long Eaton and a few Freelance designers around the country probably no more than a dozen in total.
What lace designs are you working on currently?
I am currently working on some narrow eyelash laces which are made cross ways on the machine in order to produce a little fringed scallop, a customer request to match a fabric and some new 23cms plant inspired designs. We often have several projects on the go and offer a few alternatives for each.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
Every time I see a lace I have designed on a garment! Especially if it gives me a reason to treat myself to some new lingerie.