LEAVERS-L ArchivesArchiver > LEAVERS > 2007-07 > 1185308182
From: Jackie Leevers <>
Subject: LEAVERS Lace Machine
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 21:16:22 +0100
It's the LEEVERS/LEAVERS connection that I'm interested in, my
We've heard that there is a LEAVERS lace-making machine. The story
goes that a Nottinghamshire Quaker, John LEAVERS, invented a lace-
making machine in 1812 that he believed would make people's lives
much easier and he developed it for the greater good. He consequently
didn't make a penny out of it.
Does anyone know which family/person this might relate to? I've not
yet found a connection with the maker, though managed to trace
LEEVERS family back to Notts.
Mrs Jackie Leevers
> From the 1911 encyclopaedia Britannica http://www.
> The greatest amount of lace now made is that which issues from
> machines in England, France and Germany. The total number of
> persons employed in the lace industry in England in 1871 was
> 49,370, and in 1901 about 34,929, of whom not more than 5000 made
> lace by hand.
> The early history' of the lace-making machine coincides with that
> of the stocking frame, that machine having been adapted about the
> year 1768 for producing open-looped fabrics which had a net-like
> appearance. About 1786 frames for making point nets by machinery
> first appear at Mansfield and later at Ashbourne and Nottingham and
> soon afterwards modifications were introduced into such frames in
> order to make varieties of meshes in the point nets which were
> classed as figured nets. In 1808 and 1809 John Heathcoat of
> Nottingham obtained patents for machines for making bobbin net with
> a simpler and more readily produced mesh than that of the point net
> just mentioned. For at least thirty years thousands of women had
> been employed in and about Nottingham in the embroidery of simple
> ornament on net. In 1813 John Leavers began to improve the figured
> net weaving machines above mentioned, and from these the lace-
> making machines in use at the present time were developed.
> Machine-made Lace
> We have already seen that a technical peculiarity in making
> needlepoint lace is that a single thread and needle are alone used
> to form the pattern, and that the buttonhole stitch and other
> loopings which can be worked by means of a needle and thread mark a
> distinction between lace made in this manner and lace made on the
> pillow. For the process of pillow lace making a series of threads
> are in constant employment, plaited and twisted the one with
> another. A buttonhole stitch is not producible by it. The Leavers
> lace machine does not make either a buttonhole stitch or a plait.
> An essential principle of this machine-made work is that the
> threads are twisted together as in stocking net. The Leavers lace
> machine is that generally in use at Nottingham and Calais. French
> ingenuity has developed improvements in this machine whereby laces
> of delicate thread are made; but as fast as France makes an
> improvement England follows with another, and both countries
> virtually maintain an equal position in this branch of industry.
> The number of threads brought into operation in a Leavers machine
> is regulated by the pattern to be produced, the threads being of
> two sorts, beam or warp threads FIG. 43.
> Lace-making in the Midlands: Past and Present, by C. C. Channer and
> M. E. Roberts (London, 1900) upon the lace-making industry in
> Buckinghamshire, Bedforshire and Northamptonshire contains many
> illustrations of laces made in these counties from the 17th century
> to the present time.
> fm http://www.theotherside.co.uk/tm-heritage/background/lace.htm
> 4. 19th lace-making machine - a "Leavers Machine", now in Calais
> Making lace by machine
> You're looking at a machine that brought new prosperity to Calais
> in the years after the Napoleonic Wars. Not many people know that
> much of the world's fine lace comes from Nord/Pas-de-Calais!
> Making lace for the world
> If you see a lace dress at a wedding, chances are that lace was
> woven in Calais or in Caudry, near Cambrai. Actually 20% of the
> lace is used in wedding and cocktail dresses, and other high-
> fashion designer dresses; 80% is used for fine lingerie.
> In Calais there are today about 700 looms employing 3,000 workers.
> The two town's lace factories export about 3/4 of their output to
> 140 countries. Back to top
> Inventing a machine to make lace
> Back in 1812, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, a machine to
> make lace was invented in England by John Leavers. The basis of his
> machine was the Elizabethan "stocking frame", invented c.1589 by a
> Nottingham vicar, Rev. William Lee, to help his wife knit
> stockings. It worked a bit like "french knitting", where children
> make a knitted tube by winding wool round nails on top of a cotton
> Industrial Revolution
> The original English "Leavers Machine" was only 18 inches (0,5m)
> wide, but it made cheaper mass-produced lace for small garments. At
> that time many new inventions were transforming industry in Britain
> - textile machines, steam engines, iron-making... This was the age
> of the Industrial Revolution, and Britain was the "Silicon Valley"
> of those days. Back to top
> 5. Today's "Leavers Machines" are about 6metres wide, but work on
> exactly the same principles as the originals in 1812.
> Industrial secrets
> Foreign lace makers could not get hold of the Leavers Machine. To
> protect valuable industrial secrets, the British government banned
> export of such new machines on punishment of death - just as the
> USA later banned exports of computers to Russia. Back to top
> Machine Laces
> The first lace machine was based on Lee's stocking machine, as
> modified by Strutt and Frost in 1764 to produce net. By 1769 Frost
> was able to make figured net, and by 1777 net with square meshes
> that were fast. The second lace machine is the warp frame, so
> called because for each warp thread there was an individual needle
> which looped the thread first to the right and then to the left. By
> 1795 this machine produced plain net and soon afterwards figured
> net in an almost endless variety of meshes and patterns. The third
> lace machine, brought to perfection by continued improvements
> during the past century, is the so-called Leavers machine,
> originated by John Heathcoat (1809) and John Leavers (1813). The
> application to the Leavers machine of the jacquard attachment
> vastly increased the range and intricacy of patterns possible, and
> the operation by water and later by steam and electric power vastly
> increased the speed and quantity produce. In the Leavers machine
> warp threads and bobbin threads are used, sometimes more than
> 9,000, making 69 pieces of lace at once, each piece requiring 100
> warp and 48 bobbin threads. The warp threads are stretched
> perpendicularly (as on the tapestry and Oriental rug high-warp
> loom), just far enough apart to admit the passage between edgewise,
> of a twenty-five cent piece. The bobbins are so flat and thin that
> they pass without difficulty. Ingenious mechanism varies the
> tension of warp and weft threads as desirable. As the bobbins swing
> like pendulums through the warp threads, they are made to vacillate
> and twist around the warps, and the twistings are driven home by
> combs. If the bobbin threads are held taut and the warp threads
> loose, the warps will twist on the bobbin threads, and vice versa.
> Whilst many of the laces and nets and Nottingham lace curtains made
> on the Leavers and the lace curtain machines are exceedingly
> attractive, their imitation of real lace is far surpassed by the
> new Nottingham circular lace machine which produces cluny
> insertions and edgings that are in every way identical with those
> of handmade cluny.