Lacemaking group celebrates 45th anniversary with new display at The Higgins Bedford

Lace bobbins on a lacemaking pillow
Visitors can have a go at making pillow lace at The Higgins (image: Bedford Borough Council)

Bedfordshire lacemaking is in the spotlight this month as a new exhibition launches at The Higgins Bedford on Tuesday (4 April).

The display celebrates the 45th anniversary of the Aragon Lacemakers, a local lacemaking group dedicated to keeping the craft of Bedfordshire lace alive and thriving.

They regularly hold events and workshops to share their skills and hold events to showcase this important local heritage craft.

From Tuesday, visitors can view lace items made by members of the group including bracelets, gloves and coloured lace pictures.

Aragon Lacemakers are celebrating their 45th anniversary this year (image: Bedford Borough Council)

“Pillow lace was a significant part of Bedford life from around 1560 to 1905,” said Karen Ward, chair of Aragon Lacemakers.

It is believed to have been introduced to the area by the French Huguenots.
“It was a thriving cottage industry in Bedford and the surrounding villages. We don’t want it to fade away and be forgotten, we have a duty to keep lacemaking alive.
“Today we make lace as a hobby, it’s completely absorbing, helping with our well-being as well as being a very social craft.  The lace makers meet once a month to chat and compare lace projects.”
The group comprises around 100 lacemakers in Bedfordshire who make a whole range of lace from traditional Bedfordshire lace to Milanese lace, Idrijan lace and Honiton lace.
Each year, the members make lace decorations for the group’s entry into the Bedford Christmas Tree Festival and regularly win awards for their stunning displays.
Aragon Lacemakers’ tree at the Bedford Christmas Tree Festival
“Lacemaking opens up so many different opportunities to meet people and to make different styles of lace.  Social Media means we communicate with Lacemakers all over the world,” said Karen.
“Today we tend to make more modern pieces of lace such as motifs, bracelets and earrings, bookmarks, flowers and inserts for key rings. There are several examples of more colourful, modern pieces of lace on display at The Higgins.”
Some of the Aragon Lacemakers will be at The Higgins on Saturday 8 April demonstrating the craft and there will be an opportunity to have a go yourself. You can find out more at the Higgins website here.
Alongside the display, a video has been made that will be accessible via a QR code.  It links Bedford High Street and Lacemaking, capturing some of our more recent history including the Lace in Place project.
Giant panels of traditional lace adorn the window frames of an historic building in Bedford's St Paul's Square as part of the Bedford Creative Arts/Aragon Lacemakers Lace in Place project in 2012.
Bedford Creative Arts’ Lace in Place project with Aragon Lacemakers from 2012 (photo: Bedford Creative Arts)
“We are grateful to Bedford Borough Council who supported us with this project,” said Karen.
Other members of the Aragon Lacemakers shared with the Bedford Independent what the hobby means to them.
“For me lace takes me out of the everyday pressures of life going on around me, so yes great for my well-being,” said Karen Bennett.
“I make lace for the challenge of working a pattern and its final aesthetic outcome. Today I make lace for my family for Easter and Christmas (small decorations) and as I said, for myself for the challenge of working it.
“The exhibition is a great place to show others what can be made and show that it is not just edgings and doilies. I hope that people will come to the exhibition and see the demonstrations.”
Member Pam McPoland is hopeful that the Lacemakers have secured the future of lacemaking in Bedfordshire, saying:
“Aragon Lacemakers has been a popular group for nearly 50 years and at times membership has declined but it is now thriving and we are hoping that it will continue for many years to come.”

Finally, the group is starting a Young Lacemakers club once a month in Bedford following the success off the group that meets at Flitwick Library.

Anyone interested in learning lace and finding out more can contact the Lace team at

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