One series of stories I write is set in Baker City, Oregon, in the 1890s. Each book title contains two somewhat different objects.
The first book is titled Crumpets and Cowpies. It's fun to say and just different enough, most people want to know what it is about. The second book, Thimbles and Thistles, was followed by Corsets and Cuffs.
When it came time to decide on a title for the fourth book in the series, I considered the female lead. What were her talents and strengths? What particular thing made her special or different?
That's when I landed on the idea of a woman who makes bobbin lace.
Bobbin lace is made by entwining lengths of thread together that have been wound on bobbins to make them manageable. The weaving is held in place with pins, most often set into a pillow of sorts. The placement of the pins marks the pattern.
Early bobbins were made of bone, giving the lace the secondary name of bone lace.
A will from 1493 mentioned lace created with twelve bobbins.
The lace textile emerged from 16th-century Italy braid-making, developed in the city of Genoa. Bobbin lace traveled with Spanish troops through Europe and eventually made its way to America.
This intricate hand-made lace provided a way for women to earn an income, paying much more than other handcrafts because of the skill required to create it.
When hand lace-making was a viable industry, it wasn't uncommon for girls as young as five to attend special classes focusing just on making lace. They would graduate, generally around the age 16, when they completed a master project that included the use of about 1,000 bobbins.
Tiny threads, patterns that look like no more than grids and dots, and all those bobbins could be intimidating and hard to manage for most.
But there were those who excelled at the process.
Sometimes women passed along their skill to their daughters (along with their collection of bobbins).
To be able to turn lengths of thread into something so lovely is just amazing.
It wasn't just lengths of lace that were made, either. They made any number of items from bobbin lace, like collars.
Even entire dresses were crafted of bobbin lace.
And sweet, sweet little baby shoes.
Once I decided to include the word bobbins in my book title, the second word came easily. After all, the hero is a cowboy. Just for fun, I even included a few bobbins and a length of lace on the cover .
How does an act of kindness result in… marriage?
One carefree cowboy is about to find out!
Born dirt-poor into a life of hardship, Allie Tillman seizes the opportunity to better her situation by answering an advertisement for a mail-order bride in the West. Upon her arrival in Baker City, Oregon, she discovers her intended is a low-down, lying thief. Determined not to marry him, she grasps at the one thing that will keep him from forcing her to be his wife — marrying another man.
Good-natured cowboy Ben Amick had no idea a simple trip into town would completely change his life. When he happens upon a mail-order bride desperate to avoid marrying her fiancé, Ben does the first thing that pops into his head and marries her. Willingly, he gives her the protection of his name and his arms, never expecting her to capture his heart.
Humorous, heartfelt, and awash in sweet romance, Bobbins and Boots captures the tender and tumultuous emotions of falling in love.
He waved his fork in the direction of the lace on the end of the table. “Did you do all that today?”
Allie nodded and swallowed the bite in her mouth. “I thought it would keep me busy, but I can only sit and work the lace for so long before I have to get up and move.”
“I’ve never watched anyone make lace before, but it seems like that’s a lot to get done in one day.” Ben studied the floral pattern emerging in the lace, thinking it looked like something Jemma or Brianna Barrett would wear on one of their expensive gowns.
“Generally, I work fast. My pa didn’t like my mama and me to make lace, so we learned to be quick about doing it when he wasn’t in the house.” Allie quieted. “I hope you don’t mind me leaving it out on the table. If you’d rather, I can put it in the bedroom.”
“No, don’t do that,” Ben said, when Allie began to rise from her chair. He motioned her to sit back down. “I don’t mind you leaving it out. Tell me how it works. I’ve never seen a pillow like that. What does it do? How do you keep the bobbins from tangling with all that thread?”
If you'd like to watch a video of bobbin lace-making, you'll find a brief one here.
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
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