of Southern Florida
Rosa Ena Torruella - Bobbin Lace
Rosa Ena Torruella, whose home is now Jacksonville, was taught by her grandmother in Puerto Rico to make traditional bobbin lace. In Puerto Rico bobbin lace is called mundillo (little world), in reference to the cylinder apparatus used to produce the material. Torruella was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, in 1935, and grew up in a household that included two other children, her parents, and her motherfs two brothers and seven sisters. Much of her time was spent in the home of her paternal grandmother, who was born in Spain. Her grandmother said that Rosa Ena could thread a needle by the time she was two. Some of her earliest memories are of returning from school to spend the afternoon sitting with her grandmother and making lace.
Bobbin lace is typically used for fancy clothing or very fine home decorations, which are only brought out for special occasions. Entire table cloths can be made of the lace, but heavy duty thread must be used for such pieces. More delicate lace decorates baby bonnets and the bodices of dresses. Torruella recently used bobbin lace to embellish the bodice of a wedding dress.
To make bobbin lace, one begins by creating the lace pattern with pin points on a small strip of stiff paper. Then one connects the dots by drawing the pattern with a pen. The drawn pattern is attached to the cylinder (mundillo) with straight pins. The cylinder is covered with velvet and mounted on a wooden stand with notches around the rim, one for each wooden bobbin of thread. To determine how many pairs of bobbins are needed to make a particular lace pattern, one counts the number of strands (pen lines) in the newly drawn pattern. Each line in the lace is made with one pair of bobbins; 16 lines of lace with a border line would require 18 pairs of bobbins. Each bobbin is approximately 4-1/2 inches long, the diameter of a pencil and is hand-wound with about 4 yards of thread. To sew the lace, one must cross two bobbins, twist the thread and repeat the process. Each pair of bobbins can be separated off and anchored in place with hat pins, when not being held.
Torruella has an extraordinary knowledge of the history of bobbin lace and of variations in technique and style in different regions of Puerto Rico. In earlier years she worked with the Puerto Rican Museum of History, Archeology and Anthropology to document this tradition. She also excels in several other kinds of needlework indigenous to Puerto Rico, including fagoting, hair pin lace, and drawn work (randa and calado). These crafts simply require a needle and thread, as opposed to the mundillo for bobbin lace.
- Elizabeth Higgs