Museum sign
The Cowper and Newton Museum
Lace making equipment: lace thread
Bedfordshire lace

Thread was always a heavy charge on the lace maker, costing her about a tenth of the price of her lace. Until the 19th century fine linen was imported from the continent and there was a heavy duty imposed on it. Before the middle of the 18th century linen thread was always spun by hand.

A lace dealer told the House of Commons in 1699 that £5 to £15 worth of lace thread made lace to the value of £100.

In 1780 an importer calculated that the value of thread imported for the Buckinghamshire lace industry was £30,000 to £40,000.

By 1803 the duty had risen to 5/- (shillings) in the £ (pound).

Early in the 19th century fine cotton thread was introduced. This was sometimes called gassed thread because it had been passed through a gas flame to remove loose fibres. Linen, however made the most durable and best lace. Linen was sold in skeins, its fineness being indicated by numbers.

Cotton was sold in packets containing "parcels", each of which consisted of a specified number of "slips" according to the fineness; thus 14 slip was extremely fine and 3 slip the coarsest in use.

Gimp thread, a thicker, more lustrous yam, was used to outline the pattern in point ground lace and was also graded by number.