Something about me...


I am a freelance lecturer, author and consultant on antique lace and whitework embroideries, being particularly concerned with their identification, their use in costume and the history of their craft industries.

My interest in lace and whitework started over 45 years ago when I bought my first pieces of lace and tried to identity them through books and museum visits. Since then I have collected continuously and built up a very substantial and wide-ranging collection including lace, whitework and small costume items such as decorative babies’ robes and accessories.

Being a trained teacher, I started lecturing on their history and identification at an early stage, fitting this in with my other careers, initially in teaching but later in patent work. In the 1980s I worked with Exeter Museums to set up their new lace displays in Rougemont house (since closed) and the travelling exhibition ‘Lifting the Veil: a closer look at antique lace’ which was drawn from my own collection and toured the country for two years. It was then that I wrote my first lace book for Batsford, a revised edition being published by Schiffer in 2001 under the title ‘Antique Lace: identifying types and techniques’.

In 1997 I gave up patent work to work full time with textiles. Having become particularly interested in whitework I spent several years researching the subject to produce my more recent works, “Baby wore white: robes for special occasions, 1800-1910” (2005); "Embroidered with white: the 18th century fashion for Dresden lace and other whiteworked accessories" (2008) and its sequel "White-embroidered costume accessories: the 1790s to 1840s"(2013). The final book in this series, "Fashionable white-embroidered accessories: c.1840 to 1900" was published in 2018.

Although the books on whitework have taken much of my time in recent years, lace has not been forgotten. The exhibition of 'Lifting the Veil' led to an exciting commission to provide a lace exhibition for a Japanese Museum. I have also loaned lace and whitework to various other museums but have a particularly strong relationship with the Argentan Museum, Maison des dentelles, in Normandy. My review of the hand-made lace collection in the Nottingham Museum also helped in having the lace collection as a whole, including its collection of machine laces, designated as a collection of National importance.

In between writing and working with my own and other collections, I am very happy to be asked to lecture or give workshops on lace or whitework. I always take original examples of the material I am asked to lecture on, in addition to giving a Powerpoint presentation, as one gets such a distorted impression of the work from seeing it on a large scale in slides: its minuteness and delicacy are only fully appreciated in the real thing.

I am very happy to travel to lecture venues but can also welcome small groups in my home in Somerset - I particularly enjoy sharing my collection and my enthusiasm with students in workshops. If you or your group would like a lecture or study day, do contact me - but remember, it must be through my email as your contact details cannot be given through the website.

ann rosenthal 23.09.2017 21:41

I have probably all the books you have written.
They are all wonderful and have taught me so much.

Heather Toomer 29.09.2017 12:50

Ann, Many thanks for giving that feedback. I should have the next book in the series out this winter - Watch this space! I'm very glad the books help, Heather

Isabella Harding 23.03.2014 21:16

I have a whitework christening gown which has been dated around 1840. It is yellowed and stained and I wondered if you had any advice or would be able to help?

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Latest comments

15.07 | 16:44

Dear Susan Marilyn, I expect my friends in York have mentioned me to you. I will email through the Society as there's no room on this email.

15.07 | 11:12

Dear Heather - As Secretary of the Northern Society of Costume & Textiles, we are wondering where you live and whether we could book you to come and talk to us?

16.03 | 08:54

Hi Debbie, The 3 whitework books) will cost £84 including postage to U.S.A. Please send payment to me - the site does not give me your email. Thanks, Heather

15.03 | 22:02

I sent email already with my paypal, but am interested in all but the baby book. Can you smail back cost of all with posyage to US in that return email. I didnt