More than 500 years after bobbin lace began in Europe, Josephine Dowell is helping grow its popularity right here in the Ozarks

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L1Josephine Dowell creates bobbin lace at the 2015 Ozark Empire Fair 

Josephine Dowell believes that it’s possible to learn the ancient art of bobbin lace in merely one week. Considering all its spangles, bobbins, threads, pins, and seemingly complicated, mind-bending pattern process, it’s hard not to be a little bit skeptical of her claim.

However, Josephine knows it’s possible. She knows because she did just that.

L2Of course, it’s likely that her passion for textiles helped speed that process. “I have worked with threads all my life,” says Josephine, an Ozarks native who now lives in Springfield.

For the 86-year-old, “all her life” goes back to when she was merely four years old. “My mother was an embroiderer, and I wanted to do that, too,” she says. “So she showed me how to embroider. And she crocheted and she taught me how to crochet. My grandmother taught me to knit, and an aunt that tatted taught me to tat. I got interested in weaving several years ago, and learned to weave from a lady in Ozark. And then I ran into (someone who did) bobbin lace, and I wanted to do that, too.”

So when she had the chance to take a lace-making class while out in West Virginia, she jumped at the chance. Now nearly 25 years later, it’s safe to say that the week-long course, while effective, simply wasn’t enough. “I was so fascinated with bobbin lace that I’ve been doing it ever since.”

As she talks, Josephine is busy with her latest creation. “This is hairpin lace,” she says of her work. “But I just love doing the bobbin lace. It’s just so fascinating and the history of lace is really, really interesting.”

Josephine’s lace-making skills in action