Lace in the SCA

The following was posted to (hence the question/answer format)
I am a beginning bobbin lacer who is almost ready to try a real project.
The only problem, is that once I started researching uses of bobbin lace
in period, I could find very few.  I know that it existed in late
period, but most of the ruffs/cuffs, etc. that I see in portraits look
like they were done in another lace form (reticella?  I'm certainly no
lace expert...).  Certainly none of the lace I see in portraits looks
even remotely like the patterns I've been practising on.  So what was
bobbin lace used for?  Was it just used as a ground for needle made
lace?  Or am I just looking at the wrong portraits?

Many bobbin lace patterns of the period were designed to imitate needle lace which is far more time consuming and expensive. One of the Dover paperbacks - Mincoff and Marriage, Pillow Lace has a photo of an extant length of bobbin lace that looks like the pattern was drawn from the reticella patterns in Vinciolo (a 16th cent. needle lace pattern book). Many of the modern Cluny patterns fall into this category, if you look through folios of Cluny patterns you are likely to find several which will be perfectly acceptable for our period, in fact I'm working up one such pattern now for a handkerchief. As a general rule you can always substitute bobbin for needle lace anywhere you see it in portraits and if you look very closely you may find it is bobbin lace.

If you are confused becuase none of the period laces you see look like Torchon, I think it is because that style was less popular in England and France than the braid laces. There is a surviving period bobbin lace pattern book, the Modelbuch which is mostly Torchon patterns, so perhaps the style was more popular in Germany. I have seen a few examples of Torchon lace in period portraits in Santina Levey's book Lace a History, but they are far outnumbered by the braid and tape styles.