Lace Terminology

  © Lorelei Halley 2009 

  Site Map    Compare    Needle Lace Introduction    Bobbin Lace 2 Structural Classes              

Some terms are used across many different kinds of lace, because all laces have in common dense areas and transparent areas.  The major design elements, the motifs, are usually dense, and the background is usually transparent and open. 

The background, called the ground, may be a mesh of 2 twisted  threads (in bobbin lace) or a single thread in a buttonhole stitch variant (needlelace).  Or the ground may be a bar ground, also call "guipure".  In bobbin lace it may contain 2 -7 pairs braided (plaited) together.  In needlelace the guipure or bar ground will consist usually of 3 base threads completely covered by tiny buttonhole stitches.  There may be small areas inside a motif where some decorative stitch is used, and these areas are called fillings.  A particular stitch may be used as a filling or as a ground:  those two terms distinguish whether the area is outside and between the motifs or inside the motif.   The terms "ground" and "filling" distinguish how the stitch is used, and most stitches can be used either way.

Where ever you see a hand, click to view the full size image.  I've added labels to the parts.

These are mesh grounded bobbin laces:        
Revival era Mechlin New revival era Tonder Napoleonic era Mechlin Tape lace, possibly 18th c. 18th c. Brussels

These are mesh grounded needle laces.  
19th c. Point de Gaze New revival era needlelace by a living lace designer

Bar grounded bobbin laces.  (Also called guipure bobbin laces.):
Late 19thc. Honiton 19th c. Duchesse.  Some of the finest 19th century Duchesse typically had inserts of Point de Gaze needlelace, as this piece does. Cluny 19th c. Bedfordshire New revival era Bedfordshire


Bar grounded needle lace (guipure)  
New revival era needlelace by a living lace designer 20th c. Chinese needlelace


The motifs may be outlined in a thick cord, called gimp in bobbin lace, or cordonnet in needlelace.   The cordonnet in needle lace is a necessary part of the structure.  It is a sort of scaffolding on which the rest of the lace rests.   The needle lace cordonnet may be padded and sculpted quite thick.  Sometimes bobbin lace motifs will have a layered relief effect called raised work.  In bobbin lace neither the gimp nor the raised work are necessary, but are merely decorative.  (Although sometimes the raised work in bobbin lace serves to travel threads from the end of one motif to the beginning of another, so they don't have to be cut off.)

  Compare gimp and cordonnet.

Bobbin made raised work Bobbin made raised work and needle made rings Needle lace: padded and sculpted cordonnet Needle lace: padded and sculpted cordonnet
Honiton raised work sampler late 19th c. Honiton
This has both needle and bobbin raised work.
New revival era needlelace by living lace maker and designer Liz Ligeti. Needle lace, prob. 18th c.

Clothwork:  Parts of the lace which look like woven cloth (sometimes made in half stitch, which looks like a   sort of   basket weave).

Cordonnet:  In needle lace, this is the thick cord which outlines the motifs, it is the scaffolding which holds the lace together.  It is laid down first, then the needle lace stitches are started and ended by wrapping the threads around the cordonnet.  The final step is to closely buttonhole the entire cordonnet, locking the beginning and ending tails so they can't pull loose.

Engrelure:  A separate, narrow, simple lace attached to the footside.  The engrelure is what is attached to the fabric.  This was done so that when lace was recycled (when the garment or fabric disintegrated) the lace might be saved and reused.  Any slip of the scissors would ruin the engrelure, instead of the lace itself.

Fillings:  The fancy lace stitches inside the motifs, or inside clumps of motifs.

Footside:  The edge, usually straight, by which the lace is attached to the fabric.

Gimp:  A term used in bobbin lace, referring to a thick thread, usually inside the motif, but outlining the cloth stitch and part of the cloth areas; the purpose is to emphasize the motif.

Ground:  The lace stitches outside the motifs, which hold the lace together.

Guipure:  made of braids or a thick bar, usually four strand braids (Honiton often uses more than four strands) in bobbin lace.  In needle lace the bars are closely buttonholed.

Headside:  The edge that hangs free, often scalloped.

Mesh:  a net like stitch which holds the lace together, can occupy 10%-85% of the lace, usually made of two twisted threads in bobbin lace, or one thread in needlelace.  There are several different grounds: 

Picots:   Tiny little decorative loops, usually occurring on braids or on the lace edge (headside).

Raised work:  Thin outlines on motifs which make a raised double layer; made of multiple thin threads (often 10).

Tallies:    Dense little spots, usually with 3 vertical threads and one which weaves back and forth.  These can be square, rectangular, or leaf shaped; can lie on the surface of clothwork or half stitch sections (especially in Cluny or Beds).

   Compare      Abbreviations     

   bobbin lace      Bobbin Lace 2 Structural Classes            Needle Lace Introduction