Learning Bobbin Lace
How to Make Bobbin Lace
Bobbin Lace Lessons
Bobbin Lace Tutorials
© Lorelei Halley 2009 Site Map
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Bobbin Lace pages
2 Structures of Bobbinlace
Bobbin Lace Basics
Learning bobbinlace: Where to Start *
Each different regional/period style or form of bobbin lace solves problems in a different way. So learning bobbin lace isn't about learning just a group of basic techniques. What is common to all bobbin lace are these stitches: cloth stitch, half stitch, double stitch (has different names), & tallies. Braids/plaits are also basic, but don't occur in all styles. But with just this set of techniques you can't make anything. Any piece of lace requires more: what ground/background fills in the spaces between the motifs, what joining methods are used, how is the ground connected to the motifs and to the footside, is there gimp and how is it handled (different ways in different forms). So learning bobbin lace means learning sets of solutions to these problems. Each form uses different solutions. The different classifications of forms group together forms that overlap to a considerable extent in their relative sets of solutions. (To understand the most basic distinction, that between straight lace and part lace, see Two Structural Classes.) But I believe there are three places where a student can start to learn bobbin lace, and it doesn't matter which one comes first:
(If terms such as "ground", "footside" draw a blank, see Lace Terminology.)
It is possible to start bobbin lace with just about anything, even Honiton. But if an absolute beginner signs up for a workshop in one of the intermediate or advanced styles, the workshop teacher will not be able to give her the constant attention that an absolute beginner needs without cheating the other students. If you are taking private lessons with a teacher then it doesn't matter so much where you start. The suggestions I'm making about where to start and how to advance are intended to give you an easy and gradual introduction to bobbin lace. Starting in the middle, with something too difficult, is the best way I know of to discourage someone from staying with it.
For torchon bobbin lace books I suggest
LH from my book.
For photos of all the laces in my instruction book, go here.
|3 roller pillows, small, medium and large. Roller pillows are a good choice for torchon, but a cookie pillow is useable. However, on a cookie pillow it is annoying to make long lengths of yardage, but turning corners is easier. So use a roller pillow for yardage, but a cookie pillow for square or rectangular mats. See Make a Pillow for instructions on making a roller pillow.|
Good books for Cluny are:
702 LH f/SVR
|LH||I recommend a cookie pillow because Cluny often has braids going backwards for short distances and this is very awkward on a roller pillow. Instructions for making one.|
Some very good beginning Bedfordshire bobbin lace books are
| I recommend a cookie shaped pillow for
Bedfordshire because the patterns often have braids moving backwards for
short distances, and this is very awkward on a roller pillow.
|700 LH fbb/Pam Nottingham 14|
|454 LH fbb/Pam
|417 LH fbb/Hamer II.5||506 LH fbb/Pam Robinson 8||468 LH fbb/ Barbara Underwood #7, enlarged to 180% worked in Bockens linen 50/2.||474 LH Underwood #8.|
Tape lace: *
For bobbin tape lace I suggest:
British English calls this kind "braid lace".
|LH For pattern, see this. There is now a free tutorial on how to work this pattern.||
LH fbb/Mincoff & Marriage
|For tape lace and other part laces use a cookie or mushroom shaped
pillow, above left, and bobbins, right.
Bobbins need pointed ends, or at least, no spangles which can catch on the threads when you are doing sewings.
|How to make a cookie pillow.|
To see all my student samples, go to samples.
Bobbin Lace Lessons on This Site *
|From my Plaited Lace Lessons on this site. Basic Cluny lessons. Cluny is one style of plaited bobbin lace. Most of these techniques are also used in Bedfordshire bobbin lace (Beds lace).|
||1 1 2||3 3||4||5|
| Start with the
Then learn cloth stitch and half stitch.
See the cloth stitch lesson.
| For the 1st see my lesson
From LePompe 1562.
Pattern 2 available from
See my lesson 2.
Pattern is from Handleiding voor Vrouwelijke Handwerken #11
(Instructions for Women's Handwork), A. W. Sijthoff, Leiden,
the file is hw11.pdf . I designed the corner.
Connecting braid to footside weaver.
Lesson 3. Bookmark is from LePompe.
| From LePompe 1562.
See lesson 4.
Using a pin more than once.
|See my lesson 5 on tallies|
|Instructions Basic A This pattern uses techniques from lesson 1, and hanging on & ending techniques from lesson 3.||Instructions Basic B This piece uses techniques from lessons 1 and 3||Instructions: Basic D This piece uses techniques from lessons 1, 3, and 5.|
|.From my Plaited Lace Lesson 6. I printed it at 120% and used 60/2 weaving linen. Bockens 50/2 is comparable. Crossing 3 braids.||From my plaited lace lesson 7, bookmark B8 Kiss stitch, connecting spot weaver to footside weaver.||Instructions Braided Edging B2 More ways of connecting braids to footside.|
|Instructions: Circle||Instructions: Square3||Instructions: Grounds|
Tape Lace DMC47
T14 Tape Lace Mat
Bobbin Lace Basics: winding the bobbins, making the hitch, bobbin lace stitches, the international color coding system.
Free Bobbin Lace Patterns: for beginners.
Bobbin Lace Lesson-Cloth Strip: cloth stitch, half stitch and double stitch
Plaited Lace Lesson 1: for absolute beginners. Explain how to hang on for bookmarks or samples, how to make a 4 strand braid/plait, windmill crossing, knotted picots.
Plaited Lace Lesson 2: how to hang on in pairs. Using a pattern from LePompe 2.
Plaited Lace Lesson 3: how to connect the braid/plait to the footside, how to sew out at the end.
Plaited Lace Lesson 4: using a pin twice (or more), double thread picots, temporary pin.
Lesson 5: Tallies.
Plaited Lace Lesson 6: crossing 3 braids.
Plaited Lace Lesson 7: bookmark B8, cloth or half stitch spot, kiss stitch. Uses techniques of Lessons 3 and 6.
Tape Lace Lesson-DMC#47
Circle: practice what you have learned - 3 stitches, braid, picots, tallies.
Square3: another practice pattern for different edge stitches, a square edging.
Basic A: instructions. Uses techniques of Lessons 1. 2, and 3.
Basic B: instructions. Uses techniques of Lessons 1,2, and 3.
Basic D: instructions. Uses techniques of Lessons 1, 2, 3, and 5.
Braided Edging B2: instructions. Uses techniques of Lesson 3.
Grounds: most common grounds used in torchon
Make a Pillow: make a cookie or roller pillow out of wood and wool.
http://lynxlace.com/laceterminology.html : if the specialist lace words have you baffled.
http://lynxlace.com/mybookspatterns.html : My 2 instruction books available here -- TORCHON BOBBIN LACE LESSONS, and INTRODUCTION TO RUSSIAN TAPE LACE -- as pdf files.
If you work through my patterns and have questions or difficulties, you can contact me by joining laceioli. (Joining is free.) Join their BEGINNERS BOBBINLACE group and post your question there. I will see it and post an answer. http://laceioli.ning.com
Equipment recommendations: bkmk
Summary of necessary tools and supplies:
Start with a round cookie shaped or octagonal flat polyethylene pillow. It is the cheapest. Polystyrene (cheaper and easier to find that polyethylene) makes crumbs and will disintegrate with time, over a period of 2-3 years (depending on how much you use it). Polystyrene will do temporarily if you really aren't sure you want to learn this. Polyethylene is better for long term use. Chopped straw or sea grass are the traditional materials for a pillow, but the pillows are more expensive. I suggest the cookie pillow because you can use it for any form of bobbin lace. See Make a Pillow for instructions on how to make your own out of wood and wool. I find that 19 to 21 inches in diameter is the size I like best. This gives me room for substantial numbers of bobbins, without causing backaches from leaning over to see (a problem caused by a large diameter pillow).
|Cookie pillow with foam base and layers of wool above, about 19 inches wide and 4 inches high.||This is a flat 24 inch ethafoam pillow, about 3 inches high.||Bolster pillow, stuffed with sawdust (very heavy), about 14 inches long, 8 inches in diameter. (I don't recommend this, messy in the making and the sawdust settles over time, and heavy.)||Directions for making this one on Make a Pillow.||My first homemade pillow: wood and wool.|
Spanish lacemakers use a different shape, similar to a cylinder, cut in half lengthwise. They work with the pillow vertical and leaning against a table. https://picasaweb.google.com/117422224576813331535/RabasaAlicante#5251551237435274738
For various shapes of pillows, stands and bobbins:
|Modern bobbins, usually the least expensive. Left to right: Danish, Belgian torchon, modern square. All are about 4 inches long.||Traditional bobbins, various national origins. 5 Danish, 1 Swedish, center are Belgian & Flemish. Fifth from the right is a weaver's tapestry bobbin. Four right are English.||Modern bobbin shapes||I made the large ones of wooden beads and dowels (6 inches tall). The small ones are also beads and dowels, 4 inches tall.||Home made or simple shapes, easy to whittle.|
|Acorn bobbins made by David Springett 1980s. They are the length of Mechlin bobbins and roughly the same weight. I use them unspangled.||The 2 on the far left are made by expert bobbin makers. The others I made. You can see woodworking isn't my strength--they aren't all the same size. The large ones are about 5 inches long and are intended for quilting cottons #30 to #50.||Home made bobbins, most I turned on a lathe, a few in the center are dowels and beads.|
I suggest Danish or Belgian bobbins. I started with Danish bobbins 30 years ago and still use them by preference. They are the cheapest. And because they have a somewhat pointed tail, they also work well for laces which require sewings (tape lace, Duchesse, etc.) At the present time many styles of continental European bobbins are available over the internet at good prices. Modern square bobbins are also popular and relatively inexpensive. You will need 3 dozen at least, but 4 dozen is better. (2 dozen is an absolute minimum.)
You can use "railroad board" (poster board) for pricking card. Art supply stores carry it. Glazed brown pricking card is better and is available from bobbin lace suppliers, but is more expensive. Another possibility is file folders: but not plain manila -- they tear too easily from the pins and the color is too close to white. Office supply stores nowadays have colored file folders which have a very slick surface. The surface treatment makes them much more resistant to tearing, and they come in bright colors. I cut up the green and blue ones for pricking card. Use railroad board to start with, in a medium tone color. The card should be a contrasting color relative to your thread color.
You will also need a package of pins. Dressmaker's pin will do for most learning situations. But experienced lacemakers usually have several different sizes and kinds on hand because different forms of bobbin lace often have different requirements. For most situations a longish pin (at least 1.25") is better than a short pin. (Short pins are better for Duchesse and similar part laces, because the pins are pushed all the way down into the pillow, and shorter pins are easier to push.) Torchon can easily use ball head pins when you work with tatting cotton or thicker thread, and they are comfortable to use. But ball head pins get in the way if you are making Bedfordshire, Cluny or tape lace. Any lace made with very fine thread requires pins with very fine, small heads, so they can fit next to each other on the pricking.
It is also useful to have about two dozen larger pins (corsage pin size) to use a separator pins.
A pin cushion is a real necessity. Pins loose in a plastic box are too easy to spill on the floor (a danger to animals who swallow them) and too awkward to pick up. If you drop a pin cushion you don't have to search for all the pins.
Crochet hooks are used for joining the end of a hankie edging to the beginning of the lace, and for attaching parts to itself in tape lace. Every lacemaker should have sizes 10-14 on hand so you are prepared for any situation. Some very fine ones in .5mm size are available from specialty suppliers.
You should also get a metal pin vise to use as a pricker. It takes needles as points, and you can insert whatever size needle matches your pin diameter. Pretty ones with wooden handles exist, but sooner or later the metal point either breaks off or falls out of the handle, and then it is useless.
A bobbin winder makes life a lot easier and saves hours of winding time. What kind to get depends to a considerable extent on what kind of bobbins you decide to use. Choose first your style of bobbins, and then ask experienced lacemakers for their opinions, and try out the various kinds. Not all bobbin winders work well with all shapes of bobbins. Most are limited to certain shapes.
|Top down: crochet hook, bobbin holder, separator pins, metal pin vise.||Wooden bobbin winder. Works with any style Some square bobbins may not work. There are also all metal Swedish ones which are very good for traditional continental bobbins that have a small waist.||This all metal Swedish winder works with most continental bobbins. But be careful that the part along the left looks just like this. There is another version of this winder for weaving machine bobbins, which are very different.|
There are many other gadgets that are useful, but aren't really needed right at the start. Among these useful gadgets are pin pullers (like tiny crowbars), pin pushers, bobbin holders for keeping continental style bobbins in order while repinning the lace to turn a corner or to stack bobbins in order out of the way (sticks like tongue depressors with elastic cord attached-see photo above left), stitch holders (serve same purpose as bobbin holders, but work with English style bobbins). You will also need some kind of tape or ribbon 1 yard long to hold the bobbins down to the pillow in order while transporting it with a project on it (this goes with the corsage pins above). Many lacemakers have crocheted strips - strip bobbin holders - with holes large enough to push the bobbins into, and use this instead of the long ribbon. You should have a dust cover to protect the lace on the pillow when you are not working on it, and a bag large enough to hold the pillow set up with a project. There are also bobbin trees and bobbin cases for holding bobbins wound in pairs so they don't get all tangled up while you are in the process of hanging on a project (or for those kinds of laces where hanging on occurs constantly). For fine thread laces such as Honiton or Duchesse a needlepin or lazy suzan is used instead of crochet hooks. A magnet with a hole in the middle (for pinning it to the pillow) is useful for keeping all these metal tools handy. A magnifier lamp which clamps to a table is a godsend for really desperate situations (learning sewings). When you see how much bobbin lace you will do, you can decide about all that other stuff.
After the Basics:
Ideally a student should learn torchon, simple Beds or Cluny, and some kind of tape lace ( Russian, Idrija or Schneeberger). Once you've done that, you will have a good general knowledge of basic techniques, and you will know which kind has movements that please you most. And you can then decide what to do next, or if you want to specialize in one particular type. The progressions I've described below are the most natural ones, where moving from one form to the next involves small incremental steps. Attempting to jump too far ahead of where you are can lead to frustration. The distinctions between the various kinds have to do with how they solve various problems.
From torchon, move on to point ground laces, such as Bucks, Tonder, Bayeux. Geometric Bucks and Tonder use only a few additional techniques besides those used in torchon. Start with geometric Bucks point or some other geometric point ground lace. Then learn the floral kinds. Don't attempt Chantilly or Blonde until you have done a geometric point ground lace and some floral.
|Learning Point Ground Laces:|
d/b Nyrop-Larsen #5 & 6
|716 LH||715 LH fbb/PN||714 LH kat stitch ground||713 LH kat stitch ground|
The next step after that would be Flanders (Some European teachers do say it is possible to move from torchon directly to Flanders, but I would urge you to be sure you are completely comfortable with torchon first.) The major difference from torchon is that in Flanders two pairs enter the clothwork at every pin (only one enters in torchon). This causes some quite complex thread paths in Flanders. Valenciennes and Binche share this characteristic with Flanders, although the working is not exactly the same.. Paris lace uses a similar method (but not identical).
|380 LH||386 LH fwb/YP||705 LH fwb/YP||583 LH fbb/MN||599 LH fbb/RDK|
Flanders is generally considered a prelude to Valenciennes, Binche, Paris, and Mechlin.
|740 LH fwb/YP||348 unknown||135 LH fwb/YP||129 LH db/MP||128 LH d/b AS Notice the loose threads on the wrong side: these are common in Val, because the cloth parts would be too thin without added threads.|
|Learning Paris Bobbin Lace:|
|577 mb/ unknown||381 LH d/b CA|
|Snowflakes, snowflakes in a ring, snowflakes in a frame.||800 LH fbb/AS||lace132 LH f/bb AMVB Vol I||134 LH fbb/AS|
From tape lace, move on to any of the floral part laces, such as Bruges bloomwork, Honiton or Duchesse, or to Milanese. Bruges Bloomwork is a fairly simple coarse lace using a limited number of motifs - flowers, leaves and scrolls - which are simply rearranged from one pattern to the next. Flat Honiton or Duchesse are both made with very fine thread, and they overlap to a great extent in their working methods. But there are significant differences. Any of these could follow tape lace. If you are interested in Withof or Rosaline, you should do Duchesse first, as most teachers of those forms will assume that you know Duchesse technique. Milanese can follow Russian tape lace, and involves making some very complicated stitches to decorate the tape.
|Learning Bruges Bloomwork|
|122 LH fbb/rdk Some of the typical motifs used in Bruges bloomwork||107 LH fwb/yp|
|Learning Duchesse Bobbin Lace|
|725 LH fwb/cvhg. My 1st workshop piece.||One of my own designs in process, using similar working methods.||173 LH d/b Sister Judith|
|Learning Honiton Bobbin Lace|
|104 LH fwb/sw. This may look like a mess, but I learned enough from this workshop to start designing my own part lace pieces. This taught me how.||105 LH fwb/sw||729 LH fbb/el||731 LH fbb/el||106 LH fbb/st||727 LH fbb/Maidment|
Whatever form you start with, you should expect at least 2 - 4 months of weekly lessons or private study before you will know enough to make a really nice looking project. Bobbin lace is not as hard as it looks, but there is a lot to learn.
*The international color coding system is now widely used for bobbin lace diagrams, and can be very helpful in specifying what to do at each pin. For most people it is better than detailed verbal instructions.
For lace lessons with me in person: I am in a Chicago suburb, near O'Hare airport.
Classes offered: Russian tape lace, torchon, elementary to intermediate Beds or Cluny. Also flat Honiton (on an enlarged scale -- I can't see very fine thread), geometric Bucks. I can also teach you eclectic part lace technique, so you can design your own work and understand how to make it.
Materials and equipment separate. I can provide polyethylene foam pillows for $18 (the good kind that doesn't disintegrate), large Danish bobbins $9/dozen, pin vises $4 (for pricking), linen thread. My books and lesson materials separate. Students can, of course, provide their own equipment and thread. Using my lesson material is required. I have a set of braided straight lace lesson materials, but as they are not completely original patterns, I don't offer them to the general public, just to my personal students.
It is possible to make some actual useable lace after about 3 to 4 lessons, although I have found by experience that students don't have the confidence to start a real project until they have been studying for about 6 months. You should expect that the first 2 or 3 lessons will be boring, because you will be learning the basics. Practice and repetition are necessary to fix the movements and sequences firmly into your memory. You will also be learning how to change from one stitch to another without becoming confused. I don't want to discourage anybody, but I also don't want to give unrealistic expectations that can lead to disappointment. A student learning woodcarving would not expect to carve a full size eagle in flight after 3 or 4 lessons. Same thing with bobbin lace. Bobbin lace is an art form requiring a skill set comparable to that of a master woodcarver. After two or three lessons you'll know if this is something you want to spend the effort to learn. Bobbin lace is not difficult overly, but there is a lot to learn. One can study bobbin lace for a lifetime and never come to the end of it.
Online resources: bkmk
For help with specific questions http://laceioli.ning.com/group/bobblinlace-beginners Take a digital photo of your problem and we can send you a diagram in reply.
Jo Edkins has been expanding her site and making it into online lessons, including animated stitches. It is very much worth looking at. The instructions are primarily for torchon bobbin lace, with a few patterns for braided (plaited) lace and for Bucks point.
For help using her lessons, go to http://laceioli.ning.com/group/bobblinlace-beginners/forum/topics/lessons-from-jo-edkins-website
Tatman has recently added instructional material and some videos to the bobbin lace part of his website:
For lists of suppliers, guilds, museums, sorted geographically. https://www.pinterest.com/LaceNews
For contact with other bobbin lacemakers, all are free to join:
A discussion site, predominantly bobbin lace, includes the ability to post photos or diagrams with comments and questions: http://laceioli.ning.com Go to the BEGINNERS group for posting questions and getting answers (but you must join first): http://laceioli.ning.com/group/bobblinlace-beginners
arachne.com newsgroup Instructions for joining: http://www.arachne.com/list_instructions.html
arachne's archive of its discussions: http://firstname.lastname@example.org/index.html
arachne's new photo storage site with pictures of members' work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lacemaker/
arachne's Christmas card and bookmark exchange, with some patterns: http://www.brandis.com.au/arachne/index.html
facebook group which has had a fair amount of activity recently: http://www.facebook.com/groups/bobbinlacemakers/
The Dutch national lace organization has a whole set of downloadable lessons for free: http://www.lokk.nl/
Bobbin Lace European Network has free lessons online: http://www.blen.net/blen_09/blen_09.htm These are really quite good.
Tally video: http://apinnick.wordpress.com/category/crafts/bobbin-lace/
Brenda Paternoster's method of calculating thread sizes for pricking: http://paternoster.orpheusweb.co.uk/lace/threadsize/threadsize.html
For videos of many forms of lacemaking, including bobbin lace, see: http://www.youtube.com/user/lacenews#p/p Her playlists, each has many individual videos on it. http://www.youtube.com/user/lacenews/videos?view=1
For photos of current European bobbin lace: http://www.flickr.com/groups/bobbinlace/
Picasa also has a large number of Spanish speaking lacemakers who like to photo other lacemakers at local lace days. But you have to start with one who has such photos, and then look through her followers for others.
An example: https://picasaweb.google.com/104001032227943366075/Segorbe2010#
or look through the ones I'm following: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/favorites#list
Two Structural Classes of Bobbin Lace Brief Historical Overview Abbreviations Lace Terminology
My Books and Patterns Make a Bobbin Lace Pillow Harz Waterlily
Contact me at email@example.com Or you can join laceioli at http://laceioli.ning.com Then go to http://laceioli.ning.com/group/bobblinlace-beginners You can post questions and comments there.
Revised August 2012 Last edited: 01/24/17