Reticella Needle Lace Tutorial

  © Lorelei Halley 2011 


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Reticella (also called Reticello) started as a form of drawn thread embroidery.  Some fabric threads were removed, both horizontally and vertically.  The boundaries of the cut areas would be stabilized in various ways with: satin stitching, 4 sided stitch, Italian hemstitch or square edging stitch.  Then diagonal threads would be laid in to help keep the holes in the fabric from becoming too large or stretching, and then the holes would be filled with fancy stitching.  As time went on the holes became larger and larger and a temporary scaffolding  became necessary to stabilize the cloth while it was being worked.  Eventually somebody realized that no woven fabric was needed as a permanent part of the work.  According to Santina Levey in LACE, the transition to true needle lace occurred during the period 1565-1585.   Initially designs were geometric, but eventually became more curvilinear.

There is a distinction between the method of couching down a pair of outline threads (we can call that the couched cordonnet method), and the fil de trace  method.  In the latter, you pre-prick the pattern with pairs of holes, and put in little tacking stitches.  Then you run the outline thread under the little tacking stitches.  These are different ways of thinking about the problem of using needle and thread to make lace that won't fall apart.    See cordonnet method  The "fil de trace" method just tackles the problem slightly differently.    See de trace

I've worked several geometric pieces and the diagrams below show how I laid the foundation threads using this fil de trace method.    First I pricked pairs of holes straddling the design lines.  Then I threaded the outline thread under the little bridges and tried to work out a pathway that would have all the trace threads connected so the lace wouldn't fall apart.  I find that the most difficult part.

Simplest 205  and    My Nine Square design 253     Triangle design   

For Simplest205 I used the aemilia ars method, which is only slightly different from the fil de trace method.  The latter puts in a lot of little tacking stitches; the aeimilia ars method lays in the fewest possible.

 Each major line of the design must have at least 2 outline threads on it initially.   But each of these lines must have a minimum of 3 foundation threads before it is finished with overcasting or buttonholing.    This is true for any method of laying foundation threads.

fil de trace

The method I used for my reticella pieces -- my 9 square design 253 and the triangle.

So here are the pathways I chose.  These are not the only possible ways. 

See for some other reticella needle laces.                     *


   For this design I used the aemilia ars method.  It is similar to the fil de trace method, except that they cover the foundation skeleton lines with buttonholing or overcasting at the earliest opportunity, and they use the minimum number of tacking stitches possible.
   Start by pricking pairs of holes at each junction point on the design.
   Use the same thread that you will use for the final covering of each line, because you will be covering each foundation line as soon as you have created it, and laid 3 passes along that line.
Reticello lace * 2 passes around outer perimeter 3 passes along major diagonal aemilia ars method
  2 passes around outer perimeter Make 3 passes of the foundation thread along the major diagonal line, connecting it to the outer perimeter foundation threads. The 3rd pass leaves you at the far end, opposite to where you started.  From here start the final overcasting on this diagonal.  I also worked the subsidiary buttonholed bars, and connected them to the perimeter outline threads.  
aemlia ars method
  When the overcasting reaches the center throw out foundation threads on the other major diagonal line. When you have 3 passes of the foundation thread on the upper right diagonal, start the overcasting and subsidiary buttonholed bars.    
The you reach this point, at left, you run 2 foundation threads for the center square and the final diagonals.  These will be filled with solid stitches. aemilia ars method


Reticello needlelace

fil de trace method
For this one see Silvia's blog for a simple reticella design worked in the aemilia ars method. There are 5 parts, and here they are sequentially:  In the lower photo, left, you can see the orange tacking stitches straddling the scaffold lnes.


   I made this design by combining 2 small motifs from C. M. Ricci, DISEGNI DI TRAFORI, and I added the looped edging.                  *
   I worked this using the fil de trace method.  Look below the diagrams for sequential photos of the actual work in process.  The route I chose is not the only possible.
Reticella Needle Lace reticella 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9
10 reticella lace 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 reticella needle lace 23 24
25 26 27 28 29
30 31 32 33 34
35 36 37 38 39
40 41 42 43  
z1  I have laid down the horizontal and vertical skeleton lines.  One bar is covered with needleweaving, with 4 foundation threads instead of 3. z2   Here you can see clearly the little tacking stitches, waiting for the fil de trace to be slipped beneath them. z3   One diagonal has been laid down and partly covered, with some subsidiary diagonals begun. z4 reticella lace z5
This shows how the looped edging was made.
z7   Close up detail.      


Reticella lace Reticella Needle Lace design from C. M. Ricci page 24                                                                    *

This pattern is from Cleofe Mingarelli Ricci, DISEGNI DI TRAFORI, page 24.  Look among the R's.
reticella lace
reticella needle lace

For questions go to     Joining is free.

© Lorelei Halley 2011        Created November 24, 2011.