Bobbin Lace

IMG_2902Bobbin lace has been a serious bucket list textile technique of mine. Unlike tatting, filet, crochet, and needle lace, which rely on a single thread worked in a series of knots and loops, bobbin lace is created from a series of threads that interweave around each other. Think a cross between macramé and weaving. These threads are wound around small bobbins, traditionally made out of wood or bone but now commonly of plastic, giving the technique its name.

17th century bobbin lace collar

Portrait of a Lady. French School, Early 17th century. Oil on Panel Christies (www.christies.com)

Bobbin lace seemed to gain popularity in the early 17th century as an edging for collars, cuffs, and gloves. While larger panels of bobbin lace can be made, the technique lends itself particularly well to long borders. Different styles of lace eventually developed, originally named for the place where they were first made but later simply donated a particular aesthetic. Bobbin lace, like many other lace-making techniques, began its demise in the 1870s when machine lace was introduced.

I embarked on my bobbin lace journey earlier this month, when my starter kit package fiiiiinally arrived. It consisted of the necessary tools to get started: a covered “pillow” (cloth-covered foam block), pins, cotton thread, 5 pairs of bobbins, a pricker, and a small instruction booklet. I combined the first few projects to make a little sampler of the stitches.

Bobbin lace is mainly constructed of variations of two stitches, Half and Whole, to produce a variety of textures from the woven Cloth Stitch to the pretty octagon net of Torchon Ground. The challenge lies in keeping straight what each bobbin is doing, and preventing a catastrophic disaster that would tangle them all together. I confess to making a mistake or two in these first projects, but hopefully you won’t spot them.

The lace is constructed from a pricking, which is essentially a pattern with little holes in it to indicate where to place your pins. Thread is wound around bobbins in pairs, which are worked downward and secured with pins.

Making a bobbin lace pricking

Making a bobbin lace pricking

In-progress bobbin lace.  Yes those are clothes pins!  I ran out of proper bobbins.

In-progress bobbin lace. Yes those are clothes pins! I ran out of proper bobbins.

Bobbin lace in progress

Ready to be tied off and pins removed.

Hard work is rewarded!  This sample shows cloth stitch diamonds on a Torchon ground.

Hard work is rewarded! This sample shows cloth stitch diamonds on a Torchon ground.

After a little more practice, I would be delighted to provide a tutorial!

Further Reading

The Lace Guild – Great information on many forms of lacemaking

Kantcentrum – Really cool resource from Belgium lace centre.  Make digital bobbin lace or browse their lessons.