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Bobbin lace experiments

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on October 31, 2011 - 6:45pm

I've been experimenting with renaissance bobbin-lace, slowly accumulating patterns and techniques. I'm making preliminary notes for most of the patterns I try here. From time to time, I do a more extensive write-up of a particular pattern, and give it its own page.

My very first piece was done with Lady Ginevra's gentle and skillful supervision, and Southron Gaard's first String Day (a one-day textiles-workshop). Ginevra showed Caterine and I the basic stitches, and lent us her bobbins and pillows for long enough to complete a small piece. Wonderful!


Coif on Stand

My first piece of real, useable lace.

Bobbins: 8

Thread: plain white cotton sewing thread

Tools: paddle-pop sticks and tailor's ham; pattern on white paper, not pinned in advance.

Length made:

Repeat size: 1/2"

Approx. time per repeat: 5" per hour, with practice

Final use: Edging for a plain linen coif.

Sources: very simple in technique, shapes in period images (insert refs).

Notes: I used far more pins than I now think necessary - plain plaits only need pinning at intersections or to support a curve that can't support itself. The sewing thread was fine for the purpose, and the finished lace was very soft and tended to curl. Once starched and sewn onto the coif, however, it sat well. I starched and ironed it before sewing it to the coif, to give me the best opportunity to re-shape the points after washing.

This was a good first project - I would suggest it to other beginners.

Improved pricking:

points and loopspage


Black Silk Border

blackpointsBobbins: 8

Thread: black silk, 60/2, from Fibreholics

Tools: rectangular pillow, pricked card, mixture of bobbins - continental, spangled, and popsticks

Length made: about 1.4 m

Repeat size: 1/2"

Approx. time per repeat: ~5"/hour, with practice

Final use: Edging for the ruffle on a shirt.

Sources: I made up this pattern, to try working with the silk, and to practice picots. I think it's plausible - slightly-pointed, narrow, black borders are visible in many portraits.

Notes: The silk is slippery, but otherwise lovely to work with. Practicing picots was a good second step.

Not unlike this in shape:

although this is more complicated.


Also LACMA, my notes #18

Pointed border from LACMA

This is a piece I've been thinking about for a while.  My first attempt was actually in Punto in Aria. Although the result was attractive, I found that needle-lace requires more patience (and liking of button-hole stitch) than I possess.

I've not yet attempted the whole pattern in bobbin lace, but after experimenting with some of the bits, I now thing I understand how the pattern would be made.

The terminology is mostly my own:

"Diamond join"

"Three points diamond join"

Pointed border with Cloth-stitch

clothstitchpointBobbins: 20

Thread: Gutermann white linen thread

Tools: popsticks

Length made: 1 repeat

Repeat size: 4.5 cm

Approx. time per repeat: lots

Final use: sample

Sources: The footside of this piece in the Powerhouse museum. The original is a very deep border, needle lace in the middle, with a narrow bobbin-lace insertion on one side, and a wider piece with a pointed footside on the other. This is an attempt to reconstruct the points. I've also done a sample of the narrow insertion on the other side.


Update: See also this piece from the V&A:

An identical design, but with a different headside. COOL!

Aaaaand another one, in the Met:


And another one at the met:


Closely related, but a little fancier:

Notes: I'm not happy with the way this has turned out. I think I've correctly understood the pattern (though still a little uncertain about the structure at the very top of the point); and I'm happy with the pricking. However, I've not exectuted the curving bands of cloth stitch well, and I'm not convinced that I chose the right thread for the project. I think a softer thread will handle this pattern much better (though perhaps it's just that I need more practice).

Narrow insertion with zig-zag trail

zig-zag insertionBobbins: 14

Thread: fine crochet cotton / tatting cotton

Tools: popsticks

Length made: 5cm

Repeat size: 17mm

Approx. time per repeat: ?

Final use: sample

Source: The headside of this piece in the Powerhouse museum. The original is a very deep border, needle lace in the middle, with a narrow bobbin-lace insertion on one side, and a wider piece with a pointed footside on the other. This is an attempt to reconstruct narrow insertion on the footside. I've also tried the points on the other side.

Notes: This took some time to reconstruct - 6 bobbins didn't seem the ideal way to acheive the visual impression of two parallel lines broken into a lot of little squares - but having figured it out from the brilliantly high-resolution images supplied by the Powerhouse, I've seen the pattern again and again in other renaissance laces. I also wonder if it's the technique intended when Parasole (for instance) gives a line made of a lot of little squares on a pattern.

I found this one hard to pin. Pinning the stitches gave too open an effect, so I ended up pinning the gaps. It means the lace is less securely attached to the cushion, so you have to tension more precisely with your hands, but it worked.

I think the structure of my insertion is as in the original, but the proportions are not yet quite right. I need to make the triangles created by the trail approximately equilateral, rather than right-angled.

Working: See handwritten notes.

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