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Serpentine Insertion lace

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on November 14, 2011 - 10:45pm

This is a very simple lace, made using only 8 bobbins in two intersecting plaits.


Printable pricking (pattern) and instructions (pdf).

Detailed diagrams and working instructions, and a scan of the pricked card I used to work this pattern: you should be able to work lace directly onto a printout, or prick through the paper onto sturdier card.


Based on the insertion in a woman's linen hood, c.1600-1620.

There are detailed descriptions and photographs in:

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c. 1540-1660, Macmillan, 2008. Item 57, pp48 and 104.

The hood is in the Manchester Art Gallery. There is an image online; accession number 2003.74


Though this pattern is very simple - just two four-strand plaits, intersecting in a wavy pattern - it was harder to work smoothly than I had anticipated.

My thread (Gutermann linen sewing thread) is a little coarser than that used for the original item; so my lace is not an exact reproduction, but rather a compromise, using similar structure and techniques, and making lace of a similar finished width but coarser texture. Perhaps the pattern would be easier to work smoothly in a finer thread: I look forward to experimenting with this at some point.

I found that it's important make a consistent number of stitches before and after the picots, or the whole shape is uneven.

In the original, there are definitely extra twists in the outer pair of the serpentine plait, to encourage the plait to curve, but I can't tell from the photos I have how many, or in exactly which stitches. I am including only one stitch with an extra twist, as any more than that (with my rather bulky thread) caused the plait to fold back on itself.

I'm also having trouble keeping the picots to the very consistent length apparent in the original; but I don't think this will detract from its utility.

Nevertheless, this lace is simple enough, and minor inconstencies blend into the pattern:  good way to practice lots of picots, and a useful project for a novice lace-maker, but perhaps not ideal for a raw beginner looking for a first project.

My other lace patterns, and things I've written about lace for this website.

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