First make this:
This is meant to be a first project for someone who wants to make renaissance bobbin-lace.
It starts with very simple pattern (far left), and introduces new techniques one at a time. It will probably take 6-12 hours to complete.
After making the sampler you will have the skills to make either of these sixteenth-century laces, and many more besides.
Each of the stages in the sampler is a useful lace pattern in itself, either identical or similar to a renaissance lace.
- Getting started: materials and preparation, resources for beginners, etc
- Printable patterns
- Terminology: diagrams of stitches
- Working the sampler: first pattern, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh
- What next? Further projects, renaissance examples, etc.
Materials and tools:
- Lace bobbins - 12
- Pins - a few dozen
- Lace pillow
- Pattern - print the pattern on paper or lightweight card
- Thread - three colours, about 4 metres of each colour. The instructions will be easy to follow if you use red, green and blue. Number 8 crochet cotton is a good weight for this pattern. You may need more thread if your thread is thinner.
If you don't have special lace tools (bobbins, pins, a pillow) you can work this sampler and many simple laces using cheap, readily-available substitutes.
Instructions for beginner lace-makers, and other resources:
I heartily recommend Jo Edkins' Lace School. She has clear, detailed instructions on everything from winding bobbins to drafting your own lace patterns, and she has diagrams and animations of common stitches.
The Powerhouse Museum's Lace Study Centre has a very useful glossary of lace and lace-making terms (scroll down to "online resources").
I've compiled links to some my of my favourite resources for renaissance lace here.
Preparing your pattern and pillow:
Print the pattern onto lightweight card, or print onto paper and paste that onto card. At a pinch, you can work the sampler just on paper but it may tear a little as you use it. Cut off the excess, so your pattern is on a strip a couple of inches wide.
This pattern was designed for A4 paper. It should be ok on letter too; if not, please get in touch, and I'll produce a slightly smaller version.
Normally, you prick the holes in a lace pattern before you work the lace. For this sampler you can prick in advance (through all the black dots) or as you go.
Pin the edges of the card onto your lace pillow, with a pair of pins every few inches, pushed all the way into the pillow.
Preparing your bobbins:
Wind about a metre of thread onto each bobbin (somewhat more if you are using thinner thread), four bobbins in each colour. It's a good idea to wind it the same way onto each bobbin. Hold the thread in place with a half-hitch, with about 6" of thread hanging off the end. See Jo Edkins site for more detailed instructions.
Take each group of four bobbins and knot them together at the top of the thread. (There are neater ways to start lace, but this is straightforward).
Pin each group of bobbins at the end of your card, pushing the pin through the knot.
Pdfs, sized for A4 paper.
Print one of these to work the sampler (the coloured pattern will be easiest to use):
If you want to make a longer piece of lace using any of the patterns from the sampler, print one of these:
- All seven sampler patterns, as page-long strips, in colour
- All seven sampler patterns, as page-long strips, in black and white
I designed these patterns using Inkscape. Please get in touch if you'd like altered versions - sized for "letter" paper, for instance, or with different proportions.
Terminology and stiches
The diagrams in the following sections may not display correctly if you are using Internet Explorer 8 (or earlier). The important ones are here, in a pdf. Other browsers should be fine.
About this pattern
The black dots represent pins. The coloured lines show where threads of a given colour go: wide lines for four strands, narrow lines for two.
Often lace patterns, or "prickings", have only the pin-holes, with maybe a few extra lines at the top to show the shape. This one has coloured lines to show the complete path of each group of bobbins. It will be easiest to follow if you use red thread on the red path, and so on.
Some lace patterns use colour to represent different stitches. I have not done that in this pattern.
You will need these stitches in the sampler
Sometimes stitches are given as a series of letters: c for cross, t for twist, and p for pin.
Place left-hand bobbin over right.
If there are four bobbins, usually only the middle two will participate.
Right-hand bobbin over left. If there are four bobbins, usually both pairs will participate.
Cross then twist, with four bobbins.
A series of half-stitches using the same four bobbins, making a four-strand plait
Occasionally you do a three-strand plait in bobbin lace, using three, six or more bobbins, but four strand plaits are much more common (probably the most common element in renaissance lace).
"Lazy join" or "windmill"
An intersection between two four-strand plaits.
Treat each pair of bobbins as one unit, then cross, twist, pin the centre of the intersection, and another cross.
Now the blue plait continues on the left and the red plait continues on the right.
Sometimes you make an intersection of this sort using only six bobbins, when a four-strand plait intersects with a pair of bobbins that are just twisted around each other:
Sometimes you make an intersection between two twisted pairs: cross, twist, pin, cross, twist. (The number of extra twists in each pair before and after the intersection depends on the pattern, of course).
Working the lace
[Click on the photograph for a higher-resolution image.]
Make a series of half-stitches with the blue bobbins, tightening a little after each stitch, until you have a plait long enough to reach the first pin-hole. Set the blue bobbins aside.
Plait the red bobbins in the same way, until they reach the first pin hole.
Take all the red and all the blue bobbins, and make a lazy join.
Plait the red bobbins until they reach their next pin (the intersection with green). Plait the green bobbins up to the same pin. Make a lazy join using the red and green bobbins.
Now, following the coloured lines, you will return to the other side of the pattern: plait the green bobbins up to the intersection with the blue line, plait the blue bobbins to the same point, and make a lazy join using the green and blue bobbins.
Keep on working plaits in each colour in turn, pinning each intersection.
Work the green plait up to the loop, where it intersects with the red, then set it aside.
Work the red plait up to the pin-hole where the red line splits in two. Pin, with two bobbins on either side of the pin, then make one more half stitch.
Set aside the two red bobbins on the right.
Make an intersection between the left-most two red bobbins and the four green bobbins. This is like a lazy join, but there are pairs of green bobbins, and only single red bobbins.
The lace goes around the next pin rather than through it: make three twists in the pair of red bobbins, place a pin in the hole, and angled a little outwards, and set the pair of red bobbins outside the pin.
Make another two half-stitches in the green bobbins (i.e. a tiny bit more green plait). Then the pair of red bobbins makes another intersection with the four green bobbins, as before. Then one more twist in the red bobbins.
The two pairs of red bobbins now join together again: make a half-stitch, pin, and then plait to the next pin. Now they can separate again before intersecting with the blue plait as they did with the green.
Continue the blue and green plaits to the next pin in each line. Repeat the process on each side in turn.
This time the blue and green plaits will separate into two pairs of twisted threads.
Work the plait in the green bobbins until it is nearly long enough to reach the pins.
Separate the red bobbins as above. Now the pair of red bobbins makes an intersection with the first pair of green bobbins: half stitch, pin, half stitch.
Repeat with the red bobbins and the second pair of green bobbins.
Going round the pin: add an extra two twists on the red bobbins, and pass them around the pin, as in the second pattern (you already have one twist from the intersection, so the total is still three twists).
Repeat the intersections with each pair of green bobbins, on the underside of the loop.
Join the red bobbins into a four-strand plait, as above.
Repeat on each side in turn. You will need to give each of the pairs of blue and green bobbins a couple of extra twists between pattern repeats - enough to carry them comfortably between red loops.
The patterns so far have been for insertion laces - laces that have straight edges on both sides, suitable for sewing between two pieces of fabric. The next three patterns have one straight edge (or "footside") and one curved, fancy edge (or "headside").
The footside (or left-hand edge, in this example) is worked in the same way as in the third pattern.
The headside is a series of gentle scallops made of intersecting four-strand plaits. Work a few extra stitches in the central arch than you need to cover the distance, to encourage the plait to fall into a curve instead of a straight line. You may need a supporting pin or two to keep the curve in place. I have put dots for these next to the line: you can pin beside the plait or through it. [Embarrassed note: it seems I've left these dots out of some versions of the pattern! They don't need to be placed precisely - put them where it seems they will help. I will fix this shortly.].
The intersections between plaits are done using a lazy join, as in the first pattern.
Now the footside has become a little more ornate: instead of one loop it wiggles back and forth a couple of times.
You need only one extra twist in the green pairs between repeats, not two, since the gap between has shrunk.
In between the two footside loops is a little plaited arch. I've chosen to have a pin within the plait, though you could use a supporting pin that the plait goes around.
The "rays" that make little loops on the scalloped edge are worked much like the loops on the straight edge.
Make the first footside loop.
Plait to the base of the "rayed" section. Place a pin between the central bobbins, then make another half stitch.
Set the lower pair of blue bobbins aside, and make another twist in the upper pair.
That upper pair makes an intersection with the red plait (as in the second pattern - pairs of red bobbins, single blue bobbins).
Make three twists in the blue pair of bobbins and place a pin to support them.
Make another two half-stitches in the red plait.
The blue pair and the red plait intersect again.
Add two twists to the blue pair. Plait the red bobbins up to the next pin (probably two half-stitches) and set them aside.
The blue pair now rejoins the other blue bobbins. Make a half-stitch, place a pin, and make another half-stitch. This forms the base of the first "loop". Now place one more pin and make one more half stitch.
You are now ready to make another ray with the top two blue bobbins.
Repeat this process for the third ray.
Plait back to the footside, and finish the footside loop as you did in the fifth pattern.
This is your first set of points. The shape is different to the sixth pattern, but the structure is very similar.
The first portion, with the first headside-loop, or ray, is worked exactly as before.
The second loop has an extra pair of intersections, but the technique is the same:
Start the middle ray by putting an extra twist in the upper red pair. Make the intersection with the blue plait, then add an extra half-stitch or two in the blue plait. Put extra twists into the red, and support them with a pin. Make another intersection with the blue plait, add a twist to the red pair, then set the red pair aside.
Work the blue plait to the pin at the top of the point. Make a final half stitch, pin, put in an extra twist on the top pair (this helps the plait to turn sharply), and keep plaiting back to the base of the point. Sometimes, it helps to keep pulling the lace in the same direction for several stitches before you try to turn it around the pin.
Make the next intersection between the red and blue.
Work the rest of the loop in the red pair, as before, and return to the base. One more simple ray, and the point is complete - finish off the footside, the work on the next point.
Finishing the sampler:
- Work up to the end of the coloured lines (combine the green threads into a four-strand plait again)
- Cut the bobbins off, leaving a few inches of thread in each colour dangling from the finished work.
- Tie the threads of each colour off : I take two threads in each hand and do a couple of overhand knots
- Remove all the pins (being careful not to pull the work out of shape as you do).
Once the pins are removed, your sampler will probably try to curve. It's normal for lace with a simple footside and an elaborate headside to try to curve a bit, and in many situations it's an advantage.
If you can do this - and you've come a long way in less than a foot of lace - you are ready to make many beautiful renaissance laces, in all sorts of shapes and colours. I hope you'll find something to inspire you below.
All the patterns in the sampler are also useful lace patterns in themselves. You could use any one of them to make a useful length of lace (stand-alone patterns here). Below are details of some of the renaissance pieces that inspired the patterns in the sampler.
These laces use only the techniques you've practiced already:
Click on the images for patterns and more information about the lace.
At some point you will want to learn techniques that aren't taught in this sampler. Picots, cloth stitch, and tallies are all common in renaissance lace. I've found Jo Edkins site very helpful in learning them. Some other techniques that are important for later lace-styles are less relevant for renaissance lace.
Real renaissance lace that is similar to the patterns in the sampler:
These patterns from Le Pompe, 1559, have footsides that use the triangular shape of the first pattern. It's common in renaissance lace patterns to see the same elements combined again and again in different ways, to produce more or less complicated laces.
This one has a very similar structure, but one edge has semi-circles instead of straight lines. The little circles on the side represent picots (a decorative stitch not taught in this sampler).
This piece in the Metropolitan Museum is more complicated in its structure, but the basic shape formed is the same as in our first pattern.
This wide insertion lace from the Metropolitan Museum has edges that are identical to pattern number two. This pattern, and ones very like it, comes up at the footside of many renaissance laces of varying degrees of complexity.
Here's a different take on this sort of footside: it combines elements of the zig-zag of patterns one and two and the extra wiggle in number five to make a very simple heart pattern. The original pattern is one element in a much wider lace.
This insertion from Le Pompe, 1559, is similar in structure to the third pattern in the sampler. Instead of one set of bobbins (the red threads) weaving back and forth between the two footsides there are two sets, so the pattern takes 16 bobbins altogether (or 24, if you want four-strand plaits at the edges, instead of twisted pairs). It looks like all four bobbins in each set weave through the footside.
This lace, in the Metropolitan Museum, is identical in structure to pattern number 5. The repeats are a little closer together, so that all the ornate headsides run together.
This shirt has a very similar lace at the hem. The structure and shape are very similar, though it seems to have a picot, or possibly just a loop of the stiff metallic thread, decorating the top of each loop. There are two four-strand plaits, each with two metallic threads and two silk threads (deep green in one, pale blue in the other). In this lace there is only one twisted pair (one green silk and one metallic thread) at the base, not two pairs as in the sampler.
(See met.museum.org for images and further information).
The structure of this lace, on another 16th century shirt from the Met (www.metmuseum.org), is very like pattern six. This would be an excellent second piece of lace.
Here's a version I did in white linen and burgundy silk:
The pricking I used to create the lace above (pdf).
This lace, from the Metropolitan Museum, is very like pattern seven. It would also make an excellent second piece of lace. (See www.metmuseum.org.)
Here are two patterns for this lace; one that is as close to the size and shape of the original lace in the Met, and one that has the same structure, but with the proportions a little altered (to better fit a project of mine).
I've included a bit less information with this pricking: just the dots, and the lines for the first few repeats. If you have trouble following it, get in touch.
Here's a version I did in burgundy, gold and white:
Some notes on how I made the pattern.
My other lace patterns, and things I've written about lace for this website.