Coloured scallop lace

Metropolitan Museum 10.124.2 : lace on 16th-century shirt.

Met10.124.2, see www.metmuseum.orgThe structure of this lace is based on the metallic lace at the hem of a 16th century Italian shirt, now in the Met. (See image at right,

This was my first attempt at working real lacy-lace; and my first attempt to reconstruct a pattern from a photograph of extant lace. I've since made several more versions. I think my pattern is broadly accurate, but there are a few places where the proportions are a little off; I'd like to try again at some point, overlaying the pattern on the photograph using a graphics program rather than sketching it manually.

My first attempts at this pattern were made from the photographs in "Patterns of Fashion 4" (Janet Arnold, 2008). Since then I've found even higher-resolution images on the Metropolitan Museum's website.

The pricking I used to create the laces below (pdf). Derived from a scan of my original, manually-produced pricking.

First attempt - burgundy and white scallops, late 2011

Burgundy and white scallops

Bobbins: 14

Thread: white linen - Gutermann sewing thread; burgundy silk - doubled 60/2 Schappe silk from Fibreholics.

Tools: popsticks, with one pair of continental bobbins. Revised the pricking half way down the pattern, so there is some variation

Repeat length: 2cm

Approx. time per repeat: 20 minutes. (Update, May 2012 - I can now do a repeat in 11 minutes).

Sources: This is an attempt to reproduce the structure of a piece of extant lace from a photograph in "Patterns of Fashion 4". The original is silver and silver-gilt thread, with red silk; where mine is white linen with burgundy silk. I don't believe the style of pattern is specific to metallics, however, as it's common in pattern books, and there are broadly similar laces in Patterns of Fashion in white linen and red silk (but without clear enough photos to deduce the exact structure). The metallic threads can't be plaited quite as tightly as linen, so the structure is clearer than in many photos. I'm not certain that it's perfect, but my reproduction is plausible, and identical in at least 90% of the stitches. In a few places I've deliberately added extra half-stitches or extra twists, to better suit the weight and characteristics of the thread I've used.

Metallic scallops

I attempted a small sample in metallics: it was slow going, and the result was garish, but it shed some light on a few places where I was still uncertain of the original pattern.

Update: having tried a slightly wider range of metallic threads, on various bobbins and pillows, I know that I didn't choose easy tools for my first attempt. Better-quality thread, on continental bobbins, and a gently-curved pillow makes for a much less frustrating experience.

I will return to this pattern in metallics at some point.

Pink and white lace for Anna, May 2012

Pink and white lace for Anna's cuffsLace in the same pattern, but using pale pink silk instead of burgundy, to decorate the cuffs of Anna de Wilde's pink Venetian gown (thanks, Eleanor, for the photograph).

I was very pleased to discover that my speed has increased a great deal since my first attempt at this pattern. When working the burgundy-and-white lace a repeat took me over 20 minutes; repeats of the pink-and-white lace took me 11 minutes. This is partly because my technique has improved, and partly because I'm using better tools (a mix of midlands and continental bobbins; instead of pop-sticks).


Update, 2014

I'd now do this with many fewer pins: just the outer edges, and maybe the occassional extra to support a corner. 


Working note

Turning stitch: at the turn in the coloured scallop: the place between the points where there is a "corner" in the coloured thread, you need a turning stitch: cross-twist-twist-cross. The extra twist means the coloured thread comes back out the same side of the intersection. This stitch can be a bit tough to tension.

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