Bobbin Lace Walkthrough, Part One

I’m still inching along on my Venus Shawl and Fa Fa Fa Socks, but there’s nothing much to see yet. In the meantime, I’ve been intensely enjoying my lacework for the first time since I started taking lessons. Let me clarify: I’ve always enjoyed *learning* how to make lace, but it was work to learn. I worked at it like practicing the piano when you’re a kid – practicing just feels like homework while you plod away at the simple stuff. Until a point where something clicks and it suddenly feels natural.

About a week ago, lacemaking became fun. Something finally settled into place. I came home from last weekend’s lesson and put my lace pillow and tools away as always, but found myself craving it a few days later.

I’ve been working at it constantly since then, and took about a zillion photos as I worked – it occurred to me that I’d blogged about my lessons and projects, but never talked about how bobbin lace is actually made. Perhaps I was still learning too hard. I’ve split this into three posts because it will be very photo heavy. I’ll keep it simple and keep the jargon to a minimum; even if the details are confusing, hopefully you’ll still leave with some vague notion of how bobbin lace works. And of course, feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my beginner’s best to answer clearly! (Click through to see any photos bigger on Flickr.)

First let’s look at my project – here’s a reminder of my sampler pattern – those diamonds each contain a ‘spider’, each one is different. The piece will eventually include a wide border sampling different ‘ground’ (or background) patterns, but I’m still working on the spiders for now. I will walk you through one full section repeat, as it were, of ground + spider. Here’s what my pillow looked like when I sat down to work:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

As you can see, most of my project is covered up with cloth – this is to protect the finished lace, and keep my bobbin threads from catching on the pins. (Although I only have about 1-2 inches of area fully covered by pins, the entire piece is still secured by pins pushed down here and there.) I would normally have even more covered, but I wanted you to see the work in context.

Hopefully you can see that the section I’ve just sat down to will be the ground (the simple background) pattern. My pattern is on the paper beneath my work (the ‘pricking’), so I can follow the lines and marked pinholes as I go. I will work my ground pattern up until a new spider begins (the exciting diamond-shaped area coming up ahead).

My ground pattern is worked in half-stitch, so I make one half-stitch – stitches consist of passing pairs of bobbins over each other in a particular order. (Bobbins are always worked together in pairs, two on the right working with two on the left.) Then I put up a pin at the little dot where the pricking tells me to:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

And then work another half-stitch to cover the pin:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

Now I continue doing exactly that, taking one pair of threads / bobbins from either side of each pinhole, and work down the diagonal row, making stitches and putting up pins:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

Now I’ve finished one row. I will continue in this way down the remaining three diagonal rows until I get to the area where the spider will begin. Then this section of ground will be finished, and I will be all ready to set up the spider – in part two!

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

6 Comments on Bobbin Lace Walkthrough, Part One

  1. Kristin
    May 8, 2013 at 12:00 (5 years ago)

    This is so incredible! It looks really difficult. :) The only time I had ever seen or heard anything about this (before your blog) was seeing Queenie do it on Lark Rise to Candleford. At least I assume she was making lace this way…it looks very similar.


    • Genevieve
      May 9, 2013 at 08:35 (5 years ago)

      Ooh yes! I love that show and I LOVE the part where Queenie teaches Ruby to make bobbin lace. Cute. :)

    • julie
      May 10, 2013 at 10:17 (5 years ago)

      Actually, that episode of Lark Rise to Candleford is one of the things that got me interested in bobbin lace! It appears on that show and another I saw in the same week or two, but I’d never heard of it before either. So I investigated further and, by some crazy lucky chance, met my future lace teacher not long after that!

  2. Genevieve
    May 9, 2013 at 08:36 (5 years ago)

    This is SO great! I’m sending this on to my sister who is a budding bobbin lace maker. :)

    Thanks for posting! I look forward to the next parts!

  3. Marguerite/Emaline
    May 10, 2013 at 07:11 (5 years ago)

    Hooray! Yes, I am the budding-bobbin-lace-making-sister-of-Genevieve. =] I love this post! I have been trying to teach myself. Slow going, as you can imagine. But I love seeing your stitches so close and clearly and explained!
    I will be back for next post!! Thanks for the inspiration and much needed help!

    • julie
      May 10, 2013 at 10:23 (5 years ago)

      I’m so happy that you and Genevieve enjoyed part one of my little walkthrough – I’m glad to help you along even a little with these photos. I think I’ve said it before, but if you have any questions as you learn, please do feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to help!


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