This one’s a little cheeky because I made this myself – but it’s still a tool! I’ve had my lace teacher’s equipment on loan since I started learning, at her insistence, under the theory that it’s better to be sure you actually like a craft before you sink money into it. But I think it’s clear I’m going to stick with it now, so I’ve been gradually buying my own tools and returning hers.
One of the main things I needed to get was a carrying bag for my lace pillow, which is both large and relatively heavy. So it has to be sturdy and I was hoping it could be super-pretty too. I looked around online and couldn’t find anything that looked remotely like my style, so I decided to make one myself. With absolutely idea how to do that. I winged it.
A lace pillow bag is about 21″ square-ish, and has zippers going up both sides so that the pillow (with lace-in-progress on it, usually) can be taken out and placed in carefully. It can basically be opened completely flat, then zipped up around the pillow. The zippers were quite a challenge and involved some hand-stitching, but I basted every step first and sewed very slowly, and it’s turned out to be the first thing I’ve sewn that doesn’t *look* like I made it myself, you know? Nothing’s a little wonky, the lining isn’t just a wee bit bunchy. And I’m so pleased that my lace can be carried around in such a happy bag from now on!
And even better: the lace bags I’ve seen on eBay and the like are going for about £25, but all the materials for mine came from stash, so the only direct cost was about £5 for the zippers. SCORE.
Today I’m introducing a new feature here on button button – Tools & Toys Tuesday! I’ve been thinking for a while now about a way to regularly feature some of the lovely things we crafters use, rather than make. We ooh and ahh over beautiful yarn and fabric before it’s even been wound or pressed for cutting – clearly we all appreciate the raw materials and tools we use on them just as much as we do the finished object. So this will be a (semi-) regular feature from now on, just a little ode to the beautiful things we use to make beautiful things.
Since I’ve been talking a lot about lace lately, I thought I’d start by sharing these gorgeous bobbins I just bought from m*g-bob-ins on Ebay (they don’t appear to have any new bobbins for sale at the moment, but they will). I could’ve gotten a better photo if they weren’t already in use on my pillow, but they arrived over the weekend and there was no way I was going to let them wait until my next project! They feel lovely too – delicate, but they make a wonderful little click when they bump into each other. I find lace bobbins hard to resist – since you use so many on one project at a time, there’s no such thing as too many, which is a bit of a dangerous concept when a tool is this charming!
While we were blabbering away, chatting about how bobbin lace is made, I kept working on my sampler, and huzzah! The body section, which sampled different spider types, is finished! All those ends there are left to thread through backing fabric if I chose to frame it in the end; they’ll be clipped off neatly if I decide to use it in a doily-esque capacity.
Now I’ve started the border, just, and will probably be working on that for some time, so it might be a while before I share this again. The border samples different ground patterns, about an inch or two of each, so there won’t be anything interesting to see until I get through a bunch of them. I’ve only gotten through a couple of rows here, but I’m already so excited to be working on something new!
Welcome to the last installment of our little stroll through the making of bobbin lace. I’ve loved sharing it with you – I wish I did it sooner, but I’m not sure I knew enough yet. As I said in part one, it just suddenly felt natural to do it. I love it when a plan comes together.
Anyway, on we go! At the end of part two, we’d actually finished a whole pattern repeat, if you can call it that: a section of ground, a trail, spider, and finished the trail. Now we’re here, back to the ground pattern:
Because this particular pattern works like a maze, snakes down one length, then takes a u-turn and back up again (which you’ll probably be able to see better in a minute), I sometimes have to work around corners (the u-turn). Since I just finished that last spider and it was on a u-turn area, I have to work sections of ground that essentially turn a corner.
The above photo shows a corner, which looks the same as the last triangle of ground I worked, only bigger. This will not be worked as one large triangle, but actually as two triangles one after the other. Exactly like before, only twice. Then the corner is turned, and it’s time for another spider!
And that’s it! Ok, it probably didn’t seem so easy-peasy without learning all the beginner’s stuff first, but it really isn’t as complicated as it might look. I hope these posts made it at least a little less mystifying. Just like any other needlecraft, you learn the stitches and just do them in a particular arrangement, over and over and over. Actually, nearly this entire piece is worked in half-stitch, just in different ways per area. (Note: Because it is a sampler, half of the spiders are worked in whole-stitch, but you get the point.) This is how far into the pattern I am now …
… compared to when I just started this project back in December (that’s an A4 sheet of paper, for scale):
Woohoo! Almost finished with the spider sampler section! (And, actually, I’ve kept working since I took these photos, and now have only about an inch left to work.) I’m excited to surprise my teacher and have the entire body of the project done before my next lesson this weekend. Won’t she be glad not to have to watch me work all those little ground sections, over and over again?! The border will sample different ground patterns, and I’m really looking forward to getting on and learning something new!
I hope you liked seeing a little of how this whole lace thingamy works, and that I didn’t make it too-too confusing. Like any craft, it feels like a world of insanity when you first start, but it really isn’t as scary as it looks, I promise!
Ok, so last time, we finished a triangle of ground pattern and were just about to start working on a spider. Spiders are these diamond-shaped decorative elements you see in lace sometimes; my teacher says she likes them because they cover a lot of space with only a little effort. From what I hear, some people really hate doing them, but I can’t imagine why – they are awfully confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, they’re so fun!
If you look closely at my spiders, you’ll see a tiny diamond-shaped border around each one. This is called a ‘trail’, and it is worked much like the ground was – in half-stitch again, but instead of pinning at each point on a grid, it’s worked in tiny rows that zig-zag down from the top point out to each side point (and then back again to the lower point after the spider is completed). Can you see that there’s a tight zig-zag pattern all around the diamond? That’s the trail.
I am purposely brushing past the trail a little because, although it is worked very easily in simple rows, it’s so tiny that I fear it would difficult to show properly. The above photo shows the top half of the trail finished, which means the top border of the upcoming spider is done and now I have four pairs on either side all set up to be used for the spider. The rest of my bobbins are pushed out of the way for the moment, I only need these eight pairs for now. These pairs are each twisted together a number of times before anything happens, so that they make nicely defined little legs coming from the border. This will be more visible as we go on.
You can see the pattern for the spider below my work; as my teacher always says, ‘just follow the lines’. Of course those lines make no sense at all at first, but with a little practice, I could finally see that they were telling me where each pair should go, like directions on a map.
The basic idea of a spider is that the four (in this case) pairs on one side will all work through the four pairs on the other side, making a little pattern where they all meet in the center. Sometimes something fun and different will go on as well, but it will always essentially work that way. This one has a little fun stuff going on. Above, I’ve worked a little stitch at the top and put up a pin, which give the top a bit of extra definition. Then I did as is usual, working the four pairs on the left through the four pairs on the right. This means that the first pair on the left does a half-stitch through each right pair. Then the second left pair does a half-stitch through each right pair. Etc.
Because this spider has some fun shenanigans going on, some of the pairs weave around a bit before leaving the spider. I won’t go into specifics with that because each spider pattern is different and that’s just confusing. But that is why there’s some pins on the sides. In this case, it makes the spider into a little round ring, rather than a clump of stitches all together.
Then the four left pairs repeat their actions as before, finishing off the spider. Think of it as being horizontally symmetrical: my 8 (total) pairs did a little dance in the top half of the spider, then weaved around a bit in the middle, then have to repeat their dance below to make it match, then the pin at the bottom point as at the top.
Then each pair leaves the spider just as it came in: twisted together the same number of times as above so that the legs are again tight and well-defined (8 twisted legs coming from the border *into* the spider, then 8 twisted legs coming *from* the spider). I use those legs to work the bottom half of the trail, and now I have another completed section: a fancy half-stitch spider, surrounded by a tiny half-stitch trail.