Lace

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

Bobbin Lace Spider Sampler WIP

Spider Sampler WIP

It’s been ages since I shared some bobbin lace with you guys, but I have been practicing! Now I’m working on this sampler:

Spider Sampler WIP

Those little bits inside the diamonds are called spiders, and the border is made of a zillion different ground patterns. I love a good sampler and it turns out it doesn’t matter if it’s quilted, embroidery, or lace. Samplers rock the most.

Spider Sampler WIP

These are the last few spiders I’ve worked, some successful, some not as much. But it’s definitely getting easier! I’ve worked on this (7 spiders in total now, some are covered by the cloth in the photos) over 3 lessons plus time at home, and I only just now properly understand what to do between the spiders. It just kept tripping me up, so much that I felt like I’d negative-learned since my last project.

Spider Sampler WIP

But now it makes sense – it actually kind of feels like I spend ages between each spider setting it up, then the spiders go by so quickly! Those are still a little confusing, but so much fun to work, especially since each one is different. Of course this will take me a hundred years to finish, so I’m sure you’ll see a lot more of it as I go on!

Oh, and P.S. – Gift #2 was sent off today, another little package to someone out there in blogworld! I’ll tell more when I can!

Christmas 2012 Recap

Before it gets so far from the holidays that the moment has totally passed, here’s a quick show-and-tell of what I made for my family for Christmas:

For my brother, a lap quilt …

High On A Mountaintop
High On A Mountaintop
High On A Mountaintop
High On A Mountaintop

… completely from stash other than the Kona Steel (or was it Iron?!) that I bought for the back. Named for a song by the glorious Loretta Lynn.

A pie-themed patchwork trivet for my pie-making father, packaged with other pie-related items …

Pie-related Trivet
Pie-related Trivet

Liberty fabric pillowcases, with tiny crocheted edging, for my mother …

Liberty crochet-edge pillowcases
Liberty crochet-edge pillowcases

… and I will be making a pair of these for myself for my upcoming bedroom redecoration as well. I also made her a bobbin lace butterfly …

Lace Butterfly

… and framed it. Those of you following my bobbin lace progress might have wondered where that disappeared to, but it’s only ’cause I was keeping it on the down-low. I’ve got a (huge) new piece of lace started now, but I’ll hold off on sharing new stuff until I’ve finished catching you up on a few more things!

There’s a few more photos of these projects over in my Flickr stream if you’d like more detail!

Huzzah, I haz returned!

My blog vacation, in photos

1. Pretties from the States!, 2. Sigh. Liberty., 3. Liberty purchases, 4. At The Globe., 5. Ranger cardigan, blocking, 6. Magrathea, finished, waiting to be blocked, 7. Noro Sekku scarf, WIP, 8. First piece of lace, framed., 9. Stitchy iPhone case!, 10. Mirror of Erised, respun and plied, 11. Oscar sunbathing on the kitchen counter, 12. Making lots of scrappy wreaths!, 13. 1940s day, 14. Vintage buttons, 15. Vintage buttons, 16. Oh my.

Well, my little blog staycation was a little bit longer than I meant it to be – it’s been a chaotic couple of weeks. Mostly nice, but busy! I got most of my blog nitpicking done (except for one layout problem that is Making. Me. Crazy. and I can’t figure out how to fix it. If you happen to be a WordPress whiz kid and want to help me out, please shout in the comments. I’ll be forever in your debt!) and had a really nice time doing some cool non-internet-y stuff. The mosaic above is basically my last few weeks in photos. I’ll narrate for you:

First, my family had some really special visitors from the States, who brought me a lovely stack of beautiful fabric as well as embroidery floss. I’ve already started playing with them a bit! While they were here, we all went to Liberty, patted all the beautiful things, and may have brought some home. We also went to see As You Like It as The Globe theater (one of my very favorite places in all the world, it’s magical!) and just had a lovely visit all-around. I got the Worst Cold In The Universe, which knocked me down for ages and is still kind of lingering in annoying ways, but managed to finish the Ranger cardigan for my brother as well as the Magrathea shawl. The cardigan is blocked and waiting for buttons, the shawl will be blocked soon. Over the last few days, I’ve been working on the Noro lace scarf, which I’d avoided for at least a year for being too boring and not really my style, though pretty enough not to frog. Turns out it must be exactly the project I’m craving at the moment, because I’ve doubled its length in about 3 days and am now feeling a bit sad that it’s almost finished. In fact, if you’re at my real blog (as opposed to a feed reader) and you peek over at my WIP list of shame, you’ll notice that I’ve pretty much kicked its ass lately! Well, the knitting section anyway – ahem, pay no attention to those other categories.

Anyway, so I’ve been wrapping up projects and it’s made me feel so much more organized and less like my thoughts are swimming all over the place. I’ve even framed my first piece of finished bobbin lace and I’m so so proud of how it came out! I cross-stitched an iPhone case, because why the hell wouldn’t you?, and respun some yarn that I’d originally spun too loosely. Oscar took a nap in the sunny spot smack in the middle of the kitchen counter (because, again, why the hell wouldn’t you?) and I got a wee start on some Christmas projects. I realized last year that, although I love making gifts for people, that last-few-weeks panic and stress just ruins Christmas for me. I pretty much hate it by the time it finally comes around. I’m working hard to avoid that this year, getting smaller things done early so I don’t have to think about them anymore. Last weekend, I visited the 1940s in a little wartime village event nearby with a dear friend, found some ridiculously cute vintage buttons to add to my collection, and gave Oscar some much-deserved head scratches.

(We’ve also been working on *two* new sets of embroidery patterns in the Little Dorrit & Co. office – I’m super-crazy about them all, I seriously Can’t Wait to get them out in the world!)

And now you’re all caught up! I’ve missed you guys!

Bobbin Lace, Lesson 6

First finished piece of bobbin lace

I have now finished one whole piece of lace! Woohoo! This little edging was finished off during lesson 6, last weekend — I had to ask my teacher to show me how to stop or else I was just going to have to keep on until the end of time. You’ll notice a bundle of thread ends there; my teacher explained that if I was going to apply the lace to something that would be used, I would have to learn how to sew in ends and deal with them properly. That was enough incentive to just frame this, my first finished piece, for which I only have to thread those ends through my backing fabric, tie off to secure, and hide them back there that way. I won’t do anything permanent until I find the right frame, but I plan to back it with this charm square of Denyse Schmidt fabric.

I should’ve taken a close-up of just that corner, with the threads, but if you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can actually see the improvement I made over the course of this project. The ‘heart’ directly below those loose threads was where I started, the ‘heart’ to the left is where I finished. My tension improved enormously as I worked, I’m so very proud! (By the way, the fabric in the center is a tiny piece of Liberty Tana Lawn, and the 20p coin is to show how very small this bit of lace is. The center is only 1.5″!)

First finished piece of bobbin lace
Bobbin lace bookmark WIP

Now I’ve started working on a bookmark in red and pink, with a different kind of fan along the edges. For this, I was given written instructions and told to try and follow them myself – I got a little confused at first, but kind of understood, and I’m proud to say that I managed to remind myself with the written pattern when I got home and had forgotten what to do.

Bobbin lace bookmark WIP

Again, I can already see improvement as I work here – I don’t know if you’ll be able to squint past the pins, but if you follow the red curves on the fan edges, you can see that they’ve become much less messy already. I worked the top left fan first, and those curves are all over the place; the most recent worked was the bottom right, which has much neater and, well, curvy curves.

Bobbin Lace tools

I’m also very proud to report that I have now made enough progress to have tools of my very own! My teacher was kind enough to lend me spare tools until now, to make sure I actually enjoyed doing bobbin lace before investing money into equipment, which was so sensible. I’ve done enough now to know for sure that I want to continue, so my teacher arranged some second-hand tools for me and I treated myself to the above tools from the very kind Paul at PDH Woodturning. Paul’s handmade tools are so beautiful and special, I’m so excited to work with them! Not related to lace, but maybe the handiest tool of the bunch is that little stand that my spool of thread is sitting on – I don’t know if these have a special name, but it’s basically exactly as it looks – it holds my spool handily while I hand-sew, and I’ve already been using it as I stitch the binding onto my now nearly-finished Mod Sampler quilt. More on the quilt very soon, but seriously, anyone with any hand-stitching to do should have one of these spool holder-thingamys in their sewing box!

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