Wednesday, March 7, 2012

extra special craft post: bobbin lace

Back in January I promised that I would be posting a special craft post. This isn't work that I have been doing, but my Mum, Bobbin Lace which she started over 10 years ago. I have really wanted to share this long lost craft with my fellow crafters, even though it isn't something that you will just pick up and start doing tonight.

I guess it has a special spot in my heart, as Mum has handmade all the lace work for the baptism dress for each of her children and their husband/wives when they were expecting their first baby. All lacework pattern was different for each couples dress.

I'll quote a bit from a book to introduce Bobbin Lace:

'Bobbin lace and pillow lace are the generic terms for a large group of laces made by tisting and crossing threads. The work is supported on an overgrown pincushion called a pillow; the thread used to produce the lace is wound on bobbins, and the bobbins are manipulated so that the threads are woven in a variety of ways; the pattern is made by positiong of pins, around which the threads pass.'

'Bobbin Lace first appeared in Europe early in the sixteenth century and probably reached its peak of excellence in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. For almost three hundred years it was a thriving industry of considerable importance to the economies of many European countries. '

Here are some photos of Mum's work taken in January 2012 at our campsite.

Before you can even start work on the pillow (polystyrene cut to shape), you need to pick your pattern, wind up the wooden Bobbins with thread, and pin prick the pattern.

The project: bobbins on material to help keep bobbins clean. They all get covered with material at the end of each working session to keep dust and dirt off.
Then the pattern and pins on a rolling piece of foam which then gets wound onto the wooden roller at the end.

Mums hands working the lace. The lace is made up of two movements; right over left, and left over right. They are not knots.

Close up of pins and the roller when the lace comes off the pillow.

Spangles: the end beadwork of each Bobbin. These are made from glass beads for extra weight and to stop the bobbins from rolling. They are made in pairs and for tension extra heavy spangles are used for heavier thread, lighter spangles for thinner thread.

WIP: Close up of lace being worked. See the pattern on paper underneath with the pins holding the work in place. These pins need to stay in for 24 hours before being removed.

Mum has been with a lace group in Albany for many years now. They have an annual lace day and have a pair of bobbins hand painted for each year. Mum has also had her own painted with each grandchilds name and date of birth painted on it.

Beautiful finished work coming off the pillow. It took mum approx an hour and 15mins to do one pattern repeat from the above lacework. 60 pattern repeats made 150cms of lacework.  Each repeat is about 2.5cm. You figure the hours it took to make this length of lace! This is the lacework that is ready for the baptism dress for Bruce and Kylie and their little blessing.
Then she sews a baptism dress out of voile, carefully selecting the right white to go with the white thread. 
She also makes a much thinner lacework (not as wide) to go around the wrists of the sleeve.
Below is the baptism dress she made for us when Kimberley was born. All four children have worn it, and it has plans of staying in our family.
Here is Nadia on her Bapistim day, when she received the sign and seal of the Covenant.
The dress is made with removeable ribbon so we can give each child their own colour and Jordan didn't have to wear pink ribbon!
Hope you enjoyed this craft post as it is a craft: made for you.
Till next time:


  1. Oh wow, that is so amazing, I'm in awe! Definitely heirloom work for sure. I never realised all the details that went into it!

  2. Nice post, Leanne. Fascinating to see the lace in progress, and I also love the look of those bobbins!

  3. Great post, Leanne! We were watching a dvd the other day and someone was doing it in there. Fascinating!