Lace as a general category can be traced back to its earliest beginnings as knotted nets. Other forms have evolved over time from whitework techniques such as cutwork or drawn work, and from early forms of darn-netting. As more intricate patterns and techniques evolved, owning lace became a status symbol for the wealthy.
Several sources have tried to classify the types of lace. This is a brief list, one in which not all lace makers may agree on.
- Needle lace is made using a needle and thread.
- Cutwork lace is made by removing threads from a woven background with the open spaces then filled with stitches.
- Bobbin lace is made with bobbins on which thread is wound. A paper pattern is used where the thread is manipulated around pins to create the design.
- Tape lace is made using a special lace as the main framework then the spaces between the lace are embellished with needle weaving.
- Knotted lace is made with a shuttle, needle, or by hand such as tatting and macramé.
- Crocheted lace is made with a hook and thread, and includes Irish and filet crochet.
- Knitted lace is made with two or more needles and thread using knitting patterns.
Two distinct types of lace emerged in Italy and Belgium (then Flanders) in the 15th century: pillow lace and point lace. Pillow lace is also known as pin lace or bobbin lace. sturdy paper pattern showing the location for individual pins was placed on a padded pillow. The thread was wound around bobbins and then the lace maker manipulated the bobbins around the pins to create the lace pattern. We carry a beginning bobbin lace kit (K1280) and these reference books: Beginner’s Guide to Bobbin Lace (1779) and Lessons in Bobbin Lace Making (BOB108). Do you need more bobbins? Check out these selections: Rosewood Continental Style Bobbin (7273), Ebony Mother and Baby Bobbin (7272) and Wooden Bobbin (7274).
An early form of tape or point lace was done by the Venetians in the 16th century. Lace making soon became a household industry with techniques and patterns a closely guarded secret. The general technique was called Point de Venice. Here is an example. It should be noted that the original Venetian laces were flat. Gros point de Venice is one of the most complicated and thickest point lace techniques. Probably one of the most recognizable types of point lace is Battenberg lace with is made with a premade tape and embellished with filling stitches and bridges.
Lace making can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Today I want to introduce you to Romanian Point Lace. What makes it different is that instead of a premade tape you use a specially crocheted cord which has loops along the sides to connect your cords and do the needle weaving. Most of the time your finished project will be reversible! Only special embellishments such as those for grapes will be different on the back side.
Two well-known designers are Sylvia Murariu and Elena Iove. In Sylvia’s books Romanian Point Lace for Beginners (155-794-0001) and Romanian Point Lace for Intermediates and Advanced (155-794-0002) she gives a bit of history. This particular lace came from France, and with its variety of filling stitches it gives the lace maker a lot of freedom to create beautiful laces. It also gave women a way to provide for their families. While it appears complicated, I can assure you that it is not. In fact, if you like techniques where you can make changes and experiment with your design and fibers, then this is for you!!
Your pattern is drawn onto muslin or trigger cloth in white (BE110) or ivory (BE111) with a PERMANENT marker. You will be basting your thread to the cloth, but cutting it free when you are done. Your pattern fabric can be used again!
You need thread for crocheting the cords. DMC Cebelia and Cordonnet work well. I have also used Pearl Cotton as long as it has a tight twist such as DMC #5, #8 and #12, Leah’s, and ThreadworX. Loosely twisted threads such as Caron Collection Watercolours will not work.
You will need a crochet hook to crochet your cord. The size of your hook will depend on the thread. It is recommended to use a US 12 with a DMC Cebelia #20. However, I can tell you from personal experience that it will totally depend on how YOU crochet. As with any crochet project, you will need to do a practice strip. Your pattern will help you decide how thick your cord should be to look the best. Pick a sewing thread in a contrasting color to use for basting the cord to the fabric.
A sharp needle is used for basting the cord to the fabric. A blunt needle like a tapestry needle #24 is used for needle weaving.
A good pair of scissors, a needle threader, and a thimble are also useful to have in your basket. A large hoop can be very helpful when basting the cords to the pattern. I also keep a needle puller (6994) handy. Sometimes it is hard to get the needle through the center of the cord. You decide what works best for you as for both couching the cord and doing the actual stitches. Some people prefer a hoop, others enjoying working in hand.
Order of work
Crochet the required cords (braids and rings if applicable). Elena has graciously allowed me to share her crochet instructions with you for the basic cord. It is important to follow these instructions because this cord needs to be able to unravel from either end, as needed, to fit into a space. The cord will be somewhat flat, not round, with loops on each side. When you look at this photo you can tell that the crocheting was started on the left side and stopped on the right side. Leave a tail on both ends of the cord to use to connect your cords together.
Sylvia has a CD with project that shows how to crochet the cord, along with finishing the bookmark project.
Baste the cord to the pattern. On your pattern the cord placement is shown as two parallel lines. Pay close attention to where the cords meet or lie side by side. Be sure you take the cord to those touching points. You are building the framework and this is what makes your piece sturdier when it is finished. Use a contrasting sewing thread and a sharp needle to couch down the cord following the pattern outline. It is important that you don’t go through the cord just stitching over the top of the cord. Make your couching stitches about ¼” apart because you want your cord securely attached to the fabric. The cord should lay flat with the loops showing on both sides. If your cord is longer than you need, carefully thread the end of the cord back through the last loop. Gently pull and it will unravel. Continue to unravel the cord until it fits nicely in its designated area. Take the end of the cord back through the last loop now on the cord and pull it tight. This will stop the cord from unraveling any further. Don’t cut the ends off yet!
Using the ends of the cords we are going to secure all the pieces together. Use a tapestry needle and thread it with the end of one of the cords. The goal is to stitch the end of the cord into the adjoining cord. Once you have them stitched together, run your needle up the middle of the cord about a ½”. Bring your needle out of the cord and move over one thread. Now take your needle back down the center of the cord and trim the end. If you have cords that lie side by side or fold back on itself, you want to stitch the two cords together, like lacing a shoe using the loops like eyelets. Be sure to secure your thread through the center of the cord when you are through.
Finish ends of the cords through their own cord or through an adjoining cord. There may be ends of cords that terminate without touching another cord. If so, finish the ends of the cord back through itself and clip the thread.
Work the lace stitches with various needle weaving patterns. There are hundreds of possible needle weaving patterns to use. You may have some favorites already from Hardanger and Pulled Thread embroidery that will work well. Sylvia’s books have several examples. Look at old pieces of lace for inspiration. There is no right or wrong to what filling and needle weaving patterns you choose.
Work the bridges with either a simple or woven wrap. A bridge is indicated on your pattern as the single line connecting the cords. While the woven wrap is considered a more advanced wrap, I find it easier to control and make it look nice.
Both bridges start with the same foundation. Secure the thread through the braid and insert needle, from above, into the loop where a line starts. Pull the thread through, bring it to the other side and insert needle, from underneath, in that loop. Take the needle back to the loop where it was first inserted and insert it from above this time into the same loop. You can make a small knot on each side loop if you prefer.
For the Wrapped Bridge: Start wrapping your thread around both threads. Keep your wraps tight and push them down as you wrap so they are even and cover the foundation threads.
For the Woven Bridge: Lay down your foundation threads as you would for a wrapped bridge. Start weaving in and out between the two threads keeping your stitches even and tight. Don’t over fill the bridge or it will have a bend in it.
Finishing Either Bridge: When you finish wrapping or weaving, secure the thread through the cord. If you have enough thread, you can use it to do another bridge. Be sure you have enough thread to complete a bridge!
Now you should have all pieces of your pattern covered. Inspect the project to be sure all ends are secured and needlework done. If you feel you need additional bridges, add them now. Carefully look over all the connecting spaces to be sure they really are connected to each other.
Once you are satisfied that all the work is done, it is time to remove the finished product from the fabric pattern. Remember the pattern is reusable so be careful as you clip the basting stitches. I recommend cutting the basting stitches from the back of the muslin. Cut several basting threads in one area and carefully begin to pull them loose. You may need to work from the front using tweezers to pull a few stitches if they have been caught up in the weaving. Gently cut and pull out all the basting threads until your project comes free. Carefully inspect your bookmark one last time to make sure all the edges are connected and there are no loose threads.
If you need to clean the bookmark, start with a simple soak in cool water and a mild soap. You can soak for an hour or more, even overnight depending on how dirty it is. Swish the project around in the soapy water but don’t rub. The key is to rinse it three or four times in cool water. Even when it looks clean, rinse it again to be sure all the soap is out. Don’t wring out the water. Squeeze VERY gently using a thick towel and then gently pat it dry. If you want to block it on a board, use T-pins until it is dry. You can also dry it flat without a blocking board.
The bookmark is already pretty sturdy. If you want it to be stiffer, use a commercial stiffening agent, not sugar water. Some of the homemade recipes invite insects and even house pets to want to nibble on your project.
At our retreat we do a bookmark exchange. I designed the following bookmark and wanted to share – Download the FREE pattern! Here is a picture of the finished bookmark.
There are many different needle weaving stitches you could use for the heart flower and leaf. Here are photos of the two I chose for the bookmark.
I choose the woven bridges because I like the way they look and it adds strength to the bookmark.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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