Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bobbin Lace Making: How I got started and Equipment list.

Since I confessed I knew how to make bobbin lace (albeit it at a beginners level), some of you expressed an interest in hearing more.  So I've just pulled out a five drawer bedside table so I could get at the drawer under the bed that is home to my lace making kit. As you can gather it's not something I've done recently.  I am not even sure Moh knows about this hobby.  Probably as well he's on exercise ;-)


 I should also like to point out now, up front, that once I get to the bit about the bobbins themselves I take no responsibility if some of you go out and start buying bobbins and get addicted. I found they have that effect on people. :-)


In fact it was being given these two simple wooden bobbins that started my interest in lace making. My neighbour had been taught the basics of lace making by her mother who is an experienced lace maker. One Christmas my neighbour made me a Christmas stocking filled with little gifts and the two 'unspangled' (no beads on the bottom) were one of the presents. At the time I thought they were an interesting little gift. A few months later J's mum organised matching 'dressed' lace pillows for J and I along with two starter bobbin rolls. J' gave me some starter bobbins she no longer needed (long since seduced by the lovely bobbins being made.)  We'd get together from time to time either at J's or her Mum's for marathon lace learning sessions.

As you can see my kit has grown since those first two bobbins!


When I started lace making it wasn't that easy to get hold of the necessary kit. We may moan at the lack of LQS's,but there has never been Local Lace Stores. Most of my kit came via mail order - in the days when the Internet wasn't the shopping alternative we're used to today.  The other great place for lace equipment was lace fairs and days. Lace fairs were craft type fairs devoted to selling all the equipment lace makers would require.  Lace days were when lace makers would pack up their pillows and pop along to community centres and school halls to meet with other lace makers. The idea was you'd sit and work and chat to other lace makers as you did. There would often be a craft speaker at lace days - although not always on lace.  There would also be a few stalls where you could buy equipment.  I used to get far too distracted by all the other wonderful lace makers at work and wish I'd had a camera at the time and taken some pictures. 

If you want to start making lace you have to consider that unlike other thread crafts such as crochet or knitting you need a lot more specialised equipment. As a child I lost count of the number of times at car boot sales I'd see discarded lace bobbins still on the pillows. I never had the money to buy them because they were beyond my pocket money.  This is often a hobby that people tire of (hmmm even my lace kit is packed away most of the time.).

If you are going to start making bobbin lace Torchon lace is probably the simplest to learn and as a minimum you'd need the following equipment.

  • A lace pillow - these used to be packed with straw; today's are normally made from polystyrene. You can get them in various shapes and sized some with removable sections so you slot sections in and out when making long lengths of lace. You need a cover for the pillow and a couple of cloths. One to fold over and pin covering the base of the pattern and the other to cover the pillow when not working on the lace. 
  • Wooden bobbins. Bobbins come in a variety of materials including plastic. If you decide to make lace I'd advise some simple beginners bobbins made of wood. They will be plain and boring compared to all the fancy ones, but they are a million times better than any I've come across made of plastic.  You will also need a method of storage for your bobbins and materials for spangling bobbins - ie glass beads and brass wire. Bobbins are worked in pairs and as a minimum you probably want 12 to 20 pairs of bobbins to get you started. 
  • A selection of suitable threads.  A lace supplier would be able to advise you on a suitable starter pack.
  • Pricking card/protection film/pricker/ cork board or polystyrene board - the pattern is known as a 'pricking'.  Usually you'd photocopy your pattern, place it over the pricking card and then using a pricker - a tool with a replaceable needle in the end, make pricks through the pattern and the pricking card. You can stick your pattern straight onto the card, cover it in some adhesive film and then make the pricks - the film helps prolong the pricking letting you use it over and over.
  • Lace pins and a pin cushion. It's also useful to have a couple of large hat type pins and some glass headed pins.
  • A length of elastic for holding your bobbins on your pillow when you're not working on the lace.
  • A little pot of bees wax is also useful.
  • Lace patterns - you can get these from other lace makers, online groups, books and if you do a class your lace teacher will probably provide some.

I'll post about some of these items with photos in future posts. If you want me to cover anything in particular I'm open to suggestions. I'll try and answer any questions you might have too.


  1. Can't wait to see this all in action x

  2. God, I'm fascinated by this - I'm kinda hoping it looks really expensive to get started coz I don't need another addictive hobby! (and as a jump-right-in kinda gal difficulty won't put me off at all!!)

  3. Next Flickr group - Brit Lce?!?!

  4. Very cool! Your right, the bobbins are addictive. I'd have been in trouble if they were easily accessible! Looking forward to your next installment..

  5. I inherited tatting tools from my DH's grandmother - as noone else wanted them and I am the "crafty" one. I've never tried it but if you are going to show us how I might have to dig it out.


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