Bobbin lace, also known as pillow lace, is a method of making lace by weaving threads held on bobbins and pinning them on top of a pattern pinned to a pillow. To begin bobbin lace making you need a pillow, bobbins, straight pins, thread, and a pattern. These five tools come in a variety of shapes and styles.
There are two basic movements: the cross (c) and the twist (t). Different combinations of these two stitches (ctc, ct, ttt, ctct, cttc, tct) and the placement of the pins create different designs in the lace.
There are two basic stitches: the whole stitch (ws) doing a cross, twist, cross (ctc) and the half-stitch (hs) doing a cross, twist (ct) with four bobbins.
Threads can be cotton, linen, silk, some metallic, and even knitting and crochet yarn. What you use will depend on what you are making and its size.
There are books with patterns in them according to the style of lace you are making — whether it’s Belgium, English, German, Italian, etc. Patterns can also be found on the internet. Beginners should start with a Torchon style lace which introduces “basic” patterns such as the spider, rose ground, Scandinavian holes (also called honeycomb), etc.
On the beginner sampler below, you will learn the two basic stitches: the whole stitch using the ctc movements and the half stitch using the ct movement with two pairs (four bobbins).
The example piece requires six pairs of bobbins (twelve total). To get started, wind 1½ yards of thread on each of two bobbins leaving the thread connected between them; this makes a connecting pair. A “connecting pair” of bobbins are hung on each of A, B, C, & D pins (dots at top). Two pairs are hung on E pin.
- You will start weaving from the right and work left following the zig-zag line. With the four bobbins on pin E on the right-hand side follow the whole stitch movement (ctc) (see the diagram to the right).
- Push the 2 right hand bobbins (1 pair) aside, pick up 2 new bobbins (1 pair) on the left from pin D and repeat the ctc pattern. *Drop the 2 right most bobbins, pick up the 2 bobbins on pin C, repeat the ctc movement. Repeat (*) this technique across.
- Once the 2 bobbins on pin A have had the ctc movement, twist the left hand pair one (right bobbin over left bobbin), and put a pin at the zig-zag point under the pair twisted – thus 2 threads on each side of the pin.
- “Cover” the pin by working the same 4 bobbins with another ctc movement. Now begin working towards the right by pushing the 2 left bobbins aside and picking up 2 new bobbins from the right side.
- Repeat technique across to the right side. Put a twist on the right hand pair of bobbins & place a pin at the point under the twisted pair. Continue in pattern.
- When you have worked to the first set of three dots (on the right; see image above) change to the half stitch with just the ct movement (again, see the diagram above). You have put a twist on the right hand pair and placed your pin. Put a twist on each pair working leftward before starting the half stitch.
- At the second set of three dots, go back to the whole stitch.
To give you a better idea of the steps, check out the video below.
Watch this video to see a more complicated pattern being created.
There are several companies in the U.S. that sell bobbin lace supplies. By doing a quick internet search on bobbin lace, you can find suppliers, lace guilds, videos, history, different styles from different countries, etc.
In Austin, there is the Austin Lacemakers Guild. This group meets the first Tuesday of each month at St. John’s Episcopal Church (annex building) from 6:30pm-8:30pm. It is also a charter member of the International Organization of Lace, Inc. (I.O.L.I.) which has an annual conference each summer in the U.S. and teachers come from Europe as well as the U.S.