Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bespangled Bobbins

My budding collection of spangled bobbins.

Lace making has always seemed a bit of a mystery to me, and therefor challenging, so how better to understand it than jump right in? 

I recently bought a few books on lace making, and after browsing a bit, never being one to think something is too hard to give it a go, I dove in and ordered supplies. I plan on focusing my attention to English bobbin lace. There are many different types of bobbins for many different types of lace making, but English bobbins have spangles, which makes them infinitely more fun!

Some examples of English bobbin lace: 

Surprisingly, even the most intricate of patterns are made only with variations of either crossing the thread, or twisting it. Click here for a better description of how lace is made.

Honton bobbin lace on hand made net. Mid 19th century. Christie's.
Honton lace was used as Queen Victoria's wedding lace.

Midland lace aka English Maltese lace.
From Jo Edkins' Lace School

Torchon lace aka Beggars lace.
From Jo Edkins' Lace School 

Spangles are the beads attached to the bottom of bobbins. English bobbins are drilled with holes to facilitate attaching the beads by wire. The loop of beads has a purpose, aside from looking pretty. It stops the bobbins from rolling on the pillow and the weight keeps the threads evenly taught.

Traditionally, lace makers seem to be rather superstitious. Lots of beads have meanings, much like charms. A snake or serpentine design is said to ward off evil spirits, as is a button. Here are examples of each. Images courtesy Lacefairy.

A "fancy dress" bead used as a charm.

A bead with a serpentine design.

Below is a "Kitty Fisher" bead, named after the famous 18th century actress (who found Lucy Locket's pocket). This bead is usually grey with blue on white and red on white dots, roughly resembling a face.

Im assuming the blue dots are Kitty's eyes?

While I wait on my pillow and thread to come, I tried to find some beads that were traditional, but I just fell in love with the cupcakes and mice! I also chose a very pretty four leaf clover bead, some carved jade and lots of cloisonné. Some of my favorites:

I hope to be able to make at least some modest lace, because how fun are these bobbins! I'd love to collect antique ones, but I refuse to collect things I can't use. So I better get practicing! 

I should note, unfortunately, all the really beautiful  18th century lace, like alencon and argentan are actually needle lace, not bobbin. I'll elaborate more on this another day, as well as more info on bobbin lace and how it's actually made. But for now I'm just smiling about the bobbins :)


  1. Oh wow! I want to look into this craft and starting my own collection...

  2. They're so cute, I want to learn to make lace just so I can use them!

  3. These bobbins look like candy, too! Yumm!