Bedfordshire bobbin lace is a braid/plait based straight lace.  The designs usually involve a graceful clothwork trail that meanders through the design, and are usually curvilinear rather than geometric (except for the simplest ones).  The ground is usually a 4 strand plait/braid, often with picots.  The more complex designs often require threads to be constantly added and removed to achieve a good density.

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New to Beds 6 Replies

Hi all: I have always only done torchon lace and am now learning to do Bedfordshire lace. I am looking for basic advice. How does one know when to leave the pins standing up and when to push them all…Continue

Started by Sheila Antell. Last reply by Helen Bell Dec 29, 2016.

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Comment by Jenny on September 28, 2014 at 11:43pm

Thanks Liz. My lace is for my pure enjoyment & to learn something new, no other reason. I only have to please myself, & if I am happy with what I have done then that is all that matters.The occasional piece has been given away to those I know will appreciate it. I showed my bookmark to some fellow stitching friends, some of whom were afraid to touch it! They could see no mistakes because they are not bobbin lace makers. I have also shown it to two other lacemakers, who both picked up on the tallies, but I knew that myself already. One commented on how they had improved. Neither, however commented on my picots! I knew they were wrong but didn't know how to make them better, and it was only after Helen commented that I went back to the beginning of the book to review how they were done! That is good thing in my books. I will learn any way I can, but if anyone tells me not to do something for whatever reason, then that is my cue to go for it & show myself I can do it!

Comment by Elizabeth Ligeti on September 27, 2014 at 8:13pm

Helen describes it well, - I had trouble working the 6 and 8 pr crossings working from a book, - but managed them easily with the same (of course!) instructions written out in a different book!

And Yes, I agree, we are much too 'nit-picky' these days, and that, perhaps, is because some of us like to enter competitions, and do Proficiency Assessments, - and then there is the worry about whether the Judge will come from the same "school" as you, or does she belong to the people who think another way...!

Sometimes it is better to just enjoy the journey, and make the lace to suit yourself, - not others!  So what if it is "wrong" according to this book, or that one, - if it is how you like it, - that is all that matters.

Oh dear! I am going "Radical" again!!!! :)  Jenny, you will always fine there is someone out there who does things differently to you.  It does not mean your way is wrong - just different. So don't get put off by some who are too rigid in their thoughts.

Comment by Jenny on September 26, 2014 at 10:36pm

I agree with you Helen, each of us has our own unique way of learning. I am a trained teacher ( dressmaking)  & many a time have had to draw diagrams & re-word things for students when initial explainations have not helped. I personally am a diagram/picture & hands on learner. I only go back to written instructions when absolutely necessary.

I have finished setting up my edge now & found the diagram in Nottinhams book very clear. The wording explanation is a little lacking for my tastes, but I have figured it out & am now on my way. I have a few bookmarks placed at strategic points for easy reference back to picots & footsides. It's been so long since I have done a footside, I needed to go back & refresh myself. 

The same with the picots. I knew they were not sitting right, and after reading your notes here, I went back to the notes in the  book, & realized I had done them all wrong on my book mark. Oh well, more lessons learned, & the picots on this edge will hopefully be much better.

Comment by Helen Bell on September 26, 2014 at 4:28pm

I know those little Hamer books :-)  I remember sitting beside mum as she reacquainted herself with BL through that series of books :-)

the thing to remember, Jenny, is you will gravitate to the books and teachers that work for YOUR personal style of learning.  What works for one, doesn't always work for another because they learn differently, and process information differently.  If Nottingham's presentation of information works for you, awesome.  If not, there are plenty of others out there that say the same thing, but in a different way.

It's the same with taking notes and organizing them.  Use a method that works best for you, as that will best reinforce your learning.

We probably over-intellectualise our lace these days, I suspect.  I'm sure my Grandmothers many great are looking down on me making lace and shaking their heads at my pillow management, and wagging their fingers at how much time I spend keeping my bobbins organized on their stitch holders :-)  Back in the day, time was money for them, so they just made lace, and solved problems as expeditiously as they could. :-)

Comment by Lorelei Halley Administrator on September 26, 2014 at 2:11pm

I have worked some of the patterns from Nottingham's COMPLETE BOOK OF ENGLISH BOBBIN LACES.  I also have Underwood. I like her diagrams, which are very clear; I prefer diagrams to verbal explanations. I have worked through 9 of her patterns, and #10 is very high on my to-do list. I also like the way Underwood introduces floral Beds. I think Nottinham is better with patterns involving complex trails and circles.  

I have also worked some designs from Robinson, but she describes methods that I have come to understand as Cluny methods, rather than purely Bedfordshire methods. However, Jean Leader says that the strong distinction we make between Cluny and Beds methods may be a modern notion, and was something that the old lace makers just didn't care about. They had a more do-what-works philosophy.

When I was first learning I didn't have any money and was looking for cheap books. Margaret Hamer wrote 2 little pamphlets on Beds and I worked through both of them. They were quite helpful.

Comment by Jenny on September 25, 2014 at 6:45pm

Morning  Helen,

I have the Barbara Underwood 20 lessons book as well, but I like the designs in Nottingham better. The working diagrams are wonderful, & each lesson seems to take from the previous & add something new. After leaving it alone for a few years & now coming back to it, I have forgotten a lot of stuff & have had to refer back to not only earlier lessons, but my teachers notes as well. My teaches notes are fabulous, very clear in step form, but they are only basics. I am just setting up my new edge now, design 5 from Nottingham's book. My aim is to mount it on handkerchief linen when done.

Comment by Helen Bell on September 25, 2014 at 11:24am

Hi Jenny,  yes, that's the one that I have.  Well, I actually have a lot of Beds books, but yes, that's the Nottingham one I have, along with the 2 editions of the technique of BL book.

It's actually a pretty decent book, and has some good stuff in it.  The written portion is laid out a little differently to other books, like Underwood's 20 lessons, but like with teachers, and text books, it's finding the style that you best understand and can grasp the information from.  If Nottingham writes in a style that works for you, go for it, and stick with the book. There are some nice patterns in that book, and they are generally well diagrammed, and work is progressive.  Not always trued up patterns (especially the older ones), but that's the case with lots of books with reproductions of old parchments.

Comment by Elizabeth Ligeti on September 24, 2014 at 8:49pm

I started learning with the Nottingham Mixed book - that was almost the only book available soon after I started way back in 1978!!  I learned most of my Bucks Pt. from that book, and her Bucks Point book. I haven't got the Beds only book, though I have a soft cover book of hers also.  You won't go wrong working from her instructions.

I hope your foot soon heals, Kate. That sound very nasty. Having some lace to make will help, I am sure!!  It seems to be good Therapy for most things!!!!!!

Comment by Jenny on September 24, 2014 at 5:57pm

Kate, good luck with your adventure. I started mine way back in 2009 but got caught up with stitching & knitting. Stitching is my first love.

Helen, thanks for the advice on the picots. I knew there was a problem with the tension & didn't know how to fix it.I'll print this out & add to my book. The white on white was also an issue & made the catches around the pins hard to see. I had done this before & was on the lookout for them but still missed them.

I have Pamela Nottingham's 'Bedfordshire Lacemaking". Is this the book you are talking about? It is the the book I am working from. There have been some negative comments about this book from a member at my local lace group, but I am not going to let that deter me. The designs are beautiful & I want to do them, slowly, one at a time.

Comment by Helen Bell on September 24, 2014 at 11:47am

Nice job, Jenny.  You can see improvement in your work, and there are some really nice, neat picots on one leg near the end of your work, as you started to figure them out.

Just remember to watch that you're getting your threads around the correct pin, and not looping the 2nd thread around a 2nd pin close by.

You also want to keep the first thread loose around the pin, as you insert it into the pillow, and then wrap the second thread (front to back, inside to outside), and tensions that one.  It should then 'snap' the first thread down into place, and then do the 2 twists to lock it and continue your work.

Pam Nottingham also has a very good book that's soley Beds lace, in case you are interested and unaware of it.

Keep at it :-) 


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