Hello! I'm new to bobbin lace making, and am looking for advice for a good pillow.

As I am Mostly Broke, I started with what I call "Eff-it" materials - what I have around the house (which as I am a crafty person this actually worked). I have wooden dowels I made bobbins out of, old pins from when I tried sewing... and attempted to cover an old bed pillow to use to pin into.

This was mostly successful, except the lumpy old bed pillow, which swiftly got replaced with something more usable: Cardboard.

But I can't really reuse cardboard, and I'm looking for something more permanent to use for my latest hobby, so recommendations are welcome! Based on my practice and research, I think a bolster pillow would suit me best, but other options are also welcome.


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Builders foam is quite good.  The pins go in easily, but stay firm.  I am not sure it's exact name over in USA. Others will be able to help, I am sure!

Welcome to a wonderful, - but Very Addictive - craft!  You have started well, by finding this site and masses of help and suggestions, etc.

A bobbin lace pillow is called a pillow because of its shape. But it needs to be hard enough to hold pins without them wobbling or shifting. There is a modern material called "ethafoam" -- poly ethylene in the U.S. which is quite good -- lightweight and hard, and virtually lifelong usable. It is used so shape auto dashboards (I think I heard somebody say once). You can also use styrofoam (polystyrene), but it sheds crumbs with use and develops a dish in section where you stick most of the pins. So it doesn't last forever, maybe 1 1/2 to 3 years depending on how much you use it. Most lace making suppliers do sell ethafoam pillows. It is more expensive than styrofoam.

Another option is a cookie shaped pillow with layers of wool fabric. I cut up an old army blanket to make one of my favorite pillows. (I made all of mine.)     http://lynxlace.com/makeapillow.html   I understand about being Always Broke.

If you decide to buy something you can find suppliers sorted by geographical region on Laurie Waters' pinterest boards. Look about 2/3 down this page.



For what it's worth, I went yesterday to buy some ethafoam, and Home Depot immediately recognized the term I used:  Builder's Foam.


Elizabeth Ligeti said:

Builders foam is quite good.  The pins go in easily, but stay firm.  I am not sure it's exact name over in USA. Others will be able to help, I am sure!

Welcome to a wonderful, - but Very Addictive - craft!  You have started well, by finding this site and masses of help and suggestions, etc.

Now we know that Home Depot carries ethafoam, and its name is "builder's foam". thanks.

Not to beat this horse until it is dead, but some places have understood what it was when I just called it "hard insulation" and mentioned it comes in sheets.  Usually it is in the lumber section.  It is not easy to shape.  You can cut it somewhat with a utility knife, but that pretty much requires that you cut in straight lines.  I have seen people use electric carving knives; IMO this results in a very poor and lumpy pillow, even when covered with some felt.  The best was to cut it is with a heating wire, but most of us don't have access.

Personally I find that good tools help me to produce good work, and so I would invest in a decent pillow from one of the lace vendors.  If money is really a big factor, I would buy an inexpensive styrofoam pillow (horrors, I know, but better than many alternatives) and immediately start saving for something better.

Pillows can sometimes be purchased through local lace groups, used.  That may also be worth exploring.

All of this, just my 2 cents worth.  Anyway, best of luck and happy lacemaking!!

Administrator said:

Now we know that Home Depot carries ethafoam, and its name is "builder's foam". thanks.

In my mind, ethafoam is not the same as "builders foam" which is found at the lumber store. Ethafoam pillows are what I have from Snowgoose Lace supplier. White, self healing foam. Squeaks when you insert a pin. A few years ago I tried to find it online to make my own pillows and no luck. These days you can find pool noodles or rolls from your friendly physical therapist that seem to be self healing ethafoam. By self healing I mean it doesn't crumble when stuck with pins. I have made dense laces such as Binche and Chantilly with no noticable breakdown in the foam.

Building insulation is cheap stuff in 4'x8' sheets and about 1" thick. It is what you get at the IOLI convention as a temporary pillow. It holds pins well, but will crumble if you place too many repeatedly in the same spot. It is not self healing like my ethafoam. It is often pink in color.

Styrofoam to me is then the white stuff that has been around for ages. When you break it you get little white dots that cling to everything. it is more coarse if you will than the building foam.

So while Home Depot would recognize the term builders foam, you are not getting ethafoam imo.

There are so many polys it is enough to make your head spin!!  From what I've been able to find doing a google search sounds as if ethafoam is used more often for packaging and other purposes, and not as rigid.  I think this is better, but it is all a matter of personal preference.

I wonder if suppliers/vendors are not always 100% accurate with their labels??

What I have bought is called builders foam in places like Home Depot.  There are quite a few differences in  sizes and colors.  I have bought builders' foam as thick as 5", as long 8' long. They are sheets or boards, depending on labels.  Like yours, they are also self healing.  My pillows made of builders' foam have lasted well almost 20 years of heavy use, with no dents or other obvious deterioration -- although that might be right around the corner.

I think that what you have is very similar or even identical in chemical makeup to what I've been using, as they sound as if they have identical properties, just different colors.  

Additional note, this stuff is really very nice to use under card when pricking, as well as for making a base to attach working diagrams to keep your place while working your lace.  Just insert pins at points you stop, or want to notice, etc.

I guess I should go with my hubby the next time he goes to Lowes and check things out. I know there are different buidling foams but none seemed to be like my pillow. But it has been a few years ago.
Regardless of the exact foam tyoe, getting something from the lumber store and covering it is a good inexpensive alternative for beginners and can be easily replaced when it wears out.

I have been known to prick on the outter area of my pillow or even flip it over and use the bottom. :) I have a scrap piece of the white cheap styrofoam that I covered and use to hold my working diagram while making Binche lace. I thought I was so clever! But have since discovered it is quite common thing to do as you have just described! lol


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