Early Bobbin Lace

Early Bobbin Lace is the lace designed up until the mid 17th century, or approximately 1650.  These early laces were often made freehand, but they are not the same as what has become known as the peasant free hand laces of many regions.  All aspects of early lace are welcome for discussion here, including revival era laces, publications new and old, materials, etc.

Members: 61
Latest Activity: Apr 7

Examples + Resources 

From Caroluskantjes.

From LePompe 

Nuw Modelbuoch available as a free download ;

From Rosemary Shepherd 

Gillian Dye's early lace website + her books ;

Another, source unknown

Katherine Davies,various sources, including Art Institute of Chicago

Lena Dahren, Med kant av guld och silver, En studie av knypplade barder och uddar av meetall 1550-1640,  This study examines bobbin-made borders and edgings in gold and silver during the period 1550-1640. The Swedish collections that were studied are unusually well provenanced, which is very important when studying lace, as there were so many copies of lace made in the 19th century. It is a dissertation presented to Uppsala Universitet in 2010. It is in Swedish, but there are so many beautiful color photos and diagrams that it is still a useful book for the non-Swedish speaker, although it would be even more useful if it were to be translated. One thing that sets it apart is that the author is a skilled lacemaker as well as a scholar. The address given for distribution is but Lena informs me that the only dealer who carries it is Barbara Fay Verlag so potential buyers should contact Barbara Fay Verlag.

The successor to the OIDFA Freehand Lace Study Group-

Book List

These may be a little late--mid 17th c

Discussion Forum

Stitches used in early bobbin lace 20 Replies

Please, has anyone determined for sure what stitches and connection methods were used in bobbin lace in the 16th Century?  Did they ever just twist the thread rather than plait it?  And did they use…Continue

Started by Laurie Elliott. Last reply by Kimberly Davis Apr 7.

Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520-1620 11 Replies

Of great interest to Early Lace enthusiasts is the exhibit Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520-1620, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. This features the…Continue

Tags: #FashionandVirtue

Started by Devon Thein. Last reply by Carolina de la Guardia Mar 17, 2016.

Spangles on lace 15 Replies

I was curious about what research has been done regarding spangles on early lace.I was reading a copy of Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King…Continue

Started by Nancy M. Terselic. Last reply by Elizabeth Ligeti Dec 17, 2014.

Tips for planning a museum visit for lace 6 Replies

Greetings!I'm planning to visit a museum which has several samples of 16th and 17th C bobbin lace.  Based on the website, only one piece of the period lace is out on display, and it seems that most…Continue

Started by Nancy M. Terselic. Last reply by Kathleen Minniti Jul 21, 2014.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Lorelei Halley Administrator on February 21, 2014 at 2:17pm

A new lace book is always exciting.  But 3 at once !!!

Comment by Nancy M. Terselic on February 21, 2014 at 12:42am

Instead of for Christmas, my dear husband got me the 3 Gilian Dye early lace books for Valentine's Day!  I am so excited - in the 2nd book I saw that Gilian also worked the two New Modelbook narrow laces that I had done!   I can hardly wait to compare her reconstructions to mine, although I'm on a bit of a deadline with the lace currently on my pillow...  I'm really looking forward to poring through these books in the next several weeks.  Squeee!

Comment by Selena Marie Joosten on February 6, 2014 at 2:41pm

I have just come from your other picture of this bobbin winder, to find the other pictures you added will probably answere my questions on the how this bobbin winder works. This one really looks an easier one to make and i love that it is made of wood.

Comment by Nancy M. Terselic on February 5, 2014 at 12:28am

No apologies needed, this is a great discussion!  

Here is a picture of the lace winder I had a woodworker friend of mine make based on the illustration in Stott's book.  I also added a couple pictures of it with a bobbin on it being wound in my photos on this site.They had all kinds of tools for fiber arts in the middle ages, and since bobbin lace arose from those other arts I imagine they re-purposed some of those tools for lace until lace became its own art.  Early bobbin winders could be the same tools they used to wind weaving bobbins. Bobbins for holding thread would become our lace bobbins.  Tightly stuffed pillows were used for embroidery, and could have become our lace pillows. The question becomes, at what point did tools specifically made just for bobbin lace arise?

While bobbin lace in time became a cottage industry practiced by the poor (the first German lace manual talks about how widows and orphans can learn it to earn money to help themselves), I don't know if that is how it began.  It is thought that, early on, lace was made by nuns for the church, and then it was used for tablecloths and other linens before it became a fashion accessory.  Before sumptuary laws came into being prohibiting the use of gold and silver in lace, it would have been very difficult for a poor person to even get the materials needed to make that lace; precious metals and silk would have kept it out of range of the poor. Only when lace was mostly done in linen would it have moved out to the lower classes.

Tools are part of that equation as well.  "Bone bobbins" listed in the Este family inventory of the 1490s - that was certainly a well-to-do family.  Was it done for profit or for leisure?  There is a whole separate discussion that could be had about the pins - were thorns and fishbones used, as some stories say?  Pins and needles were certainly known in the Renaissance, although fine quality pins were a little pricey.

I don't know when candle stools came into use, but I can see the need so that people can work in the winter when there's not as much daylight.  Another theory is that they were needed since lacemakers worked in damp cellars - the dampness being better for the very fine linen threads (and horrible for the lace maker's health!).

So much to think about!

Comment by Selena Marie Joosten on February 4, 2014 at 2:59pm

If this is the Princess lace pillow you are talking about, i can surely see it would be a cramed up experience doing lace on, i do like how it looks though.

As far as the Google books link you gave me I could not find a picture or the measurements of the bobbin lace winder in Stotts book, i looks through each preview even the ones in chinese! I know it is my lack of computer skills and it will be there somewhere but now i'm real curious. Imagine being able to make these winders! my husband is a wood turner, i'm sure it wouldn't be too hard as they didn't have the tools in those days we have now.

I think its because our Bobbin lace craft is an old craft and now there is machine made lace, so there is no big factories that make the tools for lace, but i do see the the craft comming back and i think the spouses of us lace makers take it upon themselves to make some of the tools required, i know i used my husbands mill to make bobbins out of dowling and got quite creative and confident with it, i even thought maybe i could supply NZ with bobbins, but there are already a few husbands on the job.

Do you think maybe there was not much pre-1700s lace equipment or do you know for a fact that there was, i know only when lace just started out only the very elite could buy the lace, it was priced more than gold i remember reading about a king that bought so much of this lace when it was first made, you may even know this story. In this time it was the poorest people whom made the lace and a middle man bought it from them to sell it on, so these poor people had to make up bobbin out of nails and fill these glass bulbs with water to sit by their candles so they could see better.

I'm sorry to go on abit but when it comes to the history of lace making I find it hard to stop.

Comment by Nancy M. Terselic on February 3, 2014 at 6:00pm

I just went by the date listed on the antiques atlas website - CIRCA 1800 George III Antiques.

I've found it very hard to get information about pre-1700s lace equipment, too - I've seen extant samples of the lace and clothing online, but not the tools.  In terms of modern tools, unless you're willing to order things online it's very hard to get the supplies you need for lacemaking in the US as well. 

The oldest bobbin lace item I have is a Princess pillow.  Wow - I'm amazed anyone was able to use this thing to make much lace, it seems so small and awkward to me.

I'm wondering if Geraldine Stott saw the medieval winder in a museum in Belgium since she provides the measurements for making it...?

Comment by Selena Marie Joosten on February 3, 2014 at 3:09pm

Nancy, you must really know your equipment well, i went back to the site to read about how old they said the bobbin winder was and they did not say. As much as i tried to find some 1500s bobbin winders i had no luck. I too am interested in antiques and have a small collection myself but nothing to do with bobbin lace, i found it quite a challenge just getting the necessary items for basic bobbin lace making being an unusual craft in my country.

Comment by Nancy M. Terselic on February 3, 2014 at 11:12am


The winder you found appears to be Georgian era (1700-1800s) - I was wondering about winders from the 1500s.  I'm thinking that they may have used something similar to what they used to wind weaving bobbins and shuttles, but beyond the picture in Stott, I haven't be able to find anything.

If you don't have Stott's book, you can see the winder in a Google Books preview, page 36 and 37: The Bobbin Lace Manual

Comment by Lorelei Halley Administrator on January 22, 2014 at 7:19pm

That video shows a braid made of 4 pairs, instead of the usual 2 paris. It is used fairly often in Cluny laces, but I don't think I've seen it in Bedfordshire.

Comment by Selena Marie Joosten on January 22, 2014 at 4:04pm

This looks a very interesting type of lace.


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