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 sewings?  I am a little confused because of differing instructions in books on modern reconstructions.

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Usually, they do not use sewing... and yes, twists were made when necessary. 

The methods, some times very clever to get the intended result, just combining plaits and twists, as well as tallies, rectangular shapes, sometimes very long, and triangled tallies. The design of these laces was copied often from needle laces, these, earlier in time to bobbin lace having a great similarity in their results.

Rosemary Sheppherd book gives very accurate information in its book "An early lace workbook". I attended an interesting course on early laces with her some years ago in Italy, 

Carolina, thank you for such a prompt answer.  

I had read directions that called for several sewings and had been wondering if they really had started using them that early.  

The other issue that prompted me to ask is because another lacer had been directed to use plaits only in LePompe reproductions when there are areas in the patterns that appear too narrow for them to have been done by plaiting.  I have a small remainder of a piece of lace purported to be from that era, and the thread is thicker than we would use now and it appears less open than the reconstructions, although that could be due to shrinkage.

I agree with Carolina that sewings are not usually used.  At this time, I do not think it is possible to say it never happened.  I have seen some very creative joins.  One of my favorites is where two bobbins simply swing around one another and change directions.  It is a very slick maneuver.  There is an article Sue Lambiris wrote years ago in the Bulletin where she works this maneuver and names it a "do-si-do."  Ii think that gives a very good mental picture of what is happening in that move.  If you do not have access to the issue please let me know, I can scan a copy of the particular page with the diagram.

There were really not a lot of rules established at this time, and people did what was necessary to solve their issues.  I think how you should treat puzzles in the patterns depends very much on your end goal.  If you are working a reconstruction, you should be faithful to the photographic evidence you have in front of you.  This can be complicated by the original worker not using the same method of joining on each repeat, in which case it is best to document all methods seen.  With that said, if you are in the SCA or other period groups and you are interested in keeping "in period" then I would not fret as much.  To be truly in the headspace of a 16th century lacemaker might mean simply being pragmatic.  There is a great deal of evidence in surviving laces that things were simply in an evolutionary state and people were experimenting.   Study and then use the tools you have along with your creativity to solve problems. 

I have been working to gather all of the joins I have seen in early pieces.  I think this will be a handy tool box.


I think that mostly sewings were not usual. But there are several examples of tape/braid laces in LePompe 1559. Tape laces have to have sewings. But I also think there are some examples of braided/plaited laces in Lepompe which have a Flanders type crossing of plaits.

The crossings are of 2 braids (4 pairs), which is exactly what you need to work a unite of old Flanders ground (or rose ground).  I crossed the braids/plaits

tctc 2 center pairs

tctc 2 left pairs

tctc 2 right pairs

tctc 2 center pairs

The end result looks a lot like some of the woodcuts in LePompe

Thank you all so very much!

Le Pompe is a great resource for the early laces, and another one is Gil Dye. She has a web site and a contact address there, and I know she would help you if you wrote to her. She has studied the Early Laces and written books about them so would be one of the main places to go to ask these questions!  I had a marvelous class with her one week at IOLI convention, which really stretched my brain !!, but was SO enjoyable.

Elizabeth, thank you.  I have Gil's books on 16th and 17th Century lace, missed getting into her class on it at 2019 IOLI Convention by one person, was able to get into her tape lace class and talk with her some.  She is delightful. 

I will look for her website.


     Here is a list of books I put together a few years back which I use when I teach. I updated this list for an article I wrote 2 years ago in addition to the books, but can't put my finger on that one at the moment.   I have a large file of "unfiled" things that I am hoping to get through during this shutdown!  I will send it along when I get it properly filed.

      Gil and I have studied together as time and circumstances have allowed,  and we made a really fun discovery years ago when she was here in Sunnyvale, CA.  We were looking at some laces together, and discovered that the laces from England and from Italy were a vastly different scale some of the time.  We had been exchanging things by email for a long time and not realized the scale was different.  I think she may have written about it once, I will need to see which article that was in!   I am fairly certain it was in the Bulletin.   In any case, she has published more books than are currently on the list and they are always great!

      I have two books that are almost ready for publication, but have been put on the back burner many times due to much death and sickness around me.  My editor and I are just finishing up the first book to come out this summer, but she has been suffering from Covid-19 for about a month now.  She turned the corner about a 10 days ago, and this week we are easing back into our schedule.  I am optimistic we will still finish, but if not, health is always more important!



Here is the section of the article I promised with the "do-si-do" in it.  Is it ok to post IOLI articles in full here since this is an IOLI board?  I wasn't sure if everyone here had to have IOLI membership, and if it is ok to do so even if they are. 

Thanks, Kim

Kim, thank you again for being so generous with information and for the book list. 

Bobbin lace from the 15th and 16th centuries is very intriguing, and you gave me a taste of working it for the first time in your wire lace class in Newberg.

I have all of Gil's, Rosemary Sheperd's, Fascinating Bobbin Lace, and and Santina Levey's LePompe, have seen some of the others discussed, have looked at material online, particularly from museums and libraries in Europe, have found the original LePompe, LePompe Secundo, Nuw Modelbuch, and Parasole's Stickereien U. Spitzen.   

How do you think the information on the old woodcut patterns was disseminated and where would the lacemarkers have seen them, does anyone have a theory? I am imagining that one lacemaker might have seen a pattern, drawn it out herself, figured out how to make the lace, then taught others.  I am sure you and the others know a lot more about that.

I read in the IOLI Bulletin about you and a book on early lace but had assumed it was already out, looked on the Lace Museum's site and on Holly's but finally figured out that it might be something that IOLI was expecting to have been published by the time Convention was held.

I am sorry illnesses have held them up, hope everyone gets better, stays safe, and that we know when your books get published.  


        In the beginning we believe lace was made freehand.   There are still some traditions which use this.  It means to go completely without a pricking.  If that was the case, many people could share one book.  Once a sample was made, people could work from that.   There is great evidence suggesting the laces were made freehand, but not for prickings.  Checks and stripes are commonly used for freehand lace now, as it helps a lacemaker gauge her pattern and keep the edge straight.  This is possible for that period, although there is no evidence to date.  We have also considered fabric patterns as a possibility.  I believe Gil talks about this in one of her books, although I do not recall which one offhand at this moment.  It is one of the newer ones.  I would try the one with the Isham samples, first. 

       There was a group through OIDFA which was working with Freehand lace, and then a web group developed.  I inherited the information and site from Vibeke Ervo when she passed.  She was actually the first to pass in my 5 years of loosing so many people, I believe that was September 2015.  I had all of the information transferred to a site, but my own mother was dying just two months later and I did not quite get it looking pretty.  Ironically, I am working on it now.  It should be up and running in the next few weeks, and will have a lot of great links to look at .  I will be sure to post to this group when it is ready again.





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