I would like to start a good discussion of the pros and cons of the different types of bobbins. 

Now I realize that different types of lace use different types of bobbins; that some in fact require a certain style.  However, the reality I've seen is that people like a certain style and make all their lace with those bobbins.

Would people please share/review the type of bobbins they prefer and why.

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I currently use these unfinished 5'' bobbins that came in a couple of kits I got cheep.  Some of the ladies in my lace guild call them "clunkers".  Pros: They were cheep.   They have a groove for the tension loop to live in.

Cons: Round - they roll like mad.   Unfinished - leaving splinters in my pillows or catching threads.  I've had to sand a whole lot of them and still haven't found the time to put on a sealant.    Some in the bags have been quite warped.

To be honest I'm looking to upgrade and would love to hear what others like.  I've not been a fan of the spangled, but... I really hate the rolling.

I love my square bobbins. They don't roll and they're easy to move around the pillow. I tried to go back to some Danish bobbins for a project, and they were AWFUL. They were rolling all over the place, and when I tried to move a group, they all rolled.

I prefer continental bobbins of any kind, but mostly I use modern Danish because they are relatively inexpensive. And as you say, they are what I learned on, so I'm comfortable with them.  I did take a Bedfordshire and a Bucks point workshop many years ago, bought a bunch of English and spangled them.  Used them for those workshops.  They drove me nuts.  They are so slender they are harder to pick up, and the spangles flopped around and usually ended up on the pillow upside down.  They are very pretty to look at.  But by the time spangling is done, the cost per bobbin becomes rather high.  For me that has been a serious matter, most of the time.  I do have some square continentals, the 4.25 inch long kind.  They are attractively shaped and don't roll.  I like them well enough, but don't plan to go out and spend hundreds to acquire a huge number.  When I have a project requiring lots, I use my Danish ones.  The Danish are also good for tape lace and macro-Honiton.  The pointed ends don't interfere with sewings, and they hold enough thread to make a tape lace edging without difficulty.  The clunky torchon style Belgian bobbins are good for projects where I'm using 40/2 linen, which is quite thick and needs a large neck to store lots of thread.

But I know well that lace makers tend to prefer whatever they learned on, and accommodate themselves to whatever drawbacks there may be.  By accident I came across a website with plain square continentals at $16.99 for 24.


I have also learned to use the rolling of the bobbins as an asset when I'm doing tallies.  I use what I call the flick-flick method, where I roll the weaver and beater bobbins from side to side, flicking them with my thumbnail.  The squares do flick OK, but I haven't tried that with spangled bobbins.

Am enjoying this discussion and relieved that someone who has been making lace as long and as well as Lorelei finds the spangled bobbins floppy, too. Thought it was just me, although I suspect that we will hear from lacemakers who learned with the spangled bobbins that it is comfortable for them to use them and also that people may prefer what they are used to.

My favorite bobbins are the square ones, but I've used Danish, Swedish, and Dutch style bobbins made in Belgium, and the rolling is not bothersome. However, am still a newbie, so haven't worked with all that many bobbins at a time, so that could make a difference.

There are also some very long continental bobbins available that can be used for laceweight yarn for scarves if you want to try something easy to see.

But I am still going to spangle my English style bobbins and keep trying to use them because they are so pretty. You can keep the cost down quite a bit by looking for the beads on sale or second hand. One of the lacemakers in our guild used a very pretty set of spangled bobbins last weekend in a demonstration and, between her great abilities as a lacemaker, her background as a teacher, and the look of her pillow and equipment,I think she has attracted more people to the craft.

Lace makers are an amazing bunch.  The local guild Pres and I were having a "meeting" to brain storm stuff for next years guild meetings and go over some convention stuff.  Well, before we got started she pulled out a bag of 24 spangled bobbins for me to try.   She has used a number of different bobbins and really likes the spangled ones.  she also gave me some great advice about buying bobbins.  I'm so excited to try them out. 

She also gave me this neat little tool for working in a broken/ too short thread in the middle of a work!  I'll post back my thoughts after I make something fun.

By the way, Robin, I don't think there is anything wrong with your "clunkers".  So long as all the rough spots are sanded off, they are perfectly fine.

I started learning with round dowels.  I graduated to spangled Midlands that were pretty.  I used recycled mood bracelets to get lots of beads to spangle them.  Then I used the short square bobbins.  I now teach with short squares as they don't roll, are affordable,  and are available in dark and light wood.  I just got started on the modern Danish with the square sides and the points. I got some with single heads that I liked better than the double heads which always seemed to come unhitched.I can't find dark wood in the single heads, so I cut off half of the double heads, ( With rose pruners) and sand the tops so that they have single heads and they work best for me.  I also like how their sound is a light clink as they move.  It is a comforting sound.  The short style is good for lighter threads.  Now I only use Midlands for demo pillows with bookmarks having No Sewings! 

Bobbins I no longer prefer have gone to the Consignment table to start others on their quest for "The ones I like BEST!"Julia

Bobbins that work best for you are based on the size of your hands and the type of pillow and lace you make.  I have found it takes time to try out different types of bobbins until you find the style that fits you.  I have large hands and use thick threads so the larger bobbins make me not feel oversized.  Try out a dozen of each style ( buy 1 kind  each year)  don't rush to get lots.  You will soon find what fits you.  I hated Bayou style, but have a friend who loves them. (Instant Birthday Present!) I love the look of traveling midlands but My hands are too big and the bobbins don't hold enough thread... so I will consign them and let them go to a new home. Julia

Thanks Julia et al.  I'm working with the spangled right now and love that they don't roll, however, I'm concerned with sewings.  I am learning Milanese and LOVE Idjria; can you say sew baby sew. *laugh*  We shall see.

I think it depends on what kind of lace I'm making.

I love tape laces, and started out using spangled midlands.  While they're pretty, they're a pain to sew with.  I found square binche bobbins which have become my favorite...so much so that I'm thinking of passing on my midlands bobbins to someone else. 

Learning Hinojosa on a bolster, and have been using the plain Spanish style boxwood bobbins.  They're easy to use "palms-up", and I love the sound they make.  Very smooth, and very inexpensive, too.

I've thought of another factor that I didn't discuss earlier:  How big the neck is and what size thread you typically use.

Traditional English laces are all fine thread laces.  So the necks on spangled bobbins are shallow because the thread itself doesn't take up much room.  This means that if you decide to use a relatively coarse thread - #80 cordonnet - you may not be able to get enough thread wound on each bobbin.   

Honiton bobbins, intended for very fine part lace, do not have spangles, but do have very small necks.  So they aren't suitable for most tape laces, which are usually fairly coarse.  They would be OK for tape lace if you use finer than normal thread.

Continental bobbins (western and central European bobbins) have a variety of neck sizes, which fit the style of lace usually made with them.  Most continentals are 4 inches long, some 4 1/4 inch and some 3 3/4 inch.  Belgian torchon bobbins have large necks, and Swedish bobbins have even larger necks.  Both of these are also a little thicker than most, and weigh a little more.  This means they are better for the thicker threads commonly used for torchon laces and other laces for household decoration.

The remainder of continental bobbins show a range of these attributes: modern Danish and Dutch/Antwerp bobbins are good for moderately fine laces, and work well for tape laces.  Bayeux and Binche bobbins have very shallow necks because Bayeux point ground lace and Binche typically use very fine threads.  

You can see photos of all these on Holly Van Sciver's website.  Personally I have a few different shapes, but not a great number of different kinds.  I have thought it better to select a few styles and buy LOTS of them, so I have enough bobbins of the same type to use on virtually any project.

The ones I use mose often are modern Danish, Belgian torchon, Dutch/Antwerp and Springett's acorn bobbins.  I have a large set of English spangled, but almost never use them.

I have used both Midlands and Continental bobbins, but for the past several years it's only been Continentals.  You can get them cheaper.  I loved the new Netherlands bobbins, with the turning and all, but they are a modern invention, and I have come to the conclusion that the old designs are best. Theold ones have been designed to the needs of lacemakers who made lace for a living.  So while they look simple, they have features that are useful.  Such as the ability to pull by the bulb at the bottom to get good tension. Or catch a loop with the tiny ball at the end.  At one time I wanted to turn my own bobbins, but with some Continental bobbins regularly at $1 a piece, it doesn't make economic sense, since I'd have to buy a good lathe. 

I have never been tempted to try square bobbins, and have no problem with rolling.  And Continentals have that lovely clink to them, which to me means lacemakers.  An arc of Continentals is my idea of pretty, especially if they are all the same. 

I recently bought some small Binche bobbins in rosewood at an estate sale, which fit a travel pillow nicely because they are a bit shorter than those now sold.  I usually buy the cheap light wood, but these are rosewood, very polished.  I am struck by the different sound they make sort of a higher pitched clink, and I love the way they feel in the hand.  But really, bobbins are tools, and as long as they work efficiently and comfortably, that is all that really matters.  On the other had, pretty is always nice....


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