Lace has always seemed like a mystery, but after watching some magical and demystifying TikToks from erenanaomi, I jumped fully down the rabbit hole of bobbin lace making.
People have had lots of questions for me about materials, tutorials and more, so I decided to put together this post with resources I found helpful. I hope this is useful for folks who are interested in the hobby, but not sure where to start, or even people who have no idea what bobbin lace is and just wanna know more.
(And maybe, just maybe, bobbin lace making will become the new pandemic craft everyone embraces. Doilies for DAYS!)
Pro-tip: If you’ve ever made friendship bracelets, chokers, those braided keychains from Girl Scouts (apparently called boondoggles?!) or went through a hemp jewelry phase, I feel like you’ll catch on fast.
Bobbin lace supplies:
You can definitely give bobbin lace a try on a budget. I saw a variety of DIYs for making your own pillows, bobbins and more. It seems like you could get pretty creative for initial supplies and slowly invest in more as you go.
Where did I get my lace pillow? For my first go, I used a pool noodle, cardboard, poly-fill, felt, a skewer, twill tape and a pillowcase. You can see a quick video of my assembly here. (FYI, it’s a cookie pillow if it’s flat and round and a bolster pillow is the rolly bit. The rolly bit makes it easier to make a line of lace vs a flat project.)
What about my bobbins? I got my bobbins from Lacis, a local lace and notion store that is a fantastic source for very specific sewing and craft needs. Bobbins were the only thing I spent money on, and even then, I was lucky to have won a gift certificate from my local costume guild GBACG that paid for it. (GBACG is a great nonprofit and has a ton of resources if you need them.)
Here’s a fantastic tutorial from cajahsr that goes over using household items to make your first set of supplies.
Katherina Weyssin’s blog has a fantastic breakdown of materials, both improvised and more advanced.
This is another really basic overview of materials and setup you’ll need to get started, including info on how to finish off your piece.
Getting started with bobbin lace:
I had so many questions from folks about how to get started. Lots of you have kits or materials from family members, or have just been meaning to look into it, and that’s great! Below are a couple of tutorials I found VERY useful when I got started. Again, these are all FREE to watch., and if they aren’t helpful, you can easily search “beginners bobbin lace” to find another video that might help.
Again, cajahsr has a great tutorial for getting your bobbins wound and your pattern and pillow prepped. This was a way better tutorial than the WikiHow article, which very much led me astray.
YouTuber Bryce Adams also has a bunch of lace and tatting tutorials.
Bobbin lace stitches:
Cloth stitch is a decent place to start. I started on this website and used the free pattern in combination with the video below to do it.
Here’s a cloth stitch tutorial from cajahsr that is very useful for the first pattern you’re probably gonna work on.
You ready to keep learning? Here’s a great sampler that will walk you through cross, twist, half stitch, plait and lazy joins.
More bobbin lace lessons:
It may not be the most modern site, but lynxlace has a LOT of good resources and free lessons. Here’s the directory of the lessons. On YouTube, RedCardinalCrafts has a whole playlist of bobbin lace tutorials.
When you finish your piece, you of course need to tie if off, but you can also use these tips to heat and set it, or even starch it.
Free bobbin lace patterns:
Katherina Weyssin has a great page of bobbin lace patterns, mainly Renaissance.
What is bobbin lace?
You might immediately have mental images of doilies and layers of scratchy lace circa 1980s children’s clothes, but bobbin lace has been around awhile, and hasn’t always been synonymous with antique shops.
Looking for a detailed overview of the history of lace? I’ll let the experts take this one:
If you look through museum collections, you can see how simple and complex these patterns can be. From caps, cravats and trim, to colorful, metallic lace. There’s fantastic examples in the archives worth perusing for inspiration and aspiration.
I noticed many bobbins, the shaped cylinders that hold the thread as you go, in modern DIY videos have beads hanging off the ends. That is a great way to add personality to a bobbin, but also a good way to maintain matching pairs easily as your work through your pattern. When I was looking through museum archives, I saw that historically these bobbins have been marked and decorated. It’s kind of cool to see them with similar beading, and even inscriptions.
When machine made mesh started coming into fashion, you could still see people using bobbin lace to decorate their net clothing and accessories.
What inspired me to get into this?
A few things happened around the same time and it just kind of worked out.
1. I stumbled on erenanaomi on TikTok. Her lace videos were not only mesmerizing, they were educational. She has a whole series called “Beyond the Veil” about really interesting lace-related stories in history. But recently I saw the video on How to Get Started in Bobbin Lace (embedded below) and it started me a minor rabbit hole on YouTube.
2. I won a gift certificate from my local costume guild for Lacis, a really great store I talked about earlier. From watching the videos I knew I could start off with items in my household, but I decided to splurge ($24) on a pack of wooden bobbins. I figure if I didn’t like the hobby I can gift them, but so far it has been a treat.
3. I have been realllllly into the insertion lace I used for my Edwardian wardrobe I started building months ago and because of that I have been fascinated with lace, and have been wanting to make some nerdy designs. I don’t have a fancy embroidery machine (but hey, if you’re looking to have me be a brand ambassador just email me) so exploring this by hand seemed the best option.
So this just seemed like a really fun new hobby and so far it’s been a treat.
Q: It seems confusing to keep track of the different bobbins.
It can be, but people use beads or other creative decorations to keep their bobbin pairs easily identifiable.
Q: If you pause, how do you remember what’s the next steps (for a forgetful person).
In the lessons I’ve checked out so far, everyone has their own method that works for them. some people work at a diagonal, so they always know what comes next. I feel like you could probably use a special pin to mark where you need to pick it back up again.
For me, I look at the pattern and see what’s next in the pattern, aka what is left undone. Once you start working on patterns that need joins I think it becomes pretty clear how far you can twist or plait a set of bobbins before you need the next set finished.
Q: How the bobbins are prepared, how long should the thread be?
I’ve linked to videos and tutorials on how to prep your bobbin, but the TLDR is: you measure out some thread and then wind it evenly on your bobbin, ending with a slip knot that you can adjust as you go.
How long your thread should be depends on your project. I’d say for your first samplers keep it around [insert measurement here]. If you run out of thread there ARE resources and tools on how to tie off and bring new thread in.
Q: What books/tutorials are you using?
So far I haven’t picked up a book, but I have used a bunch of the tutorials linked here.
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