It’s been a while

Four months have passed since I’ve done any lace (and even longer since I’ve done any blogging). This isn’t unusual though- especially in winter when the nights are too dark to see the intricate stitches properly and I give in to my hibernation tendencies and just read on the sofa in my PJs once the kids are in bed. And then there was Christmas with its associated planning, shopping, nativities and parties, and I also went back to work after Mat Leave in mid-October so really the free time has been squeezed. Having said that I’ve not been entirely uncreative- I’ve been sewing quite a lot; a few tops for the girls and a number of garments for me. And I’ve had longer spells than this away from the lace but however long it’s been, it never seems to take too long to get back into it.

So from famine to feast.

This weekend felt like a real indulgence as I spent most of Saturday at North West Lacemakers and then Sunday afternoon at my friend’s house where she’d done a ‘crafternoon tea’- the basic premise being to eat cake, drink tea and make things!


Church Meadow Crafts were the suppliers at the lace meeting on Saturday. I got most of my lace making equipment from them when I got back into lace about 16 years ago but even when you think you’ve got everything you need you can always be tempted with something new. And of course, when you haven’t got time to make anything, you buy a load of stuff instead for when you will have time (right??? Or is that just me?!?)

Well anyway, I came away with a new travel cushion which they call the Lapman.


Apologies for the dark pictures

It’s really lightweight, has its own waterproof bag and has blocks so I can make bigger pieces of lace than on my small round travel pillow. It will fit nicely in the footwell of the car, under the numerous changing bags, toys and cases we need whenever we go away for the weekend. And I sometimes get to meet other crafters at work on a lunchtime so it’ll be easy to bring with me on the train. So it’s pretty perfect for my needs. (Note the post-hoc rationalisation going on with this purchase… 🙂).

I also bought this book as I’d not seen it before and I liked the look of some of the projects.


I got a bit of lace done, had a look at what others were making and listened to David Turner speak to us about the background of Church Meadow Crafts and some of the challenges involved in running both a lace supplies business and an events programme (they organise the Pudsey Lace Day and the new Haydock day).

So yeah, Saturday was good.

And then Sunday there was lace too, but with cake 🙂. It was a gorgeous drive across the tops towards Yorkshire- a sunny day which soon became snowy but the light was lovely so I had to stop the car and breathe it all in. I love my family life, but moments of solitude are what help me recharge, so even just this drive was like a mini-break to me.


And then I got there and we put the world to rights and my friends helped me solve a dilemma. And we drank tea out of proper china cups and ate sandwiches and cream scones and cake- a big cake- which was divine.

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And then I couldn’t move much, but managed to finish a wing of my Honiton butterfly and bow off some pairs (with the top button of my jeans undone!)


And then I drove back through the snowy twilight to a house full of children and my parents who had arrived to stay for half term. And Dad had made a dressmakers clapper for me, which was kind of better than Valentine’s roses really.


The previous weekend rocked too, with the Yorkshire Spoolettes meet up in Dewsbury. I met some lovely new sewing friends at the meet-up and discovered some great new (to me) blogs to read and Instagram feeds to follow. Getting together with others who share your passions always inspires. (Unfortunately I was too busy chatting and shopping to get any pictures but there are some on Thimberlina’s page!)

So now I’m restored and fired up and full of potential projects. I have a shelf full of fabric ready to be cut and made into some new clothes, and my hands are itching to get back to the lace.

So it really is all pretty good right now 🙂

Lace in literature

One of the things I enjoyed about the Made Up initiative were the quotes from literature regarding sewing which Karen posted on her DidYouMakeThat blog. I’ve only ever found a handful relating to lace or lace making but I’m sharing a couple of my favourites here which are both of a time when lace-making was more of a way of life.


First up has to be Little Grey Rabbit Makes Lace by Alison Uttley. P1100181This is a charming children’s book featuring the well-known characters of Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel and Hare. The story involves Grey Rabbit’s friends helping her to get together the equipment for her to learn to make lace (which she does with amazing speed!). The descriptions are quite accurate in terms of what was needed and how the lace is made:

The little rabbit sat at the door with her pillow on her knee, and the bobbins hanging down. She tossed the bobbins over and crossed the threads and moved the pins down the paper pattern, while they all watched her paws. A tiny strip of lace appeared, and it took the shape of a bee.

P1100182I love reading this book to my girls and it’s great that these books are still so popular many years after their first publication.

Another passage is from the autobiographical novel Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. These books inspired the BBC TV series of the same name a few years ago, and one of the characters- Queenie- could sometimes be seen making lace in the programme. Written in the late 1930s and early 1940s the book documents a now bygone way of life. In one of the chapters, Survivals Flora talks of the traditional country ways which are rapidly disappearing, including Queenie’s lace making. Set in Oxfordshire there would have been many lacemakers in the area, and it was during the 1940s that the craft virtually disappeared everywhere. This passage speaks of the transition during Queenie’s lifetime:

There had been a time, it appeared when lace-making was a regular industry in the hamlet. Queenie, in her childhood, had been ‘brought up to the pillow’, sitting among the women at eight years old and learning to fling her bobbins with the best of them. They would gather in one cottage in winter for warmth, she said, each one bringing her faggot or shovel of coals for the fire and there they would sit all day, working, gossiping, singing old songs, telling old tales till it was time to run home and put on the pots for their husbands’ suppers. These were the older women and the young unmarried girls; the women with little children did what lace-making they could at home. In very cold winter weather the lace-makers would have a small earthen pot with a lid, called a ‘pipkin’, containing hot embers, at which they warmed their hands and feet and sometimes sat upon. 

In the summer they would sit in the shade behind one of the ‘housen’, and, as they gossiped, the bobbins flew and the lovely, delicate pattern lengthened until the piece was completed and wrapped in blue paper and stored away to await the great day when the year’s work was taken to Banbury Fair and sold to the dealer. [….]

Now, of course, things were different. She didn’t know what the world was coming to. This nasty machine-made stuff had killed the lace-making; the dealer had not been to the Fair for the last ten years; nobody knew a bit of good stuff when they saw it. Said they liked the Nottingham lace better; it was wider and had more pattern to it! She still did a bit to keep her hand in […] but, as for living by it, no, those days were over.

Lace-makers of Cranfield, image from a postcard, credited to Robert Cheetham 1906

Lace-makers of Cranfield, image from a postcard, credited to Robert Cheetham 1906

It sounds so lovely and cosy in winter, doesn’t it, but the women had to work very hard to earn their money, often in bad light and for little pay. And I’m sure doing something every day to make a pittance soon takes the fun out of it, so I guess we’re lucky that it is an enjoyable pastime for us, not a necessity. The group work must have been wonderful though and can only in part be replicated in some of our lace, sewing or craft groups and online communities.

I’ve also read a couple of books with lace as a theme or backdrop in recent years- The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry and The Lacemakers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri amongst them. Have you come across any others? I’d love to hear about them.

Made Up Initiative- completed!

I had so much fun making these items for the Made Up Initiative! I pledged to make two items back in August and here they are.


First up, the Torchon bookmark. I’d not made much Torchon lace for a while so this was a lovely project to do on holiday in the quiet time after the kids were asleep. I used ecru fils a dentelles thread and a dusky pink Cotton Perle 8 gimp thread which I think work beautifully together.


The only changes I made from the pattern were to swap the leaf plaits for spiders, and the edge fans to whole stitch with a twist before the edge. Like many Torchon bookmark patterns, this pattern lends itself so well to customisation- I’ll write about the different effects you could create, and the stitches I used in a separate post.


I mounted the bookmark onto hessian and some pink linen ribbon which give it some stability.


I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out and it was a good alternative from the Honiton fillings I’ve been wrestling with recently :-/


For the the sewing part of my pledge I made this Bronte top and I have to say it’s turned out to be one of my favourite things I’ve made.


It was refashioned from an old pair of my PJs and some leftover eyelet fabric and as I already had the pattern this was a completely free project- gotta love that!

The raw materials

The raw materials

I used the ribbon which was previously the waistband for the front bodice binding which I think adds a nice feature. The buttons are from Duttons in York.


When I cut the pattern out I kept the original leg hem for both the sleeve hems and back bodice hem which reduced the sewing time considerably and meant I could make it up in an evening. One of the original leg side seams also runs down the centre back:


It’s a lovely snug fit and so comfy- and I can legitimately now wear PJs to work, ha!

And the best news is that (as I write) the initiative has raised over £2500 for the National Literacy Trust. Well done, Karen for organising this and to everyone involved in making things. It’s been great seeing some of the amazing finished items over on Instagram.


Yesterday I was winding the bobbins for the Torchon bookmark I’m making for my Made Up pledge and someone asked me what I was going to use them to make. ‘Oh, it’s just a bookmark’ I said, to which they replied ‘it doesn’t look like “just” a bookmark to me; it looks pretty complicated.’

That word – just.

It could’ve meant; this is a simple project beneath my current skill level. It could’ve meant the finished object wasn’t going to be useful, or worth it. Or it could even have been used to indicate deference to the other person’s perceived skill level. I often hear lacemakers and other creative types use the word just, to mean any or all of these things. “It’s just a simple edging I’m doing to pass the time”. “It’s just a Sorbetto for the summer”.

But the first lace edging you make, or Sorbetto top you sew isn’t ‘just’. It’s a big deal. It represents achievement, learning and a swell of excitement as a new world of possibility and creativity reveals itself.

Of course as makers it’s important to stretch, challenge and improve. But sometimes it is good to take a breather, and to revisit simpler things. If you put it into the context of literacy, which is what the Made Up initiative is all about, just because I have the ability to read Proust, doesn’t mean that he is all I have to read and it also doesn’t mean that I can’t equally enjoy reading Julia Donaldson to my children- the words may be simpler but the enjoyment is still there, and it’s still a fantastic use of my time.

Revisiting simpler projects can also remind us how far we’ve come; it lets us hone skills or experiment with new techniques. But most importantly it is also still creating. I’ll still have a beautiful bookmark by 10 September (all being well)….

And my simple (to me) little bookmark has already helped to raise lots of money for the National Literacy Trust. All of these things we’re ‘just’ creating will contribute towards unlocking that new world of possibility for others. And that’s just wonderful, as far as I’m concerned.

Young Woman Reading by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens ; image source:

Young Woman Reading by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens ; image source:

Made Up Initiative- my pledge

If you’re a reader of sewing blogs you can’t fail to have noticed the launch of the Made Up initiative by Karen at DidYouMakeThat. This is a beautifully simple idea to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust by donating money and pledging to sew or make something by 10 September.

I was lucky enough to be read to every day as a child, and developed into an avid reader who took a book with me EVERYWHERE. I now love reading to my children every bedtime and both me and my husband volunteer in local schools listening to children read. My eldest is 6 and is just starting to immerse herself in the Roald Dahl books which is just a delight to see. So when this initiative came along there was no way I wasn’t going to get involved!

I’ve pledged to make two things, both with a literary theme. Firstly, I’ll make a lace bookmark, using Torchon lace.

P1120480I went through my pattern files to find a bookmark I’d not made before and unearthed a pattern sheet which looks like it might be from the 1970s or 1980s but unfortunately there aren’t any designer details and I can’t make out the signature at the bottom left, so I’m afraid I can’t attribute it. I’m making design B which contains roseground, whole stitch and twist fans, and I’m going to replace the leaf plaits with spiders.


For my sewing project I’m making a refashioned Bronte top (the pledges don’t have to have a literary connection BTW…. 🙂 I’ve had this idea buzzing round my head for a while now but this pledge has given me the impetus to just focus and do it. I had a short sleeved white Bronte cut out and ready to stitch, but the fabric was a little too see-through and as it was a remnant from another project I didn’t have enough left to double it up. At the same time I’d had an idea for using some old grey PJ bottoms and a remnant of eyelet to make an eyelet fronted top, inspired by garments such as these:

Left- top from Mint Velvet; Right- top from Boden

Left- top from Mint Velvet; Right- top from Boden

I was possibly going to make a Grainline Linden sweatshirt, but didn’t have enough fabric for that either. It was during a 4am baby feed that I realised I could kill two birds with one stone and combine the two. So I’ve cut the sleeves, binding and back bodice from the PJs and will use the white front bodice underneath the eyelet. Those nightfeeds are often great thinking times!!

The raw materials

The raw materials

I’ve got til 10th September to get these made and will post back when they’re done. If you’re taking part in the initiative, good luck and I can’t wait to see all the finished items at the end. If you’re not taking part, you can still donate at the Just Giving site here.

Making a tool roll


Today I’m sharing a project I’ve made to keep my various lacemaking tools together.

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They were previously all being kept in this tin:


which I bought once in John Lewis. The tin was fine when I’m at home but a bit bulky when I’m out- I’ve been lucky enough to have some time making lace in the gorgeous Loft Space recently so needed something a bit more portable.

I’ve had this Cath Kidston book for some time now and was drawn to the jewellery roll project.



I had some fabric left from a top I’d made which I used with some white bias binding round the edge and for the ties. The only changes I made were to replace the ring holder with another small pocket.


The tools I need with me fit into the tool roll perfectly and I was pleased with how well the zip went in.


The instructions were really clear and I enjoyed making this project- it was quick and easy and was a bit of a change from lace and from the other sewing I’ve been doing recently.


Thanks for reading!

Book review: Contemporary Lace for You by Jane Atkinson

I have to confess that I’ve only ever really concentrated on traditional lace and techniques, occasionally using coloured threads but never really deviating in my techniques and interpretations. However I have always been intrigued and interested in contemporary techniques so bought Jane Atkinson’s book Contemporary Lace for You to find out more.


Most of the other lace books I have are either instruction manuals or just photographs, but this book was pitched somewhere in between, concentrating in large part on the creative process and design elements.This was a pleasant surprise and I spent a few evenings just reading the book, rather than flicking through to a pattern or technique that I was interested in, which I would usually do when I get a new lace book.


There was plenty of interesting information about how we think and how we find deign inspiration and in that respect I think it would be an interesting read for anyone creative, lace-maker or not.


The colours and threads Jane uses are beautiful and the finished pieces inspiring. The location photographs by David Bird are stunning using the Dorset landscape to enhance the pieces.


Patterns aren’t included in the book but are available on Jane’s website at: which is well worth a visit even if you’re not after a pattern. However there is a whole chapter in the book on different grids and how to use them.


I’d love to try out some of these ideas and can see that I could easily combine working on my traditional lace with experimenting with new techniques on another pillow. Have you? Any tips for me?!?

‘Funky’ Carrickmacross

Even though I’ve been making lace for most of my life, it’s always good to expand and learn new techniques when you get the chance. So last summer I took part in a workshop  run by Janet French from Janet and Sandra’s Craft Shop, called Funky Carrickmacross.

Carrickmacross lace originated in Ireland in the 1820s and is a form of needlelace or decorated net.

Image source: The Lace Guild

Image source: The Lace Guild


There are a couple of methods of making it- one is to cut motifs and sprigs from machine-made lace and then appliqué them on to net; the other is made by stitching organdie to a net with a pattern underneath and then cutting away the surplus organdie and finishing it with further stitching. This is the technique we used.

Kate Middleton’s wedding veil was made in the style of Carrickmacross, but the workshop I attended wasn’t so ambitious as to attempt to make a wedding veil in two hours (Kate’s apparently took many embroiderers many, many hours to make – they had to change needles every three hours and wash their hands every 30 minutes!). Anyhow, this Carrickmacross was ‘funky’ as it used different colours and textures, but with the same traditional techniques. I’ve never made needlelace or decorated net before so this was a great bite-sized introduction.

To start we chose a template and covered it with clear sticky-back plastic. Over this was layered a piece of net then a piece of organza. These layers were then all tacked together.

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We used a strand of embroidery cotton to couch a thicker thread round the template. Some people used metallic threads and some used coloured.

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Once the outline was complete you could embellish it with beads, french knots or other techniques. I used beads; Janet’s sample (shown below) had French knots.

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Then we removed the tacking thread from the three layers and cut carefully around the organza so that only the petals had organza on them.

It probably took a couple of hours to complete this but the length of time would depend on the complexity of the design. You could use it on a card or even as a clothing decoration. A technique I enjoyed learning and I’m sure to do again. What new techniques have you learned recently? And have you ever tried proper Carrickmacross?


New tutorial on joining lace

Tutorial title joining lace

When you get to the end of a piece of lace it’s often tempting to breathe a sigh of relief. But there is more work to come. The lace needs finishing through either joining it to itself (e.g. for an edging or garter), tying the ends off neatly (e.g. for a bookmark) or mounting it to a piece of fabric. So I’m putting together some instructions on how to do this. First up, it’s joining a piece of lace to itself using a crochet hook, so check out the tutorial here.