‘Backstitch’ / reverse stitch – A tongue-in-cheek reference to what you do if you make a mistake and have to unpick your work.


Bedfordshire / Beds-Maltese – A style of trolly lace which evolved after a group of lace makers from Bedfordshire visited the 1851 Great Exhibition and saw the work of the Maltese lace makers. The style is characterised by leaves, plaits and a ninepin edge.


Blueing – The sticky-back covering used to cover patterns for e.g. Torchon and Beds lace to protect the pin holes from stretching or ripping and to provide a coloured background against which the thread shows up.

Photo 15

Braid – Also known as Tape Lace, braid laces (such as Russian) tend to pictoral. A strip of lace usually with both sides the same which can be used in a pattern or as an outline.



Bruges Flower Lace – one of the more beautiful continental laces this is similar in style and technique to Torchon but is worked using continental bobbins and is characterised by flowers, braids, leaves and scrolls.


Bucks Point – A style of trolly lace generally considered to be one of the most complicated of the English laces. Bucks or Bucks Point is a very fine lace which makes it a slow grower. It uses a fine weight of thread plus a gimp thread and its patterns can either be geometric or floral in design. For these reasons it is not always recommended for beginners as it is very hard to see the worked lace through the sea of pins. This style of lace has been made in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire since the 16th century.


Carrickmacross – A form of needlelace originating in Ireland in the 1820s this is a form of needlelace or decorated net. There are two ways 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.


Cloth stitch – See Whole Stitch below


Cover the pin – In most stitches, the pin is covered when you have put it in. This means doing another stitch to enclose the pin. So, if you are doing half stitch, you do one half stitch, put in the pin, then do another half stitch to cover it. If you forget to do this, it will ultimately not only affect the finished appearance but the strength of the finished piece.


Crochet hook – A fine point (0.6mm) crochet hook can be used in lace to add beads and complete sewings in at the end of a piece. See also Lazy Susan.


Cross – To put the left hand bobbin over the right hand one i.e. the opposite to a twist.


Crossing – In bobbin lace, a crossing is where a number of pairs meet and cross each other- common forms of crossing include four pair, six pair and eight pair crossings.


Diamond – A section of ground usually made up of whole stitch or half stitch which is surrounded by a diamond of pin holes. Often seen in Torchon lace.


Divider pin – A large, often bead-headed or decorative pin used to separate off bobbins you aren’t currently using

Photo 11

Downrights – See Passives below- downrights is the term used in Honiton.


Dressing a pillow– getting the lace pillow ready to start a piece of lace including cover clothes, putting the pattern on and other things such as the pincushion.


Fan – Often used to edge pieces of lace, the fan shape is very common in Torchon lace. They can be worked using a variety of stitches and effects e.g. using additional twists, having a coloured or gimp pair next to the edge etc. Not to be confused with fans made out of lace (i.e. those ones you cool yourself with when having a hot flush)


Fan sticks – wooden or plastic flat sticks used in constructing a lace fan. The lace is carefully stitched or glued onto the sticks at equal intervals.


Footside – Also known as an edge stitch, this is the edge of a piece of lace which is attached to the fabric. It is usually strengthened with e.g. an extra twist before the pin. Different types of lace have different styles of footsides.


Gimp thread – A thicker thread, sometimes a coloured one, which is woven into the lace to add impact and outline certain areas. It doesn’t form any stitches but goes between the threads between stitches which are twisted before and after they pass through it. Usually in Torchon lace the gimp thread goes under the left thread and over the right.


Ground – The main background in a piece of lace which can be in a range of different stitches. It is sometimes a net or sometimes just large sections of a background stitch which is worked between other areas of detail.


Half stitch – One of the basic stitches used to make lace. Made by passing 2 over 3, then 4 over 3 and 2 over 1- see here for more detailed instructions. Often denoted on patterns with the letters ‘HS’ or the colour blue.


Headside – The opposite to the Footside this is the edge of the lace which is not attached to the fabric therefore can have a decorative edge, such as fans, scallops or picots.


Hitch – used to secure the thread to a bobbin this is usually a half hitch formed by holding the bobbin in the right hand, wrapping the thread twice round the index finger of the left hand then slipping the hitch onto the bobbin head.


Honeycomb ring – A decorative stitch characterised by a number of honeycomb stitches (HS, twist, pin, HS, twist) forming a ring shape to surround a space. Often a gimp thread is used to encircle the stitches.


Honiton – A delicate type of sectional lace developed in the Honiton region of Devon, using fine thread to create floral motifs and scrolls which can be used individually or joined to net to create intricate pieces of lace such as wedding veils. Honiton bobbins are light in weight and taper at the end rather than having spangles or weighted ends- the weight of thread used doesn’t need a heavy bobbin. The tapered end also enables easier sewings in which are required frequently in Honiton lace. Favoured by Queen Victoria, Honiton lace flourished in the 17th-19th centuries with many lace schools operating in the area.


Lazy Susan – A tool used for making sewings. It is a (sometimes curved) needle in a wooden handle with the eye visible.


Leaf – Using the same technique as a tally but forming a leaf shape, this is often to be found in Bedfordshire lace. One whole stitch is worked then the left hand pair are twisted. The left hand thread then weaves over and under the others which should be held firmly. The leaf shape forms by how loosely or tightly you pull up the worker thread. At the end, a whole stitch is worked and a pin put in. They can be tricky to master so it is worth practising them- I usually aim for a tally and get a leaf, and vice versa!


Maltese lace – very similar in appearance and working to Bedfordshire this style of lace contains plaits and pointed leaves and petals. It is generally worked using cream coloured thread and often features the Maltese cross in its design.




Passives – A pair of bobbins (or sometimes a single bobbin) which stay where they are whilst the worker pair works the stitch through them. In Honiton these are known as downrights. Passives should be kept in place and the tension even to ensure a good finish.


Perls or Purls see Picots below.


Picot – A decorative technique which can be used at the edges of a piece of lace (particularly in Honiton and Torchon) or in the centre (particularly in Bedfordshire). In Honiton these are referred to as Perls or Purls. They are usually produced by twisting the workers three times before the pin is put in then three times afterwards. They are formed slightly differently in Honiton- see this How To Guide for further instruction.


Pin lifter / pusher – A tool- often wooden handled- used to lift or push down pins without the need to sacrifice a finger nail.


Plait – a technique used to create a thin strip or bar, often used to join two sections together. It is formed by working a number of half stitches with the same two pairs until the plait is of the desired length.


Pricking – Vb- to make a pricking is to prepare the pattern by making pin holes using a pricking tool. Preparing the holes in this way is more accurate than trying to do it when the work is in progress, and avoids pins being damaged.

Nn- a pattern which has been prepared with all the holes pricked in it.

Photo 17

Pricking card – a usually pale brown card used to make prickings. It is strong and durable but not too thick.


Pricking tool or pricker– A tool used to make pin holes in a pattern. Metal versions and wooden handled ones are available. In Honiton lace, a needlepin is often used instead. The needle or pin used should have roughly the same diameter as the pins which are to be used in making the piece of lace.


Roseground – A versatile stitch which can be used as a ground. Two pairs are worked in either whole or half stitch then brought together to work four pins in a square, before finally two more whole or half stitches are worked. The choice of whole or half stitch and addition (or not) of twists forms the many different variations.


Ruskin lace – A form of needlelace using linen thread. Similar to hardanger/drawn thread work, the lace also uses needlelace techniques to create the designs. A ‘grid’ is first created using plaits, and the spaces between them are then filled in using needlelace stitches.


Russian lace – see Braid


Sectional laces – a style of lace such as Honiton or Brussels where the lace is worked one piece at a time and then joined to other sections. The designs can therefore be more pictoral and natural. These laces also have definite right and wrong sides therefore care has to be taken when drafting patterns to ensure they are the right way round when finished. See also Trolly laces.


Spangle – The cluster of beads at the end of an English bobbin, used to weight the bobbins down so they don’t roll around the pillow and get muddled. They are often highly decorative.

Photo 5


Spider – A decorative stitch made by crossing over usually eight pairs of bobbins (or four or six or many more!) with a pin in the middle. The ‘legs’ are formed by twisting the pairs a number of times. Many variations of the basic spider exist.


Tally – Using the same technique as a leaf but forming a square or block shape, this is often to be found in Honiton lace. One whole stitch is worked then the left hand pair are twisted. The left hand thread then weaves over and under the others which should be held firmly. The worker thread should be pulled up regularly to gain the correct tension. At the end, a whole stitch is worked and a pin put in. They can be tricky to master so it is worth practising them.


Tape– see Braid above


Tatting – Tatting is made using just a shuttle and thread and is therefore very portable. Distinctive rings are formed and joined to make the lacework. Some lace purists consider tatting not a ‘real’ lace.


Torchon – A traditional form of trolly lace common in the UK, distinctive for its geometric design. It is generally considered to be quick and easy, using few stitches, and is therefore very suitable for beginners. It is easily adaptable and can be used to create large pieces of lace. <image>


Trail – A strip of either whole stitch or half stitch which zig zags through the work.


Trolly laces – a style such as Torchon and Bedfordshire which keep the same number of threads in the lace for its whole length and are worked as one continuous piece. See also sectional laces


Twist – To put the right hand bobbin over the left hand one i.e. the opposite to a cross.


Whole stitch / cloth stitch – One of the basic stitches used to make lace. Made by passing 2 over 3, then 4 over 3 and 2 over 1, then 2 over 3- see here for more detailed instructions. Often denoted on patterns by the initials WS or the colour red.


Workers/weavers – the pair which works across the row of passives to form whole stitch or half stitch. Using a coloured pair as the worker (where the pattern allows) can form a different effect on the finished lace.



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