‘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 lace making tutorial- sewing threads in

Tutorial sewing threads

Following my last post on joining a piece of lace using a crochet hook, I’ve uploaded a guide to sewing the loose ends in to achieve a neat finish with your lace- you can find it here. Is this the technique you use? Do you have any other methods to try?

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.

Basic patterns for beginners

I’ve recently been teaching someone to make lace and they were looking for a basic pattern to get going with. If like them you’ve just got started making lace (check out the two Getting Started tutorials here for some help and advice) here are a couple of patterns that I can recommend:

Fan pattern edging, p12, Pamela Nottingham- The Technique of Bobbin Lace

Fan and diamond sampler bookmark, p38, Pamela Nottingham- Bobbin Lace Making

Hearts edging, p40, Bridget M. Cook- The Torchon Lace Workbook (This book also has an excellent section of exercises to teach you new stitches)


I also tend to use sheet patterns that I’ve bought or been given over the years- like these motifs which let you try new stitches in a small project:                                                           P1080704

but as they aren’t published in a book I can’t share them here. However there are plenty of resources out there so have a look round.

Don’t try anything too complex for your first piece though- it’s easy to get dazzled by the pretty patterns out there but over-stretching yourself and getting stuck is a a big step along the road to an abandoned project.

If you’re making an edging, I’ll be posting a tutorial soon on how to join lace neatly. Good luck with your makes in the meantime.

Attending a Lace Day- tips and tricks

On 18th April there will be a new Spring Lace Fair at Haydock Racecourse. This adds to the current large UK Lace events throughout the year including the National Christmas Lacemakers Fair in Solihull and The Great Northern (Not Just) Lace day in Pudsey. Local lace groups also often hold Lace Days where a number of suppliers are brought together and there is usually a talk, exhibition or workshop- check out the Lace Guild or Lace News for more details. So I thought I’d share some ideas and tips if you’ve not been to a lace day before.


At the bigger lace days there’ll be a mix of suppliers- from those specialising in one thing- bobbins, patterns, tools etc- to those who stock a range of general supplies.

  • Take some cash- most suppliers do now take cards but some smaller ones may not, and you don’t want to miss out on a purchase due to lack of readies.Money
  • Take a list- it can get a little overwhelming sometimes and you may be halfway home before you remember something you really needed. I speak from experience.          shopping list
  • Take a big, comfortable bag to put all your purchases in. And if you’ve taken your own lunch, once you’ve eaten it you’ll have more space to put stuff- win! 00518297_large
    • Get there early when it tends to be a little quieter and you can do a thorough recce before the crowds descend.                                                     clock


  • Be prepared to get your elbows out a little bit when it gets busy. There’ll quite often be big ‘scrums’ around certain stalls and you have to make sure you get to see what you need to. People are friendly, but it’s every man for himself.          crowd
  • If you need a lace cushion, lace days are always good as you can feel the weight and quality and get a precise idea of the size.          Photo 1
  • If you’re after a specific item, compare prices at different stalls- they’re usually about the same but can vary a little.                          queue
  • Ask other lacemakers if you can pick anything up for them while you’re there.  gift-black-and-white-img_x2501312aa1

The first time I went to the Christmas Fair (then held at the NEC over 2-3 days) I was like a child in a sweetshop. I had only just re-started making lace and spent all the money I took with me (about £100) on buying new equipment and stocking up on new threads and bobbins. However, these days, I tend to spend far less because I have most of the basic equipment I need now- but you always *need* more thread and I always buy a bobbin or two, if nothing else. Even if I don’t have anything particular to buy, I still go along if I can to support the suppliers and see if there’s anything new. Most of the suppliers do mail order or online trade now but you can’t beat being able to see the stock and have a good look at everything, and of course the chance to mix with other like-minded people. Enjoy!


Image credits: 1 & 3. telegraph.co.uk 2. sparklebox.co.uk 4. Paperchase 5. ikea.co.uk 6. seniorplanning.org 7.http://blog.eureeca.com 8. culture24.org.uk 9. clipartpanda.com

Bobbin Painting- a How To Guide

Whilst time to actually make lace has been squeezed of late, I have added to my collection of bobbins with a couple of commemoratives. Commemoratives are painted bobbins which celebrate or mark specific occasions, either personal or historic. I have quite a number now, but always get a Happy New Year one from Winslow Bobbins and have commemorated various personal milestones with a painted bobbin from the very talented Sarah Jones. The latest one was to celebrate the birth of my son and adds to the two she made me for the births of my daughters. They love looking for ‘their’ bobbins on my pillow.


Having had a go once at painting bobbins I can completely appreciate Sarah’s talents, and those of anyone who paints bobbins. I took part in a bobbin painting workshop with Jacqui Southworth of Larkholme Lace a year or so ago, and whilst my creations are very, very far from being as good as hers, you may be more skilled in this area and get better results. The ones we did in the workshop were these rainbow ones:


but you can do any design- some of the professionals out there do beautifully intricate designs- check out Sarah Jone’s gallery: http://www.paintedlacebobbins.co.uk/bobbins-gallery Chris Parson’s site: http://www.lace-bobbins.co.uk/bobbins.html and Lacewing designs http://www.lacewingdesigns.co.uk/Decorated%20Bobbins.htm to name but three.


So here’s a quick How To guide on painting bobbins. The instructions below are based on what I can remember from the workshop so my thanks and acknowledgement go to Jacqui.

What will you need:

  • A wooden, plain, unpolished bobbin (you can buy these for around 50p each online or in packs of ten)                                      P1110678
  • Some acrylic paint
  • A fine paintbrush                                P1110677
  • A paper plate
  • Some kitchen roll
  • Some water
  • Some varnish e.g. Rustins Plastic Coating
  • A fine-tipped permanent black pen (if you want to write a message or initial it)
  • A steady hand
  • A piece of polystyrene (or an equivalent if you can’t abide the stuff) to hold your painted bobbin whilst it dries


What to do:

  1. Check that the bobbin is free from fluff, grease or anything else.
  2. Choose your base colour or design and prepare your paint. Dampen the kitchen roll and put it on top of the paper plate. Squirt a few blobs of the paint on (the dampened kitchen roll prevents it from drying out) and mix the colours you want. You hardly need any paint so be sparing!
  3. Get painting!
  4. Put the bobbin upside down in the polystyrene until it has dried (it shouldn’t take too long)                                                    P1110679
  5. Add any message or initials
  6. Paint on a layer of varnish. Leave to dry. Then repeat- you’ll probably need around 3-4 coats.
  7. Spangle the bobbin (if needed)
  8. Admire, then put it to use. Bobbins are working tools not museum pieces 🙂 P1100382

Let me know if you try this and how you get on. I’ll definitely try it again but will leave it to the professionals to decorate bobbins to commemorate the milestones in my life!

Back in the game

Sewing Bee Lace

Image source: Great British Sewing Bee Facebook

So what’s new with you?! For me, it’s a new baby (although he’s two months old now so not quite so new anymore) but it certainly made for a busy Christmas. So naturally the lace has taken a back seat of late. Until this week that is, when I dusted off my travel cushion to start a simple edging to demonstrate whole stitch and half stitch and a basic Torchon ground to a friend who’s interested in learning how to make lace.


How appropriate then that just as I’m sat doing some lace for the first time in ages, it pops up on prime time TV! If you’re in the UK you may have seen a short section on the changing fortunes of lace-making during the semi-final of the Great British Sewing Bee. There was some archive footage (how fast were that ladies hands moving in the black and white clip?!?) and an interview with some Bedfordshire lace makers. It was great to see it covered on the programme and to (mis)quote one of the contestants, it’s been great for me to get back in the creative game. Looking forward to getting my teeth into some new lace projects and some new tutorials. Watch this space!