Honiton Perls- a quick How To guide

I posted last week about the disastrous Honiton perls so thought I’d make some notes here about how to get them looking better. These instructions are for perls on a trail- for perls on e.g. a blossom filling, use steps 4 to 7 (inclusive). In the images below I’m doing perls on the right hand side, which will therefore be on the left hand side once the lace is finished and turned over.

  1. Work through the downrights including the coarse pair then twist the workers three times.


  1. Don’t put a pin in, but gently pull the workers up so everything is neat.
  1. Work a whole stitch through the edge pair.


  1. Twist the workers seven times.
  1. Take your pin, tip pointing towards the work, and wrap it round the thread towards you. Put the pin in the hole.


  1. Take the other worker bobbin and pass the thread around the pin from outside, to inside (i.e. anti-clockwise for right hand perls and clockwise for left hand perls) and lay it back where it came from.

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  1. Twist the workers once for a right hand perl, and cross them twice for a left hand perl. Pull everything up again so it is nice and neat.
  1. Work a whole stitch with the edge pair and twist both pairs three times. Pull up.


  1. Work through the coarse pair in whole stitch and pull up again, then continue through the downrights in whichever stitch your trail demands.

Ta dah! Neat, well behaved perls.




Another finished object- Honiton heart

I was lucky enough to get a second weekend at Alston Hall last October making Honiton lace with Pat Perryman. I finished my heart and was very pleased with the fillings, but my perls and sewing ins were a disaster! I’m posting pictures to shame myself.

Bad perls

Gah, what a mess.

So when I got back I spent a lot of time practising and decided to do another heart, with different fillings and better perls. I haven’t been working on it consistently since then BTW, and I actually finished it more than a month ago but it’s just taken a while to post about it. Anyhow, this is a (poor quality) in-progress shot- those perls were feeling much more stable and the sewings-in whilst not quite a dream were definitely less messy.


And here are some close ups of the fillings- blossom at the top and brick at the bottom.


The previous version had four pin filling at the top and whole-stitch block at the bottom:


Take your eyes off those dreadful perls and focus on the fillings…


They look quite similar from a distance but are all very different. It always amazes me the number of distinct patterns and effects you can get by just a different combination of twists or crosses.


The two together- bad perls on the left- booo.

So I now have four Honiton fillings under my belt and can do acceptable looking perls. Yay, me! Having made lace since I was a child it’s nice to be learning something new.

I’ve had this frame for a while and the heart fits into it perfectly.



Main learning points? I need to make sure I’m pulling up properly as some of those sewings-in and stitches are still a little loose <sigh>.

Finally though, a piece of Honiton I can be proud of. I’m thinking of doing a sampler next to practice some more fillings but there are a few other things on the go which I’d like to get finished first so it may take a while.


Sew magazine article

It shows how busy I’ve been recently that I’ve only just got round to reading last months Sew magazine (the February 2014 issue), and it was great to see an article about lace making.


The article covers quite a lot including Honiton lace, the Lace Guild, royal connections with lace and some of the places you can learn or view lace collections.


It’s not often that lace-making gets a profile so it was fab to see it in one of the more well-read sewing/craft magazines. And I hope it inspires someone to get their bobbins out!

My humble heart


On a bit of a catch-up today, having been away recently, including three days of making lace, eating and gorgeous surroundings on my residential Honiton course with Pat Perryman at Alston Hall. The hall and its grounds are so peaceful (apart from the music drifting from the Russian summer school!) and just what I needed- to get away from hectic life, Wi-Fi and deadlines- it was a bit of a culture shock getting on a busy train home with all my lace gear!

There’s a group of regulars who go twice a year, many of whom I remembered from the last time I went five years ago. Pat was as patient as ever and answered all my questions. She also displayed this fan which she’s just finishing- my goodness she is talented!! Such an inspiration. (My poor photography just doesn’t do it justice at all.)


My humble Honiton heart looks pretty paltry in comparison but is starting to take shape.


I’d wanted to do something a bit more ambitious, and when I think this is all I’ve achieved during the course, it doesn’t seem much, but if there’s one thing that I already knew about lace-making, it’s that it takes a lot of time and patience.

Frustratingly when I got home I ran out of bobbins to complete the filling but my lovely friend Lorna gifted me hers, with the ominous words ‘I’ll never be doing any Honiton ever again” so once I’ve got them wound I’m on my way again. And I’ve just booked onto the next course so I’m aiming to be onto another piece by then so I can make full use of Pat’s advice and 45 years of experience.

So what did I learn? How to do leadworks properly (whether I’ll succeed is another matter…), how to plan and create fillings, and that you should definitely walk before you can run.

How to attend a lace group… and make no lace

So it was the monthly meeting of my lace group on Saturday- in theory, 5 hours to spend getting on with making lace, visiting the supplier and seeing what everyone else has on their pillow. Except it didn’t quite work out like that. Most of the usual organisers were on holiday so I ended up having to get people signed up for a workshop, introducing and thanking the speaker (a very funny and slightly risqué vicar…) and keeping the lovely suppliers topped up with tea. So I managed about 10 minutes of lace, but it was just enough time to finish the Wild Rose:


Ignore the slightly leaf-shaped leadworks in the middle- if I aim for leaves I get leadworks and vice versa…. And here it is next to a paper clip so you get an idea of scale:


I can’t quite believe that something so small took near enough two months- but at the rate of 10 minutes every session, it’s perhaps hardly surprising.

I was also surprised, and slightly depressed by the supplier saying that we are one of the younger lace groups she visits. There were around 30 of us there on Saturday; I’m in my mid-thirties and was the youngest by at least ten years. And at least 20 of the others were over 65, with many now being too old, or their eye-sight is too bad to even do any lace anymore. She said most groups she visits are all in their 80s- so what does that mean for 10 or 15 years time?? There was such a big resurgence of lace-making in the 1980s but it seems to have tailed off again now in most areas- with some notable exceptions, like Devon and Japan (yes, really). So come on, get your bobbins out! Give it a go if you’ve not tried it before- I’ll shortly be posting some tutorials to get even the novice started off. Lace-making may be quite old-fashioned and not exactly the hippest craft on the block, but it’s part of our heritage and a great way to spend some time- even if you’ve only got 10 minutes…

What’s on my pillow

I’ve been making bobbin lace since I was 10, and over the years I’ve completed numerous pieces- from motifs and bookmarks to mats and garters- but all in Torchon, which is an excellent style to begin making lace as it is geometric and structured.

Back in 2008, I’d started to get a little bored with it and felt that after so many years making lace I should be branching out a little into different and more challenging projects. I’d always admired Honiton so when I saw a residential course advertised, I immediately signed up and spent a wonderful three days under the expert tuition of Pat Perryman.

I was pretty pleased with my first attempt and itching to make different patterns- but within a month of finishing the course I fell pregnant, felt dreadful for the first few weeks and the Honiton got left to one side in the excitement of planning for the birth. Whenever I did get chance to make lace, I went back to familiar and easy ground with my Torchon- making pieces including these two mats:

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from Biggins patterns which I bought as the pattern names were the names of my two babies (not born at the same time, I hasten to add!). I’ve yet to find a use for them though (the mats, not the babies).

At the start of 2013, we generally had what might be called “some time in the evenings”- the offspring were settled into a bedtime routine, work had calmed down somewhat and I was ready for a new creative challenge. So I made a New Year’s resolution to get the Honiton out and complete a new piece each month.

When Pat taught me, she didn’t allow me to write any notes saying that “your hands will remember”. Well they did… but only to a limited extent. I’ve been working my way through the Lace Guild’s booklet and have faced some problems, but I’m working through them and learning loads. My ‘pattern-a-month’ resolution has slightly gone out of the windo- it’s nearly the start of June and I’m still on April’s piece, which is pretty poor seeing as it’s so tiny- but I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.

So this is where I am up to with April’s ‘wild rose’ pattern.

Wild rose 1 Wild rose 2

Nearly done now. I’m just not at all sure about the centre of the leaves. Whatever I try just doesn’t quite look right, but I’ll keep persevering, as I don’t want it to get left to one side for another 5 years….