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.


‘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.

Copy of IMG_20140809_130104

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.

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.

Torchon butterfly

My aunt recently brought me a small Torchon lace butterfly in a frame which she had found in a charity shop. It measures around 8cm x 7cm and is worked in a variegated thread.


The techniques used include spiders, half stitch fans, whole stitch fans and Torchon ground. There was no name or details inside the frame so I was left in the dark about its origins or maker.
A few days later I was searching through my lace patterns and books for a pattern and came across a booklet called The Romance of Lace which accompanied the 1984 exhibition of the North West Lace Makers (of which I’m currently a member).


I had a flick through to see if there was anything of interest and there on page 28 was the very same butterfly pattern as the one in the frame. The only slight variation is that the photograph in the booklet contains two tallies on the butterflies wings which are not there on my version. Perhaps then the maker of my version had only the pattern grid to work from- or perhaps they just didn’t like tallies! It was designed by someone called Kath Wurbacher.


So of course I decided to make my own version of the butterfly. I used a DMC 80 Special Dentelles thread and a silver gimp thread. There’s probably not a real butterfly in the world with these colours but I like them together! Unfortunately I had a break between doing the two wings and there is a different stitch at the top of each wing, and in the picture below the antennae look a bit drunken, but nothing in nature is perfect, right?!? 😉


I took the booklet, the framed piece and my version to the April meeting of the North West group to see if anyone knew anything about it the original or had been at the exhibition but unfortunately nobody did. But 30 years after the pattern was published I’ve at least been able to bring it back to life.


Lace Here Now

I recently got my hands on the publication Lace: Here: Now which accompanied the series of events of the same name held in Nottingham in late 2012. It’s published by Black Dog publishing and available to buy online.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to attend any of the events in Nottingham, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment or understanding of the book. It is an easily accessible book- you don’t have to read the chapters (of which there are three- Lace, Here and Now) in order for it to make sense and I easily read it in an evening. It will also appeal to those interested in lace as a craft, a product or a social history.

Nottingham was the undisputed centre of the machine-made lace industry in the 1800s and the first chapter Lace covers the history of the industry in Nottingham, including a beautiful visual essay by Joy Buttress and Matt Gill. There were three main parts to the manufacturing process, the makers, the lace dyers and the manufacturers who finished the lace, sometimes in the workers’ own homes. It was rare to have a single factory completing all three stages so different factories sprang up dealing with each process. Having studied and then lived in this area of the Midlands it was fascinating to see how many lace factories were in the vicinity of where I used to live.


Image of map from the book and taken from:

The next chapter Here focuses on lace in Nottingham, particularly the archives of lace and lace machinery.


Sample book donated by William Felkin containing lace samples from 1850 – Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive


Birkins Design Room, Palm St, New Basford on the visit of King George V (1914) – Nottingham Trent University Lace Archive

Images from the book and taken from:

The final chapter Now looks at some contemporary interpretations of lace, including three case studies from Timorous Beasties, Cecilia Heffer and Teresa Whitfield. These provide interesting examples of how lace continues to excite, inspire and influence people in their creative work.


Image: Teresa Whitfield Black Lace Shawl detail; from

The last chapter particularly got me thinking about the enduring popularity of lace, despite its decline as a handmade item. Lace as a product continues to be hugely popular helped in part by exhibitions such as Lace:Here:Now. It is perennially popular in fashion- from high end to high street collections


Above- Stella McCartney S/S14 collection

Below- Next signature dresses, 2014

next lace

and is used as a design for anything from umbrellas to stationery, see for example two items from the Paperchase store:

00518297_large 00518802

Lace remains ubiquitous for weddings of course, particularly following Kate Middleton’s choice of Carrickmacross lace sleeves on her gown in 2011


Lacemaking was big business throughout the 19th century- the Lace:Here:Now book cites that 60,000 people were employed as machine lace workers in the early 1900s in the East Midlands area- but the introduction of machine made lace negatively impacted on the handmade craft, a legacy which is still having its effects felt today.

Lace has moved from being commercial to being a hobby craft yet despite the huge resurgence in other heritage and handmade crafts in the UK in recent years, lace seems to be disappearing into the shadows. Traditional handmade lace of course had its own huge resurgence in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s- at one point the Lace Guild was the second largest guild in the UK and scores of books, events and lace groups appeared- but this seems to have slowed somewhat, at the same time as contemporary interpretation and subversion of lace- such as that profiled in the book- and the interest in lace as a design inspiration is on the rise.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in lace- it’s an interesting read, an important addition to the literature on lace and provides some fascinating data and images.

New Tutorial: Getting started- whole stitch and half stitch

Tutorial 2

If you’re new to lacemaking and would like to find out how to make the basic stitches, or haven’t made bobbin lace for a while and need a refresher, I’ve added a new tutorial on the two basic stitches, which also covers how to wind your bobbins.

Please give me any feedback or questions so I can improve and make it easier to learn!