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.


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?!?

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.

Designing a collar

I’ve wanted to make a lace Peter Pan collar for some time but haven’t managed to find a pattern that I really like. I collected some ideas on a Pinterest Board and looked through all my books and patterns but in the end decided that because it’s been a while since I designed any lace, I’d design my own, using Torchon lace.

Lace collars

I started with an outline of a collar shape and made a light grid on it to work from. I knew I wanted a scallop edge so decided on Paris shells, and also knew I wanted some whole stitch hearts, roseground and definitely scope for adding beads. The pattern just evolved from there as I sketched the design.


Designing Torchon lace patterns can be relatively straight-forward once you’re familiar with the construction of the patterns and how different stitches work together. You can then start to work out where the different threads will end up after each stitch. Designing Honiton seems a bit easier on the face of it as you’re freer with the shape, however you do still need to bear in mind things like the width of any area of filling.

This is the first time that I’ve designed anything on a curve, which has added a few challenges to getting the grid right, but nothing too insurmountable. I’m sure there will be a certain amount of trial and error as I go along- and I’m certain the second collar will be quicker than the first as I’ll have ironed out any problems by then. I think it’s going to use upwards of 30 pairs of bobbins which I’m currently preparing. I’ll post updates as I go along- wish me luck!

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:

P1080686 P1080688 P1080690 P1080691

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….