Stitching a bobbin lace library – The Torchon Lace Workbook by Bridget M. Cook

The Torchon Lace Workbook by Bridget M. Cook

The book consists of two parts: the first part includes 10 progressive exercises that cover all the techniques, while the second part includes 27 patterns, from edgings to collars, mats and bookmarks.
The ten exercises cover half stitch, whole stitch, spiders, rose ground, tallies and leaves, gimps, plaits and picots.

Working through the exercises is helped by the wonderful diagrams, that show clearly the interlacing between the treads. These are so clear, it makes following patterns a breeze. The exercises also use coloured threads, which makes finding your way in the patterns easier.

Indeed the diagrams are pretty integral to each practice piece, as the instructions for the patterns are “essential”. So for instance in Exercise 4 (on spiders), after explaining in detail how to execute a single four legged spider, it assumes the notion of spider is now understood, so that in the next section with a group of 4 two legged spiders there is no mention of twisting threads (for legs) between one small spider and another. Kind of obvious if you think about it, but as a beginner these details are easily missed (ask me how I know…).

I find this book a good compromise between getting you going and covering all the bases, in the sense that the exercises cover most of the skills – however to really cover them all it is necessary to go through the patterns, too, as for instance footsides, fans, corners are not included in the exercises, but they are included in the patters, together with other tips such as adding thread midway through the work and moving up the work on the pillow.

The patterns too are graded by difficulty, and it is possible to move between exercises and patterns in blocks (e.g. the first pattern is recommended after the first three exercises, and so on), and the pattern notes become more succinct as the book progresses.

The prickings seem mostly hand drawn, so it may be better to copy them by hand on graph paper (this is what I have done).

Working through it all will make for a very competent Torchon lacemaker, I am sure!

NOTE: there some little mistakes here and there, e.g. the description of Roseground in Exercise 5 is incorrect (the correct sequence would be to work pairs 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, then 9 and 10). Similarly, in Exercise 6 on gimps, the description is correct, and so are the figures, but the reference is swapped, i.e. the description for the movement from left to right refers to the figure that shows the movement from right to left, and viceversa.

In addition, be aware (I do not think this books mentions it either) that lace is typically worked wrong side up (this is so that knots do not show on the right side). Hence the actual right side is flipped as compared to the side you are working. The finished pictures are printed right side up, hence the appear flipped as compared to the description in the text. For instance in Exercise 4 the pattern asks to hang first 6 bobbin pairs in one colour, then the next set of six bobbin pairs in another colour, but the photograph (which shows the right side) has the colours swapped, so it isn’t a guide to following the pattern.

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Stitching a bobbin lace library – Lessons in Bobbin Lacemaking by Doris Southard

Lessons in Bobbin Lacemaking by Doris Southard

An excellent book, in addition to ten lessons on the various Torchon techniques, it also has a lesson on working on a flat pillow and a lesson on other types of laces than Torchon.

Important note: One peculiarity of this book is that the stitches are different than in other texts – so the half stitch here is TC (twist, cross), and then she uses cloth or linen stitch for the whole stitch (CTC), and calls “whole stitch” the sequence TCTC. Other texts have the half stitch as CT, and call refer to the sequence CTCT as “whole stitch and twist”. So this different terminology is to bear in mind when jumping between books. One peculiarity of this book is that the stitches are different than in other texts – so the half stitch here is TC (twist, cross), and then she uses cloth or linen stitch for the whole stitch (CTC), and calls “whole stitch” the sequence TCTC. Other texts have the half stitch as CT, and call refer to the sequence CTCT as “whole stitch and twist”. So this different terminology is to bear in mind when jumping between books. It is also unusual in other respects, as for instance tallies are worked using bobbin n4 as weaver, rather than the more usual bobbin 2 or bobbin 3, , though it is not incorrect (at least Cook’s “Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace” states that any bobbin would do).

Each lesson includes multiple samplers, with full instructions. The very many samples mean that progress to the next technique is slow, but nothing prevents jumping ahead!

As compared to my favorite books (The Torchon Lace Workbook: A concise lacemaking course–the basic skills fully explained, with prickings and diagrams for 27 finished lace products. and Torchon Lacemaking: A Step-by-Step Guide) this is a little bit drier, so arguably a bit more old fashioned in terms of teaching style, and visual learners might struggle, but still it is a very good text to have.

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Stitching a bobbin lace library – Torchon Lacemaking: A Step-by-Step Guide by Jan Tregidgo

Torchon Lacemaking: A Step-by-Step Guide by Jan Tregidgo

This beginners book is packed with pictures, with literally are step by step, and uses colour very smartly, in that each bobbin pair uses a different colour, making the path of each super clear. Samples are presented both in “full colour” and in white only version, and this in itself is incredibly useful for the beginner.

This book is the most thorough of the beginner books I have seen (Lessons in Bobbin Lacemaking, The Torchon Lace Workbook and Beginner’s Guide to Bobbin Lace): it includes 25 samplers that cover all sorts of combinations of techniques, and then branches out to more advanced techniques, such as adding beads to pieces (and yes, there are samplers for this too), designing and modifying patterns, joining and mounting pieces, and finally a “troubleshooting” section. However do note that this book does not include tallies and leaves.

Each sampler lists at the beginning the techniques that are explored in the chapter.

While only few of the patterns in the samplers can stand on their own as projects (unless you are really keen on bookmarks), the great variety of combinations provided, plus the chapter on designing your own patterns, mean that imagination is the only limitation once you get a bit of practice under your bobbins. And there are some patterns, like the very pretty coasters of sampler 10, and the mats from the last few samplers.

It may feel like slow going, but in fact as you work your way through the samplers you are shown how to combine various elements, so I expect the move into adapting and designing own patterns will be a natural one (but I haven’t worked my way through this yet).

After working through this book I think I’ll be ready to work any Torchon lace pattern. Definitely one to have.

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Stitching a bobbin lace library – Beginner’s Guide to Bobbin Lace by Gilian Dye and Adrienne Thunder

Beginner’s Guide to Bobbin Lace by Gilian Dye and Adrienne Thunder

This is a short-but-not-too-short introduction to Torchon lace.

It does not set out to be comprehensive, but to get going as quickly as possible. It covers the core techniques, and does so by means of projects, rather than samplers, illustrated step by step by very clear photographs. Tips and additional information are in the text boxes that pepper the book.

Another plus is that there are several patterns for “useful” laces, including purses and scarves – this alone may make it worth the purchase, though obviously the patterns are not too intricate, in line with the technical content of the book, while still looking good.

It may be most useful for those wishing to try out bobbin lace and figure out quickly whether they like it or not – however delving deeper into the art will require another book.

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Stitching a bobbin lace library – Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace by Bridget M. Cook

Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace by Bridget M. Cook

This must be the most comprehensive reference to lace making – or maybe not, but it is for sure very comprehensive. For each issue there are several alternative solutions, and as other of Ms Cook’s books, the diagrams are excellent and very, very clear.

The ten sections cover:
1. Starts and edges
2. Knots, replacing threads and adding pairs
3. Joining and sewings
4. Connections and crossings
5. Picots, tallies, Venetian cords, plaits and braids
6. Carrying pairs, raised work, fillings
7. Intendation, corners, curves and holes
8. Cordonnet, gimps and beads
9. Completions, endings and finishings
10. Moving up and mounting

An invaluable tool for the self learner, I think this is an essential reference for bobbin lace makers.

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Resources for the beginner weaver on the rigid heddle loom

The “humble” rigid heddle loom can do so much, as I hope the pictures above show. A beginner is most definitely what I am at the time of writing, as I have been weaving for only over six months on the rigid heddle. Hence there may be a lot missing from the info below.

However, with my bewilderment with terminology still very fresh in my mind, I thought I might save other beginners some grief by collecting what I know below. I dived into three heddle weaving almost straightaway, from my very second project (pictured above), so the list below also includes resources for weaving with three heddles, as well as four shaft drafts.

Which rigid heddle loom?

We’ve got to start from the beginning, right? I got my 16″/40cm SampleIt as part of the “Ashford complete weaving kit“, which was issued around Christmas but seems to be available throughout the year. On the plus side: it is a bargain, and it comes with absolutely everything you need to get going, including two extra reeds, even 200g yarn for your first project, two pickup sticks, Rowena Hart’s “The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving” – check the full details in the link. I think it is VERY good value for money. On the downside: it is shorter than other looms, so at the very least you have to advance the warp more frequently, and fitting three heddles is more finnicky than on a full sized loom; although smaller than standard rigid heddle looms, it does not fold, so if you travel you need a full size luggage (dimensions are not compatible with hand luggage if you fly). Unlike several other brands, the bottom does not double as warping board. Still, it is very cheap as a bundle, and works perfectly if you are not sure whether you’ll enjoy weaving, since it sets you up to get the most out of it.

The most common brands and anyhow those I researched are Ashford (SampleIt as entry level, Rigid Heddle Loom as standard, Knitters’ loom folds), Kromski (Presto as entry level, and Harp Forte, which folds, as standard size) and Shacht (Cricket as entry level, Flip as standard. Both fold), all available in the UK.

Interesting fact: Ashford rigid heddle loom heddles fit the Cricket of same width.

All these manufacturers have very clear instructional videos on their webpages.

When researching what loom to buy, I found this blog post very clear and useful. For your first loom you’d be probably shooting in the dark: you won’t know until you start what is that you like, and what catches your fancy – I got into sewing at “granny age” because of my rigid heddle loom!

Things to consider are the obvious: budget, and what you want to do with it, which will determine the weaving width you want. Bear in mind that a larger width requires larger space to the side to manage the stick shuttles (boat shuttles are also used successfully by some, but the lower tension in rigid heddle looms as compared to multi shaft looms, and the lack of a race, mean that unless the yarn is really fine, the boat shuttle will end up on the floor quite often!). Also, larger room may require investment in a dedicated stand, as weaving with the loom on a tabletop may be quite uncomfortable/unwieldy.

What yarn?

In my (admittedly very limited) experience knitting yarn works perfectly well, in fact that is all I’ve been using on my rigid heddle loom. Just be careful with what you use as warp yarn: strong (so that it won’t break with all the abrasion from the reed dents going back and forth) and smooth (so that warp threads don’t stick together and give you a clear shed) is key for warp yarn. For weft you can use absolutely anything you like.

How to weave: learning from books

The following, which I have, seem to crop up again and again when discussing rigid heddle loom resources:

“Inventive weaving on a little loom”, by Syne Mitchell. This one starts from the very beginning, with the first three chapters taking you step by step into weaving and what could go wrong. It is great on three heddle weaving and how to translate drafts for shaftt looms to the rigid heddle loom. I learned about the latter on other sources thoug (see below). Available also as ebook.

“The Weaver’s Idea Book” by Jane Patrick assumes you have a little confidence with your loom already, e.g. you’ve done your first project on it, in the sense that it starts in earnest with weaving. It is one of those books that will really take you to another level if you go through it cover-to-cover (which I haven’t done yet, though). It has absolutely everything, and it will take you from absolute beginner to super expert. It is also full of projects for each technique. Available also as ebook.

“Handwoven Home”, by Liz Gipson aka Yarnworker is project base: with each project you learn a new technique, and there are also knowledge chapters at the beginning that cover the basics of weaving. Since each author has different preferences, having more than one text to teach you the basic is I think no bad thing. Available also as ebook.

“The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory”, by Anne Dixon. A four shaft loom, or a rigid heddle loom with three heddles, has “only” 14 possible sheds. Yet with threading and threading these can be combined to one’s heart’s content, and over 600 patterns are contained in this book. It is a must have, full of illustrations with both draft and the cloth produced. Only available as physical book, but the spiral bound and hardcover make it quite handy to look up.

How to weave four shaft drafts on the rigid heddle loom

A substantial section of chapter 6 in “Inventive weaving on a little loom” is devoted to three heddle weaving: this opens up all four shaft possibilities, including twills, lace, overshot and double weave. There are limitations, in that to avoid cross threads it may be just impossible to weave some patterns using the full width of your loom; and some patterns in overshot patterned double weave will just not be doable because of the way in which warp threads have to alternate in the heddles. However, there is no risk of running out of things to do for a very long while!

My introduction to three heddle weaving however came from this and this blog posts, which opened my eye to the fact that even the short Ashford SampleIt loom I owned could fit three heddles – so I will be forever grateful to

Then I read the free pdf The Xenakis Technique for the Construction of Four-Harness Textiles on a Rigid-Heddle, by David Xenakis. Very entartaining too, as the author has a somewhat meandering language, so if you are trying to get straight to the point this may not be for you.

What is certainly worth the (little!) investment is the excellent and crystal clear Weaving With Three Rigid Heddles, by Reverend David B. Mckinney, available easily as ebook. This covers everything, including converting drafts for three heddles, weaving a sampler, and even doing double weave. With a little patience the Rigid Heddle Loom can be incredibly rewarding!

How to weave: learning from instructional videos

Very extensive and clear resources are to be found among Kelly Casanova’s youtube videos, and on Liz Gipson webpage. She organises free weavealongs, around projects from her book.

I also find Amy McKnight exemplarily clear. She is still growing her webpage, but is also quite present on Facebook.

Finally, another source of knowledge are the webpages of the various manufacturers: they’ve got typically videos and blogs to get you going and exploring. My most frequent go to is Ashford, including their blog, where you will also find projects. Weft Blown, one of my favourite shops, has a blog with concise but extensive information, here.

How to weave: learning from projects

Besides’s Liz Gipson’s book mentioned above, if you sew (and even if you do not) you can also keep going as you are on plain weave but creating with yarn you have to play with texture and try some of Sarah Howard’s patterns (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer – I think I’ve only not bought four or five of them), which are designed specifically for the rigid heddle loom in mind (I also have a 16” rigid heddle loom, and made this on it – sorry to brag, I still cannot believe I did that! My first ever sewing project was another of Sarah Howard’s pattern, turned into this skirt.)

And then of course the “obvious” sources of projects: magazines! Handwoven magazine in particular always has some Rigid Heddle Loom projects, but once equipped with the knowledge to weave 4 shaft patterns, there are loads of such projects there too!

Learning from the net

If you landed on this page, you were possibly surfing the net – it is where I found all the above! Let me just add a couple of more places you may want to check out, again specific to rigid heddle loom weaving:

Ravelry’s Rigid Heddle Looms group (you must be a Ravelry member)

Facebook Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving group (private group, you must have a Facebook account).

Happy weaving!

Woollen vs Worsted spun

What’s the difference? Some sources of info I found interesting are listed below, each is a relatively long read. I understand the Jamieson and Smith’s, but there is only one picture comparison that I really get there, the one with the fair isle motives; I cannot detect much difference (in fact, any difference) in the comparison between the lace samples.

I list the link in the order in which I think they work best (from fibre to yarn).

Hilltop Clouds on Woollen vs Worsted.

Jamieson and Smith’s blog on Woollen vs Worsted

Sue Blacker (Blacker Yarns) on Woollen vs Worsted

Brooklyn Tweed on Woollen vs Worsted

Jillian Moreno (Mason Dixon Knitting) on Woollen vs Worsted

“Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits”, by Shirley Paden

This is an amazingly useful book if you want to take a dive at customising patterns to fit a body shape. I am no expert, but find it very comprehensive, very clearly written, I could not be happier I’ve bought it. I use it heavily too 🙂

More information and a book preview on Shirley Paden‘s website.

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