How to Use a Tatting Shuttle to Create Lovely Lacy Designs


In the eighteenth century, handmade lace would have cost many dollars per yard, in fact, old lace is still collected as a valuable antique. Today, nearly all lace is machine made and therefor cheaper by comparison.

There are basically two kinds of hand lace, needle-made and pillow or bobbin lace.

Needle-made lace evolved from embroidery in colored silks, on net fabric, and was probably introduced into Europe by the crusaders.

White lace developed in the fifteenth century, when it was used to decorate fashionable linen underwear. At first the design was embroidered straight on to the garment after threads had been drawn, this was known as cutwork.

Later, it was found, a more delicate effect could be achieved by embroidering on a background of netted mesh. In sixteenth century France, this became filet lace.

The regularity of the mesh made it easy to reproduce designs drawn on squared paper. In England, it became as holy lace because it was used to decorate church furnishings and vestments.

Meanwhile, needlepoint lace evolved. A piece of parchment, with the design drawn on it, was tacked on top of two layers of linen. Several threads were laid along the outlines and tacked in place.

The main design was in buttonhole stitch and when the work was complete, a knife was drawn between the two layers of linen, and the delicate lace revealed.

Teneriffe work evolved in Spain, in the sixteenth century. Circular holes were cut out of the material and the spaces filled with embroidery on radiating threads.

Pillow lace has the same early beginnings as macrame. The early weavers in the East did not like to cut off the ends of thread left on a piece of cloth after it had been taken off the loom.

Instead they wove and knotted them into decorative edgings. The technique spread to southern Europe.

Later, to obtain a softer edging, a pillow was used. A pricked out pattern was fixed to the pillow and the threads wound on to bobbins. Designs were formed by twisting or plaiting the thread from the bobbins, and the patterns made were held in place by pinning them to the pillow.

Handmade lace making was a slow process and today, few people have time to do it.

Tatting and hairpin lace are techniques that are much quicker to work and many decorative and lacy effects can be achieved.

Weight and type of thread or yarn used will affect the finished size of the work, so keep in mind the eventual use of your lace or tatting when choosing these.

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