Wrapping thread around air

Some Cantù lace in progress.

Time for a break from illness, trauma and introspection and to take a look at one of the many little things that give me pleasure in life: making bobbin lace.

I got into lacemaking after learning to knit when I was a very little girl, learning crochet and various kinds of embroidery later on. I had already experimented a very little with knitted lace and had made a little bit of Irish crochet lace. Next up was tatting.

Tatting is a knotted lace made with a little shuttle wound with thread. The tatter loops thread around her left hand and moves the loaded shuttle in and out, making a little knot. The knack lies in a quick movement that shifts the knot from one side of the thread to the other. It results in a ring of knots. These rings are arranged into loops and chains to form the lace. In the photo below the top two samples are tatted and the bottom one is made in  Torchon, a kind of English bobbin lace.

Samples of lace edgings.

Bobbin lace is more elaborate and less portable than tatting. It is what most people usually think of when they say “lace”. It is made by crossing pairs of threads that have been wound around bobbins in various combinations and using pins to help define the structure of the lace on the pillow or bolster until it is completed. Bobbin laces are usually typical to a particular location, but many modern lacemakers learn techniques that are not associated with their own regions.

Although many lacemakers are very interested and knowledgeable in lace classification and history, I am not. I just enjoy making it. People who are into fiber crafts often classify themselves as “process-oriented” or “product (or project)-oriented”. I am definitely a process person. It is the doing of a thing that interests me, not so much the finished product. When a piece is finished, I give it away as a gift or sell it. There is very little lace in my home.

So what is it about the process of wrapping thread around air that I find so impelling?

There is something calm and meditative about the act of holding the wooden bobbins, two in each hand, and manipulating them. Something magical about seeing single threads coming together to form a beautiful creation in intricate patterns. People often marvel at my patience in making lace, but I don’t feel like I bring patience to my lacemaking pillow at all. The act of the simple, deliberate movements of manipulating the bobbins brings me to a quiet place, calms me, lets me take slow, deep breaths. Sometimes I listen to music or an audio book while I make lace, and at other times I just sit and enjoy the silence, the rhythms, the gentle clicking of the bobbins.

I wrap thread around air, and the stillness enfolds and permeates me.

4 thoughts on “Wrapping thread around air

  1. Thanks, everyone, for the kind words.

    Marie, I learned tatting and bobbin lace from books, but it is much easier to learn from people. If you want, I can probably put you in touch with a lacemaking group near you. Or I can try help you via the marvels of technology, as one of my lace teachers did with me. If you are really interested, drop me an email and we’ll see what we can cook up!

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