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Archive for the 'Lace' Category

Quickie Question: Dear Santa?

Monday, November 26th, 2012
By Twistie

Dear Santa,

There are a couple things I’d love to find under the tree this year. Here they are:

First off, I’d like a nice selection of rovings in pretty colors to do more needle felting with. I like this selection of 50 colors from Mielke’s Fiber Arts. At just $32.00, it’s even a deal.

I could also use some pretty new lace bobbins from Knotwork Lace Tools. Pretty and practical. I love these bobbins!

So what about all of you? What crafting goodies would you love to have Santa deliver down your chimney?

Tell us all about it!

Quickie Question: Crossing Gender Lines?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via Tatman’s Chatline)

It took me three Google searches to find an illustration of a man doing a craft more commonly considered a ‘girly’ thing who wasn’t either a) a professional in ‘colorful’ ethnic dress, or b) a woodcut illustration from well before photography was invented.

And yet, I know men who do these things. I have a brother who sews, does needle felting, spins, and embroiders. He also paints miniature figures (mostly of American Civil War soldiers), builds models, makes chainmail, and, well, let’s just say he’s the craftiest member of the Twistie family. Leaves me in the dust. If it can be done by hand, dollars to donuts he at least has a general idea of how it’s done and chances are good he can point to at least one example he’s made himself.

I’ve attended lacemaking conventions where a small but significant number of the attendees were men and boys delighted to get a chance to work with real teachers and other lacers, just as I was. Rosy Grier was almost as well known for his needlepoint as he was for his football playing.

And it’s not just men, either. There are women out there expressing themselves in media more commonly associated with men. Women sculpt, create metal art, build furniture… all kinds of things that aren’t done with fiddly needles and thread.

All the same, I will never forget one adolescent lad who showed up at a lacemaking demo I did years ago. He watched with clear – but embarrassed – fascination for a long time. When I encouraged him to try out the beginner’s pillow, he looked as though he might run away. In the end, though, he sat down and allowed me to talk him through a couple rows. He picked up the concept quickly, and got a big smile on his face.

And yet, when I asked him if he wanted some materials on where to find equipment, thread, and further instruction, he shook his head and looked horrified. His mother came over to my demo partner and quietly asked her for the information. While we were talking to her, the boy started stitching again. If one of us looked in his direction, he would go rigid… but if we looked away again, he went right back to work. After he left, I looked at the pillow and saw he’d done at least a dozen rows with nary a mistake.

I never saw him again, but I’ve always hoped he found the courage to keep lacing. He clearly had the desire and the ability. All he needed was someone to find a way to convince him it was all right for him to do it despite being male.

So I’m wondering today, do you do a craft more commonly associated with the opposite gender? Know someone who does? Have you ever wanted to try a craft but feared how people might react?

Tell me all about it.

(ETA: This was supposed to go up yesterday, and I don’t know why it didn’t publish when I hit the publish button. Sorry.)

Left Out No More

Monday, August 13th, 2012
By Twistie

(Image via M3)

Happy Left-Hander’s Day!

Yes, it’s a real day. August 13. And this month friday the thirteenth lands on a monday, which makes it more dangerous. Bonus points to anyone who knows where that concept comes from.


As a southpaw, sometimes it’s hard to find equipment set up for me, let alone instructions to use it properly.

So in honor of the day, I have found a selection of tools and instructions to help my fellow right-minders be super crafty.


Left Handicrafts

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
By Twistie

I don’t know how many of you out there are fellow southpaws, but my parents knew pretty much the moment I emerged from the womb that I was a dyed-in-the-wool leftist… er… leftie. Any and all political leanings came much later in life. Probably my first political act (and it was an accidental one at that) was when I was five years old and I inadvertently convinced the principal of my elementary school to order left-handed scissors for all the classrooms.


We who are wired the other way ’round have had to face a lot of challenges in life. One of the most annoying to me is the fact that when there’s a craft we want to learn, we’re often forced to either do it with out less agile right hands, or we have to sit down and figure out how to turn everything around to work with our dominant hands. Things have gotten better over the years, but I must admit that one of the things that really appealed about bobbin lace to me was the fact that it doesn’t favor one hand or the other. Both hands are used pretty equally throughout the process. As long as I have a pair of scissors I can use in my left hand (and those are nearly universally available now!) I can use any book, any pattern, any tool I can lay my hands on.

But what if you want to learn something that does make more use of one hand than the other? What if you’re not good at turning things around mentally? What if your right hand just doesn’t have the necessary dexterity for the craft in question?

Well, I’ve found a few good resources to help you learn some of these crafts.


How To Save a ‘Dying’ Craft

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via Stuart King)

Mention bobbin lace, and chances are if the listener knows anything at all about it, this is what they think of: an old woman in antique clothing doing something they can’t for the life of them figure out.

A hundred years ago, that’s exactly what bobbin lace looked like, too. It was something nobody needed to do for themselves anymore, so they didn’t learn it. It was something only very poor people did, and most of them had been run out of the market by the machine laces that were so much faster and cheaper to make.

By the time I took up the craft in 1990, most people I saw at demonstrations thought it was tatting and would pontificate that it was a ‘lost art.’

In reply, I would hold up a tatting shuttle to show them the difference, and explain that bobbin lace isn’t lost at all. I found it just fine.


A Great Resource for the Beginning Tatter

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
By Twistie

Have you been thinking about taking up tatting? Rebuilding rusted skills? Teaching someone to play with a shuttle or two? Then hie thee over to Angel Babies. Yes, I know, the name doesn’t say anything about tatting, but that’s what the site is all about.

From basic instructions to individual projects to slightly more advanced instructions to books of patterns, you’ll find everything you need to get you started, restarted, or ready to pass on the gentle art of tatting to a novice. Everything – including the books – is aimed at the beginner.

For my part, I’ve never attempted the art, but I have to say those dragonflies are tempting me to try something new!

Alpaca One of These, Please!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
By Twistie

Reader Debra’s fabulous entry in the recent Crafty Manolo contest was this spectacular Estonian knitted lace shawl in a pattern called Crown Prince. The pattern was adapted from Nancy Bush’s in the book Knitted Lace of Estonia, a book which just happens to be available from Amazon for a mere $17.79.

Anyway, back to Debra’s lovely work. She used Alpaca Cloud Lace Yarn in Tango Red, which she got from (Pssst, you might want to head over there now if you knit or have any interest in learning how, because they’re having a great sale on books and swifts right now!). It took six months to finish the project, and I say that was time extremely well spent.

How gorgeous is that? Thanks for sharing with us, Debra!


Lacing With Interesting Women

Thursday, July 7th, 2011
By Twistie

Have I mentioned how much I love pretty tools to work with? There’s a gentleman in England called Chris Parsons who makes some tremendously pretty bobbins to toss. This is his set of Famous Women of History. The set includes: Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, George Eliot, Emmaline Pankhurst, Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, and Mother Theresa.

Of course, you may like some of these women better than others. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get the entire set. Pick and choose at your pleasure! And if there’s an amazing woman you feel he’s missed (say, Harriet Tubman or Aphra Behn, for instance), he’ll be happy to paint her for you, special.

Or maybe great women of history isn’t your thing. Perhaps you’d prefer Egyptian gods, celtic patterns, butterflies, famous buildings, or non-figurative pewter inlays.

Oh, and of course in light of a recent happy event in the British Royal family, well, what could be better than a nice commemorative of the event? It’s a long-standing tradition among English lacemakers, after all.

I have several of Mr. Parsons’ bobbins on my pillow, so I can recommend them as excellent tools. Then again, you might just want them around because they’re pretty. They’re certainly that!


Born to Lace

Friday, June 3rd, 2011
By Twistie

via the Higgs Family Website

Pictured above is Miss Annie Baker’s Lace School, Risely, in 1914. The school was established in 1906, but it was among the last of a dying breed by that point. The large scale handmade lace industry was already well on its way out, between changing fashions and the common availability of machine made laces.

But lace schools had been a part of the British landscape  for a more than a century at this point. These schools dotted the landscape and were a major source of education for children of the poorer classes. And yes, boys went to lace schools, too.


Bobbin Along

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
By Twistie

Mmmm… pretty.

I love lace bobbins. I suppose that’s not surprising since they’re a necessary tool for my craft, but then not everyone who does a craft cares so very much about what their tools look like. I get that. They’d rather put the care and money into the thread and the pattern books, and that’s more than cool. But I find that quality tools not only add to the aesthetic pleasures, but make the work easier, too.

And that’s the case with Knotwork Lace Bobbins. Yes, I own about a dozen of these babies, and really want more. They’re very smoothly turned, a good weight for the sorts of threads I tend to use (I like some pretty bold patterns that take coarser threads), and sturdy as all get out. I’m hard on my bobbins and I’ve never once managed to break one of these.

The bone ones pictured above range from $11.00 – $14.00 apiece, and are customized with your choice of paint and wire (where appropriate). They can even be dyed for a small extra fee.

But not everyone wants bone. That’s okay, there’s wood, too. And if you use Continental rather than Midlands bobbins, well, Frances has you covered. And then there are travel-sized bobbins, other lacemaking tools, and a smattering of other sorts of needlework tools.

Sure, you can get cheaper tools. You can make bobbins yourself out of various household items you probably have lying around your home. Heck, I even have a book from the 1970’s that tells you how to make your own bobbins out of used toothbrushes! Great deal, if you have enough disused toothbrushes randomly taking up space in your home, but I think it could take a while to gather up enough of them to do much of a pattern.

But if you love nice tools and aren’t going to learn to turn bobbins for yourself, support a bobbin maker, like Frances. You’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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