Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Learning lace

My first complete detatched lace motif,  8cm wide (about 3 inches).
The net fillings are a sampler of different kinds of stitches.
I've been thinking about making lace for years: wanting to, wishing and yet always putting it off. I needed the incentive of a particular project to help me overcome feeling intimidated.  I can't tell you yet about the project but I'll tell you about the learning.

Crochet lace, which I thought was hard to learn...
 and then I started on needle lace and realised that crochet lace is a piece of cake
After gaining some competence with crochet lace I realised it wasn't suitable for the project I have in mind. What next?  Bobbin or pillow lace requires a serious committment to a lot of expensive kit (bobbins, bobbin winder, pillows and pins). It seemed easier (ha!) to start out with needle lace. Needle lace has a history at least as long and illustrious as bobbin lace but only requires a fine tapestry needle to get started.

So about three weeks ago I started teaching myself to make needle lace and now I have finally completed my first little piece of Venetian Point-style lace. I've been following this excellent tutorial online and practicing stitches from Needle Lace-Techniques and Inspiration by Jill Nordfors Clark and  Therese De Dillmont's famous The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework.  

It is, without doubt, one of the most difficult things I've ever learned, certainly the most difficult textile technique in my wide repetoire.  I've been joking to friends that it's like learning brain surgery, (but thankfully no one can be killed by my poor technique).

Proof of how terrible my first lace really is.  My eyesight (and most people's) isn't good enough to notice most of these messy details even on close inspection, but macro photographs reveals every imperfection. 

Early on a single stitch would take me several minutes, and then be so bad that I unpicked it anyway. Every few stitches I had to stop, get up, and move around to release the tension in my body and mind before returning to the task. But then after some dozen or so hours over of sweating and swearing I imperceptibly crossed a line. Now I wasn't struggling over every individual stitch, but  instead was frustrated by trying to make them into a pattern. And then another dozen or so hours later, some of the patterns started to look better than a stoned spiderweb.

And eventually my little lace snail was finished in all its misshapen glory. My needle lace is lumpy, uneven and a little grubby, as you would expect for a first attempt.  I'm so proud, and yet so ready to start the next little piece so I can work on getting my tension consistent, changing threads smoothly (and keeping the work clean).  I can't wait to take these basic skills and develop a wider vocabulary of stitches and techniques.  And one day my cordonettes will flow and my nets will float.   
I'm a bit embarrassed to share these photos which reveal my beginners's clumsiness but I intend to eventually get good enough to make a  beautiful brain out of lace. 


ronnie said...

well I think its a total delight!

Anna said...

it is a total delight