Bobbins – how many, how much thread, winding

How many bobbins you need to start off and starting off. Winding bobbins and how much thread to use. Grids and threads and hexagonal and sectional patterns.

How Many?
Working out how many pairs of bobbins are required for Torchon is fairly simple.
You count the pinholes along a diagonal line of the pattern, That is how many pairs you will need, then add 2 pairs as the footside passives (or more, depending on what you like) and 1 or 2 pairs for the headside as on that last pin, one pair will be the worker pair, so you will need to add the passives required.  Again you may want to use more pairs here or perhaps less.  That is a personal choice.  (So, to sum it up, you need a pair for every pinhole and extra pairs for the foot and headside passives.  The diagonal line of pinholes will tell you how many pairs are needed.

How much thread?
Ive read the following and it works for me: e.g. For Bucks, wind on 4 times the final length of lace you are going to do. When I did samples of 6 inches, I would wind on 24 inches of thread. I would think this would work for Torchon too. If you have workers doing a lot of cloth stitch in Torchon, wind on a lot more to those pairs, (try to work out which these are at the start so you start with the bobbins with the most thread), alternatively swap the workers thread now and then to even up the use before you need to add new threads. If you are doing Beds with a lot of leaves, you need heaps more thread for the one thread of the 2 pairs that is making the leaves. Again, Ive swapped the workers in leaves by judicious use of extra twists to even up the use of thread. I know thread doesnt cost much compared to the work and effort you put in, but Id rather not unwind all those curly bits at the end! I was quite interested to see someone (a most respected and knowledgeable lady) at a lace day with bobbins with 2 colours, blue and white. She had made a pattern in blue, then just wound white thread over the blue for her next piece.

I, too, find it hard to estimate how much thread per bobbin I will need, so if it is a small project, I put about 2 arm-lengths on each bobbin, and if a large piece, I put about 4 arm-lengths! If doing Floral Beds, when there is a lot of adding and taking out, I wind one bobbin full, and the other of the pair with only a short length, then I can rewind from the fuller bobbins, as they are taken out, which saves both thread and time! My measurements being so vague, accounts for the “home-made cobwebs” (not spider webs as in my previous email!) hanging around the room!

You can’t just say “one meter on each bobbin should be enough”, no way.   I was looking at the Orange Monster today – what a nightmare that would have been if I hadn’t wound up the bobbins with lots of thread – as much as they would take. It all depends on what sort of thread you are using, and what the project is!

The thing I never forget is Bridget Cook’s statement, that the thread is the cheapest part of lace making.

Winding Bobbins
I’m about to wind the bobbins prior to starting the basic ‘sampler’ on p 17 of Rosemary Parkin/Shepherd’s book.  I also have Jennifer Fisher’s book. Now, Rosemary says to wind both from the same length of thread, Jennifer says to use separate lengths thread (although you can use the same length for both)  –  I assume you tie the ends together to join the pairs together.

What is the best way to do this, one length or two?  What are the pro’s and con’s of each?  I figure that I may as well start the correct way rather than try to change later.  To me, using separate lengths of thread makes more sense, as that way you can have the same length on each bobbin, but I’m not sure about having the tied ends.

It all depends on if you are joining the piece of lace at the end.  If you are making a square/circle then the threads have to be from one thread so that you can sew into the loop that is created.

If it is just a straight length (not a bookmark) piece you can join the threads with a knot and cut off the fringed end or roll it under and stitch it.

For practice pieces I sometimes just join threads with a knot, but 99% of the time I always wind from the same thread as you may change your mind as you work along and it does make it neater if you are joining the lace.

Helen, for samplers, it probably doesn’t matter either way!    Starting with “paired” bobbins wound from the same length of thread is usual for pieces of lace which are to be joined, or used in such a way that you want a nice neat start. In fact, I think, if I remember correctly, Rosemary actually suggests later in her book, using up shorter lengths of threads already wound onto the bobbins by tying them together, and pinning through the knots to start a sample.

So, if you’re just starting to wind bobbins, follow Rosemary’s instructions to start with – she’s assuming this is the first time you’ve ever wound a set of bobbins….but later on, if you have left-over thread on your bobbins, and it’s too much to throw away, just knot them together and use the thread up!

Don’t worry too much about having the same length on each bobbin – depending on the stitches/pattern you’re doing, you’ll soon find that some bobbins use up more thread than others anyway!!  For instance, if you look at the photo of the sample you’re about to start, by the time you start the second section, one bobbin only will start to move backwards and forwards across the row at a much faster rate than any of the others, and therefore will use a lot more thread!!

I prefer to wind my bobbins in pairs.  I wind what I want onto one bobbin, lay it aside, pull off a roughly equivalent amount of thread and lay it across my knees as I pull it off, then wind this onto the second bobbin.  Exact lengths are not possible to judge in advance – more than “enough” is my general rule.  As Ruth says, different bobbins go different ways and use up different amounts of thread.

Pros – think of the finished article.   If it’s an edge around a hanky, you will want to join your end back to the beginning.  If you start your piece with separated bobbins, you will have two extra ends to finish off.   If you start your work with your bobbins joined in pairs, then you join into the loop and you only have your two finishing ends to finish off.
(I’m finishing off 130 ends on a mat at the moment – I’d hate to have to do 260!!!)

Same with a bookmark.  If you start with bobbins wound in pairs (see Rosemary’s Spider bookmark, Chapter 8), then you have a nice smooth starting tip to your bookmark.

If you are going to do a lot of little samples, then a good idea is to wind a lot of thread onto one bobbin, and just a little bit on the second bobbin.  Then, when you’ve finished your first sample, you cut your bobbins off, get rid of the last little bit of thread on the second bobbin, and wind some more onto it from the full bobbin.

Interesting thing I learned at the Russian tape lace class last year – to finish off a sample, make a plait for about an inch then cut your bobbins off.  Same with starting a sample if you’re using up threads on bobbins and don’t have them in pairs – you do a plait for about an inch before you start your actual pattern.  Keeps the ends tidy. And looks better than an overhand knot. I notice this has been done a lot in the Fouriscot books I bought last year.  Seems to be a European thing to do.

I have been looking for a quick and easy way of measuring thread, especially when putting kits together for classes.  I have a fish line counter on order, coming by sea from the USA.  It measures the length of thread as thread passes through the device.  I can’t wait to try it.  The only draw back is that it will be in imperial measurement.  I looked for something similar in Australian fishing shops but could not find it at a reasonable price.

How do you measure the first bobbin-load of thread?

For the first bobbin-load, I use the rough finger-tip to nose-tip measure for “about a metre” and pull off what I want, laying it across my lap.   Then I either count the number of turns of the winder handle (for a small project) it takes to wind that, or just judge by eye when a bobbin is full enough for large projects.

You don’t want the exact quantity on all bobbins, so that for a big project (which I like doing) a whole lot of bobbins run out of thread at about the same time! And I’m not a leftover thread saver (except now for my future Christmas balls), so I’d always rather have too much on a bobbin than not enough.

For a workshop, I always wind as much as I can on one bobbin, then just a little bit on the other, so I can cut off a sample, and wind a small amount back onto the empty bobbin for the next sample.

When you unwind the thread from the reel for your second bobbin, carefully put the thread in a loose circle heap as you measure it and cut it off. Now when you wind your bobbin the top thread is being taken off the pile so hopefully no tangles

I forgot to add:  the first step when winding bobbins with the reel in an ice cream tub on the floor – lock the cat out of the room first

I measure my thread that way.  I just wondered how you could be reasonably accurate if your reel of thread was in an icecream container on the floor. I am like you.  I HATE running out of thread, and, really, in dollar terms you don’t waste much by throwing out the left-over thread.

I’m lucky enough to have a bobbin winder, but whether I use it or wind by hand, I still use the same routine.

1.  Make sure I’m not wearing my button up dressing gown – the buttons always snag the thread.  Sit upright at the small table with the winder on it.
2.  Put the spool of thread in an empty ice cream tub on the floor so it can bounce about as I pull the thread off (see tip below).
3.   Wind first bobbin.
4.   Pull off enough for the second bobbin, laying it across my lap, backwards and forwards and hanging over the edge  – usually about 3 or 4 passes. Cut the thread from the ball.
5.   Wind the second bobbin.

Much faster and less awkward for me than putting it all on 1 bobbin and winding back. And remember the tip that the thread should come off side of the reel and the reel should be turning – you should never have the reel upright and pull the thread off the top.  This leaves all the original twists around the reel in the thread, and might be the cause of your tangles, Helen.

I unrolled metres of thread then went to wind it onto the second bobbin. How do you unwind enough from a reel of thread to fill the second bobbin of the pair before cutting it from the reel?

For me the trick to winding the second bobbin – unless I’m making a long piece of
lace – is don’t fill it! I hate to waste thread, and find the nose-to-fingers measurement (near enough to a metre) on each bobbin is plenty for most things and short enough manage without getting tangled. I don’t bother to try to get the same amount on each; a quick swap works well, and if you do need to replace empty bobbins it works better if they don’t run out at the same spot!

What you want to do is wrap double the amount of thread on the first bobbin. Then you take your 2nd bobbin, and you unwrap the length that’s meant to go onto it from your first bobbin. This may sounds like double work, but you don’t get any tangles.

If you’re counting your length, a good way is to mark the end of the length that will stay on your first bobbin by doing a double-hitch (or two, to be certain!) and then go on wrapping your thread. This way, when you unwrap the part that’s supposed to go on the second bobbin, you will know when you’ve gone far enough when the double-hitch stops you. I measure my length of thread by having a long metal ruler (one metre one) on the table in front of me. I unroll 1m of thread, wind it up on my bobbin, then unroll another metre, wind it on the bobbin…but really, unless I’m using a very expensive thread and doing a small piece, I don’t bother measuring the thread, at least for the first bobbin,. I just wind as much as I can, then wind up a certain amount on to the second bobbin.

Measuring is OK, but you will find as you go that some bobbins use a lot of thread while others use very little, which allows you to cheat by swapping bobbins when you can so you don’t run out on 1-2 bobbins while the others are still quite full. Amazing what one triple twist or one half stitch instead of a full stitch can do…

If you wind the extra thread onto the first bobbin (even though that bobbin might end up grossly distorted in shape and size, and be unusable in that state), then wind the excess thread off onto the second bobbin, you’ll avoid that awful tangle.