Using gimps, joining with magic threads, losing twist and carrying spare pairs.

l have started Elwyn’s first pattern but using her large pricking, when you were doing your pythagorous tree you were telling me you found a way to do your gimp without showing the white threads, can l ask for a reminder please?

I use the Russian Tape Lace method of gimps in a lot of Torchon pieces.   I use a pair of gimps instead of a single gimp, and I pass the workers between this pair, then twist then (instead of passing a gimp between a worker pair).  I particularly like it when I’m using a different coloured gimp to the workers/passives, it makes the colour stand out so much more clearly.

However, I didn’t use this on the Pythagoras tree, and I don’t think it’s suitable for Bucks Point lace  I stick to the regulation gimp for Bucks.

I’ve nearly made up my mind just to cut the threads instead of finishing them off on the Admiral Butterfly mat.


Q1.  I need some info about gimp insertion.  Have been reading some info my teacher has given me (won’t be back there for 2 weeks) and am getting sooo confused.  Others have said a thing about right is under and left is over etc. but that just isn’t helping at all

A1.  Gimps are not hard – just don’t let the “you must do it my way” brigade spook you.  Rosemary Shepherd’s book has a very complicated “if you’re passing the gimp to the left, then go ……  and …..”  Explanation.  The simplest way of passing a gimp is one I learnt from an English lacemaking expert, Geraldine Stott.  She says:  whichever way you’re passing the gimp, pick up the left-hand bobbin of the pair, pop the gimp through and put the bobbin back down.  That works for me, and countless others, in spite of what Noelene and Christine Johnston say.  I’ve won Champion ribbon at the show in Sydney, countless firsts, seconds, and thirds, and no-one has ever faulted my gimps!!!!!
I’m a Bucks worker, and I’ve never been able to understand the “lose a twist” statement – until a Torchon worker showed me what she meant….in Torchon one tends not to use as many twists as in Bucks, and I think the time you lose the twist is when passing the gimp to the right, and when there is only one twist before the gimp.  I’d always tested the argument by passing the gimp to the left, and with more than one twist on – which brings different results!!!!  I’ve offered my pillow to many, many people over the years and invited them to “try it” when told that I MUST be losing twists….and have also had the satisfaction of hearing everyone who tried my pillow say “oooh!  You don’t lose the twist!!”  – It must be a case of one thing works for Bucks, and something else is needed for Torchon.

Q2.  Isn’t it all about trapping a gimp thread between twists?  If there is a twist short, put on another, one too many, undo one!  I was told Bucks has 2 twists before and after laying in the gimp, Torchon has 1 twist before and after.  But… others have told me this is not correct at all.  So what do you believe?  A bit like beds.  I have been told, beds must alway have 3 twists before pinning!  But in the books I have checked, one says 2 twists another, 2 to 4 twists!!  Personally I think it depends on the thread used and the pattern.  These sorts of contradictions can make things very difficult for people working on proficiencies!!

A1: I’ve always thought the heavier the gimp the better,  until I did this class with Nadine.  In fact, a couple of years ago I discovered if I used, in Torchon,  the double thread Russian style gimp, where the workers pass between the gimp threads instead of sitting on top, it looked much better.  Have a look at the latest bookmark I’ve made on the website in Showcase 3, see what I mean.  I always do my Torchon gimps that way now (except for when I did my Proficiency 1, of course!).  I don’t think it would work in Bucks though.  With the Russian tape lace, the gimp is usually a different colour, and can be brightly contrasting one too.  And it seems nearly always the workers pass through the gimp instead of over it.  So it stands out anyway.

Q3.  I cant believe this, I have always thought I was doing gimps correctly having used Pam Nottingham’s way for Bucks (under the left hand bobbin, over the right, then twist the pair according to how many twists are needed for the next stitch (2 for honeycomb, 3 for net ground).  BUT, I’ve been watching a video with Geraldine Stott and she does it differently, for gimp coming from the right, she lifts the right hand bobbin passes the gimp through and passes the right hand bobbin over the left one, then twists.  Now I know that if you don’t do it correctly you remove the original twist, but I always thought I was doing this properly.  What does everyone think?  Thanks Judy for prompting me to ask this.  Hope this doesn’t confuse any newbie’s out there!

A1.  I was always taught to lift the left bobbin, pass the gimp through (between) and lay the left bobbin back in its place – on the left, then give 2 twists.  It works ok for me.  I don’t think any twists are eaten (lovely expression!) as the left bobbin stays on the left.

A2.  You are quite right, Liz, when you say that it doesn’t matter whether you cross the left gimp over the right or the right over the left, when 2 gimps meet, so long as you are consistent.  (I read somewhere recently that R over L is more usual, so I’m in the minority who do it L over R – I believe that if you are crossing gimps, you use a cross movement, rather than twisting them – pedantic, aren’t I).  However, PASSING a gimp through pairs of passives/workers/other threads is a different matter.  You lose a twist around the gimp (Ulrike Loehr so beautifully expresses it: THE GIMP EATS A TWIST).  If you pass the gimp under the L hand thread of a pair, it eats a twist that is already present, if you pass under the R hand thread of the pair; it eats the next twist that you put on.  So, you need to know how many twists you want before the gimp, how many you want after the gimp and then add the twist that gets “EATEN” either before or after depending on how you pass the gimp.  I usually do the opposite to Ulrike, but swapped while I was in her  classes – there is one spot in the pelican where I lapsed to my usual and I have a twist on the wrong side (twisted to suit Ulrike’s method of over R and under L thread and promptly passed the gimp as I usually do under R and over L) Try it yourself.  Take a pair of bobbins, twist once, then “lift the left” and pass a gimp between them, putting the left bobbin back where it came from.  Now push the gimp upwards, into the twist, and you’ll find the twist disappears – if you were coming out of a patch of cloth stitch, the Gimp would be flush up against the cloth stitch section.  This is what Ulrike means by “eating the twist” and why she told us, in effect, and in her sweet, reasonable, “Do it my way” to add an extra twist before laying in the gimp.
Nadine Pauwels does something in Beveren (gimp always goes either over or under the first thread it encounters), which is really easy to do – but results in a very odd effect if the gimp is vertical, since it effectively alternates methods each row – and THIS IS NOT SEEN IN OLD PIECES OF BEVEREN LACE, only modern pieces.  I have seen it in a narrow?  Bucks insertion in the V&A, but only in some places – so I suspect the piece was made by someone who didn’t think it mattered and passed the gimp randomly.

In Russian tape lace, you often use a pair of gimps instead of a single thread.  For this, you pass the pair of bobbins between the gimps, then give the two gimp threads a twist,  instead of passing a single gimp between a pair of bobbins. As I greatly dislike white threads appearing across my coloured gimps in Torchon, I decided to try out this technique in a Torchon piece, and it works beautifully!  It makes the gimp really stand out, instead of being flattened by the worker threads.

A3.  Marie-Christine’s workshop was heard to say “I refuse to translate this sentence from French for you because it says you do 2 twists before and after the gimp.[in Torchon] and I don’t agree”.  This also turns up in Nottingham with respect to Torchon.  It is quite simple:
If you pass the gimp CROSS, TWIST (over the L under the R/BOTTOM thread), as most of us learn to do in Australia, the next twist will be “lost” – as in, it just sits around the gimp, so isn’t seen either before or after the gimp.  Pamela Nottingham and many (but not all) of the English teachers pass the gimp the opposite way, by lifting the left hand thread of a pair.  The gimp is not prevented from sliding up and slips in between the immediately preceding twist.  (If you were doing Torchon and had only twist, the gimp would slide up into the stitch from the preceding row).Once you understand this, it is simple and applies to ALL laces:
1. How many twists do you want to SEE before the gimp?
2. How many twists do you want to SEE after the gimp?
3. Which way do you prefer to pass your gimp?

Bucks point is currently worked in a “no brainer” fashion.  You leave whatever twists were on there, you put on whatever matches the ground you are going into.  However, it is usual to pass the gimp by the “lift the left” method, so you lose the twist before the gimp.  (Exception to the “no brainer,” but lift the left, is if you are passing a gimp between 2 ground stitches to make a vertical or horizontal line – total of twists should be 5 rather than 6 or the gimp will wobble).
Geraldine Stott’s “Intro to Bucks” book makes the comment that in the past it was usual to have 2 twists before and after a gimp in Bucks (= pass by lift the left but only add 2 after.  If you pass your gimp CROSS TWIST = over the top thread of the pair/under the bottom thread, you need to start with one less twist and close after the gimp with 3).
Some years ago, someone got a Lace Guild Bursary and went to a large number of English museums with Bucks point lace and COUNTED the twists before and after the gimp (?the visible ones) – results were published in Lace – I looked at the full report when last at “The Hollies”.  The summary – lots of variations, with no clear “Winner.”
In modern Tonder lace, gimp is passed by the CROSS, TWIST movement, so there are only 2 twists before.  (For some obscure reason, areas of honeycomb only have one twist visible between the gimp and closest stitch).  Pattern working diagrams are marked with the understanding that the twist that is lost and the next twist are part of passing a gimp and are therefore NOT SEPARATELY INDICATED on the diagram.  As Ruth noted, though, the more twists you have, the less it matters what you do – it is probably only of interest to us OCD people.  However, back to what I said earlier, once you know how gimp operates (the USUAL rules), you can CHOOSE what you want to achieve (EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE “RULES” WAS MADE TO BE BROKEN). My gimp resource folder, which is limited to Torchon lace, includes examples of breaking of every single rule – with great results if was deliberate to achieve a particular effect and less than satisfactory results if done inadvertently. Ulrike’s views on gimps coincide with my own, so I just loved her approach.

A4.  I agree with you about lifting the left bobbin.  However, I’ve found that when I’m working on a filled-in motif, whether that is geometric or floral, I don’t do any twists on the inside of the motif.  Same applies whether motif is being worked in whole stitch or half stitch.  That way the filling goes right to the edge of the gimp and looks much better than when twists force it away.  I may add an extra twist on the outside to compensate though – just depends.

A5.  Hi Julie, I was following Christine J’s way of doing the gimps, she suggested that I just continue my cross, twist thinking, using the gimp as the first cross when it is going to the right, and using the closest (to the gimp bobbin) bobbin as the first cross when going the other way.  I find that my mind goes blank when talking about under the left hand bobbin, over the right,

Magic Threads

You lay in your gimp thread in one direction, and lay a loop of bright coloured cotton alongside it, and work the pinholes both sides,(passing your gimp and loop through workers as you go).  You take your gimp thread off its bobbin, loop it around the threads of a pair of workers (to anchor it), pull it through the loop, and pull it back up from where it came from, and rewind it onto the bobbin.  At least, that’s how I’ve figured out a way to do it – it’s not in any book I’ve ever seen. Not much fun, and if Christine J can come up with a better way to do it for the Pythagoras tree, AND using only 6 pairs of gimps, I would love to hear it.

Do you mean somehow you used the same loop idea of joinings to do a gimp? I am trying to visualise this as I have not really done any gimp work

Is this another way of doing the Kenn “Loop” gimp? I am doing the Loop version with my Beds, at the moment.  (Purists will be having fits, I expect – but it saves putting in new gimps for every little petal!)

I had to use them because in several places, you had to work certain ground stitches through which a gimp passed, before the actual gimp reached that area.   By laying in a doubled over length of brightly coloured cotton as you worked those ground stitches, you could then unwind the thread from the gimp bobbin, put it through the loop and pull it through the ground stitches when the gimp finally reached that area.  Then wind the gimp thread back on to its bobbin.  Messy.

For the magic thread, I would wind from the cut ends of the doubled over thread onto a spare bobbin, and put a safety pin through the loop at the other end so that the ends didn’t “disappear” into my work.   As I said, it got rather messy at times.  Certainly, Elwyn Kenn’s Bucks “loop” would not have worked with The Tree, it was far too complicated.  Sometimes I would have 4 or 5 magic threads embedded in the work at the same time!

As you say, Noelene, – the magic thread/gimp way sounds messy! I am managing by pulling down a loop, and feeding one of my workers through before twists and pin, and then feeding it back,  Not enjoyable, but gets the desired result. I am using the gimp Inside the pin – next to the cloth work, so it looks like a honiton thich thread, but is used like a gimp.  They used to call the Floral Beds “False honiton” and that is what I am trying to achieve.

I used to be quite happy with gimps in Torchon and Bucks, until I did a class with Ulrike Lohr some time ago, where she showed us with diagrams how a twist “disappears” when a gimp passes through. Does anyone have any comments on this?  I do have her “Gimp” booklet, but I only get more confused when I read it

If you don’t have a flat pillow, lying flat, the bobbins will roll and that often results in loosing the twists out of the thread, causing it to break, and that constant rolling drives me bonkers!!

I have found that, as long as I lift the RIGHT-HAND one of the pair and pass the gimp under that, regardless of which direction I am travelling, I manage to retain the twist(s).  I remember being amazed at how difficult to understand most of the explanations about this are.

I was having problems with my gimp thread losing its twist when I started my big Russian mat but fairly soon after I started it and was getting fed up with the unravelling, a lace pal told me to wind them “Left handed” result= faaab … now they are fine!

Carrying spare pairs

Have tried velcroing 2 bobbins together when replacing a bobbin that is running low on thread.

Also would be good for carrying spare pairs with the gimp.