Lace Tools

Divider pins, cleaning pins, pillow whisks, prickers, needlecases, magnifying glasses, dealing with lots of bobbins using holders, bobbin winders, crochet hooks, aficots, sundries, lights, pilow stands, pins and pincushions, thread holder for winding, ringsticks and cover cloths.

Divider Pins
I made up a whole batch of divider pins for Christmas gifts for my Cooma lacemakers group with the big quilting pins with a pearl at the head.  I just stuck a big black cloisonné bead under the pearl, then a little crystal bead under that, and dribbled a few drops of Super Glue on them.

Cleaning Tarnished Brass Pins
A tiny squirt of dishwashing liquid into a small jar containing 50/50% water/vinegar mix.  Shake well; leave 5 min., shake and rinse.  Tip out onto an old towel to dry.  If you dry them outside the towel will find enough breeze to upend itself.  That’s a guarantee!

Recipe from Joan in Ontario
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp vinegar
1 teas.  Dish soap.
I put into a jar add my pins give a little shake & let soak for a few minutes. Rinse & spread on a paper towel to dry. It works well.
Sticking pricker
Can anyone tell me why the needle in my pricker sticks when I am trying to pull it out – and, more to the point, how can I deal with it?

Failing beeswax another way is to make up a pad of waxed lunch wrap to use under the pricking (between it and your pricking mat) – take four or five sheets of wrap and layer together then iron with a warm iron – they adhere together and then you “oil” your pricker at every hole.

Pillow Whisk
I tried using the large centre beads I bought there to make a pillow whisk from a circle of tulle and two beads – has anyone got any tips on how to fold the tulle so that it forms a neat whisk?

My favourite de-furring device is a roller with masking tape.  The roll of masking tape is inside out so that it picks up everything as you roll it across the fabric.  When the current sheet is full of cat hair and no longer sticky then you can peel off the outer layer and the next layer on the  roller is ready to work again.  I can get the roller and spare tapes from my local dry cleaner.

A pillow whisk is a tiny broom for your lace pillow to brush away loose ends, and if stiff enough, cat fur.   It is a circle of stiff tulle (about the size of a saucer) with the centre of the circle pulled up through a largish bead then secured with a smaller bead on top. But I can’t get the centre of the tulle to pull up through the quite large bead, and want to know if there’s a trick to it – maybe a couple of small cuts in the centre of the tulle circle?  I haven’t tried that yet.   I tried threading a piece of wire through the tulle and threading that through the bead, but it just tore at the tulle.

It is 2 layers of tulle, folded in half.  Then the 2 sides are brought into the middle, and then the thing folded in half again, where the 2 sides meet, so it is about an eighth of a circle.

She just got a square of tulle (the stiff cheap type not the softer bridal one), zig-zag folded it up like making a serviette-fan, then folded that in half and with a needle and thread or ribbon stitched the “fold” secure.  Kind of looks like a mini tulle broom.  Works well.

Needle cases originated when needles were scarce and expensive – because the needles were small and easily mislaid. A variety of containers were devised to keep them in.

Queen Anne’s reign – steel needles were comparitively plentiful – open ended needle cases disappeared and were followed by needle books. Many with embroidered covers although the flannel “leaves” attracted the damp so then followed tightly closing cylindrical cases.

Earliest were small standing figures, carved from Ivory, approx 3″ high, divided in the middle and which screwed together.

Georgian era … cylindrical cases became common – fashioned from various materials – some with delicate workmanship, carved ivory with gold, tortoise shell with pique decoration.

French cases – Vernis Martin, or ivory cases with small panels of Vere Eglomise.

From France also came multi-coloured beaded cases – beads surrounding a slender bone container. Straw Marquetry came from France, from Italy small flat cases with sliding lid or drawer carved in wood or ivory and decorated with steel studs.

Bodkin cases were similar but bigger and were owned by both men and women.

19 century Morrocan cases – boxes – needle filled papers were arranged in sizes, on a slope, for easy selection.
Widely popular until they were ousted by the more convenient needle book – which returned to favour witrh advent of the workbox.

19 century – Austria and Switzerland ..tourists could buy standing figure needlecases carved from wood.

Early in Queen Victoria’s reign – needles were sold in small cardboard boxes decorated with a picture on the lid.

Latter part of 19 century – needlebooks came into more general use – some in “punctured card” work.
Needleboxes printed with notable buildings and beauty spots were sold as souvenirs at spas and holiday resorts. As Victorian era closed – the popularity of the ornamental needlecases was virtually over.

Also on Etui’s and Hussifs:

End of 17 century Etuis became popular – containing several articles connected with sewing …. (Thimble, small pair scissors, pins, needlecase).

Hussif – term derived from German word for “housewife” and describes various small sewing sets.

Hussif – A tiny cylindrical sewing set with a thimble as the lid and sometimes a seal on the base. Originating in 17 century Germany, it typically held needles, pins, threads and, frequently, collapsible scissors.

Magnifying glass (cleaning)
If the magnifying glass is actually made of glass, and the scratch is not too deep you can very successfully remove the scratch with a soft cloth and brasso.  It works like a charm (great for removing scratches of a watch face as well, provided it is not crystal glass).  This method also polishes gold rings and such to look like they have just come out of the jewelers!!  Good luck.

The Brasso trick works on Perspex, too, I believe.

The best possible way to deal with lots of bobbins is using the tongue depressors (TD).  Cut two notches in each end and use Size 32 rubber bands to hold the bobbins on.  The advantages are that bobbins can be taken from either end and they are the quickest way of securing a group of bobbins.  You just slide the TD under the pairs and secure the rubber band.  They can also be stacked easily, and I only put a square of cloth between them if I am using fine thread.  When I did the vest, I had 198 pairs of bobbins on the pillow, and they were great.  The knitting stitch holders are OK but it takes much more time to thread the spangles on to them – and it is putting stress on the spangles. I am so used to using these TDs that even if I am only using 30 pairs I keep my bobbins in order with them.  DH has even modified an old pair of pliers so that I can punch out the notches quickly. (It works like an old-fashioned ticket punch that tram/train conductors used)

I know a number of people that use cords. They thread them through the spangles, and tie them, reducing the size of the bundle, and piling them on top of each other.

I’m a knitting stitch holder person myself!

At the moment, I have them tied up in 6 pair lots with round shoe strings (cut in half, in red and black) and stacked one above the other with squares of fabric between.  I’ve also got a thin elastic headband pinned close to the top of where I am working, trapping the threads leading to these stacked bobbins down (the other end is pinned at the side of the work) so the threads don’t get tangled around the pins.  Now that was a stroke of genius.

Knitting stitch holders also work well, but with the 72 pair odd (I’ve never counted them properly) they just seemed too bulky, and the shoestrings are working OK.  I don’t like the flat boards with the elastic over the top, they never work for me.

I prefer to use (square) continental bobbins for the really large projects and I control them in crocheted holders. I use the knitting holders for spangled bobbins, but one of the ideas (which I haven’t personally tried) which hasn’t surfaced is the trays made out of the bottom of ice-cream containers (which can be stacked). I also haven’t tried (but have bought the equipment for – huge 10 inch pins) the Continental method of stacking the bobbins in a vertical row between very long and sturdy pins at the side.

My first bobbin holders were tied down at one end, but I prefer having both ends free so that you can access just a few bobbins from either side when necessary without have to undo the whole thing.

I often put a long, tall stick pin in front of each pile of bobbins to keep them stacked, and out of my way.  The sticks/bands keep them in order and do stack quite well. There are a variety of commercial versions of the stick and band type of holder.  I have 2-3 kinds myself.  Some of them are thicker wood and don’t stack quite as well. You can also take two tongue depressors, and a wooden wheel or wood circle the width of the depressors, and glue the wheel between the depressors at one end — like a large tweezer.  This forms both the top and bottom of the holder.  Drill a pinhole at the open end through both layers.  A hole could be drilled through the wheel end, also, if a person wanted. Just slide it over a group of continental bobbins and they are captured between the sticks and will stay in order.  The pinhole lets it be pinned closed if wanted.  Quite a few bobbins can be crammed in, and stay in order.  However, the entire group has to be slid out to get to the back bobbins.  With the sticks and bands, either end can be opened, or a bobbin can just be pulled out.

I also prefer the knitting stitch holders, but the ones with elastic are great for Honiton.

Ina le Bas’s husband makes them – I do know that.   Don’t know if anyone else has them.

I bought 100 tongue depressors for $3.50 at the chemist and used a hacksaw blade to cut the two slits in each end. He also drilled a small hole about an inch in from the end so that I could pin the lot to the board out of the way. I use large eleastic bands rather than hat elastic as that has more elasticity so I can stretch it over the bobbins without bunching them up.

I use a similar system to you but I use pieces or thick cardboard with hat elastic threaded through the end and flipped over the 2 “Vs” cut in the
opposite end I then put 2 pins through the card to hold  everything very
secure. This works well for me as I seem to carry my lace between home and
the shop all the time

My very favourite method of securing the bobbins should work for your square ones Liz.  I use tongue depressors with two notches cut in each end (DH made me a ‘chomper’ to do this easily) and a size 32 rubber band. The beauty of this system is that it takes no time at all to secure or undo the bobbins; they are kept in order; and you can undo some – from either end – and leave the others secured until you need to work with them

I still use the knitters stitch holders, – but will need to think up something for my square continentals. I have the pantyhose piece to put on it  “Put it’s
knickers on” as Barb. Underwood said!

I leave all the bobbins secures except for the section I am actually working on
and (almost!!!) always secure and pin all the bobbins down every time I stop.
And when I pack it up to take out, it gets an extra cover cloth over the top, then it’s wrapped up, then it goes into a big denim carry bag with lots of
zippered pockets for my instructions / notes, my coffee cup and all the other
bits and pieces that need to come to a lace day. Then I can throw the whole
thing in the back of the car and not worry if it gets tipped up or tossed
around a bit. It’s not waterproof but that hasn’t been a problem.

I use shoelaces, and tie my midlands together in lots of say 6 to 10 pairs.  I used to use knitting stitch holders, but I find the shoelaces more convenient.

I use twisted wool to hold my continental bobbins. Take a few very long lengths of wool (I use 8 ply) say about 8-12 pieces about 20 inches long.Tie a knot in one end……let someone hold the knotted end still whilst you twist the other end to make a tight twist. Bring the two ends together and they will twist in on themselves…they should twist rather tight…knot them together and you can pin the strip across your pillow and push the end of the continetal bobbin through each twist of wool.

For my square continentals I use a crocheted braid.  Make a chain of 28, skip 4, treble into 5th, single chain, skip 1 chain, treble into next, single chain, skip 1 chain, treble into next.  I use a large ply, soft nylon wool.  Feed the bottom of each bobbin into the holes formed between the trebles.

I spent yesterday trying black silk Chantilly, found that crotcheted chain holders in wool are the best help.  The little plastic hair clips will work but threads become twisted.

Bobbin Winder
My bobbin winder is on a piece of Tassie oak about 40 cm long, 8.5 wide, 2.5 thick, so it is quite heavy.  You could clamp it to a table but I find I don’t need to.  Probably the fiddliest part of making it was the three little wooden stands I made to support the drill – all hand carved to fit the relevant parts of the drill so it can be held firmly and horizontally.  You could probably do it with a router, except that you get a better fit if the hole is tapered like the drill handle.  The little stands are attached by screws through the base and the drill is held in place by a saddle over the handle and another over the drill body just beyond the chuck.

Q: How much thread do I need to put on my bobbins? I have read that most lace only needs about three times the length of the finish lace on a bobbin but this may be too much or too little for some types of lace. This is just one of those things that you will learn by trial and error.

What worries me about the lacky band winders is that it does damage the bobbins over time. If you have hand painted bobbins, mother and babe’s, cathedral windows etc, you can’t use that winder. Now this is where you can in all honesty say…”I NEED an electric winder!!!!! After all it saves having to replace the worn out bobbins does it not.

SMP Plastic winder, which works with all bobbins, but is very annoying as the bobbin keeps coming off if you pull too much on the thread while winding (I fix that by holding the end with a plastic clothe peg) Just reading about bobbin winders.  I ordered the bobbin winder from Langendorf just before Xmas and it arrived on the doorstep early in the new year.  Have not had a chance to try it yet.  You cannot get the electric one but the battery one is OK.  Postage is 15Euro which I thought was a bit much and they also charged 5 Euro credit card fee. It worked out to $154 all up so it is not a cheap option

I’ve got 3 different winders
-homemade one by DH which is nice only when bobbins are more or less straight
-SMP Plastic winder, which works with all bobbins, but is very annoying as the bobbin keeps coming off if you pull too much on the thread while winding (I fix that by holding the end with a plastic clothe peg)
– John Beswick’s folding winder, which is fantastic, but perhaps not very good for arthritic hands, unless you can keep it fixed somewhere.

I have a bobbin winder that comes with a battery pack and with a power cord – but I do need an adapter for it. It is a hand held winder – a bit like an electric tooth brush – but works very well. I bought it from   and ordered it from them in Germany.

I have a black plastic winder (Helen brought it back from England some years ago.) Before that I used DH’s Hand Drill, mounted sideways on a block of wood, and he trimmed the chuck down a bit to accomodate my Midlands bobbins.  That worked OK – but I had to be VERy careful not to get black grease on the threads! I also have a small fly wheel and elastic band type winder, but rarely use it, as the handle/knob is tiny, and round/wrong shape, and my fingers slip off it.  It needs a slightly larger knob, shaped like the one on the black plastic winder! Helen (DD) has an electric one in Denver. She seems to find it OK.  I will ask her about it, and fwd her answer to you. There is NO stop/start button, I think, so you have to fti the bobbin in, and remove it as it is spinning —I think/seem to remember!

I have a black “plastic” type bobbin winder, and I wind all my bobbins in it.  It has foam pieces where it snubs the bobbins, and the tail of the bobbin pushes into the rubber ‘hole’ piece at the back. I put my left index finger on the head of the bobbin to push it in, and keep it steady while winding – and use part of that hand to guide the thread, too. It does not seem to have any effect on any of the bobbins, as the painted or decorated shank is just in mid air.

I never wind any hand painted bobbins in a winder and recommend people not to in my Price List because I don’t know what type of winders they might be using.

I have 3 winders … 2 wooden (the bobbins sit in a groove which is lined with sticky backed felt stuff) and I have the Acrylic one from John Beswick … With all my winders the painted area of the bobbin is in contact with the winder and however well padded…the friction, over time, will crack and ruin the artwork … hence the hand winding … if I am planning a piece of lace which needs a lot of thread on the bobbin I wind my various wooden, bone ones.

Most people who hand paint bobbins will recommend NO winders! 😀 Though it does sound as though yours (and possibly some other people’s winders out there) is ok…

“I adore my electric one.  Only change I’d have is a foot pedal control (Steve added one to Penny B’s one).  It doesn’t spin fast enough to get too hot to stop the fly wheel by hand, but until you figure out your third hand, it’s a little clumsy.  It saves me so much time with winding bobbins, and just needs a little dab of sewing machine oil before I use it.  I keep mine covered with a cloth to keep the dust off.  I can use almost any sort of bobbin on it – has the different milled brass ends for different sorts of bobbins.”

From Helen in Denver
Start with from the hardware store
plastic tubing – 3 cm long x 6mm
plastic tubing – 5 cm long x 8mm
1 x red 6mm plastic expanding plugs used in plaster walls to hold
hand drill
G clamp
bulldog clip

Instructions on making
insert the red plug inside the 6mm tubing, leaving 1.5 cm out insert above into the 8mm tubing, leaving the exposed end of the red plug uncovered. Insert the uncovered end of the red plug into the drill. Using a sharp knife cut 2 slits the length of the tube(s) clamp the drill to the tabletop, with the turning handle upwards

Instructions on winding
Insert the bobbin inside the slit tube with the spangle going out the slits and over the outside of the tube clamp top of split tube to bobbin to prevent it falling out or wobbling. Tie on the thread, tension with one hand, turn the handle with the other until bobbin is full. NB I would think the same technique would work with electric drill but I rather like the idea of being able to stop the turning quickly.

You can also use your sewing machine, by putting a short piece of plastic tubing over the thingy on the top that you wind sewing machine bobbins on. I’ve seen it demonstrated and can’t remember exactly how it worked but with a bit of experimenting I’m sure it would be pretty easy.

I have an acrylic portable hand winder which is great but it would be nice to have an electric one for the bigger jobs.

It’s quite slow, which gives me time to wind the bobbins nicely.  I will get 40 prs wound tonight, to start the pattern tomorrow night. It’s not much faster than winding by hand, but much less tiring.

An elderly lady in Canberra makes lace on a bolster pillow on a proper “horse” made for her by her husband, and with the hooded bobbins.  She is fascinating to watch, and makes tape lace. And yes, she does turn her pillow around as she works, sometimes sitting along the horse, sometimes across it. She also had THE most fascinating method of winding her bobbins I’ve ever seen.  She would put the ball of thread on a little tray at the front of the horse, a glass headed  in the pillow, then loop the thread around the pin and down and back to her bobbin somehow, then just push the bobbin towards the pillow and bring it back at lightening speed.

The little short hook is no longer available as far as I know.   At one stage DH made me up a whole lot of short handles in turned wood.  He then cut some crochet hooks off short, embedded them into wooden handle, and I drilled a largish hole through the end so they could be hung around the neck for tatting.  Has Max ever made something like this?   They were very popular.

My favour tatting hook was the little short one that came with the black and white Milwards shuttle many years ago.  I’ve still got one – just one – and I attach it to a fisherman’s “zinger” – a little round brooch with a retractable string coming out of it.  So you pull the hook out, use it, let it go and it retracts back.  At least that way I don’t lose it.

I pin it to my shirt, top, whatever and then I know where it is.It works a treat and I like it better than any other hook I have had. Can you still get them I wonder?

I too, have my hooks bent (Did it over the flame on the gas cook top) I did
this to  them many years ago … Funny you should mention it though as last
Saturday I went sailing of to my Lace arvo and left my tool kit sitting in
the studio … I asked my friend whose house we were meeting at if I could
borrow one of hers … She only had .6 ones and they were straight …
Definitely much fiddlier … Didn’t get as much of the braid done as I would
have liked as it was surprising how much it slowed me down … Am planning
on buying a couple more .4 hooks this Saturday at the WA Cattern’s Fair so
that I can keep one pinned on the Russian mat pillow until the piece is

A crochet hook works even better if you bend it backwards.  I heat it in the toaster oven or on the cook top and then I hold it with one pair of pliers and bend it with another.  However, one has to be careful not to tug on the hook itself.  I have managed to pull off at least two little hooks while trying to bend them!

I’m going to try it as soon as I have time to go buy some shoelaces and some heat shrink tubing!!! I use the plastic knitting safety “pins”, which works very well, but you have to align the spangles of your bobbins before you can thread them properly, so it’s a bit of a drag when you’re in a hurry!

I’ve just discovered magic threads after all these years of bobbin lacemaking. Don’t know how I ever managed without them.  I do know, actually – never
made anything that necessitated joining up at the ends (ie mats, etc) because I always used to have major trouble finding the holes and I invariably would split the thread when pulling it through with my crochet hook.

I don’t mind a crochet hook for thick thread, like Russian tape lace, but I
cannot cope with one for sewings, joining up etc. with fine thread.  My magic tool is what I think they call a lazy susan – a needle, with a bend in it, with the point embedded in a handle, leaving the eye end free.   You thread a coloured cotton through the eye end (and I put a rolled knot each end of that thread so that it doesn’t slip out the eye).  Then you poke the eye end into your loop needing to be joined, draw it back slightly and the coloured thread forms a loop, which you pull out, put your joining bobbin thread through it, and draw the whole thing back.  As soon as your bobbin thread is through, you can put the lazy susan and its coloured thread aside, and make your joining/sewing.   Again, easier seen than explained, I think.

I don’t think aficots are used much these days, but in the past, I think they were used to smooth out the stitches in NL, and even it out a bit, and/or to ‘polish’ the raised cordonettes on Gros Point type laces.

I have had a look through my books, but can’t find much on Aficots, – except that they were originally made of Lobster claws. The bulge sits in the palm of the hand, I believe.

Just found this explanation :-
17th century tool used for burnishing threads, particularly used by needlelacemakers and those working with silk. Aficots fit comfortably in your palm with thumb resting on its curve. The curved wood burnishes threads. So I would think they are slightly larger than a tatting shuttle, and more lumpy!
Brian Lemin had some, too, I believe.

I am told that the back of a teaspoon can be used, if you really want to burnish your lace.  I am really not sure how the aficot is properly used.  Some information I have is that they burnished the filling stitches, and other info says they burnished the Raised work in Gros Point, so I am a bit confused about them.

In Nenia Lovesey’s book ‘Introduction to Needlepoint Lace’ published by
Batsford 1985 it says in the Glossary ‘Afficot. An instrument used for polishing the raised parts of the lace.  Early afficots were made from highly polished wood, bone or ivory, in the shape of a miniature golf club.  On the Continent, and later in this country, a lobster claw was cleaned and polished and set into a wooden handle; this was common practice amongst the poorer lacemakers’ “The Aficot is a sort of long, shallow “s” shape with one end carved to a point and the other quite bulbous which fits in the palm of your hand so that you can exert pressure on the other end.  They are used to ‘finish’ needlelace.  Lobster claws were said to be the original of the design. Used to “polish” the threads of the rolled Cordonnet.  Metal aficots looked like large nails with rounded heads, but with a blunt end, no point.  They were heated so they could be used as miniature irons to press small areas of the lace flat.

I was very interested in the needlethreader with the cutter, thought that this would be very handy and would love to purchase one,

I have one of these too and I think they might be Birch. They come in packets of 3 and have red handles, about 1″ long I think.

In my experience with both internal Aust.domestic and o/s flights and then domestic flights in other countries, it depends entirely on the airport security staff and what sort of day they seem to be having as to what they will allow through. No discussion as to being allowed to bring it on commencement of journey etc. etc. cuts any ice at all. Liz came up with this idea and I tried it out – dental floss threader for a needle and then dental floss box cutter for cutting threads. Depends what sort of needlework you want to do, but Xstitch and some needlelace are OK.

What is a dental floss threader?
It is an oval loop on a short stem of a sort of heavy duty nylon (or similar) thread.  Similar to fishing line, only heavier and not so flexible.  Buy them in box of 20? 25? at the chemist. Not quite sure how you use it with the dental floss, but it works in some instances, instead of a needle.

It seemed a good time to mention “rain coats for lace pillows”. One of my umbrellas turned inside out one blustery day here, and was sadly beyond repair. Needless to say, it was my best one too. The thought struck me that if I took it all off the frame, glued a pretty something or other on the top where the top of the handle went through, it could well be useful!! I cut the scalloped pieces off to make it round, hemmed it and put elastic through and wound up with a very pretty waterproof raincoat for my lace pillow.

A bobbin roll is a long length of fabric with little dividers sewn into it – each pocket takes a pair of wound bobbins.    Once the bobbins are inserted, the whole length of material and bobbins is rolled up for carrying to a lace day or class.  Personally, I find bobbin rolls a little bulky. However, a clever lady in Western Australia makes bobbin cases – same idea, but these are a little bigger than half a sheet of paper, with a zip around three sides….undo the zip, and the thing opens up like a case or a book…. each case takes 32 pairs of bobbins easily…and if you’re really desperate and your bobbins aren’t too big, you can fit more in.   I like the cases because they’re not bulky, even when filled with bobbins.

How many different ways are there to make bobbin rolls? The first one I made was a rectangle of fabric hemmed on 4 sides with a piece of 1” wide tape down the middle divided into bobbin width sections. Both sides folded in over the bobbins, then tied with a tape.

I have a beautiful bobbin case (rather than a roll) that has zips down each side and opens out to hold about 68 pairs of bobbins.  It is beautiful and I love it and it seems very ungrateful of me to criticise it, but I have found one problem.  When going to a workshop for example where various threads/colours are being used, you have to take each bobbin pair out to find the right thread or colour.  Is there any way of making one of these with transparent pockets?  My other thought was to make one with a narrow strip instead of the pocket.

in Darwin There is available a zipped folder that holds clear plastic inserts for skeins of embroidery thread.  It is actually a zipped ring binder.  The inserts are available separately so a clever gumnut could devise a fabric retainer, possibly with curtain rings as keepers, if they did not like the rigidity of the  carrier.

You can get clear plastic that can be sewn – a bit like the heavy plastic that we used to cover school books with. Some fabric shops sell it

I used to pad mine, until I discovered the quilted and padded calico. When I sew the bobbin pocket slots, I just mark the tops with a berry pin. I start at the top, sew down the slot, lift up the foot, and pull the whole bobbin roll towards me to the top of the next slot seam.  I find it easier than turning the whole thing round to sew back the other way for the second slot seam.

I know I’m a sucker for gadgets and tools.   Latest acquisition today from a gift shop in Manuka (suburb of Canberra) is a dome with an egg shaped base (about 5cm by 6cm and about 4cm high) called a “Page up”.  It has a slot across it, slightly curved, into which you can slip a sheet of paper which will stand upright.   The base is weighted.  Just the thing for putting on my pillow with a diagram or picture of something I’m trying to make.  It’s already in use to show the gimp path in the Bucks edging I’m doing.

I also called in to Bunnings Hardware and bought a standing lamp with a halogen bulb to replace my old one.   I love the halogen globe light to work under – I have three now, the standing lamp by my lounge chair, a desk one with a neck about 30 cm on a table which I use for lace, and a little one only about 15cm high which can actually sit on my lace pillow (these last two are Kambrook lamps, and were very cheap – the standing lamp was about $70).  They give a good, clear light, and don’t get too hot.  I tried the daylight bulb in a lamp once, didn’t think much of it and it was waaaay too hot.

The one with a tiny neck is only a few inches long, but telescopes up to about 12 inches.   This one is small enough to actually sit on my pillow – the base is about 4 inches in diameter.  It’s also good to cart around for workshops.  Neither very expensive.   Not as good as the famous Ott lamp, but that’s a bit out of my budget and these were cheap.

Pillow stands
My husband made me a very simple pillow stand years ago when I wanted something light to carry in my pillow bag to go to demos, but it was also useful at home when I didn’t want to bring out the proper pillow table. Unfortunately, I think I must have forgotten to take it back when I went to a demo somewhere, and I really miss it. When I feel brave, I will ask him to make me another one…:-)He doesn’t turn wood, so he used 2 lengths of square aluminium tubing, one slightly smaller than the other so it slid inside. He fixed a flat length of aluminium, about 4-5cms on the top of the smaller one with an L-shaped angle brackets screwed on each side, another flat piece at the bottom of the bigger square tube screwed on the same way, to hold the thing on the ground, and added a foldable “wing” at each end of the bottom piece to stabilize it. I just put my feet on it to keep it in place when in use. Both square tubes had several holes drilled through them, and he attached a big nail to the top bar so that I pushed the nail through the holes from front to back at the height I wanted. It was wonderful, much lighter than wood, and completely flat. To use it, I just sat on a chair and set it in front of me, put my feet on the bottom bar to hold it steady, and put my pillow on the chair when I got up. The stand stood on its own when not in use. If anyone is interested, I can send you a drawing, it’s probably easier to undesrtand how it’s made!

I have this one.  I have only recently bought it and have been using it to work on a lo-o-ong outstanding UFO.  I am still fine tuning the adjustments.  It has a pole that one can screw at exactly the right height – whatever that happens to be.  The table top has a slope that is flat or a predetermined alternative – no choices there.  However, one can have it straight and lean the pillow on the edge and resting in the lap. I use Scandanavian bobbins – no spangles – the pre-determined angle of the table is too steep for me as my bobbins squirm around, so I have the table adjusted at just the right height with the tabletop flat and rest the pillow in my lap at a very slight angle.  Then when I have to get up to do things like make lunch, I just push the pillow onto the table top – with STRICT instructions that if anyone knocks it over they are not to touch it, but to get me quickly!

How do you stop the pillow from sliding off?   I have a table made by my brother in law, the pattern was shared yesterday by someone from the group, and I use an old-fashioned bulldog clip to stop the pillow from sliding off the table when it’s on an angle.

I’ve found that a piece of that non slip bubble stuff that you can usually buy in rolls at variety stores put on top of my table stops the pillow from moving.  I can even move away and leave the pillow sitting there now, was never game to before.

How about some of that rubber grip mat. You can buy it in pieces or by the metre from places like Bargain Box or Spotlight. It works reallay well for me. I use it for lots of things.

Someone recently asked about lace tables, here is what I have collected about alternatives available

I am intrigued by the Ezee table – at $39 it could be a bargain – has anyone seen or used one?

Torchon House
Gaye and John Beswick
c/o Post Office
South Australia 5142
Tel. & Fax is ….. (08) 83901324
Portable, compact storing, lightweight lace table $135 (approx)

I’ve got an Ezee table Jenny – got it for $28 from the Homecare catalogue the local rep put into my mail box last year – and I love it. It’s easy to take apart if you need to; fits into the boot of the car – I’ve got a Hyundai Getz – and is great for making your prickings on. Have got an Over-bed table but don’t like it – with one leg it’s not as stable as the Ezee table with two.

Yes, Jenny, I’ve seen them.   From the personal user’s point of view, I think these tables are not bad…they are very economical, and as they say, they can be adjusted, both for height and for slope of the actual table.   They are quite stable, given their light construction.

If you’re sensing a hesitation in what I say, it’s because my experience of them has been from the point of view of a teacher – and even when at their highest setting, they are a *killer* for a tutor’s back!!!!

I’ve got one of those Ezee tables, Jenny, they’re OK, but not stable enough for my liking. The best table I bought was a $30 in Office Works – rectangular top, adjustable to 4 different heights, very stable.

I don’t know of a site where you can view different lace tables – a popular
one here in Australia is made by John Beswick at Torchon House.  I’ve had
one for a couple of years now, and love it.  It’s so stable, and lightweight.

Try using a stable table (tray with cuchion underneath full of polystyrofoam
beeds) upside down on your knee to hold bobbibs l did this when doing my fan found it worked well held the bobbins and stopped them falling off all the

Sabine’s pillow stand is her adaptation of the one where you support your pillow on a small cross bar, and put the other end in your lap. It consists of a craftwood rectangular base, with a two piece column at one end, standing upright, which can be adjusted for height.  At the top is the small cross bar.  The column is hinged at the base, and secured in place with a bolt.  So it folds down flat to carry.  When in use, you put your feet on the rectangular base to keep it steady. I’d seen one like this at some earlier Canberra workshops, and wanted one

John Beswick makes a fabulous table but more expensive than one made by Len Purcell which is really just an adjustable stand.

DH made me something similar in metal, although with only 4 shelves (I must work on him to make a new one!!) which sits on top of my crafts storage bench (also built by DH, but in wood). I need more room, though! I’ve bought another 3-4 pillows since….I was intrigued by the pillow standing on the floor on Angela’s second picture. Never seen one quite like that!!!

Talking of pins – I bought a small packet of the long, black, very thin insect pins when I did the Mechlin workshop – they were to support a turn of thread where you didn’t have an actual pinhole.    I find them very useful for my Bucks lace, firstly for supporting a tally when I am forced to make one, and secondly for supporting a new gimp thread when it’s introduced.  As the pins are so long, they stick out, are not forgotten, and are easily removed.    I have to prick a tiny hole for them first, as they bend soeasily.

I have used the insect pins in Mechlin and in Flanders.  Ulrike Lohr showed us how to use them so that we could maintain the correct shape in the motif while tensioning the bobbins.  They are so fine that they don’t leave an
obvious hole where they have been.  I use pins as fine as .35mm.  You can get them even finer, but it would be near impossible to not bend them when inserting them.,

I undid the stitching on my Honiton pillow which had become rather soft, and added more straw which a friend kindly gave me, gave it a few hits with a rolling pin and now it feels nice and firm again. Only took a short while to do, but it is much improved. My brother saw me and made a remark about couldnt they have invented a better way of doing things by 2007. Well, I havent heard of any alternative for a Honiton pillow, and anyway, it feels so nice to work on straw! Now what to make! Some of the pins had gone a bit funny, the brass layer had worn off in spots on only SOME pins, not sure why this is. I just hope that when I remove the pins that they dont damage the lace as they emerge, as they seem to catch on the lace when they have the coating rubbed off in spots. I do live near the beach and take the pillow away for holidays near the beach, but if the salt air tarnished pins, wouldnt they all tarnish? (well not really tarnished, just the coating is removed in spots).

I was an industrial chemist before I took up making lace bobbins and I suggest that straw will absorb moisture from the air ( you can’t prevent it) which leaches weak organic acids from the straw and these acids attack the zinc which is part of the alloy we know as brass.  This would not happen overnight but lengthy prolonged contact between the brass pin and the straw will eat away enough zinc to roughen the surface of the pin.  A pincushion with a thin layer of 120 grit carborundum powder in a pocket on top of the usual filling will help to keep the brass pins clean. Of course, stainless steel pins aren’t affected by straw fillings.

Thanks for your comments, that sounds logical, it seems that some of the coating is eaten away. BUT, as some of the coating is now missing, I dont see why carborundum will help, surely that will only help if there is something extra on the pins rather than less??

Julie it is not the coating it is the pin itself. The oxidation occurs on the surface and once started keeps getting deeper into the metal that makes up the pin. Similar to the oxidation that takes place on silver.The carborundum just removes the surface oxidation. Similar to the way Silvo removes the surface oxidation on silver and as with Silvo, once that is removed the silver has gone, similarly for the brass, one it is removed, some brass has also gone. Eventually your pin will wear out but it will take so long that it doesn’t matter. Now when you boil silverware in water and bi carb solution in an aluminum pot, you are in effect reversing the oxidation by performing a reducion reaction, ie removing the oxide and leaving pure metal in its place. The oxide moves to the aluminum pot or foil that you have thrown into your pot. That is why you aluminum pot gets a coating and the aluminum foil goes all black and crumbly.

I don’t know what attack stainless steel pins, but I can tell you  I’ve got quite a few with a “ring” of something round them when i left them in a pillow for more than a year without moving them!! I was rather astonished to discover that my precious (and expensive) pins could get so damaged! Where can you buy carborundum in small quantities.

Yes, some of the brass is eaten away but the carborundum will polish what is left and make the pin smooth again.  Whether the pin is still usable depends on how much brass is left.  If too much has corroded the pin although smooth again will bend easily and can even break leaving a piece of pin in the pillow.  If the pin looks too bad / thin, throw it away, the carborundum can only remove the corrosion on the pin.  Having said that pushing pins through the pincushion containing the C. will keep them clean and polished.

With regard to stainless steel pins, the ring of gunk on the pin comes from the materials used to make the pillow and can be removed by the same pincushion containing carborundum.

The lapidiary clubs use carborundum powder to polish their rocks and may be willing to give you a small amount.  The companies that separate beach sands sort out zircon sand which is black, shiny, thoroughly washed clean and just the right size granules for your purpose.

Carborundum – is that what I know as emery sand?

Yes, I’m pretty sure that is the other name for it

I always have a piece of very fine sand paper in my lace toolbox for polishing really bad pins, but it’s just too awkward to do lots of them. It does work very well.

Pin Cushions
Is it the pin cushion with the wooden base and holes in the side? Jean and I had conversation about them going on via email for a while.  She sent me the addy for her website which is worth looking at..

I have never had any problems with grease. I used wool I’d bought years ago to spin with a spindle, so it had been cleaned up a bit already, maybe some of the grease had gone. But it does keep the pins nice and shiny, but then, so does the bran. You do have to watch out with the bran, though. I had a lot of pins that I left stuck in for a long time without using, and they got “rusty”, but maybe they just weren’t really good brass ones. The stainless steel ones seem to be OK.

As a spinner I used to stuff my pincushions with raw wool combings, until colonies of small beasties began to move in to them and gobbleup the wool and be a general nuisance.  I just stuff very firmly with toy stuffing – I was told to stuff till the object was so full no more could be pushed inside – add some more and stitch closed – I have never had trouble with my pins sinking.

Personally, I found unwashed wool so greasy it sort of grabbed hold of my pins and wouldn’t part with them….I ended up dismantling the pincushion again and finding a different filling.

The grease is no problem – in fact it’s a desirable thing – the lanolin makes the pins go through the pinholes much easier and also stops the pins from rusting if they sit in the cushion for long periods without use.  It’s the same logic as running nappy pins through your hair or a bar of soap to make them slide through the fabric more easily.  I usually use 3/4 normal wadding/stuffing and then a layer of the wool at the top

One of my pet hates is the fact that pins in my pincushions sink down.  Marion in Narooma recently gave me a jar of the pellets used to stuff cloth bodies of porcelain dolls, and yes Marion, they work perfectly!I rang Dollworks in Canberra this morning – they don’t have the beads, unfortunately, but the lady there said she stuffs her pincushions with the tiny wire scourers bought by the packet in Woolies etc.   She says a layer of wadding under the cover, then stuffed tightly with the scourers not only holds the pins firms, but sharpens them too. Is this “sharpening” advisable for lace, though?   I seem to remember being advised against it.

If they’re pellets, , how to you push your pins in? My pins don’t seem to sink down on my pincushions, unless I push them down hard…I stuff them with bran or soft toy stuffing, or unwashed wool, they all seem to work OK.

Little round pellets, Helene, don’t ask me how it works, but it does.  At first it was a bit difficult to get the pins in, but now the pellets have settled down, it works like a charm. How to keep the different pin sizes apart?   Make yourself a bigger Pumpkin Pincushion with its 8 individual sections.  My pins always used to sink – maybe I don’t stuff the pincushions hard enough.  I gather you don’t have any problem with grease from the unwashed wool?  The pins would be nice and shiny!

That reminds me – I saw a pincushion on a pillow at a workshop in Canberra last year – it looked like a big pad that narrowed either side and the ends were sewn/tied/pinned behind, so that the pad faced the lacemaker and the pins when into it at right angles.  It was quite large, maybe 5 or 6 inches across.

I think you mean the triangular one – it is basically a large square folded in half diagonally to form a triangular shape, sewn up and stuffed and then the 2 points are pulled back together and sewn together or pinned down. I vaguely remember someone saying it was a traditional lacemakers pincushion!

Thread Holder for winding.
I certainly find it helps if the thread comes off the reel sideways, not vertical. My husband made a holder for me.  Basically it is a small block of wood with non slip matting glued to the bottom to stop it slipping on the table.  A bracket which holds horizontally a piece of threaded rod with a wing nut attached.  There are also tapered cones (plastic) which fit on the rod up against the thread to stop it turning too fast and looping around the rod.  It holds most of the sizes of thread I have except the large cones of linen.

I can show you how to use a Couronne (ring) stick during the Cordonnicot workshop. I have several sticks myself in different sizes including a Hedebo Stick with a smaller Couronne stick inside it which was made in Tassie… by Phil Smidthammer. The others I have were made by John Pollard and John Beswick..I rarely use my Couronne stick. I prefer to do my Couronne’s on the “pad” much better control and neater too.

When Olwyn Scott did the workshop for me in Ipswich she had a great collection of templates I guess you call them to use as ring stick including various tops of plastic goos, golf Tees broken knitting needles skewers etc.

A ringsitck is a tool used by Needlelacers to make couronnes – or rings.  They are made separately, and stab-stitched onto the lace afterwards. I have one, butr rarely use it, as I like tiny couronnes, and use the eye end of a tapetry needle as a ring stick, usually!   You just start the couronne using it, then slip it off the stick, and work it in the hand/fingers.  It is very fiddley!!!   A meat skewer, round type tooth pick, knitting needle etc works just as well.   It is just something to wrap the thread around, as the base for the couronne, before you start doing the buttonhole stitching over the bundle. Ring sticks are usually graduated so you can make different sized couronnes.

A ring stick is a tool to help you make needle lace button hole rings.  The stick is graduated from one end to the other, so you can make small rings to medium rings to big rings, in about 6 different sizes.  You stitch the button hole ring on the stick and when you have finished you slide it off.  The independent rings are used in needle lace and embroidery such as Casalguidi and Hedebo.  The stick helps to keep your rings the same size as each other.  It is also less fiddly than trying to do the rings “in the air”.

I have 3 horse hair pillows and love working on them but the one thing I dislike intensely about it, is that the pins holding the pattern in place keep working their way up constantly. this in turn catches the threads and if not noticed straight away, can break them. (not much fun!!) Am I the only one with this problem, or has someone found a way to overcome this annoying happening.

I have this problem as well so I get other cover clothes and place them over the corners of the pricking covering the pins thus protecting the thread so it doesn’t catch

I have found out how to overcome the annoying rising pins in horsehair pillows.  The problem with using a number of cover cloths, is that you get so many ridges, and that make pushing the bobbins along not as simple as it should be. Using a circular (or square for that matter) cover cloth with a hole in the centre is perfect! It not only protects the work already done, but covers every pin holding the pricking down, without a single ridge to cope with, and enough work space in the centre.

I saw people using flexible plastic sheeting at my Tape Lace class with a hole cut in that.

Have used a cover cloth with a hole in the middle for Honiton Lace for as long as I can remember – and also have used a circle of perspex with a hole cut out on occasions though you have to be careful with the cut edges. Guess the lace police would point out the value of cover cloths if they read these messages.

I have several cover cloths with holes of various sizes – slightly bigger than whatever I want to make; they are wonderful!!! So much easier than moving a rectangular cloth around the pillow!!!! The smallest fits, eg,  a bangle for Christmas decorations; the biggest hole accommodates my Beds WIP with around 100 pairs of bobbins. (It’s been a WIP so long its picture has been bumped off the web site – must take a new pic of it one day when it is unveiled!)

I cut a suitable size hole in the middle of a regular cover cloth and bind it with bias binding. Easier with larger holes as it sits flat better!!!! Takes about 5 minutes …

A slight modification to this method is to use fusible webbing on the back of the circle of facing (the type used when doing appliqué) –  cut a circle 10cm larger than your planned cover cloth window, iron fusible webbing onto the wrong side, sew cover-cloth and facing with right sides together, cut out centre of circle, clip and turn, then iron it down flat.  Very neat and saves having a double thickness of fabric for the whole cover cloth.

When I make cloths with holes in them I make them around the hole and turn the fabric through the hole. The hole is faced and there is no ridge of binding to catch anything.