Tallies and Leaves

Palm down and palm up, different methods, leaves and squares.


I have not tried tallies Palm up – I do the Palm down version!!
Yes, hold the 3 passives in your left hand, between thumb and 1st, 1st & 2nd, and 3rd & 4th.  Rest the heel of the hand on the pillow if necessary, to keep the 3 threads tight.
With the right hand holding the weaver – go Tail/spangle first.
Over the 1st thread and then under the 2nd.  Over and under the 3rd (around it), over the middle thread, under the first thread.  Tension up but easing the thread forward towards you, then back away from you.  The passives should be spread out in you left hand, until you are over ½ way, when you can ease them in slightly to come to a point.  Easier to show you!!  Sing out when you come to a Lace Day next time, and I will demonstrate!!  They are quicker and easier, I find, worked in the hand.
Barb Underwood made a good point (Floral lace ~ where legs join into a flower or leaf).  Use the Beds join – work through 2 prs, pin, work back, leaving out 2 prs, – this puts the flower in front of the join – mentally continue the path of the leg in and out, and the point of the turn is behind the flower – if that makes sense.  Cluny Joins are ok, she said, on the edge of the “picture” around the frame, as a Cluny join gives a sharper point where it goes in and out at the pin, and therefore puts the point of the “trellis” right on the frame.

For a square tally – tie a single knot with the passive pair for a leaf tally – tie a single knot with the 2 outside passives.  Ease down the central passive, and then ease carefully the worker to form the point.  I do not do a cloth st at the end of the tally.
If you hold one passive firmly, as you tension the knot, it should wind up looking like a ½ hitch!  But I don’t bother with that.  If I need to tie a knot to hold it in position, I – just tie a single knot!! (The first half of a reef knot only).  I rarely do it with square tallies – but I don’t make them very often.  Usually my tallies are leaf shaped, and I often tie the knot – especially if there are 3 or 4 coming in to a centre where they will cross or work a bud (Beds), and tying the knot then holds them in shape and you can move them out of the way while you make the others, and they don’t need “parking pins” etc.  I work my tallies in the hand, and pins tend to get in the way. A knot helps solve the problem!!!
It was many years before I found out other people did not do a knot at the bottom of a leaf tally!. That was the way I was taught by someone who learned lacemaking the continental way.

I only tension up on the return row – ease the worker towards you to tighten the right to left row, and east the worker away to tighten
up the return row.  You get a rhythm — of weave across, weave back, put towards then pull back – and another double row is done!!

I had one lady trying to work tallies by tensioning with her left hand, but pulling the thread to the right – a real “cross hands booby”!!!  She was a very left-hander, – but the book showed tallies with the thread going out to the right (bobbin in 4th place).When I suggested she pull up out to the left – as no-one would know – save her and me!  I opened out a whole new world for her.!!!  She now makes tallies without any problems.   No book had said they could be ended on the other side for left-handers!

My tallies improved markedly (she says modestly!!) after watching Christine Springetts Beds Lace Video volume 1 for beginners.  I was lucky enough to borrow it from the Vic library (thanks Helene!).  Then I just finished pattern 3 from Barb Underwood’s “Introduction to Traditional Beds (ditto Helene!!)  Which had so many tallies; after you get started, you can’t stop!  After this piece you can no longer have an aversion to tallies, so take heart, it doesn’t take practice of 1000 tallies to make them presentable as some people say!!  Christine and others say to make your tally a bit longer than on the pricking, (I do it 1/4 to 1/3 longer) bring your worker to 2nd from the right, place the pin between the 2 pairs, then hold all 4 bobbins and gently pull on the 3 passives, then gently pull the worker a tiny bit, the tally will magically fit perfectly in the space, you have to see it to believe it! This worked like magic now I’ve tried this. Let me know how it goes from a tally beginner too!

I always do 2 twists before and after a gimp.  – Thought that was the correct way!
Must have been in the first (Mixed) Nottingham book, as that is where I learned most of my craft!!  I had 8 lessons first, and then it was all book learning.

In Floral Beds sometimes the Gimp is laid just at the edge of trails or flowers, and has no twists between it and the cloth st. trail, so it lays right next without a gap.  I like this way, I must say.  I find gimps in Beds can go very wobbly when they are separated by twists, as there are only a few places it is secured – not every row like in Bucks Pt or Torchon.

I can’t do tallies ‘in the air’ like Yvonne does – my arthritis makes my hand seize up.  Instead I hold the passives flat on the pillow.  Over the years, I have worked out some tricks for making a nice tally.
First, NEVER try to shape a leaf by moving the passives.  Keep the passives spread as far apart as possible and use the worker pair to make the shape by increasing the tension. By holding the workers above the level of the tally you tighten the left-hand side and holding them below the level of the tally you tighten the right-hand side.  (I hope that’s right – I don’t have my pillow here to check, but the principle is the same, even if I have my right and left mixed up)  Second, always make your leaf slightly longer than the pattern shows, then put in the pin and wiggle the passives VERY CAREFULLY.  The leaf will tighten up beautifully. I love doing tallies.  It is so satisfying when you get one right!

I’ve just got to the halfway point of the miniature Torchon square I’m working on from Roz Snowden’s Miniature Bobbin Lace book, and I noticed in her general instructions for tallies on page 152 she suggests making a “hitch” with the weaver, to help hold the completed tally in place.  There is a diagram but still I can’t work out exactly how it is done without hassles.  Has anyone done this and if so how did you find it, and can you explain how to do it?

From Figure 10.7 on page 151, it looks like the weaver goes to the left under two threads, leaving a loop on the right hand side, then the weaver bobbin goes back over the two threads and up through this loop.

I’m no expert, but I’ve been taught to make a tally longer than needed, bring the weaver back to the left (over, under) so that it is position No. 2, put a pin between the pairs and tension the two pairs until the tally is the correct size.  It can then be “parked” to one side until needed, and (for me) it doesn’t come undone.  This means I can get my tallies done well in advance of surrounding work, and hence I don’t get tangled up with the pins of surrounding work.

First off, there’s none of the “lengthen this, shorten t’other” business — all 4 of the participating threads remain the same length as they do for any other work.  I did lengthen the weaver slightly but that was simply so that I would *know* which one the weaver was.  In the future, I think I’ll mark the weaver in some other way (an orthodontic-sized rubber band?) and let the thread feed into the leaf as needed; it’s awkward to have one thread longer than the others when you’re tensioning them all at once.

And then, there’s none of the picking up and laying down of the passives one at a time — TTC, tension as you usually do (easiest for those who work with the “waisted” continental bobbins which they pick up with their knuckles, but OK with other methods and bobbins, I should think)

I had a small problem at the beginning (even after the “leaves edited” posting).  Although Tess did say up front that the rhythm is TTC tension, she also said “now the weaver is in the #2 position. Twist it and the outside passive on the left together….”  I twisted, but only once and so found myself with the weaver as an outside passive, not as a weaver.  (A second twist required) and since she did say that the sequence was TTC throughout, by second “round” I was fine.

, *please* try this method; I’m almost positive that you’ll love it!  My first leaf started a bit “wormy” (narrow) for my taste so I undid it, changed the weavers before the beginning cloth stitch and went at it again.  The second leaf was so nearly perfect, (a single, slight “hump” — you were wrong *there* Tess; it *is* possible to get a holly leaf: even with this method; *nothing* is foolproof, if one is dedicated enough <g>) that I left it in [it’s a part of a bigger project, not a practice leaf string].  Although the entire pattern is in its first testing, and will probably end up on a scrap heap).  And I was working with metallics — never a totally dependable thread!

As I see it, this method *will* require some un- and re-learning; the tensioning is totally different from what I’m used to.  In the old way, I used to tension the three passives down and out to the sides and the weaver up.  Here, because you tension all four threads at once, the best way, I think, would be to tension them all up and out.  So it’ll take a while to get the same kind of control on the amount of spreading and slimming as I had before.  But it’s definitely worth the effort.

Leave all threads at their usual length and make the beginning cloth stitch as usual.  You have the weaver as #3 (inside the shape, on the right-hand side).  Starting at the right-hand side, TTC.  Tension (all 4 threads).  Now your weaver in #2 (inside the shape but on the left-hand side).  TTC going from left to right.  Tension.  Repeat.  That’s all there is to it.

If you want to look at it from a different “angle”: all the TT involve the weaver and whichever outside passive is the nearest to it.  The C makes the central passive go “tic-tac”, letting the weaver get to the next tensioning point and into position for the next TT.

I think, one of the reasons I took to this method so much is that it’s so rhythmical: TTC up, TTC up, TTC up.  With the other, I was too slow to ever develop any rhythm at all which might be why I used to hang the weaver up and stare into space so often…..

They say you have to make 1,000 leaves before you get
the hang of it.   Sorry about that.

Jenny R has shown me how to do it her way, which works so well for me it’s amazing.  Before that all my leaves looked a complete mess.

Yes, it involves leaving them flat on the pillow and holding the three passives apart with the left hand (all with fairly short threads), lengthening the thread on the fourth bobbin and using the right hand to weave this bobbin in and out the passives, holding down the three passives firmly and wiggling the worker after each pass back and forth.  It’s not something to be done in a hurry.  I wish I could get Jenny R to demonstrate for you!

Another tip I picked up from Jenny R (hope you don’t mind me passing this on, Jenny) is with plaiting.   You start with CTC, tension, then go Twist Cross, tension, Twist Cross tension, and so on, until the plait is the required length.   Gives a much better plait than a Cross Twist tension movement.

And another thing while I’m on the subject of tensioning.
I’ve never been happy with my fishtail fans.  But on the Japanese mat I’m doing at the moment, I do CTCT, then hold two bobbins in each hand, with a finger between the two bobbins (as I do when I plait) and “wiggle” them to tension, and it has made a big difference for me.

Firstly secure the beginning of the leaf. Make a whole stitch and then put up a pin and then do another whole stitch. Now lay the 4 bobbins flat on the pillow and make the 3 passives relatively short and lengthen the thread of the worker. Weave across and back now pull up gently, tightly for the first row then weave across and back again. Pull up gently again but not as tightly. continue the process until you leaf is as wide as you want it (usually about 3 rows) now continue weaving the leaf until it is a little too short now start the tapering process, which means just gently pulling the worker a little more tightly until you finish with a pin and a whole stitch. A square tally is much more difficult. But if you place the bobbins apart and pull up the weaving every row, you’ll get the hang of it.

alright.  I was shown “on the pillow” and “in the hand” methods.  “On the pillow” looked a scrawney, knotty straggle, “In the hand” turned out not too bad, so I have stuck with that way. I tell students thaty I don’t mind if they have to stand on their head to make them – if it works……!!!!!!!!!!  :))

I only tension up on the return row – ease the worker towards you to tighten the right to left row, and east the worker away to tighten up the return row.  You get a rhythm — of weave across, weave back, put towards then pull back – and another double row is done!!

If you are comfortable with tensioning on the left across your body that is OK.  Providing you get nice tallies it does not matter – you know what they say “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”!!!

I am right-handed and usually hold my tally worker in my right hand, but I always tension to the left when I am on the left side of the tally, reaching diagonally across my body to do so. I don’t know what it LOOKS like, but it feels perfectly all right (and my tallies look pretty good).

As promised, some photos of the method Yvonne demonstrated for making tallies.
There are just a couple of things I would like to mention.


  1. I didn’t say I could “do” tallies by any method. So I cannot say at this stage whether this method is better for me or not.  I am a bit quicker but then I have only worked about 12!!

    2.   The pricking in the photo is not my usual style.  I normally take a lot more care – this was just for the demo.

    3.   I think it would be a good method, when then are lots of pins.  It lifts the tally and the worker thread up a little off the pillow.

    4.   Yvonne showed us how to use this method with continental bobbins and it is easier than spangled bobbins but as I use mainly midlands bobbins I thought I would give it a go using them.

    5.   I have small hands so I find it difficult to “spread” the threads with this method.

    6.   You still need to tension each pass of the worker thread.
    7.   I always start with my worker on the right – it has become a habit.  So for me the “first” pass is from right to left.  On this pass I put the head of the bobbin first.  On the next pass – left to right – I put the tail/spangle first.  I get the spangle tangled all the time but I found that I did not loose the “shape” as much as when working on the pillow.  When making a pass with the worker tilt your hand slightly to the vertical so your threads are “in the air” and then your worker bobbin doesn’t “bang” into the pillow.

    8.   Keep the passives tensioned as much as possible by very lightly pulling away from the lace.  This is quite difficult and I managed to break a thread when working on my piece.  I found when working the tallies for these pictures that I could relax the thread (that is move my hand toward my lace) when making a pass with the worker and still be able to recover the “shape” of the tally.

    3     Start of next  movement
    From the Left, hand is
    tilted  slightly to
    Left hand is still slightly

    4. Completion of final
    Movement from the
    1. Start               2.  First movement                                                         from R hand side

    This has become quite an epistle.  I hope I haven’t bored you too much.

    We have a French girl who has joined our group this past year and of course she does lot’s of cluny – her tallies are beautiful and have the distinct ridges – she uses the cross, twist, tension method. Did a mini-workshop for us during the year in this method.

    Just to confuse things even more I always tension my leaves when the worker is to the right of the righthand passive and again when the worker is to the right of the lefthand passive! (see * below)   😀  and I always do a half hitch knot (except in wire of course! LOL) at the beginning and end of the leaf. (and yes I couldn’t fit the other *’s in near the top and botttom but you get the idea.
    /*| \ *
    / * |   \  *
    /  *  |     \  *
    /  *   |      \  *
    \  *   |      /  *
    \ *  |     /  *
    \ *|   /   *
    \ | / *

    I learnt the Russian way to do leaves in Bridget Cook’s workshop last year … where you go around the side passives twice it gives a lovely firm leaf

    The sketch in the beginning of the de Puy book definitely shows the worker stopping above the centre passive, presumably to tension it. I was a bit confused when Britt said that Bridget Cook taught going around the side passives twice, then you send two twists, until I twigged that two twists is only going round the side passive once.  I must try that around the side passives twice, see if it works for me.  And tensioning in the middle instead of at the sides.

    Our French visitor Chantal, who was from the Le Puy region, showed me Le Puy Stitch while she was here.  It looked like a regular tally except that the worker always rested in the middle when each sequence was tensioned.  So, two twists on the left two bobbins, then place 2 over 3, tension, two twists on the right two bobbins, then 2 over 3, tension, back to two twists on the left two bobbins, 2 over 3, tension, etc.  Chantal was over the moon when I showed her the Du Puy books I had – because her friend is Mick Fouriscot who co-authored the books.

    Tonight, while doing my Russian tape lace collar, I was doing a filling section where I had taken 4 pairs of white from the tape, but had to do a set of leaves which I decided I wanted to do with the same thread as the gimp.   So I added an extra bobbin with the gimp thread on to use as a worker, and fastened two of the white thread bobbins together with a tiny rubber band to act as a single bobbin for the centre passive of my leaf.   And voila, a leaf with the three distinct ridges!  They really look good!  Happy dance.

    I’d done a couple without problem, until I reached a spot this morning where I’d worked myself into a wedge, and didn’t have much room to manoeuvre tightening gently each pass of the worker bobbin without the danger of snagging the thread on pins (and I didn’t want to push them all down flat just for one little tally). So I put a glass headed pin in to the right of my work, about a pinhole on the diagonal back from the start of my tally.   Then every time I brought my worker bobbin back to the right, I put the thread behind this glass headed pin to gently tension.   Then lifted it from behind the pin to continue with the next pass.   For me, it worked.  It meant tensioning the worker with the thread flat on the pillow, but I got a good tally.