Tape Laces

Russian tape lace, Cantu Milanese, Romanian Point lace, Borris Tape lace tehcniques and characteristics.

Russian tape lace
Russian tape lace
1.  Use a lightweight pillow.  You have to pick it up and move it so many times.        Luckily, I did.
2.  The square bobbins are just so much easier for me to work with than rounded ones.  Forget spangled bobbins.
3.      After leaving the tape, even just for a twisted join to somewhere, sew in again in the bar before the pin you left from.  I didn’t do this at first, and have straggly “v”s.
4.   When joining back in two pair that have left the tape, do the join with one pair, then lay the other pair between them and do one overhand knot.  Keeps them together very tidily.  May not be the “accepted” way to do it, but works for me.

Nadine Pauwels had us using much the same size thread as our passives and workers.  We used just two strands of stranded DMC embroidery thread for a lot of the samples we did, to go with 35/2 linen.

What Nadine had us doing were samples with two or even three different coloured threads, which changed place and altered the pattern.  I’ve used the same size thread for my pair of gimps in the piece I’ve started, with the gimps on the outside of the tape (Rowan Berries from Bridget’s book) and being the same thickness as the other threads, they sit very nicely when they have to go round tight inner curves.  They are a deep rose pink, worked with white linen.

Bridget Cook’s first book Russian Lace Making (not the book Russian Lace Patterns with Anna Korableva) she says gimps “should be made with a thicker thread than that used for the rest of the pattern, so that they are readily visible in the final design.”  
It’s a shame this book is no longer available.  I borrowed a copy and made copies of a few of the instruction pages, as they cover basic instructions which are missing from her second book Russian Lace Patterns.  Like false plaits.

When I first tried Russian Lace Patterns, I could not figure out just how to bridge across certain places, having never heard of a false plait.

Ulrike calls the tape lace gimp a “Stemstitch,” and the chevron gimp a “Chainstitch.”

While working my tape lace with its constant use of the turning stitch (cross, twist, twist, cross, pin back 4) when going around tight curves, an idea occurred to me.  I like trails in Torchon to have an even number of threads in both directions, so when I draw up a pattern, I usually draw it so that the inner pin in the “V” where a trail changes direction is used twice.  But I HATE the two loops that stick out.  So if I used the turning stitch each time I had to use the pin, then took it out one or two rows down and retensioned the passives, then there would be no sticking out loops!  I’ve tried it, and it worked for me!  But I’m sure it’s not “kosher.”  Or am I reinventing the wheel again.

It would be difficult to manage just one large pricking.  When I did the large Russian lady my pricking was in sections like a jigsaw puzzle – I had about 8 or 10 of them, and it was awkward to work.  I had the whole thing set up on a card table (the old fold up sort).  But in that instance, I was not repinning so much as using several square and rectangular home made pillows and moving them about, and unpinning the work from one pillow to move the pillow to a new place to continue what I was up to.

For manufacturing large things various ways are used:- different pillows. For example, my biggest pillow has diameter 80 cm and length  1,2 m. Size depends on kind of work. Pillows is filled (very hard) by hay or flax.- very big works are made from separate parts and then are sewed together.- and most difficult way (and for me – very difficult to explain on English) – use especial pattern. Pattern has several turn around of a pillow. And each turn has complete pattern. When you made one turn, you should remove pin, release lace and one turn of pattern, and open next turn of pattern and continue.- and at last you can combine all these ways.

Ilske says “A teacher of mine who knew some ladies from Wologda explained it to me. They have there very long and big rolls bigger then those from Erzgebirge. And on those big lace-pieces are two or more lacers working at the same time.”
Seems you have a pricking of a quarter of the whole piece, work that, then stiffen the lace with Aquahere (sp?) or hair spray, unpin the lot and move it off the pillow, then repin. It occurs to me as I write this that you would need pricking of 2 quarters if your design is a mirror image.

I checked with Vicki and it was Sandy Taylor who had the vylene pricking at Nadine’s workshop in Uralla. I doubt  it would be durable enough to work it more than once, but according to Vicki the plus is that it’s stronger than paper and more flexible so you  can roll or fold up the bits you’re not working on at the moment. It was frighteningly large – I copied for someone (I was gofer that day) and it took 2 A3 sheets. And lots and lots of tallies in the ground.

I’d be interested to know from those who took Bridget Cook’s Russian tape lace class at the AGM – what size thread did she recommend for gimps?

We used DMC Cotton Perle 5 in our test pieces – kindly supplied by one of the workshop participants who lived in Perth as Bridget forgot to tell us we needed a gimp.  It looked very nice with the DCM Special Dentelles 80 (tatting thread).  I have done a few Russian lace items (it is DH’s favourite lace) and made the mistake of using a gimp which was too thin for the lace.  It simply gets lost, so I think it is best to err on the side of thick threads.

I was always told that if you are going to all the trouble of putting in a gimp, you may as well make it a thick gimp thread so that it can be seen!!  (I think it was Bridget Cook who said that)  If you can’t see it clearly, you have missed the boat, as it were and wasted all that effort!  I agree with that statement, because when you look at a lovely piece of point ground for instance, it is the outlined pattern with the delicate fillings that stand out most.  And in the case where white thread is used.  The thicker white gimp thread stands out as so much whiter that it really highlights the work.

Russian tape lace is still just Cross Twist, but it is made up of a tape of cloth stitch, with a bright coloured gimp, and made of about 6 or 7 pairs of bobbins. As you work around your tape, you branch off and do various fillings of plaits or twists or leaves with one or two pair of your bobbins, then bring them back in and continue the tape.   And you frequently join one tape to another with a sewing. Russian gimps are special – they go OVER the workers, instead of between the workers, so you need a pair of them.

Seeing DH forced himself to cut my new tape lace pillow (“Why do you want it octagonal?”  “So it will have eight corners” – actually I had a feeling that an octagonal slab will fit on my lap and turn better than a round one, and that’s proving correct)  — anyway, I unpinned my two thirds done rooster and repinned him to the new pillow, just repinning those areas where I am working and still have to work.   It took me 20 minutes. The unpinning was the worst.  Repinning took less than one tenth of the pins I’d taken out. So I think it is within reason to unpin and repin a large tape lace mat, especially seeing you would be unpinning lots more as you go, reusing the pins, so less to remove when the move was needed. Even allowing for the fact that the pictures we’ve seen lately show lacemakers working on large bolsters, the bolsters still would not be big enough to accommodate the big circular mat Nadine had with her, so I think some moving round and repinning would be required.

Until I found Dorte’s posting I had been going to ask if you thought that this pillow could be moved round in its cradle so that, as you followed the curved tape, you
would still be working towards yourself. However, with TWO lacemakers at ONE pillow.

If the pricking is as large as the finished piece then, even if the pillow is regular sized, a cardboard pricking would be cumbersome to reach round.  Difficult to match the pricking if it were divided into pieces and the pieces added or subtracted as the lace was un-pinned and re-pinned.  Might just be possible, however so much preplanning would be needed that I am sure this is not the way it is done. I think you mentioned someone having a pricking marked on Vilene.  This would be flexible enough to roll up out of the way; is it stable enough to not stretch with all the handling?

Because your pillow moves so constantly, you couldn’t have an enormous pillow, I’m sure repinning is the way it’s done.  You would need many pins to resecure a section. I think a colour paper pricking with a good quality clear contact would be durable enough to fold and bend. I was fascinated in the first workshop I did when the teacher said “Just stick the paper pricking to your pillow with some contact”
– I often do this now.

It’s my first effort at doing the special join for Russian tape lace described by Bridget Cook, and also demonstrated by Nadine Pauwels.   The one where about 5 or 6 pins from the finish, you fold back your passives leaving a loop, and attach temporary bobbins to these loops and do the last bit of work with the temp bobbins.  Then you sew off using the workers through these loops (and into starting holes) and pull the passives back.  Didn’t make sense to me until I actually did it. It worked OK, I guess, but it still looks a bit thick and clumsy to me.   I think I’d rather sew off normally, then thread the ends into a needle and finish off in both directions by hand.
I tried this method of finishing on a piece of Russian Tape, being my first time it was a bit rough but the effect I thought was good, all I needed was practise

One more thing while I’m on the subject – I just can’t manage those European rounded bobbins for tape lace – I tried and it drove me crazy.  Neil Keats “T-squares” with their square handle are absolutely perfect for me for tape lace.

Interesting Kathy about Bridget’s gimp being Perle 5, and thick.  What Nadine had us doing were samples with two or even three different coloured threads, which changed place and altered the pattern.    I’ve used the same size thread for my pair of gimps in the piece I’ve started, with the gimps on the outside of the tape (Rowan Berries from Bridget’s book) and being the same thickness as the other threads, they sit very nicely when they have to go round tight inner curves.

Anyone interested in some hints I’ve either remembered from the workshop, or figured out myself in the past few weeks?
1.   When joining, I always hold the pair of bobbins in the left hand – it seems to keep the tension better and makes the thread easier to pick up with the crochet hook.
2.   When joining to the right, always put an extra twist in the pair of bobbins
3.   A tip from the Russian Lace Making book – when joining a pair of bobbins back into a trail, always join them to the bar immediately before the point where you left the trail – this stops those wide “dogs tooth” joins.
4.  When doing a filing that requires you to plait (or twist) along an existing tape, always sew in at every pinhole you pass (one of Nadine’s tips I’ve remembered).

I think I like the Russian tape lace because there are no hard and fast rules,
you can kinda do it the way it looks best to you, but still following a geometric, regular pattern.

I worked out the path that I have to take on each of the areas of fillings (one particular one was a bit of a teaser!) and I have drawn diagrams on a sheet so I only have to look at that for reference when I come to a new one

Cantu and Milanese
Question – does anyone know anything about Cantu lace.   I bought a folder of Italian Cantu patterns – they are obviously bobbin lace, but come in an iron on transfer format, and with a whole sheet of (Italian) instructions about how to do embroidery stitches.  The patterns look to me as if they could be done like Russian tape lace, but without the gimp and in finer thread.  If from what I gather from the Lace Fairy site, there are special ways to do Cantu (bundling 7 pair long an edge?), then I would be more than happy to use the patterns I’ve bought as straight Russian tape lace – there are just so many things there I would love to do.

I have 2 Pizzo di Canti books, and as you said they are just so lovely. They are worked more like braid/ tape lace then Russian and are easy to make and quick!! Hope you enjoy yours as much as I do mine
Anyone know what sort of thread is used on them? I would assume a fine thread, as I don’t think they would hold much.

Noelene, you are right! The Cantu workshop I did a while back with Yvonne Scheele used Brilliante d’Alsace/ Broder Machine 30 – some of the patterns I have use Broder Machine 50 and 80 or 100 (unspecified) linens. Cantu involves LOTS of sewings so spangled bobbins are really lot suitable, and the pointy ends are ideal. The thickness (thinness?) is not too critical as it’s one of those laces where there are no pinholes marked on the pattern – you have to use your judgement!

Another question – for the Milanese lacemakers – Is it better to have a slightly finer thread than a slightly thicker one?  I am going to work in a dark colour and so am limited on what threads are available.

Speaking for myself, I find it better to use a fractionally finer thread. It is easier to ease the threads into place and get the pattern to spread evenly. It also looks daintier. A thicker thread tends to loose something on the way and becomes bulky. But as I said, that is my way of working it.

I did a couple of days of Cantu with Bridget Cook and found it very strange lace to make. It seems to have just 3 major parts to it. A flower made of petals, that is no big deal, the stem, that is no problem either inspite of all the turning stitches made ctctc, and a very odd shaped leaf which is made by twisting one thread around 5 (?) pairs, pinning these 5 pairs to surround the leaf and then working up and down, using one pair at a time from the surround to fill the leaf. If you happen to start at the wrong end of the pattern which is very easy to do seeing both ends look the same, you have sort of shot yourself in the foot because you will not be able to finish the work seeing there is no way you can get back to the stem to carry on..

Romanian Point Lace
Romanian Point is a fairly heavy lace, sort of like tape lace, that uses a crotcheted braid rather than the woven tapes but very similar needlelace fillings.  I use No. 10 or 20 crotchet cotton generally (the bells are all done in 20).  Anna magazine had some patterns a while back (I got a copy from Noelene) and there is one book on it that I know of but it is hard to get. A couple of other pieces I have done are on my website. It’s very portable as mostly it is small to medium motifs which can be used on clothing or linen or anything else you can think of.

This is a crochet and needle lace combined. First you crochet a cord to go around the outline of your pattern, which you couch along the pattern outline, then you join the crochet cord with buttonhole bars or wrapped bars before filling in the pattern elements with needlelace stitches.  I have made a nice collar, a couple of small mats and presently working on a large table runner for the meddle of my dining room table.  Can sit in front of TV and stitch away quite happily.  Several good books on the technique, one by Angela Thompson and Kathleen Waller called “Romanian Point lace”, “Romanian Poinat Lace A Course for Beginners by Sylvia Murariu and her second book”…….  A Course for Intermediates and Advanced”. I first saw this lace in a copy of the Anna magazine.  I have made quite a few christmas decorations to hang on our christmas tree in this lace and they look quite okay.

This lace is also called Margaretten Lace.

Borris Lace
Borris Lace is a type of Tape lace using bars and needlelace to fill in the design. Handmade and commercial tapes were used and it was worked over a design drawn onto a stiff base. It is the only tape based lace that I know of, originating in Ireland . It is claimed that it was copied and adapted from a piece of Greek lace.
It is quite distinctive and was produced commercially for a number of years. I am currently working a piece and when completed, will send a scan to Noelene for the website. I am using an original pattern from Ireland. There have been a few articles written over the years to document the lace but it is not mentioned in any lace reference book that I have checked.

I found that there isn’t a Borris Lace as such, but there is a town called Borris and the Lady of the Manor bought the hand made lace industry to the town.  Hence the name Borris Lace.