A delicate fabric made out of thread in an open web like pattern by machine or hand is called Lace. Originally linen, silk, gold, or silver threads were used. Now lace is often made with cotton thread, although linen and silk threads are still available. Manufactured lace may be made of synthetic fiber. A few modern artists make lace with a fine copper or silver wire instead of thread.
Handmade lace comes in several kinds, which are all made in very different ways, using very different tools. Developing enough skill to make really complicated pieces takes a considerable effort and time. Since modern lace makers are hobbyists, doing it for their own pleasure, many of us learn several forms of lace making, so that we can understand their possibilities and limitations. Some forms everybody knows about, and some are very rare. They can be grouped by their tools.
• Single Thread Techniques:
Knitting - usually made on two long needles, but one long flexible needle with points on both ends can also be used. This method is used for making large flat objects. One can also use a set of 4 or 5 needles. This method is used for working in rounds to make round, hexagonal flat objects or for making tubular items like socks. Both hands are used to hold the needles and the work, and one hand moves the thread around the active needle. Knitting can be solid for a sweater, or made with holes and lacey. A stitch called a yarn over is what makes the holes. It can be made moderately coarse for sweaters or super fine for lace tablecloths or veils.
Crochet and Irish crochet (crochet hooks) made with a steel hook about 6 inches long. Plastic and wooden hooks can be used for large scale work. The thread is wrapped around one hand to get control of the tension on the thread, while the hook in the other hand makes the stitches. Crochet in general is a very useful technique for making clothing and objects for the home, like blankets and Afghans. Worked semi-fine it can make lacey clothing, collars or decorative mats.
Irish crochet is a particular style of crochet invented during the 19th century to imitate Duchesse or Honiton bobbin lace, or various needle laces. It is distinguished from the more common crochet by having raised and layered parts. The motifs are worked densely in shapes to imitate plant forms like petals and leaves, and some parts are worked over a thick padding cord to give a raised or relief effect. The grounding is usually chain stitch with picots, to imitate bobbin lace braids or needle lace buttonholed bars.
Tatting (shuttle or tatting needles) Tatted lace always has little bumpy rings, but may also have long arches (bars) or oval leaves (center row of blue lace). It is made with an oval shuttle with one pointy end. The work is held in the hands with the thread wrapped around one hand as you work. The shuttle in the other hand is moved over and under these wrapped threads to make the knots. At the present time there is a lot of interest in needle tatting, where the stitches are formed onto a needle, instead of using a shuttle.
• Multiple Thread Techniques:
Bobbin lace- also called pillow lace: a multiple thread weaving technique which can produce a wide variety of weaves, meshes, bars, and leaves. The working base is called a pillow but is actually packed quite hard. It is really a gigantic pincushion.
Historic and antique bobbin lace was made to embellish clothing, and sometimes to decorate household linens. Modern lace makers sometimes use the old designs and make reproductions. But some are also designing new work with very modern designs.
• Laces Made with a Needle:
True Needle Lace - Needle lace is basically derived from embroidery and the only essential tools are needles, thread, a pattern and temporary backing materials. In true needle lace no manufactured parts, or parts made by some other method, are permanently incorporated into the work. It can be worked in the hand, if the pieces are small, or attached to a pillow so both hands can guide the thread. It consists of thousands and thousands of buttonhole stitches, of which there are a great variety.
The basic scaffold is a pair of outline threads onto which all the lace threads are attached. The working setup consists of 2 or more layers of cloth, with the paper pattern on top.
Puncetto - Knotted buttonhole stitches, made with only a needle and thread, no backing needed, with careful tension control. Designs are always geometric.
Knotted Mediterranean Lace - Knotted buttonhole stitches made only with a needle and thread. Can be made directly onto cloth as an edging, or in rounds for circular laces, or as little flowers made into an edging, or to stand alone. Designs may be round mats or floral designs.
• Embroidered laces made on a handmade skeleton or substrate, requires a frame or a template of plastic, wood or cardboard.
Filet Lace - Filet lace is worked on a knotted square mesh, formerly handmade. Once the net is made, it usually uses a square wire or wooden slat frame to hold the work for the embroidery. Traditionally the artisan would start by making their own square knotted mesh, and would then embroider it with cloth stitch or darning stitch, with some other decorative stitches. Most filet is worked on a square mesh, but it is also possible to create the mesh by working rounds.
Sol Laces - Sol laces are worked on a thread base laid down in the form of spokes of a wheel. The spoke base can use ordinary woven fabric as a temporary backing, or can use a small wooden, plastic or cardboard form as a base. Then darning stitch, coral knot and festoon stitch (a loose buttonhole stitch) decorate the spokes and bind them into patterns. Large pieces are made up of multiple round shapes stitched together, but squares and hexagons are also possible. Nanduti, in particular, also uses small irregular shapes to fill in the gaps between the larger round medallions.
• Embroidered Laces:
Laces made on a machine made fabric, either hexagonal mesh or woven cloth. Embroideries in which holes and transparency play an important part in the design. These all use tools typical of embroidery: needles and a frame (round hoop, square, or rectangular).
Tulle Embroidery - Embroidery on hexagonal net. This form is worked on machine made net and first appeared in the world when large pieces of clear machine net became available, during the 1820s and 1830s.
There are 2 varieties of embroidered net. One is called needlerun, complex darning patterns' Limerick is another name for it. The second type is called tambour and consists of chain stitches, which can be made with a needle or a tambour hook. This type is also called Lierse lace or Coggeshall.
• Embroideries on Woven Fabric:
These also use the tools typical of embroidery: hoop or frame, needles, fabric and thread.
Pulled Thread Embroidery - Pulled thread work does not remove any fabric threads, but just pulls them together into clumps, leaving a pattern of holes in the cloth.
Drawn Thread Work - This kind removes some fabric threads in a regular pattern, usually leaving a very loose web in place. Threads can be withdrawn in only one direction, or in two.
Hardanger Embroidery - Designs are geometric, based on square holes where fabric threads are cut out. The Hardanger style was originally Norwegian, but has become popular in many places in the world. Greece and the Ukraine have their own version of geometric cutwork embroidery. The original was the Italian reticello embroidery.
Buratto - Uses all the filling stitches and decorative stitches of filet laces, but it is worked on a very loosely woven cloth with large gaps between the threads. So it looks like filet laces from a distance.