Learning Bobbin Lace--Plaited Lace Lesson 1

  Free Bobbin Lace Lesson

  © Lorelei Halley 2012 


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   Bobbin Lace Lesson-3 basic stitches       


   Lesson 2    
  Plaited Lace Lesson 3     
  Plaited Lace Lesson 4   
  Lesson 5   
  Plaited Lace Lesson 6  
  Plaited Lace Lesson 7     

I think there are several places in bobbin lace where you can start to learn bobbin lace.  Torchon is a common beginning place, but tape lace and braided/plaited lace are also possible starting points.  With plaited lace you can learn enough in the first lesson to actually make a useable piece of lace.  So I will start with plaited lace.  Both Cluny and Bedfordshire are forms of plaited lace.  The early stages of the two forms use the same techniques.


American English calls this kind of lace braided lace.  British English calls it plaited lace.  This is a very simple lesson to begin bobbin lace with braided/plaited lace. 

This lesson contains only a few simple elements:

  • How to hang on a bundle, for bookmark or samples
  • Make a braid of 4 bundles of threads
  • Make a 4 strand braid
  • How to make a windmill crossing
  • How to make knotted picots

When you finish this lesson, you will know enough to make 2 other laces from LePompe.  Links are posted at the end of the lesson.

Number of bobbins = 12 singles

Thread size = #40 - #50 cordonnet crochet cotton (DMC, Anchor, Lizbeth), or #12 pearl cotton, or Bockens linen 35/2.

Each of the black lines in this pattern will be a braid of 4 threads (2 pairs). The short thick line between a and b will be a braid with 4 pairs in it. You will need a total of 6 pairs, and you do not need to wind them in pairs. Two yards of thread per bobbin will be enough.

   The page Learning Bobbin Lace - Basics is the preliminary steps: winding bobbins, how to make the hitch, how to do the stitches, the international color coding system. 

For a list of rough thread size equivalents, look here.

To obtain the pattern, click on the pattern at left.  You will then have just the pattern on your screen.  You can then either print it directly or save it.   (To save it, right click on it.)  Whether you print it directly, or save it, you should have some options about what size to print it.



hang bundle

 I've set this up so you can use it as a bookmark. Make it whatever length you want. The starting method I describe below is good for bookmarks, with a short braided tail at the top and the bottom.  Most projects and some bookmarks are set up with bobbins wound in pairs.  Lesson 2 describes how to do that.  But when I'm learning something new and making samples I like to use up left over bobbins.  So I hang on with bobbins wound as singles, and hang the knot on a pin. 

 The thick blue line between the red and green dots will have 12 threads braided together. The double black line between a and b will be a braid with 4 pairs in it (8 threads).  Each of the black lines in this pattern will be a braid of 4 threads (2 pairs).   You will need a total of 6 pairs (12 bobbins), and you do not need to wind them in pairs. Two yards of thread per bobbin will be enough. 

Start by taking all 12 threads, make them into a single bundle. Then start a knot in the whole bundle but keep the knot loose. Hang the knot on the top red pin/dot. The diagram shows only 2 bobbins, but this can be done with any number.

See left.

This will keep by bobbins from sliding around as you work.



Divide the bundle into 4 groups.  You will have 3 threads in each bundle.  Number the positions of the bundles 1-2-3-4.  Cross bundle 2 over bundle 3.  Re-number the positions 1-2-3-4.  Simultaneously twist bundle 2 over bundle 1 and twist bundle 4 over bundle 3.  Re-number.  Cross bundle 2 over bundle 3.   Snug the bundles apart after each cross, to remove the slack and create a nice compact braid.  Make the braid as flat and smooth as you can.  Don’t count the number of stitches,  just keep going until the braid is long enough to cover the distance.   When you reach the green pin at the bottom of the blue line, each bundle will go its own way.


plaited lace #1 diagram

When you reach the green pin put a pin in the middle of the bundle. With the 2 leftmost pairs, you will make a proper 4 strand bobbin lace braid from a to c. A bobbin lace braid is nearly always made of 4 threads (2 pairs). It is worked as a succession of half stitches, beginning and ending with a cross. Work a thicker braid from a to b.


For a to c, work ctc, then snug, tc snug, tc snug, etc. What I mean by snug is that you should separate the pairs, pulling each pair outwards, at the same time, to remove the slack. Use gentle but firm tension.  This video illustrates this motion.   A good braid is flat and smooth. So do whatever motions help you achieve that. Don't count the number of stitches, just make the braid long enough to cover the distance. Stop the a to c braid at c just a little bit short of the pin, because you will do a windmill crossing at c, and the crossing takes up a little space itself. But you must do something else first.

 You will have 4 pairs, or 8 threads, left unworked, at a.  Divide that group of bobbins into 4 sets of 2 threads.  In other words divide those into 4 pairs.  Treat each pair as if  it were a single thread, and work a braid.  You will have pair 1, pair 2, pair 3, pair 4.  Do the motions of a normal braid, but with more bobbins.  Cross pair 2 over 3.  Twist 2 over 1, and simultaneously 4 over 3.  Re-number in your head.  Cross pair 2 over pair 3.  Remember we are talking about positions, not bobbins.  Work ctc snug, tc snug, tc snug, etc. until the braid is long enough to reach b.  Stop the thick a to b braid at b with a twist.   Set a pin in the middle, so that you have 4 bobbins left of the pin and 4 to the right of it.  Work a last  cross  of pair 2 over pair 3 to close the pin. 

 windmill join windmill-join

The right hand 4 will make a 4 strand braid from b to d. Make the b-d braid, and leave it. The left hand 4 bobbins from b will make a braid from b to c. Make the b to c braid.

At c work the first windmill join. This is a quick way of crossing 2 braids. Use the a-c braid and the b-c braid. Divide each braid in 2, and you will have 4 sets of 2 threads per set. Treat each pair as if it were a single thread and work a cloth stitch: cross twist, pin cross.

Then resume the braids. The leftmost 4 bobbins from c will make a braid from c to e. The rightmost 4 bobbins from c will make a braid from c to d. At d make a windmill crossing with c-d and the b-d braids. At e make a windmill crossing with the c-e braid and the d-e braid.

Continue in the same manner.


knotted picots

Now come picots -- the little black dots that are slightly outside the braid line. There are 3 kinds of picots: single thread, double thread, and knotted picots. Double thread picots are the usual in fine Bedfordshire laces and in fine thread laces like Honiton, Duchesse, Flanders or Binche. Knotted picots seem to be most common in Cluny, but I've also seen them described in books on Beds. I will explain knotted picots.

To make the picot on the right side of a braid, reach under the first thread and grab the other thread, using the pin to drag the thread out to the right.






Being careful not to lose the thread, take the point of the pin over the straight right hand thread, and insert it between the 2 hanging threads.






Being careful not to drop the thread, bring the pin point up between the 2 upper threads.





Then swing the pin over the outside thread and out to the right and set it into the pinhole.


Snug the threads so they lay flat and parallel.

When you get to picots on both sides of the braid, work one picot, then work ctc with the 2 pairs of braid threads. Then make the 2nd picot. For the rest, finish the way you started.


When you have picots on both side of the braid--double picots--you can start on either side of the braid.  Left or right, it doesn't matter.  Make the first picot, then work CTC with the two pairs.  Then gently but firmly wiggle and pull on the bobbins so that all 4 threads lie parallel to each other, without one rolling over another.  Then work the 2nd picot.  This will help you make a smooth flat braid.

If you find the knotted picots too difficult at this stage, you can substitute a single thread picot. They don't tend to keep their shape as well.


You now know enough to make these laces from LePompe:   

mm1   mm1           The pattern is from Mincoff & Marriage, who got it from LePompe.  Mincoff & Marriage is available as a free download from   12 pairs = 24 bobbins.  No need to wind in pairs.  Follow the colors to see how the plaits intersect and change direction.

   LePompe2    See Lesson 2 for how to hang on in pairs for pattern LePompe2.

For full list of free bobbin lace patterns, see     free patterns  

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I have posted the same lesson on     If you have questions about this lesson, join laceioli and leave a comment or question at:

Posted February 2012.          Revised May 15, 2012