Learning Bobbin Lace--Plaited Lace Lesson 5

  Free Bobbin Lace Lesson

  © Lorelei Halley 2012 


   Site Map  
   Hardanger Embroidery 
   Pulled Thread Work   
   Needle Lace   
  Learning Bobbinlace        
  Make a Pillow   
  My Books and Patterns  
  For full list of lessons on this site, see: 
                 Lessons on this site   

   Free Patterns          Circle    Square  

   Bobbin Lace Basics 
  Three Basic Stitches  
   Lesson 1    
   Lesson 2   
   Lesson 3   
   Lesson 4   
   Plaited Lace Lesson 6 
   Plaited Lace Lesson 7




Tallies can be many shapes, but square and leaf shapes are the most common.  Most modern tallies are made with two pairs; 3 threads are vertical passives and one thread weaves under and over.  Some antique tallies were made with more that 2 pairs.   Since tallies use 2 pairs, they are interchangeable, structurally, with braids/plaits.


Tallies are not easy and will require a lot of practice.  There are several methods of handling the bobbins, but there are two which I find work well


     the Flick Flick method           &          the Palm Up method.


The method of handling the bobbins for tallies largely depends on the kind of bobbins you are using.  I nearly always use continental bobbins, and the 2 methods I explain here only work with continental bobbins.


Set up with the first pattern .  The outer line is a 4 strand plait with picots.  You can use either knotted picots (see lesson 1) or double thread picots (see lesson 4).


Controlling tension in tallies is difficult and must be handled carefully, especially preventing too much weight or tension at the bottom of the tally. 

The two outside passive threads control the shape of the tally.  Keep them widely separated as you work.



Left hand pair:

1. tw 1x


2.2  Then flick B to right.

3. tw 2x


4.2  Flick C to right


6.  = 2.

3. tw 2x

4.  etc.


Right hand pair: 

1. tw 2x

2. Flick to left under beater.



4.  Flick to left under weaver.


5. tw 2x

6. Flick to left under beater.

 4. Flick to left under weaver.  etc

Details below.




Thread C will be weaver. Thread B is the beater & will constantly move from center left position to center right. Always manage bottom of tally so that outside passive threads go around outside of bottom pins.
6 thread braid  
Hang  6 pairs or 12 singles on v.  Divide the bobbins into 4 groups and work
   cross twist cross snug
   twist cross snug
to cover the distance to w.  At w separate the remaining bobbins on each side into 2 groups of 6.  Then divide the w-x group thusly - 2-1-2-1 and work a braid from w to x.  Work w to y similarly.

Set pin x so that 2 threads go around the outside of the pin.  Close the pin with
  cross twist cross.  The 2 threads which went around the outside of the pin will participate in the tally.  The other 4 will make a braid from x to z.

At z make a picot.  You can use either the knotted picot or the 2 thread picot.  Knotted ones are more common in Cluny, double thread picots are more common in Bedfordshire.  But the distinction is not absolute.  Set the z pin perfectly straight and push it all the way down.  The reason is that the tally threads can get caught on the z pin if it is left up, and snagging can ruin your tally.  Work the braid from z to the next pinhole on that side.

Do the same at y, and prepare the right hand side similarly.

You should have an unworked pair left at x and another at y.  These 2 will make the tally.

  A & D will remain as outside passive threads.

C will move from side to side & will continue as weaver.   

B is beater & will move from left hand to right & back.

Use the 4th and 5th fingers of each hand to immobilize bobbins A and D: nail them to the pillow.

Lift B.

Flick C with thumb so it rolls under B. 

Set B down to right of C. 

Flick B with left thumb to the right hand. 

End state.

Twist left hand pair 2x

Lift C.  Flick B with right thumb so it rolls under C. 







Set C down to right of B.  Flick C with left thumb to right hand. 







End state. 








Twist right hand pair 2x.





Repeat from   2.



This method uses the same sequence of movements as the flick-flick method, but you hold the bobbins in your hands while doing it. 
   another -

Another way of making tallies, holding the bobbins in the hands.
  Fuchic - Arte Popular Brasiliera



TO BEGIN:   After setting both top pins, prepare to weave square.  Remove all stray pins which are lower than the top pins, or are on the sides.  The weaver will catch in them and create a disaster.   (Your left hand in holding 3 bobbins, your right hand is weaving, and you dare not drop anything.  How are you going to uncatch the thread?)  After the right outside thread has been lengthened take the other 3 bobbins in the left hand as in the diagram below.  Hold the left hand with the palm facing you.  Put bobbins between fingers as indicated in the drawing.  Hold them at the first knuckle as near the finger tip as possible.  The idea is to get as much separation between the heads of #1 & #3 as you can.  You have better muscular control over how far apart the bobbin heads are if you position the bobbin near the ends or first knuckles of your fingers.  If you were to hold them all the way down into the crack you’d have no control of movement.       


Now take the weaver bobbin tail first  and weave under and over.  At the end of every row pull up gently with the right hand to force the weaving thread as close to pins or the previous row as you can.  It is important to have enough length of free thread on the weaver before you start because any strong pull on it will cause the square to nip in the waist and will ruin it.  Once it gets out of shape it can’t be fixed:  all you can do is untangle it and begin again from the beginning.  Once you start the weaving you cannot let any of the threads go slack (except #2 which doesn’t matter) because the bobbin’s weight is enough to distort the square.        

When you are finished be very careful to lay all bobbins down gently.  Remember that #1, #3, and the weaver all control shape.  Be sure you lay them down so #1 and #3 lie around the outside of a temporary pin.  The weaver also should be supported by a temporary pin.  A perfect square can be ruined at the end by tugging carelessly on one of these threads.  Complete pins 3 & 4 as per summary.  You’re not home free until both bottom pins are closed, and even then, be careful for a few rows.


This video shows the palm up method I described here.  And  This one too.  

   And another one showing the method I use:    A 34 seconds she shows how she holds the bobbins.

There are several ways of holding or arranging the bobbins to make squares.  I find these two successful for me.

      leaf tallies This pattern is actually the same as the one in the first lesson.  The only difference is that I worked a leaf shaped tally instead of the braid zigzagging from side to side.  Since braids and tallies both have 2 pairs, they are structurally interchangeable. 

Start this pattern in the same manner as for Lesson 1.   Also in this pattern, as in lesson 1, work a windmill join where the tally meets the braid.

When working in color you can make your tallies different colors by choosing which thread to use as weaver.  The weaver thread will totally dominate the appearance of the leaf.

Working leaf tallies is basically the same as working square ones.  But they are more difficult to shape because you have to start out at a point, then spread the 2 outside threads far apart so the tally widens, and then narrow it down again.  These can be devilishly difficult to make well.  Just concentrate and try as hard as you can to make them nicely shaped and consistent.

Many lacemakers say you have to make 1000 of them before they look good.  I'm not sure it takes that many, but it will take a few dozen.


Videos showing other methods of handling the bobbins for making tallies.
 A different palms-up method, for a bolster pillow.

 This method is very similar to my "flick flick" method. 

Jean Leader, using spangled midlands bobbins

Also look at her drawings
David Collyer's method, using spangled bobbins.  This method will work with any kind of bobbin.


You now know how to make these:   the one titled Encaixe Galego Tradicional patterns 44, 45, 52, 57.

Also go to 

And this: 

Also: from hw11.pdf, at  

---. Handleiding voor Vrouwelijke Handwerken # 11 (Instructions for Women's Handwork), A. W. Sijthoff, Leiden, 83 pages. Note: from the publication "La Gracieuse". Posted June 2, 2010. SAMPLE PAGE. REVIEW. File size 6.0 MB PDF

At same website, look for 

Mincoff, Elizabeth and Margaret S. Marriage. Pillow Lace: A Practical Hand-Book, E. P. Dutton, 1907, 290 pages. Note: Scanned images provided by Tess Parrish. Posted March 25, 2004. CD (LDA04). SAMPLE PAGE. CONTENTS. Part 1: File size 8.4 MB PDF. Part 2: File size 7 MB PDF. Part 3: File size 8.2 MB PDF.

I have posted the same lesson on     If you have any questions about this lesson contact me there by joining laceioli (joining is free) and leaving a comment at:

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

© Lorelei Halley 2012       Copying this for personal use is permitted.  Copying for any commercial use is prohibited.  Copying to another internet site is prohibited.

Posted March 30, 2012.