Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Musing about Lace Making … and the Link that Got Me Going


Amazon Books

Here’s a neat resource for some needlelace, filet lace, and other lace patterns that can be adapted to different types of needlework….

BibliOdyssey recently posted photos from old Lace Modelbuchs (Pattern Books). You’ll find some beautiful examples of needlelace patterns, as well as some grid patterns that can be used for filet lace or adapted into cross stitch or needlepoint patterns pretty easily. I like old books like the ones featured here. They’re exquisite.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a lace maker, though I have delved into different types of needle lace, including filet lace (the real stuff, not the crochet), cutwork (can it properly be called lace? probably not), drawn thread work (again, would you call it lace? perhaps not, though it can sometimes look pretty lacy) and traditional needle lace for inserts to whitework projects and so forth.

Needlelace Sample

My picots stink in that piece. I’ve improved the technique somewhat since then. It takes some doing, working picots that size with a needle and tiny thread. I think in that piece I was working with size 100 linen thread.

I haven’t worked much on my cutwork techniques. But someday, when I go back into whitework (I’m still glutting on color), I’ll take it up again.

I like the idea of lace making – and golly, I’d love to learn how to make bobbin lace. Have you seen the bobbin lace at Plimoth Plantation that they’re making for The Jacket? It’s seriously stunning stuff!

I did sally forth into one bobbin lace venture many years ago. It was after visiting my sister in Washington, DC. We went to one of the Smithsonians (I think it was the National Museum of American History). There, I saw a fantastic example of embroidery – it was worked by sailors of yore, on old sails, with all kinds of fibers from their shirts and clothes and stuff. It was fantastic!

But what caught my eye and completely captivated me was the lady sitting across from the exhibit – an exhibit unto herself – with her lace pillow and some 180 (or some such number) bobbins that she was flipping about, flipping some more, her fingers flying hither and thither, with a twitch of the wrist and swift cross movement of her hands, shifting the bobbins until they looked like they were moving on their own accord across the pillow, inserting pins, and on and on … all while chatting with people! And there, before her, a delightful pattern of airy lace was forming with practically no effort (so it seemed to me!). I was astounded, captivated – in short, really impressed. I just Had to Learn to Do That.

It so happened that there, or at another museum close by (somewhere along the journey), I was accosted by a beginner’s bobbin lace making kit. It beckoned me, and I heeded its call! Ok, so the “pillow” was a kind of styrofoam board thing. But – I was game. I invested.

Yes, so anyway. As I said, I’m no lace maker. But gosh, don’t you love the stuff?

I’d like to embroider on net – you know, the fine, sheer netting that bride’s veils were made of back in the days before puffs of tulle? Not your typical tulle. No, no, no! The stuff that drapes and hangs beautifully and is ever-so-lovely as it falls about the shoulders limply. I have looked for such netting. I’ve bought samples from Lacis, from Martha Pullen, and from several other sources that advertise netting for veils. But it’s always … tulle. It’s stiff, even after washing the sizing out. I don’t want to make a tutu. I want to make a drapey, light, spilling veil! Alas, I haven’t found the stuff yet. Or maybe I just don’t know what to look for!

But I did buy a book. And some day, I’ll find what I’m looking for. And then – look out, world! I will become a Maker of Lace!

Either that, or this will all go the way of the bobbin lace kit…. !

Enjoy the link to BibliOdyssey. He’s got a bunch of other resources listed on there, too. If you ever become a maker of lace (or if you are a maker of lace) and come across that mysterious drapey netting, I’d love to hear about it!


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(17) Comments

  1. Mary – I think you want to look for SILK tulle. I was in a specialty shop that had victorian style nightgowns years ago, and they had used silk tulle in the sleeves. SOFT, drapey. Amazing stuff. I wanted some. Right then.

    Of course, I haven’t been able to find it in yardage, but just knowing it’s out there somewhere has sustained me. Grin.

    Of course you could always get out your bobbin lace pillow and use silk sewing thread to make it. You might have enough for a veil in a about 30 years! 😛

  2. How about silk gauze? It has body and is easily embroidered on. Here in the U.S. 32, 40 and 48 count is most easily available but in England you should check out Elizabeth Anderson’s Miniature Embroidery. She has a new book and website by that name but the website seems to be down currently.

    Jane, the silk gauze fan of Chilly Hollow

  3. How about cotton tulle, such as used in old fashioned mosquito nets? From my experience silk tulle while soft is not all that drapey, at least here in Australia.

    Also, I think picots are one of THE most difficult things in needlelaces to get consistently good. I fail so far, VBG, but I have a very occasional decent one. I recently tried some Lefkara, a Cypriot style of needlelace, at a workshop and got about 1 out of 5 picots half way decent. Guess I need a LOT more practise! Thanks for sharing,

  4. Thanks for the link.
    Fun!Last month I’ve bought a little old book in a second-hand bookseller: La Dentelle Renaissance. (you can take a look at it on my blog, i have just posted about it)

  5. Have you tried 3mme silk gauze. It’s light, soft and drapy and handles well for fabric manipulation. I haven’t embroidered on it, but other methods I’ve tried work well.
    Ann in Maine

  6. Hi,

    When I was in Hong Kong I saw fabrics they don’t have over here in the US.

    Expensive though.

    You need silk netting or silk gauze.
    Gauze is thin and if your doing a lot of needlework, you need silk netting to hold the weight.

    I think silk gauze is made of shorter fibers of silk and netting is make of full cocoons. This does make quite a difference in how strong the material is.

    You could also make your own net out of silk thread, This was the way they did it in the old days.

    FYI: The kind of fine threads that a lot of handworkers need aren’t made anymore. In the past, thin threads used for netting among other things, out of wool or cotton, was spun by children.

    Smaller fingers equals finer thread. Since children don’t do this anymore there is no fine thread here in the west.

    This is a problem for crocheter of old time patterns. We can’t get the fine thread that used to be available this is also so for embroiderers who want fabric with high thread count, such as 48 count threads per inch, or higher count fabrics.

    Here is a link to a place that sells all sorts of silk items.
    This page shows “Samples of Embroidered Silk Netting + Tulles.”

    You can see various examples of other hand embroidery/beading under “embroidered silks”, “embroidered bridal veils”, “silk pictoral gallery”, “beaded silks”. We embroider on cotton tulle, nylon illusion tulle and silk tulle. They are available in:

    * Silk tulle
    * Nylon illusion tulle
    * Cotton tulle


    I think you could look at what they make and figure out what you need. They seem to say they will sell you plain net or gauze as well.

    If that doesn’t work, here is a another woman with the same problem.

    “so i went to the fabric store a few weeks ago to get some fabric for a trial veil and all they had was bridal illusion tulle, which is pretty stiff, and i wasn’t a huge fan of. i did a little poking around online and decided that i wanted silk tulle for my cathedral length veil, so that it would be more flowy (plus, i can’t imagine 108 inches of stiff tulle being all that beautiful). but now i can’t find silk tulle for sale anywhere! not in stores, not online (that isn’t sold in bulk), not anywhere”

    This reply may help you!

    “Fabric.com has two widths of what looks like a softer tulle available:

    54″ Wide


    108″ Wide


    You can order a swatch from them to feel it yourself, or just call them up and have one of the sales associates go check it out for you. I’ve ordered from them a bunch of times and they are super great.”


    An odd bit of trivia, The women
    s collective in Kazakhstan. If you look up the spelling you can search the web for the women who knit shawls with 1 strand wool and 1 or 2 strands of silk. These are the women the old fairy tale stories are about. Their shawls will pull through a wedding ring. These people uaed to make dresses this way that could fit inside a walnut shell.

    I mention them because they may have a source of strong silk you could use for netting or know the kind of netting that you need.

    Hope this helps,

    I’m on Facebook if you want to reach me. I’ve tried to add the URL below.

  7. WOW! Thanks, Janis, for all this information – very, very helpful, and I will explore it all in depth! Very kind of you to take the time to share so much information!

    Best regards,

  8. Hi, I found some tulle in Mexico which sounds like the kind you’re looking for. They had it stocked in a chain store called Parisina, and they also had stiff tulle as well.

  9. Your website is fascinating and I have learned so much. Can’t thank you enough!
    I have just come across your comment on lace veils and the difficulty of finding the net. I am researching Limerick Lace and have seen silk tulle for sale in Joels in Church Street in London. I cannot remember the cost but it was exquisite and was similar to the silk used in the wedding veil of the Duchess of Cambridge.

  10. did you ever find the netting. I was reading the other day about some from england that is listed as cotton netting that they claimed was the right stuff. now I cant find my notes

  11. Illusion tulle is soft and drapey. It’s cheap and even Amazon sells it. Try some of that in a synthetic to practice on it.

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