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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Lace Making, Drawn Thread Work, Embroidery – for the weekend!


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There are very few needlework / thread-related arts and crafts that I haven’t tried.

At least once.

They don’t all click.

There’s one thread-related art that I’ve tried to teach myself many times over, and that I’m still determined, some day, to get the hang of, and that’s bobbin lace-making. I don’t want to be an expert at it. I just want to be able to flip some bobbins about with semi-confidence and end up with some kind of ordered pattern showing up on the board in front of me. Is that too much to ask?

In any case, I feed my desire to learn that particular lace-making art by reading about it, watching videos now and then, and even, occasionally, sallying forth with the same beginner’s kit I’ve had for umpteen years.

And then, a day later, embroidery takes over my life again, all the bobbins go back in their bag, and I concede that “it isn’t going to happen this year.”

Lace Making, Drawn Thread Work, and embroidery videos in Italian

There are so many good resources online for learning different needlework arts and crafts!

Sometimes, for those of us who are English-only speakers, we don’t realize the scope of what’s available on the internet to help us expand our skills, to teach us new skills, or just to inspire us.

One of my favorite little secret pastimes when I’m squizzing about the internet looking for embroidery related stuff to share with you, is searching YouTube for Italian videos. There are many good how-to videos out there for techniques like drawn thread work, lace-making, Italian needle lace, and the like – all it takes is spending some time digging for them.

You can start by searching YouTube for “ricamo,” and you’ll come up with some gems.

In the meantime, though, for your weekend viewing – if you’re looking for inspiration or information, or if you just like watching people do their needlework thing – here are two channels on YouTube that have some good instructional videos on them.

The first is The Lace Maker Diary, where Emanuele records his adventures in different types of needlework, including drawn thread work, bobbin lace-making, and blackwork, and other types of embroidery.

The other channel that has some good lace-making videos on it, as well as some drawn thread and some surface embroidery videos, is Il Giardino dei Punti.

Sometimes, you can turn on the closed captions and find an English translation (which is the case with The Lace Maker Diary). Most of the times, though, if you already have a sense of what’s going on, a translation isn’t necessary.

I just like to watch people do their needlework. It’s like watching someone with very nice handwriting, write. It’s mesmerizing.

Tomorrow, I’ll announce the winner of the peacock embroidery kit give-away – if you haven’t signed up yet, do it today!

Have a terrific weekend!


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(39) Comments

  1. I know that feeling of wanting to try something new but other things keep grabbing my attention. I had to laugh about your attempts at lace making. It’s so cool to watch others do it. At the state fair I stand and watch women flipping things around and can’t figure out how they remember which one to grab, which way to flip it and how they keep the tension so perfect.

    As for me, my 2 “some day” skills to try are tatting and Brazilian embroidery. I’m drawn to tatting because that shuttle is so cute. 🙂 And Brazilian embroidery? I have the Edmar floss. And bullions are just French knots on steroids, right? LOL Some day. . . . . .

  2. I took a week-long class in bobbin lacemaking at the Augusta Heritage Arts Center. I’m not an especially clever person, but I managed to pick it up in a week. I think you need to give it more than a day. Once you develop your rhythm, it’s as soothing and logical as any other fiber-related craft. Since you have the ability to translate embroidery directions onto a piece of cloth, a BL pattern would take similar skills. Basically, it’s a tiny weaving in an irregular shape–over and under, over and under. I would encourage you to stick with your kit for a week, and give it a “can-do” spirit, because you are an especially clever artisan. The end results are well worth the effort.

    1. I agree. It requires concentration and focus but it’s completely learnable in a week or two. As for Irene M.’s comment about not knowing how women know which bobbin to pick up, well, as with every other type of needle art, you are following a pattern, and at the beginning, as I recall, the pattern is actually pinned to your cushion so you can follow it.

  3. Dear Mary

    Lace making must be a great craft to learn as the finished work is so beautiful I would love to learn how to make lace as I love the stuff, it’s so pretty and looks lovely on any project. Like you I love looking on youtube as well when I’m researching something, there is so much out there on all different crafts it’s amazing, that’s why I love the internet. Thanks for the links on lace making, drawn thread and embroidery and thanks for sharing this information very helpful. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Friday already!!! My gosh, the weeks fly by. Fun post for sure Mary. I’ve watched some youtubes in other languages too. I’m afraid I find it a bit frustrating tho, when I see something I’m not sure of and can’t figure out without words. 🙁
    I do know what you mean about watching and being mesmerized. For me it is watching someone paint.
    I, like Irene, want to learn the Brazilian embroidery. I also have purchased the special threads… if I ever get moved…. sigh.

  5. I looooooove Emanuele’s videos! Captioning with English translation is available for them, although the translation is not always spot-on, but it’s close enough. There are also excellent YouTube videos from a Swedish woman and a guy in the UK, although both names escape me at the moment…If I remember to, I’ll find them and post them here later.

    Goldwork has always been my Achilles heel, but I am learning and improving, albeit slowly, thanks to the Craftsy course you featured in a post awhile back.

  6. Seems like an *awful* long time since we last saw one of your embroidery projects! I don’t count the occasional glimpses of your woven-thread sampler – pretty, but not a major project. Pretty please, can we have a look at what you’re working on soon? It can’t *all* be articles-in-progress! 🙂


    1. Hi, Holly – right now, it actually is just these small projects for different articles that I’ve been working on. I’ve been a little sick lately and I haven’t been able to muster the energy needed to dig into the next big project, which is the rose swirl in goldwork. I’ve got the fabric ready, but I haven’t actually done any stitching yet. Right now, I have to take care of some writing obligations for Needle ‘n Thread and other sites and try to get ahead on those. It looks like I’ll be out for a little while in the not-so-distant future for some surgery and recovery times. So, I’m doing what I can. Maybe this weekend, I’ll have the energy to do some “fun” stitching on larger projects in progress. We shall see!

    2. I am so sorry to hear you’re sick and need surgery. I know it’s really tough to maintain a cheery blog while dealing with health issues.

      Here’s hoping for a fast recovery!


    3. Dear Mary

      So sorry to hear you are not well I am thinking of you and hope that all goes well in surgery. Take care.

      Regards Anita Simmance xxx

    4. Oh, gosh, surgery!?

      Take your time and get your rest, Mary.

      (It’s not like there aren’t a bazillion fantabulous things on the site to keep us interested, y’know. Your health comes first.)

  7. ” squizzing ”
    I giggled at the word. Thought you made it up. Then looked it up. Great word! Never fail to learn something new from you, Mary. ( and the needlecrafting words are cool, too, as ever!)

  8. Dear Mary,

    I started bobbin lace last year and this week end is our big convention in Ithaca NY with teachers from England and all over 🙂

    I found this site to be most useful at the beginning when learning:cross, twist, cross, twist 🙂 http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/lace/stitches.htm#cloth

    Our website for our guild is: http://www.fingerlakeslaceguild.org/laceday.php
    All are welcome to our Lace Day, and all area lace makers are welcome to our monthly meetings. Lots of ladies love to help the newbies.

    Good luck with it, have fun!

    Jackie Satterlee

  9. Hiya Mary
    What kit do you have? does it have a real pillow? Some beginner kits are better than others.


    1. I hate to say this Mary but in the lace making world the kit you have is known as “the kit from h-e-double hockey sticks”. You know how important quality tools can be! For sure don’t expect to use this kit much beyond an introduction. To find actual lace makers with actual bl equipment in your area google the International Organization of Lace (IOLI) and contact one of the officers to help you find someone. Our lace guild recently hosted the annual convention here in Iowa. It will be in Indianapolis next summer. Classes, vending room, exhibits, etc!

      I’m also sorry to hear you are under the weather. Hopefully nothing that will put a complete halt to your stitching! Feel better soon!

  10. Mary, I do hope that someday you are able to really give bobbin lace a good try! It really is one of those things that would benefit from some hands on teaching. We’ve all seen someone knitting or crocheting but bl is more elusive. Videos on the internet have helped, but sometimes just getting started is baffling! While my love for bl rivals my needlework hobby, I also realize that not all arts/crafts are for everyone. But hopefully everyone can find something that suits them and gives them joy!

  11. Mary,
    I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling ill and facing surgery. Know that you have a circle of devoted fans and friends standing by. All kinds of good energy and heartfelt prayers coming your way!

    1. Thanks, Barbara! 🙂 I’ll make it a little more “official” and let everyone know when I’m taking some time off, so that you don’t think I just dropped off the face of the earth!

  12. Dear Mary, yes, bobbin lace. I haven’t checked the websites you’ve suggested but I understand the pickle you’re in. I love needlelace and surface embroidery and thought learning bobbin lace would be a cinch. No! Although the ladies do it so brilliantly when I go to their meetings I feel it’s just not working for me. So sad as they have welcomed me so generously; I must be more persistent!!

  13. O Mary, please be well! I’d noticed the absence of WIPs as well and had just assumed that you were saving something up to delight and surprise us. I wish that had been the reason! Whatever the health problem, may you recover quickly, and may the surgery be uncomplicated and a total success. (On the lace front, I bought bobbins and a pillow and lots of reference books some decades ago, but that’s as far as I got. I have very interactive cats.)

  14. I love to watch the bobbin-lace making. I have a small piece that my great great grandmother made & have always wanted to learn. Like you, I have that beginners kit, maybe it’s time to give it another try. I sure wish I could find someone locally who could teach me. I would probably learn better that way!

  15. Dear Mary,
    I am so sorry to hear that you are facing surgery. I hope your recovery is as easy as possible.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Helen Hicks

  16. Oh Mary, wishing you well & a speedy recovery!! Sorry I missed this thread the other day as Ithaca Lace Day is this weekend & I’ve been renewing friendships & stocking up on supplies at the vendor booths. There is a beginniner class here as well, plus lectures on the Lace Tea House exhibit in Belgium & the International Poppy Project. Each year there is a wonderful variety of classes & I got a seat in the Bibilla workshop with Elena Dickson, although I’ve studied bobbin lace in previous years. As Anita & Jackie mentioned, the public is welcome at the exhibit area so mark your calendar for IOLI, July 16-23 in Indianapolis & Columbus Day weekend for Ithaca. Individual chapters & online groups can help beginners get started. You might enjoy the additional challenge of bobbin lace while you recuperate. A member of my chapter recently made a pillow from foam insulation covered with wool felt & quilt cotton, plus bobbins made from McDonalds straws & mini hair clips. She’s a fiber artist & wanted to try before she buys! She’s already made several pieces with a minimum investment–some very cool stuff! Get well soon & I hope your recovery time includes some lace.

    1. Thanks, Sue! I’m still in limbo a bit right now. Once I know for sure what is going on, I’ll mention it on Needle ‘n Thread, in case it disrupts the normal operating procedures. Ithaca Lace Day sounds like a whole lot of fun!

  17. I have dabbled in most of these things as well, but tatting lace is the one thing I keep trying to figure out, although I have decided that I should probably learn to crochet more than a chain stitch one of these days too. My theory is if I could learn to crochet, I could then figure out how to tat. My grandmother made beautiful lace and my 95 yr. old m-I-l has a child that visits her in the nursing home so she can get crochet help. Her mom is one of the nurses at the home where Mm now resides.

  18. I tried bobbin-lace making years ago and got quite good at it for a beginner. I took an introductory course offered by the lace-maker’s of Ottawa, and then went on to take a course in how to make leaves (which sounds odd but it’s very difficult to do). I really enjoyed the lace making but since I tend to embroider or knit or whatever, sitting in front of the TV, I found I might as well have been listening to the radio. You need complete focus, and you can’t be distracted at all. You also need a proper table to put your cushion on, which in my case, took up too much room in my living room. Still, I’d say, take a course that requires you to attend a class. Following something on the Internet is too loosey-goosey for something that really needs an expert’s eye to help out with.

  19. Dear Mary, Sorry to hear you’re not well. I hope you take the time to get better before carrying on with your good work.
    I taught myself bobbin-lace and tatting from two excellent books – I’m the wierdo who always likes to teach myself ( and make my own mistakes where no-one else can see! I find I learn better that way)
    The books are: Torchon Lacemaking by Elizabeth Wade and The Complete Book of Tatting by Rebecca Jones. I got them both from Amazon and would highly recommend them for complete beginners.

  20. Visited Burano about 2 years back and am still wonderstruck at their knowledge and expertise of their craft which has been passed down to them from centuries. You too are so passionate about this. Thankyou for all the info.

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