As a curious person, it’s natural for me to want to learn about things, but sometimes my research can turn into a real rabbit hole. Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve discovered vlogs about sewing historically accurate clothes, and how-to videos for related techniques like finger-braiding and making bobbin lace. These topics combine my interest in fiber arts with my questions about what it was actually like to live in various eras, so this a deep rabbit hole that I’ve fallen down.
While the low energy required to watch these videos has made them an easy activity at the moment, in and of themselves, they are not satisfying. I discovered that watching others stitching hems by hand made me want to sew myself, so I’ve hemmed handkerchiefs and even made a medieval shift. Watching people demonstrate more complex fiber arts, like making bobbin lace, has only made me more curious. How in the heck does it really work?
Over the years, I have resisted getting pulled into every fiber art I see. It took me two decades between seeing someone using a hand spindle and learning to spin myself. I even have a rule that I will not take up weaving. Despite wondering how it all works, I am unwilling to spend time, money, and space on a loom, lessons, and practice. I already have plenty of time-consuming projects on my plate. (Novels and quilts, I’m looking at you.)
So now I wonder: should I learn how to make bobbin lace? The videos I watched renewed the curiosity that always crops up whenever I see a pillow with threaded bobbins dangling from a grid of pins. It requires specialized equipment and an intricate project could be as time-consuing as the weaving I’ve steadfastly avoided.
But I’m finding that watching someone else do it is not enough. I want to understand how you can make lace with flowers and other patterns in it, and I think the only way to understand will be to try it myself. But I was afraid to invest in bobbins, a lace pillow, etc., because I wasn’t sure I would follow through. Having just cleaned up my studio, I’m sensitive about adding more things that need to be stored.
Fortunately, I found a video that shows how to improvise all the tools you need from materials around the house. I was able to try the basic stitches using things I already owned, like clothes pins and embroidery thread. This seemed like the best way to get a feel for what the craft might be like so I could decide whether or not to truly invest in it.
What I discovered:
- Bobbin lace is witchcraft. It was easy to do the basic stitches and yet I was still amazed when I pulled the pins out and my little test piece held it’s shape.
- Bobbin lace is not knotting (like I thought) but a particularly flexible form of weaving, in which warp becomes weft and weft becomes warp whenever necessary.
- I want to know more. Lots more. How to make figures instead of just geometric patterns is my goal, and I can see it will not be a quick thing to figure out. But I have to know.
So despite the fact that technically, this is a kind of weaving, I ordered a starter kit of pillow, bobbins, various accessories, plus several books. I’m excited about learning more about this textile art, and started practicing stitches as soon as my supplies arrived.
While I’m making lots of mistakes and can tell practice is going to be necessary, I’m also crazy happy and having fun. I am no where near done with this rabbit hole.
What are your rabbit holes? How do you keep yourself from getting in too deep when a new interest attracts you?