Posted on

More Needle Lace

As I predicted, the naughty dogs’ situation took up rather a lot of my time last week and left me with no inspiration to write anything.  More about that later, for now let’s get back to using needle lace techniques in your embroidery.
One of the joys of hand embroidery is that as it takes a while to do, your mind wanders while you are stitching.  Well, not if there’s something worth watching on the television, but despite the fact that we have a satellite dish on our chimney and, apparently, a hundred-and-something channels at our disposal, there’s not that much on the telly that’s new.  Too many repeats, even the news channels repeat themselves every 20 minutes.  Which, is why the mind wanders.  While it’s wandering mine thinks of future projects, things that might be interesting to try out, things to invent and so on.
I have no interest in quilting – been there done that, made a quilt for every bed in the house and then moved on.  I do, however, fancy the idea of crazy patch because of the endless possibilities for embroidery.  For ages I’d been thinking of embarking on a project.  My main thoughts have been along the lines of ‘why stitch a scrap of lace to the thing when you can make the lace with needle lace techniques’, ‘why stitch buttons onto the crazy patch when you can work up little three-dimensional flowers or other doo-dats with beads’, why attach things that you have bought when you can make them yourself? 
Late last year I asked my quilter friend, Pat, to make me a square of crazy patch and I got started.  I’m having a lot of fun, not least because each little block is a mini-project that you need to embellish, at the same time making sure that your embellishment ties in and balances with the other blocks.  Added to that is the fact that you can use just about each and every needlework technique that you have ever learnt.  So far I’ve put silk ribbon embroidery, crewel stitches, Brazilian embroidery techniques, tatting, long and short stitch shading, bead embroidery, bead-woven flowers and butterflies, metal thread embroidery and, of course, needle lace techniques onto the project.  I’m not even half way through it, so there’s still scope for a lot more. 
But for today I want to show you a bit of the needle lace that I’ve put onto it (so far).  I’ve faded the background of the crazy patch out in each photograph, in order to concentrate on the area of lace, leaving that bold.

The lace in the picture above was my first bit.  I started out by doing the eighth needle lace stitch.   After a few rows I realised that I didn’t need to stick with just that stitch.  With a little bit of thought, I could morph into another of the stitches, then morph back into the stitch that I started with and, finally finish it off with a row that included a picot in the middle of each group.  By doing this, I ended up with a result that actually looks like a piece of lace, as opposed to just a covering of a needle lace technique.  The difference between that and a scrap of lace that has been stitched on is that it fits perfectly into the space.  You’ve also had a creative adventure working it out.
When I got to the next piece, however, I chose to do the fifth needle lace stitch.  This is one that needed to stand alone so, apart from adding a picot in the middle of each group in the last row, I kept to that stitch.

While all this stitching is happening my mind keeps wandering and somewhere along the way I decided that I needed a piece of ‘insertion’ lace.  You know what I’m talking about, the kind of lace that has a bit of ribbon threaded through it.  It was easy enough to work out.  By combining the fifth needle lace stitch with tulle bars and whipping the thread that forms the loops, I managed to come up with a piece of lace that had wide gaps that were stable enough to accommodate some 2 mm silk ribbon from Di van Niekerk’s exquisite range of hand painted silk ribbons.  
The large pink area in the photo above started life as a big, empty silk block, one that I wanted to break up a little, so that I could fill it with all sorts of different things.  I divided it in half and filled the left side with the twenty sixth needle lace stitch using a Chameleon Threads perle no. 12 which, being a space dyed thread, gave it colour and interest.  Initially, it looked a little bare but once I had surrounded it with other things, studded it with three beadwork flowers at the bottom and allowed a butterfly to hover over some of it, it created a textured background that blended in with its surrounds.
You may be wondering where I find all of these stitches, and why I refer to them with particular numbers.  Some years ago I picked up a copy of T.H. de Dillmont’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework in an antique shop.  My copy doesn’t tell me how old it is, I think it was probably printed in the 1930s.  It was however first published in the late 1800s and it is still possible to get a brand new copy today on Amazon.  It is also widely available on second hand book sites.  This book has a section on Needle Made Laces, and all the stitches are there. 
The chapter has obviously been written for lace makers and there are techniques there that would not convert easily to surface embroidery.  As for the rest, there’s a bundle of them that tend to make one’s fingers itch.  And here’s the thing.  You are only limited by your imagination. 
The other thing that may limit you is learning how to do the stitches.  Let me tell you a little story about that.
I have a 22-year old son who is known to most people as Dude.  Now Dude is an about-to-be qualified cameraman, editor, film maker, whatever.  And he’s quite good at it.  So being his mother I assumed that he would happily do a stitch DVD for me – for which I would pay of course.  Big mistake.  We started it about a year ago.  It was supposed to be ready in March and then it was supposed to be ready in April.  It wasn’t.  Dude was very busy hanging around with his “Chinas” and doing the things which young men do and the old sock’s DVD was unimportant.  I begged, pleaded and threw my toys out of the cot many, many times, then did it all again.  And again. 
It is now early June and today I was finally able to upload it on my website.  There is now a stitch guide with accompanying DVDs, filmed in high definition, with voice overs and all sorts of high tech wonders.  All the needle lace stitches that I have used over the years are on these DVDs and you can find them at  So if you need help, it’s in those DVDs.
And the dogs?  Well, they came home as the best trained Boxers on the planet, and they live separate lives.  We have installed security doors and expanding gates, along with so much metal fencing, that we can hardly move.  I think you could call it a gilded prison.  For two dogs that were used to sleeping on (and in) the bed, they were settling down to the new regime.  And then.  My husband left a door open this morning and we’re back to square one, with a trip to the vet along the way.  But what do you do?  Just keep going and beg everyone to concentrate.  You couldn’t give one away.  Which one would you choose?
Till next time……………