A few weeks ago, I referred to a piece of bobbin lace as “crocheted” and Hana corrected me. I respect her knowledge in this area (turns out, she has lace in her blood), so I asked if she would mind very much to write a guest post on the differences between the two. She did! Thank you, Hana. This is also a 3hourspast first- I’ve never had a guest post! Hana writes about vintage topics, costuming, food, hairstyles, sewing and Czech life at Marmota’s Dress Diaries. (I don’t know about you, but I’m always in awe of non-native English speakers who blog.)
First, I must thank Steph for taking my nitpicking in such a good humour! I have tried both crochet and bobbin lace (even though I usually suck at crochet and am constantly distracted from bobbin lace by things like sewing); I can usually tell the difference between crochet and bobbin lace at first sight. While, as it turns out, many people can’t. When I had seen (machine-made) bobbin lace labelled as crochet one too many times, I wrote a post about the difference – a bit of a ranty post. Then Steph made the mistake as well and I pointed the difference out to her – and she asked me to write a guest post about it. Speak of grace.
So this is my attempt to write a more in-depth, non-ranty explanation for Steph’s readers.
When I was thinking about better ways to explain the issue to people who have tried neither crochet nor bobbin lace, I realised that, as sewists, even though you would not be familiar with either of these techniques, you would probably know a bit about the difference between knits and wovens.
Crochet, while it’s not the same as knit, is similar to it in that it works with a single, continuous thread, forms it into loops and connects those by threading one loop through another. You can think of a crochet chain as a knit with only one “stitch” in the vertical direction.
In crochet, you start with a chain like that, and then work on it further by adding other stitches into these loops. English terminology is rather lame here; you’ll get a better idea when I tell you these “stitches” are called “columns” in Czech.
They do look a bit like columns, don’t they? These particular ones are, I believe, called “triple stitches” in English terminology; as the name suggests, there are also simpler, smaller ones – but the basis is the same. Loops threaded through one another.
So these are what crochet works with. As a result of that, you can never, ever find a simple, “unworked” thread in a crochet work. You can always discern those interconnected loops when you look closely.
Bobbin lace, on the other hand, is basically a type of weaving. It works with several (sometimes many) threads, wound on a special kind of weighted bobbins (thus the name), and the lace is formed by swapping those with one another – a bit like braiding – or weaving them over one another (or both).
So there are no knit-like loops in bobbin lace. You can find sections of simple, “unworked” threads in bobbin lace. Even if they are not there, you can see that the lace was formed in a weave-like manner. You can see that it was made from several threads, not one. When you buy yardage of machine-made bobbin lace for your sewing projects it will unravel into numerous threads at the cut ends.
There are bobbin lace trims playing up the similarity with crochet – like, probably, the green one here. Not all of the machine-made lace is “mislabelled” by mistake; but a lot of it is. Look for the loops and stitches so that you know what you’re talking about when you’re labeling it yourselves. You can always call it “crochet-like bobbin lace”. :-)
Yes; most bobbin lace you will come into contact with will probably be machine-made. Bobbin lace technology, as a variant of weaving, lends itself quite easily to mechanisation. Bobbinet, the historically first type of machine-made lace, is – as the name suggests – based on the bobbin lace technology. Even though bobbin-lace makers work on a bobbin lace pillow, use pins for anchoring their work and swap their bobbins with an inimitable flair, and it all looks very complicated and confusing, the basics of bobbin lace technology are actually fairly simple – and they can translate quite easily for machines. There are loads and loads of bobbin-lace yardage on sale – which is probably why handmade bobbin-lace makers like my grandma focus on making bobbin-lace pictures and other more sophisticated creations like these:
(These are some examples of my grandma’s work, and examples of what bobbin lace can also look like. As you can see, there also are “chains” – but these are not created by “looping”, rather by a sort of braiding.)
Crochet, on the other hand, is a bit too much of an exact science for machines (and me…), and it seems that even though there are some “crochet machines” that make crochet-like tape trims (contrary to my original belief), they cannot do much. Definitely not much that would come close to the brilliancy of handmade crochet lace – it looks more like hairpin crochet, or does not even look like crochet at all. From what I’ve seen online, these machines deny crochet the one thing that makes it special and work with more than one thread.
These are an example of what manufacturers would probably label as machine-made crochet:
While these are like bobbin lace in that they work with several (and simple) threads, and would (and do) also unravel at the ends, they are like crochet or knit in that there are some interconnected loops holding the threads together; so they behave more like something between a knit and a woven… My Czech source specifically labels these machines as “knitting” machines – so it is, again, partly just an English thing.
I hope that covers all of it. I must also say that with all my love and preference for bobbin lace, I actually very much admire people who make crochet lace. People who make things like this vintage/antique lace from my stash are creating something very unique.
I owe much of my knowledge of these things to my mom, who taught me the basics of crochet (and knitting), my grandma, who taught me the basics of bobbin lace, and to the book Dějiny odívání: Krajky, výšivky, stuhy, prýmky (“History of Clothing: Laces, Embroidery, Ribbons, Galloons”) by Alena L. Čechová and Anna Halíková, published in 2004 in Prague by Nakladatelství Lidové noviny. So sorry that I do not know what English sources to recommend… share if you know!
Thanks, Hana! You just wrinkled my brain. :)
Tomorrow- switching from lace insertions to lace fabric, I’ll talk about pattern placement, cutting and handling lace fabric to its best advantage.