Bobbins are available in an incredible variety of styles and sizes. They are made from wood, bone, glass and metal...or combinations of these materials. Some are slender, others bulbous and most are named for regions where that style of bobbin is widely used. They can be plain or spangled (decorated with beads), painted, stained, carved or smooth.

Sometimes bobbins were engraved with names, places and phrases. They might commemorate personal events, such as marriages, the birth or death of a family member, or important occasions-even hangings! Sometimes the material used to make the bobbins was associated with special places or events. It was not unusual for example, to save the bone from a wedding day feastand have it carved into a bobbin.

SpanglesOften the bobbins or spangles used as decorations had special meaning for the lacemaker. I enjoy continuing this tradition, and have made a habit of collecting small beads, charms and similar items that I can use on my bobbins, or using wood from areas I have visited. [bobbin anatomy]

Despite the different styles, all bobbin have a narrow "neck" for thread, a head to keep the lacemaker's knot from slipping off and a body to serve as a handle. When a lacemaker died, her bobbins would sometimes be passed along to her friends as keepsakes. Many are so beautiful they are collected, even by non-lacemakers.

You need at least twelve pair for making even a simple pattern and ready-made bobbins can be fairly costly. Before investing a lot of money in bobbins, you may want to try making your own. Temporary bobbins can be made from paper.

Roll clean paper into a spindle, tape in shape and squeeze a "neck" into the paper to hold the thread. You may wish to weight the bobbins either by clipping an object to the end or by wrapping the paper around some small stone or bead. This is a good way to try out bobbin lace making with out buying a bunch of bobbins. Unsharpened pencils, chop sticks, even clean chicken bones...things like that can also be used as a temporary bobbins, but it is not too hard to make your own. I've seen very servicable bobbins made of wooden skewers with a bead glued on one end for the head and several on the other end forming the body or handle area.

Some common sizes and types of bobbins are "spec"-ed out for you here. If you or someone you know is a carver, this diagram can be printed out and used as a guide to making basic bobbins. Any smooth grained wood makes a nice bobbin. I've used peeled twigs and whittled them into bobbins; taken scraps of doweling, clamped them into my drill (as a substitute lathe) and filed them into bobbins. If you have access to a real lathe, you can experiment with fancy turnings. You may even find bobbin making an enjoyable adjunct to lacemaking itself!

[specs] Most lacemakers find it easiest to work with all their bobbins of a similar size, style and shape. (I find the style isn't as important as the sizes being similar.) The preference as to which style is both personal and based on the type of lace made.  I like larger, around 5 to 6 inches long, Midlands styled bobbins (Figure "F") for most of my lace making. They hold lots of thread, are pleasant to handle and pretty to look at.


The spangles are not only decorative, but also help keep tension on the thread and keep the bobbins from rolling about on my pillow. Traditionally, lacemaker's would decorate their bobbins as keepsakes...a button from a loved one's clothing, a baby tooth or beads from a favorite necklace might find their way onto a lacemaker's bobbins. When a lacemaker passed away, her bobbins would be shared out amongst her fellow lacemakers in her memory. I also use the chunky Buckingham style (Figures B & C) or Danish bobbins in the larger sizes. For finer threads, I use smaller Midlands and the tapered Honiton style (Figure "E") for designs requiring sewings or tallies (passing bobbins over, under or through threads) the tapered Honiton style (Figure "E") as the spangled bobbins tend to snag.

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[Danish Bobbin]

Black point bobbins

Traditionally lacemakers often decorated or "spangled" their bobbins to comemorate special people, places or events.  In keeping with that custom, I created these bobbins in memory of the Northern Renaissance Pleasure Faire (RPFN) at Black Point.
Black point bobbins  The "king" bead is a bronze acorn, purchased from Rabbit Moon, a RPFN vendor/artist the FINAL last weekend of faire.  The remaining beads are black and green glass, seperated by gold toned metal spacers.
The bobbins are whittled from twigs taken from oak trees that were bulldozed to may way for the housing that went up on the Black Point faire site.  (Thanks, ROCK!)  RPFN was the very first Faire I attended (more than 39 years ago-ack!) capturing my heart and imagination for all time.

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