Lace Bobbins

Gosh, I can’t believe it has been more than half a year since my last entry here! A lot happened in my life since and time has become a more scarce resource. I missed some great demonstrations at the MWA, though I did manage to attend Jim Jacobs great demo in November on how to make ornamental birdhouses. Though I failed to report about it, I did learn a lot and put it to great use. Jim made kits available at a low price, and I turned several birdhouses for friends and families.


But back to today: Todays MWA meeting was all about lace, and how to make lace bobbins. The meeting started with guests from the Minnesota Lace Society giving an intro about lace making, what tools are required, especially the lace bobbins. Like our turning tools, lace bobbins come in many different variations, depending on what technique is used and what country and region they come from. And like turners, lace makers have their preferences about how their tools should look and feel. I will attach some scans to this entry that point out some basics, some examples for lace bobbins, and also some references.

Bone as a material

Next Lisa Botten demonstrated how to turn a lace bobbin. While many dense hardwoods can be used to make lace bobbins, Lisa chose bone for todays demonstration. She uses blanks cut from a cows femur bone. To prepare the raw bones she cuts of the top and bottoms to expose the mark inside, then she repeatedly cooks the bones until the water stays clean and most of the fat has been cooked out of the bones. Then she selects the parts of the bone she will use for her blanks. Some areas in the bone have a more punky structure which is less suited for this purpose.

She cuts the blanks using a vertical bandsaw, though others methods may be used too. Extra care must be taken to guarantee a safe cut due to the shape of the bone.

Bone is a brittle material and requires very sharp tools. It should be mounted between centers with as little pressure as possible. Light cuts, supporting the work with fingers, are paramount. Other than that the technique is very similar to spindle turning, just everything en miniature. Lisa turned the entire bobbin using just a small skew chisel, a perfect too (once mastered) for the job.

All in all a fun presentation, thanks to all who made it possible!

Bobbins worksheet

Here are some Bobbin-making instructions and samples provided by our guests from the Minnesota Lace Society.

Lace Making Bobbins


Lace Making Bobbin: A hand-held tool used in a particular lacemaking technique to move thread in various patterns. Bobbins come in a wide variety of shapes and weights, depending on their regions of origin and the thickness of the thread used to make the piece of lace. Bobbin lace is made with 4 to 400+ bobbins of thread at a time, unlike knitted, crocheted or tatted lace which uses one or two threads at a time.

Bobbins must:

1) Have a slim neck around which the thread is wound/stored.

2) Be of sufficient weight at the end of the shank to keep thread taut enough to keep under control on a special pillow, but not so heavy as to risk breaking the thread.

3) Be designed so that the lacemaker’s fingers do not touch the thread.

4) Be finished so as to not catch or discolor threads.

5) Feel comfortable in the lacemaker’s hands.

How-to Resources
  • Son of Skew DVD by Alan Lacer
  • Woodtuming in Miniature by Ian and Nina Wilke, Crowwood Press, 2001.
  • Kenn Van-Dieren. Website: or Kenn has a book out on how to turn bobbins as well as a catalog of lace tools he makes.
  • VanSciver Bobbinlace. Website: for a catalog of shapes, tools, information and Kenn’s book.

2/6/07 L. Fumuso


Click here for a high resolution version of above image.

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