Tutorials

In time I hope to add some video tutorials to this page. In the meantime I hope you may want to work these mushrooms.

How to make a piece of needlelace

What follows is a step by step guide in making the piece of needlelace shown here. If you want to make this for yourself you can print off the pattern and the cordonnet working diagram from a PDF document by clicking here

When the old needlelaces were made the designs were drawn on parchment which was stiff enough to be self-supporting.

However, designs today are drawn or printed on paper which needs some form of support, two or three layers of a firm material such as calico is generally used. The paper pattern must also be protected from constant scratching by the needle. Until recently architect's linen was used for this purpose but is now unavailable, most people now use sticky-backed plastic film.

The calico should be approximately 1 inch (25mm) larger all round than the design. The size of the sticky backed plastic should be the same size as the paper that the design is drawn on. For this design you need a piece of calico that is 4 1/4" x 13" (110mm x 330mm)

After folding the calico in three, the sandwich of backing material, pattern and plastic film is first tacked firmly together around the edge of the film.

The next step is to lay down the cordonnet (the foundation threads that the filling stitches are worked on)

Laying the Cordonnet

Two threads are couched down along all lines of the design. It is very important that care and attention is given to making the stitches small, firm and neat, since a poor foundation will result in a disappointing piece of lace.

A firm, twisted thread should be used for the cordonnet i.e. silk or 80 crochet cotton, try not to use stranded cotton as it can shred and is not very strong.

The needle needs to be an embroidery needle either size 9 or 10. The couching thread should be sewing cotton.

If the couching thread runs out whilst working, take the needle and thread to the back of the pad and secure the thread with three or four back stitches. Start again as before.

When couching a corner put in an extra couching stitch at the tip of the corner, it will help to keep a sharp angle when making the filling stitches.

Only the couching stitches go through all the backing materials. All filling stitches are made on the surface, between the cordonnet threads.

1. Cut 60” (1500mm) of the thread for the cordonnet, fold it in half, forming a loop which is laid on the starting point of the design point A. The starting point is usually along a straight edge or a junction. It is not good practice to start in a corner as it can make the corner weak.
Start by making either a knot at the end of the sewing thread or make three or four oversewing stitches into the back of the calico then come to the front of the pad at point A. Bring the needle and thread through the loop of cordonnet thread and back down into the same hole, come back to the front of the work and proceed to couch the cordonnet threads down. You will notice that the holes for the couching stitches has been pre-pricked. I did not find this useful but some people do.

2. Each stitch is made by coming up on the design line, the needle and sewing thread are taken over both cordonnet threads and back down into the same hole. The stitches should be approximately 1/8“ (3mm) apart.

3. Continue round the mushroom cap until you reach point B.

At B the threads are separated to make a branch from B to A. Branches are also known as junctions.

Make sure you put a couching stitch in at the point where the threads are separated.

4. Separate the two cordonnet threads and thread one into a large eyed needle. Take this thread through the original loop at A....

couching5

5. ....and lay it back towards B. Couch over both threads A to B.

couching6

6. Pick up the thread you left behind at B and put a couching stitch in as close as you can get to the horizontal cordonnet at B. This will give a tight ‘T’ junction at B.

 

7. Couch both threads down the line B to C. Put a couching stitch in at C at the tip of the corner, it will help to keep a sharp angle.

Separate the two cordonnet threads and take one round to D couching this single thread down in two or three places to hold it on the design line.

couching7


8. Thread the large eyed needle with the single thread and take it under and over the already couched cordonnet threads at D.

Lay this thread alongside the single thread from D round to C and couch over both threads back to C.

9. At C pick up the thread you left behind and couch both threads down to E. At E separate the two threads and thread one of them into a large eyed needle and take it under and over the already couched threads at F. As this is a short straight line there is no need to hold the single thread to the design line.

10. Couch over both threads from F back to E. Pick up the thread you left behind at E and couch both down to G. At G seperate the two threads and take a single thread up to H catching it down in three or four places to hold it on the design line. Thread your large eyed needle and take this thread under and over the already couched threads at H.

11. Couch over both threads from H to G. At G pick up the thread you left behind and couch over both cordonnet threads round to I.

12. At I make sure you put a stitch across the corner to keep a sharp angle on the corner.

13. Continue on to J put a stitch across the corner and continue couching both threads up to K.

14. At K seperate the two threads and take one under and over the already couched threads at L and couch both threads back to K. Back at K pick up the thread you left behind and continue couching both threads to N.

15. At N seperate the two threads and take one under and over the already couched threads at J and couch both threads back to O. Do not take the thread back to N.

16. At O take the single thread down and round to I couching it down in three or four places to hold it on the design line. Thread your large eyed needle and take the thread under and over the already couched threads at I.

17. Couch over both threads from I to O and back to N.

18. At N pick up the thread you left behind and couch both threads round to P. At P seperate the two threads and take one under and over the already couched threads at M and couch both threads back to P.

19. At P pick up the thread you left behind and couch both threads to Q. At Q we need to start thinking about how to finish off the cordonnet. At Q separate the two threads and thread one into the large eyed needle and take it under and over the already couched threads at R.

20. Lay this thread back to Q. From Q couch over all three threads (the single thread left behind and the thread going to R and back to Q) to R.

21. At R lay the single thread alongside the already couched threads from R to L and couch over all of them.

22. The cordonnet is now complete. Sew off the couching thread at the back of the needlelace pad and cut off the surplus cordonnet threads.

This is the last time that we will be sewing through the needlelace pad. All the finishing stitches are made on the surface of the pad.

The filling stitches

For this design the filling stitches are Corded Single Brussels, Corded Double Brussels and Corded Treble Brussels.

There are a few points that should be remembered when making the fillings.

Make sure you have sufficient thread to get across the row — a good guide is three to four times the length of thread to space i.e. one inch of space equals 3–4” (8-10cm) of thread.

The stitches should not be too tight or too loose, each stitch should show a definite loop and look ‘lacey’.

If your stitches are too tight the rows will start to go up in the middle of the row, if they are too lose they will start to droop in the middle of the row. Each row should be straight across the design.

To make the filling stitches you will need a blunt (ballpoint) needle. Refer to the working diagram to determine the direction of working the filling stitches. Generally this will be on the longest straightest line there is on the design.

Start by running the needle and thread under the couching stitches and make a foundation row of buttonhole stitches. Thereafter each stitch is made into the loops of the row above, supported by the side cordonnets.

Come down the cordonnet far enough to make allowance for the depth of stitch, before commencing the next row. For a corded stitch this will not be very far, for a non corded stitch you will need to come down far enough for the size of the loop of the stitch.

At the end of each row (whether on the left or right of the design) take your needle and thread under both cordonnet threads, and, loop round both cordonnet threads and back between the cordonnet threads to start the next row. Taking the needle and thread straight out under the cordonnet threads, at each end of the row will help to keep the rows straight.

Secure the last row of each stitch pattern into the bottom of the space by whipping each loop to the cordonnet. Start the whipping stitch by running the needle and thread under the couching stitches. At the end of the row of whipping stitch run your needle and thread through the whipping stitch and cut off any remaining thread.

1. To determine the starting and finishing of the first line of stitches it is useful to lay a needle or other straight object across the space. I have marked the start and finish of the first row with a red line. The arrow indicated the direction of working the filling stitches.

All filling stitches are made on the surface of the needlelace pad. They never go through the pad.

2. A perlé 12 space dyed thread was used for the top of the big mushroom. Use a blunt or ball point needle for the filling stitches. Start by passing the needle and thread through the couching stitches either at the top as here or come up on the side.

3. The first row of stitches is the foundation row that will determine how the finished lace will look. Putting too many stitches in the first row will result in a very dense finished piece, whereas too few will not look right. The stitch is a buttonhole stitch, bring the needle down behind the cordonnet and over the thread.

4. Make the next stitch, pull the stitch up, but do not pull it too tight. For this thread leave a needle width of space between each stitch.

5. Work the rest of the row up to the red line on the right. You should have between 14 and 16 stitches. At the end of the row take your needle and thread straight out under the cordonnet, make another loop around the cordonnet.

6. Lay the thread across the space. Take the thread under the cordonnet on the left and loop around the cordonnet once more. You are now ready to start the next row.

7. As we are working a curved shape and this row is longer than the row above we need to put extra stitches in at the beginning and end of this row. Work two buttonhole stitches over the cordonnet and the cord before working the stitch over the cord and the loop of the stitch in the row above.

8. Work the rest of row by passing the needle behind the loop of stitch in the row above and the cord. At the end of the row make two more stitches over the cordonnet and cord.

9. These rows will have a curved look to them. By the time you reach row three the rows will be straighter. If you run out of thread, pass the needle through the couching stitches at the side....

10. ....and cut off the surplus

11. Start the new thread by running the needle up through a few of the couching stitches at the side.

12. Continue like this adding stitches at the beginning and end of each row until you reach the middle. As you work the lower part of the mushroom top you will need to decrease the number of stitches at the end and beginning of each row.

13. The last row of stitches should lie just inside the cordonnet at the bottom of the space.

14. When you reach the last row you will need to whip the loops of the last row to the cordonnet.

15. After you have finished whipping pass the thread through the couching stitches at the side and cut of any surplus thread.

16. The second area to be filled is the right hand side mushroom cap. This area is going to be filled with Double Corded Brussels stitch. Start the foundation row of stitches at the red line on the left and work two buttonhole stitches, leave enough space for two stitches before making two more buttonhole stitches.

17. Continue like this until the row is filled. Six pairs of stitches are sufficient to fill the first row. Take you needle and thread out under the cordonnet on the right, loop around the cordonnet one more time then lay the cord across the space as you did for the Single Corded Brussels.

18. On the next row make two stitches into the cordonnet, the next two stitches into the loop between the two stitches of the row above. Continue like this across the row.

19. Continue down the space adding stitches or omitting stitches at the ends of the rows to fit the width of the space. On the 4th or 5th row the cord will need to be taken to the far left, whip under and over the cordonnet and make 5 double stitches into the cordonnet at the bottom of the top mushroom cap. Whip the last row of stitches to the cordonnet on the last row.

Note. The following six pictures show the surrounding areas have been filled. This will not be the case with your piece of work.

20. The small mushroom cap in the front is worked in Corded Treble Brussels. Work the same as the Corded Double Brussels but in groups of three stitches instead of two. Work six groups of three stitches into the first row and add or decrease stitches in each row as you work down the space. Whip the last row to the cordonnet.

21. The mushroom cap on the left hand side is work in Corded Single Brussels except in a finer thread than the first cap. Work three stitches into the left hand top. Add or decrease stitches as you work down the space. That completes all of the mushroom caps.

22. The next area to be filled is the left hand side stalk. All stalks are filled with Corded Single Brussels using a perlé 12 thread. Turn the needlelace pad round and work the foundation row between the two red lines. You will need 6 - 8 stitches in the first row. Continue down the space adding or decreasing stitches as necessary. Whip the last row to the cordonnet.

23. The green stalk is the hardest area to fill because the gold mushroom cap invades the space. Work the area the same as any other area until you reach the edge of the gold mushroom cap, this is likely to be row 10. Instead of taking the cord to the left hand side of the stalk take it to the top of the gold mushroom cap and work down this area and whip the last row to the cordonnet. Thread the filling thread up the bottom of the gold mushroom cap and lay the cord across to the left hand side of the stalk. Continue working down this space decreasing the stitches as you go. Whip the last row to cordonnet.

24. Now work the other centre stalk the same as the first stalk.

25. Turn your needlelace pad round and work the right hand stalk the same as the other two stalks.


Note: This picture shows the top stitching completed.

The filling stitches are now complete. All that remains is to work the top stitching.

 

Note: This picture shows the right hand stalk with the top stitching completed.

Top Stitching

When all the filling stitches have been completed, to give the needlelace its characteristic raised edge, two threads are laid as a padding and buttonholed over. The technical name for this technique is the cordonnette.

The buttonhole stitches should lay towards the outside of the motif and be worked as close to each other as possible.

This picture shows the right hand stalk has been top stitches whereas the one on the left has not.

Making the buttonhole stitches in the correct order keeps the work looking natural as you are working from the back and coming forward.

 

1. Refer to the working diagram on your printed sheet. Starting at the left hand mushroom stalk, using the same thread as the filling stitch cut a length of thread allowing sufficient to go twice along the edge H to G, with a little extra for good measure. Traditionally the thread is whipped to the cordonnet before making the buttonhole stitches, but as this is such a short length there is no need to whip it.

Leave a small tail of the padding thread and start to buttonhole over the cordonnet threads from H to G and trapping the two padding threads and the two cordonnet threads as you go. When the top stitching is complete run the remaining couching thread up through the couching stitches of the green stalk for about ½” then cut off the surplus. Carefully cut the two ends of the padding threads close to the buttonhole stitches.

Do the same for the small length E to F. When the top stitching is complete run the remaining thread up through the couching stitches of the mushroom cap above. Carefuly cut the two ends of the padding threads close to the buttonhole stitches.

2. Do the same for green stalk, starting at B buttonhole round to I. Run the remaining buttonhole thread up through the couching stitches on the middle mushroom stalk for about ½” then cut off the surplus.

Do the same for the small length K to L. When the top stitching is complete run the remaining thread up through the couching stitches of the mushroom cap above. Carefully cut the two ends of the padding threads close to the buttonhole stitches.

3. Next lay two threads and buttonhole over from J all round the stalk to O.

Run the remaining buttonhole thread up through the couching stitches on the gold mushroom cap for about ½” then cut off the surplus.

 

4. Now lay two threads and buttonhole over from N all round the stalk to P.

Run the remaining buttonhole thread up through the couching stitches on the green mushroom cap for about ½” then cut off the surplus.

Note: This picture shows the stalk with the top stitching already completed.

5. The mushroom caps now need two threads laid along the cordonnet and buttonholed over from M to R.

Run the remaining buttonhole thread up through the couching stitches on the top large mushroom cap for about ½” then cut off the surplus.

 

6. The next mushroom cap to be top stitched is the small cap on the left. Lay two threads along the cordonnet and buttonhole over from D to C.

Because the end of this line has already been top stitched the couching stitches are not available to run the buttonhole thread up. In these instances, leave any remaining thread until the lace has been released from the background fabric when it can be sewn off at the back of the lace.

 

7. The next mushroom cap to be top stitched is the gold cap. Lay two threads around the cap and buttonhole over starting at O working clockwise round the cap and finishing back at O.

Before you complete this top stitching you will need to cut the starting tail of the padding thread close to O and cut the tail end of the padding thread so that it butts up against O.

Because the end of this line has already been top stitched the couching stitches are not available to run the buttonhole thread through. In this instance, leave any remaining thread until the lace has been released from the background fabric when it can be sewn off at the back of the lace.

 

8. Finally buttonhole the top mushroom cap the same way as you did the gold mushroom cap. Start at R and work clockwise around the shape. This will ensure that the beginning loop at A is top stitched over to strengthen that join.

 

 

Removing the needlelace from the backing material

When all the top stitching is finished, release the lace from the backing material, by removing the tacking stitches around the design.

Separate the layers of calico and snip the couching stitches with a pair of sharp, fine scissors.
It is better to cut the couching threads between the bottom and middle layer of the pad. This will avoid cutting any threads that may have inadvertantly gone under the plastic protection.

Release the lace and carefully remove any remaining couching threads from the back of the lace with a pair of tweezers.

Re-thread the needle with thread left over from buttonholing and run the needle and thread through the buttonhole stitches at the back of the work.

Well done, you have now completed your first piece of needlelace.

If you want to apply it to a background fabric, stab stitch over the top stitching in the same thread as used for the top stitching.