Making needle lace is something that everyone can learn, and no one should be intimidated by a needle and thread! Keep in mind that practice is imperative, and your first project won’t be perfect. I snipped off many mistakes before I created my first round of needle lace. Below, you’ll find several of the tools that helped me create my first projects, and which continue to inspire me as I grow in the craft.
I’m an affiliate of the companies below, so if you use my link, I’ll get a small bonus to help ThreadArtProducts keep going (at no extra cost to you!). As always, I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products that I would recommend.
For all of these tools, I recommend a crochet thread size 10 or larger to start with. If you start with embroidery floss or sewing thread, you’ll be sending me nasty emails about knots, and I would rather not talk you down off the ledge. I also recommend a slightly blunted needle. Sharp needles are great at getting knots out that are mistakes, but they come with a tendency to prick new learners. If you’re fine with that, then sharp away.
I also recommend a needle threader and small, sharp scissors. I have one of the Gingher bird scissors, which has a little emotional attachment for me, but any pair will do. Make sure they are sharp – frayed edges are harder to thread the needle with!
Mediterranean Knotted Lace – Book Review
There are several great books for starting with needle lace, and I always recommend starting with knotted lace in the Mediterranean school, whether Armenian, Turkish, or other regions. It’s much easier to begin, and there are fewer stitches required to get started. You won’t be making filet lace your first time around! (I can’t even do that.)
Mediterranean Knotted Lace is a paperback by Elena Dickson, available on Amazon, and is one of the best reference tools for learning and honing skills that I have found. The book is full of helpful diagrams, patterns, walkthroughs, and her information is concise and clear. She also includes a section on problem-solving techniques – which will help when you inevitably get stuck!
There is even a section for left-handed crafters, which is rare to find! There are beautiful and inspirational photographs, and it’s a great book both to begin and to reference when you find yourself advancing in the craft. It can be found on Amazon by either clicking here or on the picture.
Armenian Needle Lace – YouTube
If you learn better first with a video, then find books helpful later, then pick up the book above and while it’s getting shipped to you, watch BecomeInspired on YouTube. This channel features a lovely woman named Ashley who very generously shares her skill with the world in a series of 8 videos, each one addressing step by step instructions for creating needle lace.
She gets you started well on the way to creating your own patterns or adding to the base that you’ll learn as you follow her through, and by the 8th video, you’ll have a great understanding of how Armenian/Oya lace styles are crafted. She also has some tutorials for attaching the lace to fabric, which is helpful for trimming a scarf, kerchief, or handkerchief.
One of her best tips is to always work with light thread on a dark background if you’re learning. Using a piece of black fabric behind the work both helps reduce eye strain and helps you see what you’re doing. It also makes picking out mistakes a little easier, since you can more easily see how the thread knots are formed.
Priscilla Publishing – Priscilla Armenian Lace
It’s hard to be a long-time crafter without running across Priscilla books. These books are in the creative commons as a pdf and include black and white photographs, diagrams, patterns, and a little bit of history. They aren’t as thorough as other options, but they are available for free and easy to access. You can click here for the downloadable pdf, but if you’d prefer to have your own paper copy, they are also available on Amazon.
You can also find Priscilla books for cutwork, filet lace, and many other types of fine needlework, including tatting, which is similar to lace knotwork. They are circa 1923, so there are no digital accompaniments, but they are full of information. With a little initiative, you’ll be lacemaking in no time!
Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery – Book Review
Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery: A Preservation of Some of History’s Oldest and Finest Needlework by Alice Odian Kasparian is another one of the essentials for learning and growing in the art of lacemaking. It is available new and used from Amazon, and I would purchase it used if you can. This book also includes Oya laces, patterns, step by step instructions, pictures of finished products, and the histories and stories behind the stitches.
Lace is an art, and knowing the foundations and history allow you to help that art evolve into your own expressions. Learning these histories and the language that the stitches convey will help you find a way to create your own version of what they mean to you. Yes, you can create your OWN lace stitches! These books will help you learn the basics, and from there, it’s like improvising on an instrument. Lace is forgiving – play with it!
The Traditions of Yesterday and the Cultures of Technology
As the world changes, the relationships that used to be passed down through traditions such as lacemaking are becoming less important to youth. The language of lace, particularly in Turkish Oya, is less a part of tradition than the cell phone. However, lacemakers and crafters are diligently researching to pay homage to the traditions that served generations and created cultural significance within their region.
As you look for tools to help you, remember that you are involved in keeping a tradition alive. As a generation who lives with such integrated technology, art like lace is often left to machines. You will find that as your hands learn the muscle movements, your mind is left peaceful and at rest while you are working. It takes time, but it is worth it, both for your own skill set, and the preservation of tradition and art.
Let me know if you’ve started on your journey with a comment below, or if you have questions about any of these incredible tools. I’ll be sharing some of the practical information found in these books and other books like them, but it’s so helpful to have the information right there while you’re working.