Types of English Lace

The examples of lace on this page were not made by me (apart from the Bucks Point). They came from my collection of lace, so you can see how the experts do it! They are mostly English lace, but some Catalan and Maltese lace is included as they resemble types of English lace.

EnglishEuropean
Torchon
Downton
Bucks PointCatalan
MidlandMaltese
Honiton

Torchon Lace

Torchon lace

Torchon means "cloth, duster or tea towel" in French. Another name for Torchon lace is Beggar's lace, so you can see that originally people didn't have much of an opinion of it! It was made of coarse thread, and had a geometric design, rather than flowers or leaves. It is not a traditional English lace. However, it seems to be popular among modern lacemakers, and is a good lace to start with, since there are few curves, and the effect depends on different stitches and textures, rather than graceful working or elegance (not properties of beginner's lace!).

Torchon lace is always worked on a Torchon grid, with lines of holes at 45 degrees to the vertical. So lines cross at right angles. The pattern on the left has rose ground, and spiders surrounded by half stitch zig-zags. There is Torchon ground next to a twisted footside, and a half stitch fan headside, which doesn't look very good! I think that either they should have twisted the bobbins at the very edge before working them back in, or made the fan into cloth stitch instead. This is a good way to start designing lace. Look at existing lace, and see which part you don't like, and how it could be improved.

The design on the right has a simple half stitch zig-zag, with rose ground and half cloth diamonds beneath it. There is a twisted fan headside and a twisted footside with 2 passives. In the complete piece of lace, you can see that the lace must be handmade, since one of the half diamonds was worked in half stitch rather than cloth stitch. Obviously the lacemaker's attention wandered while working it!

These designs demonstrate most of the standard Torchon stitches and patterns. There is a double Torchon ground as well. In fact, Torchon patterns are so flexible that you can use many different stitches and patterns, even if strictly speaking they belong to different lace types. The zig-zag pattern is Torchon, and my diamond mats and wavy patterns are based on Torchon designs.

Torchon lace

Downton lace

Downton Lace

I don't know if this example is Downton lace, but it looks very like some of the examples of Downton lace in Salisbury Museum. Downton is in Wiltshire (UK), and the lace is very like Torchon, except it sometimes uses a Bucks Point ground. Downton lacemakers work the footside on the left, as they do in the rest of Europe, rather than on the right, as the rest of the English usually do. No-one seems to know why. The Downton whole stitch is a cloth stitch and twist. My heart designs were based on Downton lace I saw in Salisbury museum, as is my checkerboard pattern .


Bucks Point

These examples of Bucks Point were made by me, as I don't have any examples of Bucks Point in my lace collection, so apologies for their (lack of) quality! Bucks Point designs are made on the Bucks Point grid, with lines of holes running at 60 degrees to the vertical (although this may vary slightly). They use the delicate looking Bucks Point ground. The patterns are often surrounded by a gimp, which is a thicker thread which high-lights the pattern. In the design to the right, this is a honeycomb net using honeycomb stitch. There is a cloth fan headside (but to the Bucks Point proportions), and a cloth footside.

There are a couple of beginner Bucks Point designs.

Bucks Point

Bucks Point


Catalan

Mantilla

Bucks Point is very close to "ret-fi català" (thin catalan blonde) or "Punta d'Arenys", a lace made on the Catalan coast of Spain. Punta means lace in Catalan (compare the English Point). Here is an example of this lace. Note the hexagonal grounds, gimps (called torçal in Catalan), honeycomb and picots along the headside. There is a tradition that lace was introduced into England by Catharine of Arragon (the first wife of Henry VIII), and this seems to be another link between Spain and England. If you want some more Catalan, and also Spanish, terms for lace, lace in Spanish is Encaje (generic word), or Puntilla when it's a strip lace. An insertion is called an entredós (literally, "between two"). Encaje de bolillos (bobbins lace, in Spanish) is called in Catalan Puntes de coixí (pillow laces - puntes is plural for punta). My thanks to Núria from Barcelona for this information!

Mantilla

Here are some beautiful Spanish ladies with their traditional lace head-dresses, known as mantilla, accompanied by close-ups of the lace. These photographs were sent to me by Joan (male name, in Catalonia.)

Mantilla Mantilla

English Maltese

Midland Lace

English Maltese lace came from the Midland counties in England. The lacemaking area was centred round Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckingshire, and spread out as far as Cambridgeshire (where I live). Buckingshire is more associated with Bucks Point. In this example on the left, you can see a plaited headside with picots, similar to the crown headside (but simpler). There are plaits joined with lazy joins and a twisted footside. The trails are made of cloth stitch.

There are other types of Midland lace, such as Cluny. I started making lace with some English Maltese designs. I haven't done much of it, but I have used the plaited headside (although I left out the picots), and the crown headside. English Maltese stitches include the picot, the plait, the lazy join, the bud and the tally. There are some beginner English Maltese designs.


Maltese Lace

On the right is a piece of Maltese lace from Malta. It is made of cream silk, and has a Maltese cross in it. This type of lace was shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the Crystal Palace, in London. English Maltese was copied from this, to give people a cheap alternative. You can see a mat of Maltese lace illustrating my diamond mat designs. English Maltese was also known as Bedfordshire Maltese. English Maltese lace has lots of picots. So it is surprising that this original Maltese lace (and other Maltese lace that I've seen) has no picots at all.

Maltese lace

Honiton lace

Honiton Lace

I don't make Honiton lace myself, but it's a very important English lace. It comes from Honiton in Devon. Honiton lace was used as Queen Victoria's wedding lace. Honiton lace often has roses, thistles and shamrocks. You can certainly see the rose and shamrock in this example, and perhaps the other flower is supposed to be a thistle. There are sometimes shapes which aren't part of the flowers or leaves, which are called slugs and snails! I think that the shapes on the left are tendrils. Honiton motif

This is made in a different way from the other lace. The different parts of the pattern are described as motifs. They are made separately (see right), and then connected afterwards with brides, which are plaits with picots. You can see how cloth and half stitch are used to produce different textures. The threads used are very fine and it's very closely worked, so Honiton bobbins are thin, and not spangled.


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© Jo Edkins 2008