Lace in the shape of a cross




Methods of making a crossSmall crossesBig crossess
Working centre to end of arm
Working from one end to another
Cross with central diamonds
Tiny cross
Cross with central spiders
Cross with stripes
Cross with central roses
Cross with roses round edge
Small Celtic cross
Cross with fans
Double strand Celtic cross
Single strand Celtic cross
Another double strand Celtic cross

Bobbin lace is mostly worked as a straight edge. There are techniques for turning a corner. Click here to see how to do this. Using a similar technique, you can make a cross. This is an attractive shape, and also looks impressive, since it takes up more room than you would expect from the number of bobbins used. Naturally, a cross can have a Christian significance, but it need not be restricted to this. Most of these crosses have equal length arms, but if you want, you probably can work out how to extend one arm.

First technique to make a cross

When working a cross, each arm is worked separately. You can see on these patterns that there are two diagonal lines crossing at the centre. These show where each arm starts (or finishes). These lines are not on the Torchon grid, and no thread goes along them. On the left, these lines are in pink.

In the first method, the bobbins for the first arm are wound and hung from pins either on the pink lines, or the pinholes above. Then that arm is worked, in the direction of the pale green arrows, finishing at the blue line at the bottom of the arm. Cut off the bobbins and finish (a knotted fringe is quite attractive). Turn the pillow through a right angle, so the dark green arrows face downwards. Now, for the next arm, half the threads come from the same pink line that you've used for the previous arm. So get the right ammount of thread, and thread it through the loop of thread from the last arm which has been caused by the top pin. (This can be a bit tricky, as you can see below!) Then wind this thread onto bobbins. Do this for half the arm, then hang the rest of the bobbins from pins for the other half of the pink line. Work the arm as before. Then do the remaining 2 arms.

I find that the tricky part of this technique is the threading through the pinhole loops. If you get the wrong loop, the result can be a mess! So an alternative technique is not to hang the bobbins as usual. Instead, measure out the right amount of thread, and wind half of it onto a bobbin as usual. But instead of winding the other half onto a second bobbin, leave it loose. Make a slip knot and hang that from the pin. You will need to do this twice to make a pair of bobbins. It does mean that you have a lot of loose threads that need looking after (I suggest winding them in a loop and fastening them somehow, or you could even wind them onto bobbins which you don't use for this arm.) But when you start on the next arm, you will have your threads ready to wind straight onto a bobbin without any threading nonsense. Of course, you will have to work out which thread is which! You will also need to remove the pin with the slip knots on, and pull the thread carefully to remove the slip knot. This technique is shown in more detail here.

One problem with the first method is that you need to wind the bobbins four times, one for each arm. Is there a better way? Yes, possibly - the second method!

Here you start at the end of the arm, at the blue line (rather than the middle of the cross). You work the lace towards the centre. Once you get to the pink lines, then that is the end of that arm. But you do not cut off the bobbins! Leave them on the pillow, and wind another set of bobbins. The second arm to be worked is the opposite arm to the first one (not the next door arm). So turn the pillow through two right angles, and hang the bobbins from the opposite blue line. Work the lace again towards the centre. There is a slight problem in that you have a lot of pins and bobbins from the first arm in the way! The bobbins can be pushed to one side, but the pins are annoying. Either push enough pins in up to their heads to anchor the first bit of lace and remove the rest of the pins, or work the second arm to one side, so the second lot of bobbins don't continually catch on the first arm's pins (possible but a bit tricky). Once the first two arms have been worked, then the last two become much easier. You don't need to wind any more bobbins. Take half the threads from the first arm, and half from the second arm, and turn the pillow so they are hanging downwards, and you're ready for the third arm! When that's done, use the remaining bobbins for the final arm. You do have to choose the correct threads for each arm, and make sure that the threads are in the right order. But it does save you half the bobbin winding, and does away with trying to start too much in the centre.

This method means that the threads start at two arm ends of the cross, and finish at the other two. So you need a more invisible way of finishing off. It is possible to start and finish the end of the arm within the lace itself. See the cobweb lace for how to do this. It makes the tied off knots within the lace rather than along an edge.

While you only need to wind half as many bobbins for this method, I do find it trickier to actually work, with the pins from the first arm getting in the way of the second. Tying off can be tricky as well, as it either happens on the end of two arms only (possibly making the cross unsymmetrical), or you tie off within the cross, which can be awkward.

Second technique to make a cross

Small lace cross pattern

Cross with central diamonds

This cross is worked by the second method, and I have started and finished the lace within the pattern. See above for an explanation. The black numbers on the pattern show the order of working. The red dots with red numbers show where you start, and how many bobbins to hang from each pin. These pairs must twist round each other while being hung, or the two parts of the start of the lace will just fall apart when you take the pins out. (If you forget, then sew them together afterwards!)

There are twisted fan headsides, and diamonds - the small ones are cloth stitch and the larger ones in the centre are half stitch. I have made the outer pair of threads in the headside a different colour to outline to cross, but you can make the whole cross the same colour if you wish.

10 pairs per arm - 20 pairs on pillow at same time (see above for explantion of second method of working a cross.)

Small lace cross photo

Small lace cross photo

Tiny cross

This is a really small cross. It is a cross with the bottom arm longer, as a more conventional Christian cross shape. You can make the arms equal length if you prefer.

It is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the centre and finishing at the end of each arm with overhand knots. Rather than hanging the pairs of bobbins from the central pins, I made a slip knot in the centre of the thread, and used one of the bobbins, leaving the other for the next door arm. That was done twice for each pin, of course, to produce a working pair for this arm. When the next arm is worked, the pin is removed, and the threads gently pulled to remove the slip knots.

Each arm starts with a single unit of rose ground. The edges are cloth stitch triangles, worked right to the vertical edge. Where the triangles meet, the two pairs of workers are swapped over using a cloth stitch and twist. Then there is a single stitch of Torchon double ground. The end of the arm is half of a triangle on each side.

I have used thicker thread here (so the pattern was enlarged to do this), and two colours. The worker threads for the triangles are blue, with the rest yellow. You can use one colour throughout, if you wish, of course.

6 pairs per arm!

Small lace cross pattern

Small lace cross pattern

Tiny cross

This cross looks more complicated, but it is based on one of the beginner patterns. In fact, it is only part of it. You could produce other crosses by using other parts of the pattern.

It is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the centre and finishing at the end of each arm with reef (square) knots. I used the same slip knot method that the previous pattern did.

Each arm starts with lines of Torchon ground, then a large spider. The headsides are cloth fans. Then there is some rose ground. The end of each arm is a cloth diamond.

12 pairs per arm

Small lace cross photo

Small lace cross pattern

Cross with stripes

This is a simpler design. It is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the centre and finishing at the end of each arm with overhand knots, which make fringes. I used the same slip knot method that the previous pattern did.

Each arm is mostly cloth stitch strips. The edges of the strips are (very short) vertical edge. Between the strips, the pairs of threads are twisted twice, or three times at the edge, to separate the strips and strengthen the lace. The end of each arm is the top half of a diamond.

12 pairs per arm

Small lace cross photo

Small lace cross pattern

Cross with central roses

This is worked by the second method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the end of two opposite arms, and finishes at the end of the other two. It also starts inside the lace, at the red dots, with a pair heaeding upwards and another pair heading downwards, simiar to the first cross. This means that it also ends within the lace, at the blue dots, with reef (square) knots. It can be hard tying these knots if surrounded by pins, so it's best to start tying off as soon as possible, while still half way through the final two triangles in each arm.

There is a winkie pin footside all round the cross, with a single passive. There is a cloth stitch triangle at the end of each arm, and then two half stitch triangles. The middle is rose ground.

The second method of making a cross is certainly a little tricky. It would be possible to work this as first method, which would mean starting at the centre, then tying off each arm, at both the red and blue dots.

12 pairs per arm

Small lace cross photo

Small lace cross photo

Cross with roses round edge

This is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the middle of the cross and finished at the ends of the arms, with reef (square) knots.

The edge is rose ground headside. The middle is cloth diamonds merged together.

14 pairs per arm

Small lace cross pattern

Small lace cross pattern

Small Celtic cross

This is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the middle of the cross and finished at the ends of the arms, with overhand knots to make a fringe.

This uses thin cloth stitch zigzags with join as downwards chevrons. There are a few Torchon ground stitches to fill the gaps. There is footside on the edges to reduce the number of bobbins used.

As with most small Celtic knot patterns, the effect is a little hard to see.

10 pairs per arm

Small lace cross photo

Small lace cross photo

Cross with fans

This is worked by the first method. See above for an explanation. It starts from the middle of the cross and finished at the ends of the arms, with overhand knots to make a fringe.

The middle of the cross is rose ground. The rest is mostly cloth stitch and half stitch fans. On each arm, two of the fans are unusual. The pale blue fans start, in the centre, rather like a diamond, with threads coming in from both sides. But it soon turns into a conventional fan. Similarly the last pale blue fan on each arm ends rather strangely. I've marked on the right arm where the end threads come out from the lace. This is to stop one fan overlapping the other to much.

This cross has quite narrow, long arms. You can adapt the pattern easily to make shorter arms.

8 pairs per arm

Small lace cross pattern

Big Celtic cross

Celtic cross pattern Celtic cross pattern

Celtic crosses can have complex Celtic knots on them, and I wanted to reproduce this. It is mostly worked as cloth stitch strips. It is worked using the first method of making a cross (see above). Each arm is started in the centre. For the second arm, half the threads were threaded through the loops belonging to the top pins of the first arm, before being wound onto the bobbins. I made a bit of a mess of this!

The following explanation may make more sense if you read my Celtic knots lace webpage. The design uses a double strand Celtic knot. This has the advantage that you can pack the threads closer together, so there isn't that annoying Torchon ground stitch, which means you keep heaving to work half a rectangle of cloth stitch, then half of the next door rectangle, then the Torchon ground stitch, then the second halves, as in the previous pattern. On the other hand, the basic strand is very narrow, which means that the pattern itself is not very clear. (If I had made the strand thicker then there would have been too many bobbins for my liking).

Another problem with the thin strand is that if I had worked it in an obvious fashion, there would have been no threads left to turn the corner at the edge. So I introduced a couple of extra pairs of threads on each side. If you look closely at the pattern, you will see dark green lines at the edge. These are not pairs of threads twisted, like the rest of the pattern. They are two pairs of threads, plaited as legs. This gives enough threads for the cloth stitch at the edge (two pairs of passives and a worker pair).

The single pairs of threads joining the cloth stitch are twisted three times, to push the strands as far apart as possible.

22 pairs. Each arm is worked separately.


Golden Celtic Cross

Golden Celtic Cross pattern Golden Celtic Cross photo

Here is another Celtic knot. It was worked one arm at a time. The pink lines show where the arms divide. (Experts in Celtic knots may notice that the middle is slightly odd. This is because the filled in areas of cloth stitch cannot cross the pink lines.) It is worked using the first method of making a cross (see above). The bobbins are started at the holes above the pink lines. Normally I would say 'hung' but I used a different technique here. I was using metallic thread, and I wanted a mixture of colours to create a glitter effect. So one thread of each pair of bobbins was silver, and the other gold. I could have knotted them together to hang them, but I didn't want knots in the middle of the cross. Also, with the previous cross, there was a problem with threading the second and subsequent arms' threads through previous thread holes. So here, I measured out the whole of the thread, made a slip knot half way along, and put the slip knot on the pin. I wound half the thread on one bobbin, and carefully put the other half of the thread, still unwound, over the back of the pillow. The other bobbin of the pair was treated similarly, in the other colour. When all the threads for one arm were wound, there was this hank of threads off the back of the pillow. They were only two feet long, but a bit of a menance, so I carefully wound them in a rough circle, and fastened this to the back of the pillow. Once one arm was worked, I tied off the threads and removed the bobbins. Then I rotated the pillow a quarter turn and undid the unused threads. Only half of these would be used by the next arm. I removed the pin where the slip knot was, carefully pulled the relevant threads until the slip knot 'popped', and rewound them onto bobbins. This covered half the threads for this arm, and I treated the other half similarly to the threads for the first arm. It all worked better than I thought it would!

How to make Golden Celtic Cross photo How to make Golden Celtic Cross photo How to make Golden Celtic Cross photo How to make Golden Celtic Cross photo

A few notes about the pattern itself. The ends finish with a little Torchon ground which gives a straight edge, which works better with a fringe. The strips inside the cross overlap by two, which is more than the previous patterns. This makes a better Celtic knot design, but does need more bobbins. As I mentioned above, they can't overlap by two in the middle of the cross, in fact, they can't overlap at all. (I didn't realisee this at first!) This needs four stitches of Torchon ground between the strips, which needs a certain amount of working part of a strip, then a different part of the pattern, then finish the strip (especially near the edges). There is also a bit of Torchon ground at the edges to make sure that there are enough threads in the curved parts. I also was careful to keep the maximum amount of threads in the strips at all times. When you start a strip, at the point, you do the first stitch, then have to decide which pair of bobbins become the worker pair. One side of the strip feeds threads into the pattern, the opposite side removes threads from the pattern. If you chose one pair of the first two as the worker, in the main part of the strip, you will work through 4 pairs one way, and 5 the other. But if you chose the other pair, you will work through 5 one way, and 6 the other, which gives a thicker strip. What you need to do after the first stitch of the strip, is to chose the pair which is working towards the side which is feeding in threads, not the pair which works towards the side which is losing threads. Of course, you normally have a problem at the edges, since the worker pair which had the 5/6 direction suddenly becomes the 4/5 direction. But in this pattern, I've put an extra hole in at the edge, so the worker pair should be 5/6 in both directions (if you've chosen right!)

22 pairs of bobbins (each wound four times!)


Double strand Celtic cross

Celtic cross pattern Celtic cross pattern

This cross was another attempt to make a big double stranded Celtic cross. It is worked using the first method of making a cross (see above). Each arm is started in the centre. I used the slip knot method to stop the mess in the middle (see previous two crosses).

Rather than cloth stitch strips, I used my crossover diagonals. I've marked exactly where the crossovers go, to help you (and me!) work it. There is a bit of Torchon single ground near the edges, with no footside.

24 pairs per arm.


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© Jo Edkins 2011