Making Bedfordshire leaves animation.
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Making Leaves and Tallies
a few letters from Arachne Mailing List
Beds Leaves-As far as leaves go, I never had a problem. I use both hands. Do a cloth
stitch first (CTC) then take the 3rd strand to begin and go under the fourth--make it tight there holding the thread in the right hand and at the same time spreading the passives equidistantly. Once the worker goes around to the left side, I switch hands quickly (now I don't even notice) and by the time I go back around to the middle of the leaf I switch to the
right hand. I'm not sure if I make leaves this way because I am ambidexterous(sp?) Someone on this list mentioned having a small pillow off to the side which only has two pairs on it for playing with leaves continuously as practice--I do this, because I am trying to get my leaves to look like the Maltese version instead of too thin. The English say you cannot call yourself a lacemaker until you have made 1000 leaves--I'm way past it now, but at the time I accepted it as a challenge.
HeathereTallies- In Honiton I do not need to shorten
the passives but lengthen the runner, as I keep the passives shorter then
usual anyhow. Pinning the edges of the tally is a great idea, will try that
too. What I do, very often I find to give the pairs running to the tally
more twists, then the author recommended, so as to kind of 'push' the edges
into position (with the twists). Then I have to watch out to tension the
first (and later the last) sts enough, so that there is no curve to the
sides, and not tension to hard in the middle.
Tensioning here means for me, spreading the passives apart and tensioning
the runner tenderly. Of course, this should be done evenly. When tensioning
the runner, I pull upwards, so as to make the tally 'dense' So, not too
much spreading in the first and last sts, but well spreading in the middle.
Another matter is the length of the tally, I always have to make it longer
then I would have thought in the beginning (the same in leaves for me).
Again when fastening, or working on first the 2 passives, then the runner
and passive pair, I often add 1 or 2 more twists.
When I first learnt leaves and tallies I learned 2 different methods, one
keeping the bobbins on the pillow, the other one keeping the passives
between my knuckles. The knuckle version works much better for me, most of
the times. So maybe you would like to try out different techniques.
Reminds me of a very very good recommendation I heard once, if you have
anything that could pass as a 'pillow' (even a mouse mat) or have extra
space on your usual pillow, hang in some pairs, and do some tallies or
leaves a day or a week. Anyway, so that you do not forget the
enlightenments you had last time. A tallie/leaves exercise field, they will
soon look terrific, and a row of them could be worked into something nice,
after the exercise. Never did it that systematically, always wanted to have
it right NOW, but the idea is striking, I think (and not my own), and would
be well worth it. Reminds me again of a VERY good lacemaker claiming she
never has to startch her lace, because her leaves have so much substance,
and they sure look all the same. So maybe the exercise would not 'hurt' me
either, as mine show kind of an individuality at times :):):)
Just my 2 rappen. Hope that helps.
Manuela from Zurich, Switzerland
Some of us find the square ones easier than the leaves.
Arrange the threads from the two pairs directly in front of you on the
pillow. Pin the other pairs on either side out the the way.
Lengthen the thread that is to be the worker. It is the second thread in
from either the right or the left side, depending on how you want to secure
the finished tally to the work. The worker should finish the tally on
opposite side from the one where it began, so select the worker that will not
be part of the pair that is first to be joined to the rest of the lace. You
mustn't pull on the worker then, or your tally will turn into a leaf that you
didn't intend to make.!)
If the worker is on the left, in the second position of the four, then cross
it to the right over thread #3, and under thread #4 on the outside edge.
Hold the passive pairs very carefully in their position as you weave this same
worker thread back over and under all the pairs to the left. The width of the
tally is determined by the distance you maintain as you weave the worker back
and forth. As long as you hold the passives taught, you can make the worker
firm as it weaves. The secret is to keep the end passives under control AT
ALL TIMES. Some find it easier to work flat on the pillow and others hold the
three passive pairs in the fingers of one hand as they weave the worker over
and under with the other hand. When the tally is square, leave the worker at
the outside edge, twisted over the edge thread. I usually lay the worker
carefully back above the work at this point, to make sure that I don't pull
on it any more. Some lacemakers make a half knot with the worker if they are
using very fine thread The knot will protect the worker but making it can be
tricky. Knot or twist the two threads on the other side and carefully use
them to make the stitch that attaches the tally to the work in progress. Then
secure the side with the worker.
Practise helps. The more tallies you make, the better they get. I recommend
picking a pattern with a lot of them...
Elaine Merritt (LACEELAINaol.com)
About 'leaves', tallies or what you will. I have been making some of the
patterns from the Cluny de Brioude book this summer and Odette Arpin's
leaves are immaculate. Although the method she shows in the book has nothing
special about it, I have seen someone in that area of France working leaves
on the pillow flat, just by twisting and crossing the bobbins. In the book
Dentelles au Fuseau, Cluny, by Mick Fouriscot and Mylene Salvador it is
described like this.It goes something like this,---
Make a cloth stitch as usual, C T C , pin as usual,T T left hand bobbins,C
centre pair, T T right bobbins, tension, C centre pair, T T left hand pair,
tension. Continue in this way , C T T, to the right, C T T to the left.
You should end up with a leaf. I keep trying this method form time to time,
but haven't quite managed to sort it yet. The demonstator made it look so
quick and easy!
Jean, in Cleveland, U.K.
In fact this is the good explanation for leaves, but it is indeed
difficult to make with just the written explanations.
It would be much easier with a little slow demo.
In fact when making a leaf you do not think in 'pairs'. You have:
- the left guide and the right guide, that will give the leaf shape
- the weaver
- the middle guide, that we call pendulum (balancier in French)
NEVER tension the weaver alone!
When the weaver is at left side, tension the right guide and place the
weaver thread (tension carefully the weaver).
When the weaver is at right side, tension the left guide and place the
weaver thread (tension carefully the weaver).
Increase the thickness of the leaf to the middle and a little bit after,
then decrease untill the end.
I agree this method is difficult and you need a lot of practise.
The secret, of course, is in the tension. The way Christine Springett
taught us at the IOLI course is; after weaving through and back to the
right, hold the 3 passives down with the little finger, middle finger and
thumb of the left hand, spreading the outer threads to the angle needed
to the width at that point; then pull the weaver _down_ to firm the
tension then up until the shape on the left side is right.
The other tip she gave is to work down to about 2/3 the length of the
leaf before beginning the reduce the width. Then work to a little _past_
the pattern length. When you put in the last pin it will snug up to the
Good luck. They say that one must make 1000 tallies to get it right!
Maybe these tips will help cut that number down.
Louise in Central Virginia
There are many ways of making the leaf tallies, and everyone has her/his
own favourite method. But whatever the method, the leaf shape depends
on good tension control. Also, the more "packed" the leaf (ie, the more
"passes"), the less likely it is to change the shape when you close it
with the last cloth stitch and do the final tensioning, because the many
passes allow for a very gradual shaping of the leaf, both out and in.
It is(IMO -- in my opinion) easier to tension leaves which are skinny
through the middle but, unfortunately, my eye prefers leaves of
Rubenesque proportions (if inverted <g>)... There, especially, the
gradual widening and narrowing of the leaf afforded by the many passes
I find it *enormously* helpful, if the leaves drawn on the pricking are
as close as possible to the final shape I want them to be; for some
obscure reason, I have never been able to successfully widen a leaf
which had been drawn skinny...
Practice helps; I was delighted with my first two or three leaves
(beginner's luck <g>), thought the whole "leaf mystique" was so much
nonsense, and found that the next 30 or so were quite consistently
awful... Which ruined my piece (Torchon). Luckily, in a nice, "leafy"
Beds (or Russian) piece, there are so many leaves, the few irregulars
don't offend the eye -- quite the opposite, in fact -- they make the
piece more interesting, and prove that it's hand-made. Not that one
stops striving for 300 perfect and identical ones... :)
Relax a bit; leaves are like baking: one needs to take reasonable care
with them, but they're *not* something that only long-time professionals
can do successfully; the "mystique" may not be *all* nonsense, but a lot
of it *is*. And, like with baking, once in a while one gets a less than
satisfying result (even the pros) -- that's to remind us that we're all
The brass tacks and practical advice:
I use unspangled bobbins and my favourite method is the one posted here
by Tess about a year and a half ago:
1) Make the original clothstitch to start, lengthen the 3rd from the
left thread (worker) *slightly* (it's difficult to tension if it's
considerably longer). Then:
2) T,T the right-hand pair, C the two central threads, tension all
threads out and upwards
3) T,T the left-hand pr, C the central threads, tension again.
So, the entire sequence is: TTC, tension, TTC tension. The worker
moves as it ought, from side to side (its thread lengthened as needful),
and the central of the three passive threads sort of "ticks", like a
What's *difficult* about this method is *unlearning* (isn't it always?
<g>); for me, the T (twist) doing *both* pairs simultaneously is so
ingrained, I had the hardest time learning to do it with *only one
pair*; many's the time when I've "lost" my worker :)... But, once I
learnt to do it, the rest was a breeze.
That is *not* to say that, a couple of thousand leaves later, an
occasional holly/pine cone one doesn't pop up -- it's just that they're
not as frequent...
I am not sure how well this method works with spangled bobbins (I
switched before I gathered enough energy to try out Tess's method), but
I think someone else (Bev Walker?) has tried it and found it OK.
When I was still working with spangled bobbins, after the initial
clothstitch, I *shortened* the three passives to about 2" leaving the
worker (3rd from the left, as in the previous method) at its normal
length (ca 4-4.5"). I then wove: under and over the outer right-hand
passive thread, under the central one, over and under the left-hand one,
and over the central one. Which returned the worker to its original
position. I then tensioned the entire "round" by pulling on the worker
up, outwards, and back with the right hand, while setting the fingers of
my left hand on the tops of the bobbin heads and spreading the fingers
to the desired width.
This method, even while cutting the tensioning process by half (single
tensioning at the end of the round instead of two), turned out to be
slower than the TTC,TTC one. First, I had to shorten the 3 passives
(and lengthen them back when finished, though that's fast). Then, I had
to lift each of the passives in turn to pass the weaver (worker)
through. Also, with this method, the length of the thread on the
passives had to be "just so" -- almost identical on all three, but not
quite (the middle one needed to be just a touch longer, to accomodate
the extra length of the middle finger). With the TTC method, small (up
to a 1/4") differences don't really matter, so you don't approach the
new leaf in quite the same way (squaring your shoulders, girding your
loins and saying "I've survived the previous 50, I'll survive this one
too"); it becomes a part of the broader process...
I know that there are people on this list who weave (the method most
commonly shown in the English books) *and* don't meddle so much with the
passive/worker thread lengths; I hope they'll chime in -- we're overdue
for a leaf-making session (I don't know if the collective experience is
collected in the FAQ and don't dare ask Mimi at this point <g>).
Good luck and one last bit of "general wisdom":
I tend to be *overly* analytical ("anal-retentive to the nth degree" is
how my family and friends term it <g>) as well as long-winded. But I
find that it *does* help, at least at the beginning (say, leaves 5-150),
to slow down and make them a bit more deliberately than your instinct
dictates. You can then observe better just what it was you did (or
didn't do) to mis-shape them (the successes tend to just fly by, but the
boo-boos are more likely to leave a residual memory, fleeting as it
might be). So that you can *change* whatever it was on the next pass,
next round, next leaf, and evolve a technique of your own...
I had time to make leaves today and
practice the pumpkin seed look.
Forget what I said about loose but consistent tension - *firm* and
consistent tension seems to be more effective. To get the pumpkin seed
look, and it seems this should work with the weaver either at the same
length or longer than the passives, simply spread the passives very wide
to tension. The weaver thread should be quite pinched between the outside
passive and the inner one, and I believe this pinching produces the outer
ridges. The central passive will swing from one side to the other, to help
tension the latest over-under (or cross-cross, as could be said happens at
the outer threads).
I practiced a leaf with each of two larger threads, pearl cotton 5 and
weaving cotton 20/2, then a third leaf with quilting thread, a bit wiry
for a nice looking leaf, but I got the pumpkin seed look!
bye for now
Bev in Sooke, BC
I really like the "pumpkin seed" leaves (good name for them!).
In fact, that's one of the things I most admire about Maltese lace, which is my
favorite bobbin lace. Pumpkin seeds are what I am striving for. My own
leaves are usually quite anorexic, but they're getting better. I learned a
neat technique this weekend from Bridgett Cook. She was teaching us Russian
lace and she adds an extra loop around each edge passive in the leaf. In
other words, when you weave a leaf you usually go 360 degrees around the
edge. Go an additional 360 degrees, then tension. Do this at both edges.
The extra wrap doesn't affect the solidity of the finished leaf but it does
provide friction to keep the edge from being pulled inward on the next
tensioning. A wonderful technique that I intend to use on all leaves from
By the way, Bridgett is a wonderful teacher! I enjoyed her class (we had
*3* whole days!), learned a whole lot, and would love to take other classes
from her. I highly recommend her to anyone!
just my 2 cents,