Lace is an intricate openwork fabric made by a variety of methods. Although much of today's lace is machine-made, needlework artisans still create doilies, tablecloths and garments using detailed patterns. It is not uncommon for a lace pattern to have 50 or more rows to be worked before a row repeats. Three common varieties of handmade lace are crochet lace, needle lace and bobbin lace.
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Crochet lace is made either with a single hook or on a loom. Lace made on a loom is called hairpin lace, which works up faster and is made in strips that are then sewn together. Other types of crochet lace are fillet crochet, pineapple crochet and Irish crochet. Fillet crochet uses only the chain and double-crochet stitches to create a large, solid piece of mesh fabric. Pineapple crochet got its name because it uses the chain stitch and triple-crochet to create a pineapple motif, which is then sewn onto larger pieces of lace or other fabric. Perhaps the most intricate is Irish crochet, which features leaf and flower motifs created separately and joined into cloth using picot and chain stitches.
Needle lace is created using a blanket or buttonhole stitch and is sewn onto a pattern traced on a layer of parchment paper. The parchment is laid on a piece of fabric, and both paper and fabric are cut away when the lace is finished. A few types of needle lace are rose point, princess lace and Nanduti. Rose point is named for its rose pattern, which often features flowers around the edge that give the fabric a scalloped look, and is also called Point de Gauze. Princess lace uses strips of woven tape that are shaped into scallops and is frequently used for trim on garments. Nanduti, an unusual lace from Paraguay, is distinguished by its motifs of circles and palm leaves.
Bobbin lace uses thread wrapped around numerous bobbins that are braided and twisted into fabric. It is also known as pillow lace because it's made by sticking pins into a pattern pricked into a pillow. Pins stuck in the pillow guide the lacemaker and hold the lace as it is worked. Different shapes and styles of pillows are used to create different patterns. Round "cookie" pillows allow the lace to be turned and the lacemaker to change directions, which is necessary for doily patterns. A square sectional pillow is made of movable blocks that can be arranged into different configurations as the edge of the lace is worked. Roller pillows roll as you work, making them ideal for long strips of trim.
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