Thread Sizes and Pricking

Many lacemakers find it difficult to choose an appropriate thickness thread for a given pattern. Whilst personal preferences as to the closeness or airiness of the finished lace does play a part in the choice of thread thickness, if the lace is to work up well the thread size does need to match the scale of the pricking.

A thread which is too thick for a pattern will usually become obvious quite quickly if it is used; the lace will look crowded and any cloth stitch will "twipper". If the thread is too fine it may look alright whilst on the pillow but when the pins are removed it will be limp and will distort easily.

To determine the correct thickness required for a pricking it is neccessary to make some test windings. Use a strip of thin card or folded paper about half an inch or 1cm wide and wind the thread around it so that the wraps of thread lie close together with no gaps but not overlapping each other. Count the number of wraps as you wind.

winding diagram
A winding with 12 wraps of thread between pinholes.

For grid based yardage laces you look at how many thread wraps will fit between footside pinholes and for braid laces you look at how many threads, on average, will fit between pins of the braid sections.

For Torchon lace, if the thread is the correct thickness for the pricking 12 wraps of thread will fit into the space between two footside pins, whilst for Point Ground laces only 10 wrap of thread between footside pinholes is needed because of the shallower working angle. With the 4 pairs per pin laces such as Flanders and Binche it is 18 thread wraps between regular footside pinholes, and for Valenciennes 16 thread wraps; again because of the shallower working angle.

Bedfordshire is perhaps the most difficult of the yardage laces to determine the appropriate thickness of thread for as the footside braid only connects to the rest of the lace by means of plaits at every 3rd, 4th or 5th pinhole and so is not a very reliable measurement. Thus it is perhaps better to assess Bedfordshire patterns in the same way as a braid lace pattern and look at the pin spacing in the trails.

With braid laces there is more flexibility in the choice of thread thickness because there is usually the option of adding or subtracting a pair of passives if the work looks too sparse or too crowded. However the number of thread wraps between pinholes is still the most appropriate method of comparing thread to pricking. To find the pin spacing in a braid lace look for the straightest run of pinholes and measure the distance covered by 10 spaces (pin 1 to pin 11) and divide by 10. Use a flexible tape measure if necessary.

Milanese usually works best with about 8-9 thread wraps per space whilst Russian and Bruges laces are better with 10-12 thread wraps per space. For finer Bedfordshire it is usually about 8-9 thread wraps per space along the trails and with the coarser Beds-Maltese 10-12 thread wraps per space. These differences are because the ratio of braid width to pinspacing tends to be greater with the finer laces than it is with the heaver designs.

Table of thread sizes in *wraps/cm for various pin spacings

Thread wraps per space
. . . . 8 9 10 11 12 16 18
. . 1.5 53 w/cm 60 w/cm 67 w/cm 73 w/cm 80 w/cm . .
. . 1.8 44 w/cm 50 w/cm 58 w/cm 61 w/cm 67 w/cm . .
. . 2.0 40 w/cm 45 w/cm 50 w/cm 55 w/cm 60 w/cm 80 w/cm .
. . 2.2 36 w/cm 41 w/cm 45 w/cm 50 w/cm 55 w/cm 73 w/cm 82 w/cm
width 2.5 32 w/cm 36 w/cm 40 w/cm 44 w/cm 48 w/cm 64 w/cm 72 w/cm
. . 2.8 29 w/cm 32 w/cm 36 w/cm 39 w/cm 43 w/cm 57 w/cm 64 w/cm
of 3.0 27 w/cm 30 w/cm 33 w/cm 37 w/cm 40 w/cm 53 w/cm 60 w/cm
. . 3.2 25 w/cm 28 w/cm 31 w/cm 34 w/cm 38 w/cm 50 w/cm 56 w/cm
space 3.8 21 w/cm 24 w/cm 26 w/cm 29 w/cm 32 w/cm 42 w/cm 48 w/cm
. . 4.0 20 w/cm 22 w/cm 25 w/cm 28 w/cm 30 w/cm 40 w/cm 44 w/cm
in 4.5 18 w/cm 20 w/cm 22 w/cm 24 w/cm 27 w/cm 36 w/cm 40 w/cm
. . 5.0 16 w/cm 18 w/cm 20 w/cm 22 w/cm 24 w/cm 32 w/cm 36 w/cm
mm 6.0 13 w/cm 15 w/cm 17 w/cm 18 w/cm 20 w/cm 27 w/cm 30 w/cm
. . 7.0 11 w/cm 13 w/cm 14 w/cm 16 w/cm 17 w/cm 23 w/cm 26 w/cm
. . 8.0 10 w/cm 11 w/cm 12 w/cm 14 w/cm 15 w/cm 20 w/cm 23 w/cm
. . 10 8 w/cm 9 w/cm 10 w/cm 11 w/cm 12 w/cm 16 w/cm 18 w/cm
    Milanese Bedfordshire Point Ground Bruges Torchon Valenciennes Binche
© Brenda Paternoster 2004
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Honiton lace is the exception to this way of selecting thread thickness. Apart from being very difficult to measure the pin spacing accurately, Honiton (and fine Duchesse) designs virtually always have the ability to increase or decrease the number of downright (passive) pairs, and anyway, a true Honton pattern is unlikely to be worked with anything thicker than about 60 wraps/cm.

*wraps/cm is the method I use in my book Threads for Lace to compare different thicknesses of thread.

Jo has used the table above to produce a graph showing the relationship of thread thickness and distance between pins for different styles of bobbin lace
More information about this on Bobbin-Lace Wiki pages .

resize graph

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