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Lace embroidery is a time-honored tradition, and skilled artists have been making lace for hundreds of years. Since lace is an open fabric featuring many delicate holes, lace-making techniques involve either removing threads from woven fabric or weaving holes into the lace using one thread. Different types of lace embroidery use various tools, including bobbins, pillows, special needles, and pins. Techniques for making lace are usually named for the equipment used.
Making lace with needles and thread is the most time consuming, but also the most flexible of lace embroidery techniques. In needle lace-making, guiding threads are secured to a stiff background with removable stitches, and then the lace is created by stitching fine thread onto these guide threads to build up the fabric. When the lace is finished, the securing stitches are released and the lace can be removed from the background.
Another type of lace embroidery is achieved by tatting. The tatting technique creates lace by knotting and looping thread over a core thread, forming a pattern of chains and rings, using special needles called tatting needles or a shuttle. Tatting needles are an even thickness that should match the thickness of the thread. A shuttle is used in tatting to hold the thread while guiding it through loops and making knots. Many tatting shuttles also have a hook at the end, used like a crochet hook. Patterns, similar to knitting patterns, are available for lace tatting.
Lace embroidery called bobbin, or pillow, lace is made using wooden, bone, or plastic bobbins, flat head pins, and a firm pillow. There are three general types of pillows: cookie, roller, and sectional. Pins are stuck into the pillow in a specific pattern, and fine thread is woven through the pins. The thread is held by bobbins, which the lace maker manipulates.
Lace can also be made with crochet hooks. Any size crochet hook can be used, though smaller hooks, size 00 to 8 (0.4 to 2.0 millimeters) hooks are preferred. Crochet lace embroidery uses crochet techniques with finer threads and varying size holes within the lace. Decorative stitching can be added later to add interest to the design.
The cutwork technique of lace embroidery involves removing threads from previously woven fabric, usually linen. Threads are pulled from the fabric to create a pattern and then the remaining threads are wrapped or embroidered to create lace. This technique usually uses buttonhole or running stitches.
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