Hints for working Floral Bucks Point Lace

Bucks Point is a delicate lace worked in fine thread with the design outlined in a thicker gimp thread. Many of the patterns, particularly the simpler ones, are geometric but Bucks Point is also known for its many beautiful floral designs. These can be a real test of a lacemaker’s skill and I think it is important to have a good understanding of geometric Bucks Point before attempting floral patterns.

The techniques used in geometric Bucks Point are well defined as there are a set number of pairs, each of which has a specific function to fulfil. Knowledge of these techniques is also needed for floral Bucks Point but also a feeling for, among other things, when and where pairs need to be added or removed in pattern areas, bringing pairs from the ground into pattern areas at the correct angle and vice versa, and linking pattern areas to the ground. Every pattern is different so there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions to these difficulties and often more than one way of achieving the desired effect.

The hints here are suggestions only, not rules to be followed rigidly. Remember that most people will see your lace at a distance and not through a magnifying glass so don’t get too bogged down trying to get everything absolutely perfect. Aim for a good effect and flow. Old patterns shouldn't be ‘trued up’ too much — some irregularities can contribute to the effect of a pattern and removing them could spoil it. In old patterns, even geometric ones, pin-holes were sometimes moved from ‘true’ because this looked better.

Taking pairs from ground to pattern areas and vice versa

Pairs from the ground should come in and leave at the correct angle. Remember that in point ground the pairs lie above the ground pin-holes (one reason why it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly where you are!). Be prepared to work ground stitches without pins beside pattern areas to avoid large holes. Where a ground pair joins a pattern area and is left out again immediately, one of the methods shown below may give a better result than simply working ‘stitch, pin, stitch’ with the weaver.

Left: The ground pair is simply linked round the weaver — no stitch is worked. Centre: The ground pair and weaver change places by working a cloth stitch within the gimp. Right: The ground pair and weaver work a ground stitch without a pin outside the gimp.

Working pattern areas

Try to keep the weaving even and at right angles to the footside (or footside equivalent in motifs). Add pairs as necessary to fill out the cloth stitch. If you're wondering whether or not to add a pair, you probably need one. It's usually better to add a pair or two extra than to try to manage with too few but do not make the cloth stitch too solid. In her Bobbin Lace Manual Geraldine Stott says “Aim for muslin not sheets: we want to see individual threads not a solid mass.”, a good guide. Gentle tensioning will help to keep the threads spread evenly.

Pairs can be added at a pin, over the gimp (be careful not to pull the gimp out of shape) or as false picots — useful if you run out of headside passive pairs to make picots and/or take into pattern areas. Make sure that enough pairs are left out at the edge of pattern areas to work the surrounding ground. Sometimes it may be better to add a pair to work a ground stitch rather than take a pair out from the cloth stitch.

Pairs can be removed by turning them back from cloth stitch areas (do this when the cloth stitch starts to get too dense). They can also be removed by carrying them with a gimp or taking them into headside passives until they are needed again or can be discarded.

Gimp and nook pins

The gimp should be a soft thread that will flow round complicated pattern areas easily. It should also be considerably thicker than the main thread. I have found that eight strands of the main thread wound together make a very satisfactory gimp. Where the gimp dips inwards work nook pins in order to hold it in place — take a pair outside the gimp, place the pin and either twist the pair or work a stitch before taking it back inside the gimp.

1. The weaver pair is taken outside the gimp and returns as weaver. 2. The weaver pair works a stitch with a passive pair outside the gimp. 3. The weaver pair is taken outside the gimp and returns as a passive. 4. A passive is taken outside the gimp and returns as a weaver.

In some cases where the gimp dips downwards or upwards into a pattern area, the nook pin is used twice — once working a stitch and once to hold the gimp in place.

Gimp dipping downwards: 1. The nook pin is placed outside the gimp, the gimp taken round to the right and a new section is started. 2. The weaver pair from the right works a stitch with the weaver pair from the left (now a passive) and the pin is replaced inside the gimp.

Gimp dipping upwards: 1. A stitch is worked at the nook pin and the right-hand section is finished. 2. The gimp is brought around and the nook pin is replaced between the gimp and the passive pair which becomes the weaver for the left-hand section.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine Channer, Doreen Wright, Marjory Carter, Pamela Nottingham and many other lacemakers from whom I have learnt what I know about Bucks Point lace.