Bobbin Lace Pillow Types

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The pillow used in bobbin lace is as essential as the thread or the bobbins are.  Without the pillow to act as a base, the lace would have no form or structure to it at all.
Pictured above is a selection of pillows at the Bedford College of Lace Making.  These pillows range in size from the itty-bitty to the absurdly large.  The type of pillows listed here run from left to right.
     Row #1:
Red Velvet French Roller (Pincussion), Pink & Black Velvet French Roller, Pink Velvet Bolster (Pincussion), Blue Velvet Cookie Pillow and a Black Velvet French Roller.
     Row #2:
Blue German style Bolster Pillow, Plaid Honiton type pillow, giant Wine Russian style Bolster Pillow and Black Plaid Tignes style Ring Pillow.

Bolster Style Pillow

7 Inch Diameter Bolster Pillow

     The Bolster style pillow is the oldest known type of a pillow used in bobbin lace.  Like the pillows that came after, it is packed tightly with sawdust and covered in cotton unbleached muslin for the inner liner and the cover is 100% cotton.  Also this is the only style of pillow that uses gravity as the source for the tension in the lacework.  All other types require the lace maker to slightly pull on the threads as they are worked.  Also this type of pillow allows the lace maker to place their hands behind the bobbins instead on top as the other pillows do.  This method of holding the bobbins allows the lace maker to see the bobbins and thread easier and more importantly, to be seen by others when teaching lace making or demonstrating it. 

5 Inch Diameter Pillow built by Stephen
Russian style pillow built by Stephen

Ring Style Pillow

     The Ring Type Pillow originated in Tignes,France, and in Cogne, Italy, along their common border. This type of pillow does not usually utilize a pricking, but rather the lace maker will work in the free-style method. Also this unique pillow is placed between the lace maker's knees and held tightly as the thin lace edging is worked. This method not only made it easy to transport the pillow, by simply looping it over the forearm, but was actually good for developing leg muscles needed to hold it in place. Sort of like the thigh-master of it's day.

Selection of Rings
A group of different sizes of Ring pillows

French Roller Style Pillow

     This style of pillow was developed in France and is a combination of the Belgium cookie and the German bolster pillows.  The main body of the pillow is a large flat surface, usually round or oval shaped, with a small bolster roller either in the middle of the pillow or at one of the longer sides.  The advantages for a smaller version of this pillow is the lack of a stand or table needed to holdit as the pillow can sit comfortably in the lap of the lace maker.  Larger version of this pillow, as depicted to the right, will need to by set on free standing three legged stand, known as a "Horse" to hold it for the lace maker to work with more comfortably. 

Travel French Roller
French Roller Pillow Built by Stephen

Cookie Style Pillow

Cookie Pillow with blue velvet cover

     This style of pillow was developed in Belguim by the lace makers there, but the Cookie became extremely popular with lace makers in other countries, especially in England. A Cookie pillow or as it is sometimes refered to as a Mushroom pillow, is very useful when making laces that are in the round, such as a doily, laces with angles in them, such as a corner, and in lace where many bobbins are used at one time.

Block Style Pillow

Block Style Pillow built by Stephen

     The Block style pillow is a type of a pillow used in bobbin lace. This type of a pillow comes in several pieces or blocks usually in a "tic-tac-toe" design that can be moved around to create different shapes as needed to make lace in different shapes.  These shapes can take the form of corners, collars or circular edging on round centers. 
     One of the greatest advantages of this style of pillow is the prickings (or patterns) can be pinned on each segment or block and as the lace is worked the finished block can be moved around to the upcoming area.  This is especially useful for corners.

Honiton Style Pillow

Honiton Cushion created by Virginia Ray
     The Honiton style pillow was developed in Honiton, England during the height of England's lace making industry.  A Honiton style pillow is usually packed tightly with ground barley stalks into a bag-like liner until it is full and then sewn closed.  The cover is then placed over the pillow and then another white cloth is pinned over that to help keep it clean.  Often Honiton pillows set on a free standing three legged stand called a "Horse". 
The Pillows of Horror!
1903 Princess Pillow
     Truth be told the lace maker's urban myth of the "Pillow of Horror" is really just a pillow that is hard to use.  Every generation of lace makers have had their own versions of the "Pillow of Horror."  About a hundred years ago, the Princess pillow, which is variation of the French Roller Pillow and was manufactured in St. Louis, MO by the Torchon Lace Company, was considered a terrible pillow to use by serious lace makers of the day.  Now the Princess is considered a collector's item. 
Lacis Bobbin Lace kit

     However, in the 21st century, the "Pillow of Horror" for modern lace makers is a pillow without enough weight on it to work properly.  Many modern manufacturers use Ethafoam, which is a self healing lightweight foam originally developed as insulaton for coolers, which also took on popularity in the medical field as a physical therapy devise.  Many reputable pillow manufacturers who work with Ethafoam have anchored their pillows to give them some weight.  The pillow, without this weight, will slide around and be uncontrollable as the lace is attempted to be made.

House of Crafts lace kit

     In the United Kingdom there are two kits for sale that is their own version of the "Pillow of Horror," which is supposedly intended children to play with.  However, is there really an adult lace maker out there who wouldn't love to play with a lace toy?  This kit has plastic bobbins and the pillow is a small cylinder made of styrofoam with no base to it to keep it steady.  This kit makes the Lacis kit with it's wooden bobbins look like a dream in comparison. 

Running Naked with Scissors and Plotting World Domination on a Shoestring Budget



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