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PART 2, East Devon Bobbins


PART 3, Collectors Guide


An Amateur Collector’s Dictionary of Antique English Lace Bobbins and Tools.

Part 1. East Midland and Associated areas.

Part 2. East Devon Bobbins (Honiton Bobbins)

The Results of a Personal Journey Discovering the World of Lace Bobbins and Tools.

By Brian Lemin.

Editor: Rochelle Southerland


This Dictionary would not have been possible without the generous access I have had to the Diana Smith Collection. To my knowledge it is the foremost private collection in the United Kingdom. Diana Smith is a knowledgeable curator, archivist, teacher and owner.

Here follows a “partial” list of friends who contributed the research or generously donated their bobbin images for use. (Note on the word “partial”. I have to admit that I have not been the most ardent archivist of the bobbin images on my computer and I may have forgotten names of donors or mixed up at least part of my image collection. I apologise)

Jean Barrat;

Jonathon Page;

Lorna Whitley (Probably my first mentor and educator)

Lynne Cumming;

Margaret Pengelly;

May Wakely; (now deceased)

Pat Perryman; (especially East Devon bobbins)

Pompi Parry; (especially Downton Bobbins)

Shirley Povey

The following are collections to which, I have been given generous access. I may not have used their collection in this dictionary, non-the-less, their generosity is much appreciated and has provided me with endless hours of study and inspiration.

Baker, Knight, Hueston (Jenny Baker)








R and S

Smith (see above)


Springett (Christine and David) I have their generous permission to use a large number of their collected bobbins.

Taunton Collection (who was personal friend and whose early demise was much felt by the Sewing Tool Collectors).



I want also to mention the following museums that were especially helpful:

The Luton Museum who hosted my early research and study tour; and the

All-Hallows Museum (Honiton).

The Higgins Museum (Bedford)

Finally, two things I want to say;

1. It is the help and support of so many members of the Arachne community that is so appreciated and thanked. Their help and support over the years could be considered as “immense”. Thank you

2. It is a quirk of mine that, since I stopped working, I have, thankfully left behind the academic writing requirement. Please note, I have tried to make my descriptions understandable, but not couched in the academic rigour of writing.


Jean (my wife) and I love our hobbies and support each other immensely, but the hours that I spent researching bobbins and sitting at the computer instead of having “sparkling” (?) conversation with her, deserves my special thanks to her. She also understands that when I type “lace” into Google images, I can get a most delightful result, but markedly less useful to the query that I wanted to get answers too. [that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!]

I want to acknowledge the work of such collectors as; Francis Baker, Denys Bellerby, Charles Freeman, Tom Huetson, Arthur Knight, Thomas Wright, John Yallop, Gertrude Whiting who, through their collections and publications, have done such a great deal to memorialise the glorious bone and treen of the lace maker. How I wish I could have had the opportunity to have talked with them rather than just read their histories and view their collections. What a wealth of knowledge died with them and how fortunate for us that they were interested enough in this special area of history.

Of course, I must acknowledge the great research that has been done by contemporary writers such as Christine and David Springett, who have done more than anyone in this modern era to add to the knowledge and insights that we have of the bobbins and their makers and to thank them for their help and encouragement that they have personally given me, especially in the early part of my bobbin research. I have also been in touch with Jeffrey Hopewell whose small but very thorough works have done a great deal to inform and educate lace makers and collectors about lace bobbins. There were others too, who have written most knowledgeably about their special areas of lace bobbins. Their names will be found in the bibliography.

I am undoubtedly most grateful to a contemporary bobbin collector and writer, Diana Smith. Her generosity in sharing her knowledge and images of bobbins from her collection is most appreciated.

Other articles on aspects of lace bobbins that I have written can be found on:

Be warned you need to scroll down a long way before the Lemin pops up!

At the time of publication, I do genuinely believe that I have been granted the copyright to illustrations in the dictionary. The main sources being bobbin collectors and supporters of my research who are members of “Arachne”, an on-line support email list for Lace Makers. I have used images that have been donated by public institutions for study purposes, which this Dictionary clearly is.

Collectors are encouraged to purchase two books which I believe can be good resources for them. These are:

Freeman, Charles. Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Borough of Luton Museum an Art Gallery. 1958 Reprinted 1980.

Not in production, still available on the Internet from time to time. If it is, then it is a very worthwhile book to have. In fact, this was the first book I bought and could be said it was this book that started this bobbin quest.

Christine & David Springett. Success to the Lace Pillow

This book provides a history, classification and identification of 19th Century East Midland lace bobbins and their makers, adding a further 16 years of research to their first book published in 1981. This book is used by Phillips, the international auction house, to classify bobbins in their auctions. It served as a benchmark and inspiration to established bobbin collectors and encouraged new ones to start collecting.

Self-published from:

C&D Springett
8 Strath Close

A further two purchases that could be considered useful are:

Wright, Thomas The Romance of the Lace Pillow. H.H.Armsrtong. Olney

1919. Reprinted Ruth Bean Carlton 1982. An excellent historical account and includes interesting things about lace bobbins.


Huetson, T. L. Lace and Lace Bobbins. A history and Collectors Guide.

David and Charles. Newton Abbot. 1973.


Lace Bobbins are fascinating tools; each one can tell a story. Their history is fascinating, especially when a bobbin largely ignores dates and talks about people. As you go through this book do remember that at the end of each bobbin that clicked on the pillow was a person who was hard working, often very poorly paid but highly skilled in Lace Making.

Other than Christine and David Springett’s publications, bobbin books were not written by makers of bobbins or wood turners; possibly collectors, historians or dealers. This is evident from the words used to describe the bobbins. Terms such as baluster and ornamental can be challenged on a number of grounds as being substantially incorrect, though I would accept that it is capable of being argued from a layperson’s perspective.

The names given to bobbins of certain types are another confusing issue. There is the oral tradition as recorded by Wright which, as Freeman states (p33) "has since disappeared" but we must accept what has happened, and move on. This dictionary prefers to place the oral tradition name first, and any other names after it.

The dictionary also uses the geographical identity of bobbins and thus uses the term East Devon bobbins rather than “Honiton”. It will be seen that I much prefer to use the term “East Devon” bobbins rather than “Honiton” bobbins. [In the same manner as we use “East Midland Bobbins]

On a personal note, I started as a bobbin maker and started asking questions about the various antique bobbins I was discovering and, broadly speaking, no one could answer them. So, I started researching for answers myself, and “with little help from my friends” this Dictionary has the results.

An Amateur Collector’s Dictionary of Antique English Lace Bobbins and Tools.

It is for private study purposes only.


I have included two pictures here, but the basic premise is that whatever words we use we will be able to interpret them within reason. Let us start at the top and work down.


These comprise the parts where the thread is wound around to anchor the bobbin in place. This collection of turnings can be described as “large; bulbous; narrow, long, short” all of which are fairly subjective to the person describing the bobbin.

For example, I would describe the above as; “bulbous, with a very narrow small-neck, curving graciously but sharply to a head a little narrower than the bulb.”

This is what I would call “squat with an extremely short, short-neck”

This I would describe as “flat bulb with sharp chamfer to the short-neck and small conical head”.


Well the long neck can be “short”; “long” or “conical”. If the neck is normal length, then it does not warrant a description.

Possibly the bottom neck is short, the middle, normal then the top, long, but the long can be much longer too! The middle neck is clearly conical, so too are the others to some extent, but many necks are parallel.


This dictionary prefers to use the word; Shank. [“Handles” is word that has been used also]

NECKS, Single and Double.

One of the strange mysteries to some collectors is why we talk about single and double “necks”? Well it is because the necks are the portions of the bobbin that come in contact with the thread. The East Midland bobbins (with the exception of the South Bucks bobbins) have developed a style of double necks. Most bobbins from the Continent have single necks, but we in the UK, seem to have double necks on our bobbins. Here is an illustration that shows the difference.

Note on various names. Sometimes the reader might find different names are used for the same objects. This is due to the fact that the names for various things were very parochial to the area in which the names were used, and two (or more!) distinct names have emerged in history.


Acts of Parliament

Yallop in chapter two of his book calls 1617 to 1707, “the age of legislation”. Wright and Palliser also cover various legislation in their books. I will briefly say that whilst there is a great deal of legislation about lace and lace making (mostly protectionist measures for the English lace making industry), there is no legislation that I have discovered relating to lace bobbins or their manufacture. I should mention that there are many reports on the health and welfare of lace makers (children in particular) but as far as I know there is no specific legislation related to the makers.

adapted types

Bobbins that have been adapted for use in different styles of lace making rather than for the purpose they were made. i.e. Dumps or Bobtails that were drilled and spangled for use in a later style of lace making. Adapted bobbins were extremely valuable in bobbin historical research as they offer clues as to their dates and the development of lace making styles.

This is a normally unspangled South Bucks bobbin.


An admonition phrase as inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xix. (See appendix)

Keep your temper.

advertising bobbins

Bobbins that had inscriptions advertising businesses or a business person, usually lace traders. Sometimes called “trade bobbins”

A Gift from Lesters. They were lace dealers.


A wooden tool about 70 mm long (varies). It has a bulbous end, which is held in the palm of the hand, and a pointed and somewhat curved projection. This point is used to raise and impart a gloss (by judicious rubbing), in certain needle lace patterns. It is said to resemble a lobster’s claw and indeed it is thought to be a wooden replacement for the original lobster-claw tool.


An alphabet inscribed on a bobbin.


Used occasionally for bobbin-making, either as an inlay, or for the whole bobbin. Because there is very little extra antler on a bobbin blank cut from an antler, a dark smudge can sometimes be seen on the shaft. This is because the turner did not have enough diameter on his blank to fully turn away the edge of the blank. Springett tells us that antlers from the Indian deer were the only ones that produce thick enough blanks for bobbin turning. This gives rise to the reasonable speculation that antler bobbins were turned in India.

annular rings

Glass ring trading beads. They were plentiful but, whilst not rare, they are not frequently seen on spangles. See Beads for illustration.


A short saying, maxim, aphorism stating a truth, which is inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xxii. (see appendix)


aqua fortis

Nitric acid, used for staining lace bobbins. When fresh it has a greenish stain but this darkens with age. The lace makers knew it as "Agnes forty", a colloquial name based on the similar sound of aqua fortis, (somewhat akin to rhyming slang). In my experiments with nitric acid staining I have found that I produce a much darker stain that would be hard to call “greenish”.

Synonyms. Nitric Acid, Agnes forty.

This looks as though the chemical was left on the wood long enough to “burn” it!


A form of decoration used mainly to describe the pewter inlay of "arrows" or "wings of the butterfly, found on Beds Fly bobbin (see later). The arrows were probably alternatively described as crow’s feet or resembling a broad arrow, possibly an anchor lying on the ground. Often these arrows make a symmetrical pattern on the bobbin overall. Sometimes the wings were not opposite each other i.e. not symmetrical, but protrude from one side. According to Springett, the direction of the arrows offers a clue as to the “handedness i.e. left or right handed. Jessie Compton’s beds fly bobbins can have as many as 5 pairs of arrows in the circumference of the shank.

Synonyms. Fly/s, crow’s feet, anchor, broad arrow, arrow, butterfly wings.

See butterfly, inlay, fly, Beds fly, Bedfordshire fly



A small bobbin contained within the body of the shank, or in a recess in the shank of a bobbin. Made usually from wood or bone, but can also be made of brass.

Synonym: baby bobbin.

A selection of “babes” in their “cradle” within the shank of a bobbin.

baby bobbin

A bobbin with a hollow shank or recess in the shank, containing a loose miniature bobbin that is called a babe. These are found in a number of bobbin styles.

See church window, cow and calf, cow in calf, grandmother bobbin, mother and babe, mother in babe, twisted chamber bobbin, secret bobbin, and babe. See picture above.

An “orphan” baby bobbin (say about 10mm to 15mm)

ball and reel

A type of decoration that has a ball (technically called a bead) followed by a raised curve or concave shape, followed by another ball giving an overall impression rather like a cotton reel.

baluster turned bobbin

A generic name for a fancy turned bobbin. Baluster is an architectural term for the design of a narrow wooden column. Applied to bobbins it is likened to the Baluster stems of English wine glasses in circa 17th C; or indeed the ornate baluster rods framing a beautiful staircase. It implies a symmetry and overall design pleasing to the eye. Some question the use of this term historically. Sometimes called an ornamentally turned bobbin but from a maker’s viewpoint the term "fancy turned" would be more accurate as “ornamentally turned” implies the use of a special ornamental turning machine lathe that is rarely, if ever, used by bobbin makers.

Synonym. Ornamentally turned, fancy turned.


  1. Decorated with coloured bands. This is applied as a separate colour to either a shallow groove or a deeper turned groove. Alternatively, a coloured bobbin is returned to the lathe and bands of colour were removed to reveal the original colour of the wood or bone, which gives the appearance of banding. See also Beds Method

  1. Decorated with bands of wire often joined to each other by a single spiral of

wire leading from one band to another. Better named “wire banded”.

Two examples, but banding can be varied a lot.


A name derived from a decoration of a bobbin that looks like a stair banister, or (more correctly) baluster.

Not necessarily this turning design, but this is a good example

Bartholomew (Saint)

See Saint Bartholomew.

barley sugar twist bobbin

A bobbin with a decoration of spiral grooves running down the shank. There can be a number of twists i.e., single, double, treble and probably the most that can be fitted on a shank are four twists. The twists were counted as points of origin on the shank, rather than the number of turns. This can be quite a difficult decoration for the maker to perfect. If you were looking for perfection in a twist, look for equidistance between twists and if a sharp edge to the twists were part of the design, make sure they were sharp and not dulled. The twists need not necessarily be the full length of the bobbin shank. These bobbins are also categorised as “turned and carved” as the twist has to be carved.

Wooden bobbins can often have deeper and less spiralled configuration than this bone example in the illustration above.


The name of a ship sunk off the West Coast of Australia on June 4th 1629 on the Morning Reef. Two almost complete lace bobbins were recovered from this wreck together with some other fragments of bobbins. Reproductions of these bobbins were often called Batavia bobbins. They were of a continental style and not East Midlands style. The full story of the Batavia, reads much like horror story, but the bobbins are useful historical tools.

A replica of one of the bobbins found on the ship

beaded head pin. A pin that has its head replaced with a glass bead, sometimes a few beads. The “crushed” wire heads of early pins enabled this to be done quite easily. These were pushed or glued on to the pin.

Bead heads, usually glass beads.

beaded shank bobbin

(1) A bobbin with part of the normal shank replaced with beads threaded on a thick wire and fixed into the collar at one end and the tail at the other. Usually there were five beads on the shank. On a personal note, the term “beads” used in this entry cover two distinct artistic genres (wood turning and beading) It would be nice if we could find a name to distinguish clearly as to which type of bobbin to which we are referring.

Synonym dewdrop.

(2) A bobbin decorated by turned beads that were semi-circular rounds along the bobbin shank. They can be found in a variety of combinations: continuous, double treble etc.

Synonym. Bead shank bobbin

beaded bobbin

Decorated with small coloured beads threaded on wire and coiled around the shank. They were arranged to form a pattern, usually set into spiral or other grooves in the shank. There were various names for the bead designs according to the pattern that the bead decoration created. e.g. Chevron, Spiral, Vertical, Beaded Shank etc. When making these bobbins, I make a few of them then add the beads at night whilst “watching” the TV. I have often imagined the old bobbin makers adding value to his bobbins by putting the beads on his bobbin by the light of a candle, or rush lamp. What a difficult job it would have been as I find it hard enough in front of the TV with a reasonable light over my shoulder.

Synonym. bead inlay or wire beaded.


Note: This entry spans the wide range of beads used for weighting and decorating bobbins. Many varieties of beads and other baubles were used historically but most often glass or china beads were used. Though certain beads have stories and superstitions associated with them (See Christine Springett’s book in the bibliography) the different shapes and sizes have no significance to the making of lace. Only the English East Midland bobbins were spangled. European bobbins were not spangled. The collective name for this ring of beads is a “spangle”.

Beads are quite old and many of the designs you find on antique bobbins come from designs made for trade in the British Colonies of that time. Beware, many antique bobbins have been re-spangled in modern times.

As you look at the illustrations below, please remember that there is a huge variation in possible designs for each type/named bead.

A variety of spangles and beads

List of Beads possibly used in spangles

Annular rings

A South African glass trade bead, quite a large hole, very common, but less frequently seen on spangles.

Bloodshot eyes (Kitty Fisher)

A Kitty Fisher eyes bead, but red pupils instead of blue. Can be on any bead background colour.


A type of drawn bead that varied greatly in size and length. Generally, they were much longer than their diameter.

Bone Beads

Frequently obtained from broken Rosaries


A somewhat flattened bead, usually turquoise in colour. A South African Trade bead.


Beads cut from cane glass tubes with a shaped cross section, usually hexagonal. A cane is the result of the drawn method of bead making.

Confetti (crumbed)

A bead where the tiny crumbs of glass are pressed into the sphere of the bead.

Cornaline D’Aleppo

A small bead made in Aleppo, Syria. Very common in spangles.

Crumb beads

A rough bead where the tiny crumbs of glass are left to stay on the surface of the sphere. Very rare on a spangle as they are rough. The illustration is ancient Greek!

Impressed Crumb bead

A crumb bead with the tiny chips pressed flush with the surface.

Decorated square cut

A square cut bead with colour glass added to the centre of it. Hard to find many examples of this.


A usually blue, possibly also yellow and clear wound bead.

Decorated Venetian or

Pompadour bead.

A richly decorated glass bead. Often chosen as the bottom bead for a spangle. Many and varied examples can be seen on spangles.

Evil eye

A snake like spiral around the bead.

Eye beads

A bead using a spotted decoration. Varied designs.

Faceted cane

Beads cut from a long length of “tubular glass, having facets ground onto them. Varied shapes, sizes and colour.


Faceted glass or crystal beads

A bead with facets cut onto them. Many and varied in size and colour.

Flush Spot eye.

A bead decoration of "eye" spots melted in leaving a smooth surface on the bead.

Foil beads

A bead into which silver foil has been incorporated into it. It shines and glistens as light catches the foil.

Horned eye

An eye bead that has the eye protruding.

Kitty Fisher

A bead with a blue pupil inside the “white” of an eye. The pink for her lips. Said to represent the eyes of kitty Fisher a famous actress of the time.

Indian beads

A drawn bead made in the traditional manner. They look much like other beads but it is possible to look at where they are broken off (the perforation) and note some white. Early beads of this type were made in India but later were made in Eastern Europe.

(See the small[very] white perforation on the left bead at about 5 o’clock on the hole)


A cylindrical (or flat) bead rubbed across a ridged mould whilst hot producing ridges.


A melon shaped bead in a variety of colours.


Highly decorated, often small glass beads.


An all over spherical decorated bead.


A nut used as a bead.

Plain glass

A plain glass bead of various shapes and sizes.

Paisley bead

A bead with the traditional paisley “French Curve” type of design on it. Or semblance of the curve.


An oblong wound bead. Its length should always be greater than its width. Varied colours.

Reverse Kitty Fisher (black)

A kitty Fisher eye on a black bead

Ribbon beads

A bead with a ribbon like band around its circumference

Rope beads

A bead with a rope like band around its circumference.

Serpents eye

A zig zag shape of banding with a spot in each inside curve.


A shell used as a bead on a spangle


An intricate bead creation surrounding a bead or other bead creation to resemble a covered nest. Most complex and often beautiful.

Square Cut

A flame melted bead shaped with indented paddles that leaves the surface indented. Seen on almost all antique English spangles include this type of bead. Various colours.


A heart shaped bead. Often as the top bead. Made from glass.

wooden beads

Beads made from wood. They can be plain, smooth or decorated. These were often made for rosaries and incorporated into a spangle.


A bead with feather like decoration

Wound spiral

A bead that comprises the glass being wound around a wire and the “winds” can be plainly seen. Sometimes decorated, possibly plumed.

The choice of beads in the above table relates only to those mentioned in historical writing and in more recent social history publications. Readers need to know that there are probably many hundreds of beads with names, both antique and modern.

Bedford lace origins

There were many theories about the origins of the lace industry in England. The most quoted of these theories is that of the influx of refugees to England as the result of the persecution in Europe of the Huguenots in the mid 1500’s and following. It is maintained that as the result of this migration the Flemish refugees brought their lace making skills with them, and thus the start of the lace industry.

Yallop challenges this theory and offers an alternative. He maintains that astute English businessmen, who operated on the trade routes between England and Europe, saw the potential in having an English lace making industry and imported a few lace makers to commence the industry. Yallop's study is very scholarly and has used original sources to come to this conclusion. As yet I am unaware of any scholarly attempt to disprove his theory and establish the one above, though I am given to understand that his theory has flaws in it. I suspect the real answer is some amalgam of both theories.

The most romantic of the theories, though least acceptable in fact, is that Queen Catherine of Aragon taught lace making to some of the inhabitants of Ampthill when she resided there in 1531.

Bedford-fly bobbin

Synonyms. Beds Fly, flys. Arrows.

Beds fly

See Bedfordshire fly.

Bedfordshire leopards

These were wooden and later bone bobbins studded with small pewter spots. The name reflects the spots of a leopard. The bobbin is usually drilled and pewter rods inserted or pewter is melted into the holes. Sometimes the spots were filled indentations as opposed to holes. Sometimes brass spots were used. The results were different designs. Where a hole goes right through the shank then the spots were opposite whereas when they were just indented the spots might appear anywhere the maker wanted. There was a belief by the old-time lace makers that touching pewter helped those suffering from “rheumatism and the like.” You will observe that in quite a few antique bobbins that the spots protrude considerably past the circumference of the shank. This was a deliberate technique employed by the maker and I cannot believe that the hands of the lace makers could stand the constant abrasion of the pewter spots without some physical soreness of the fingers. In fact, the protruding spots are due to the degradation process of the pewter. As it degrades it expands. In other designs, I think that the pewter just falls off, but in those that protrude it is because it is in a hole of some depth and as it extrudes it is held there.

Synonyms. Leopard/s

See Leopards

Bedfordshire method

This is a method of colouring decoration. Wright (p131, 132) reports, "Sometimes in bobbins that were not inscribed, the whole would be left coloured except for the rings and the neck which were made to resume their original state. This was achieved by returning the bobbin to the lathe and turning away the colouring.” This is called the Bedfordshire method of banding. Bobbins that have been treated in this way were very attractive, especially bone bobbins that have been dyed first, then banded in this manner.

You can see where the dye has been “turned” off (i.e. on the lathe) below the neck

Bedfordshire tigers

Inlaid with pewter bands around the shank. It is named after their likeness to the tiger’s stripes. The decoration is cut into the bobbin shaft, usually with a slight undercut to hold the pewter in the bands. The bobbin is placed in a prepared mould and the molten pewter is poured in. When it is hardened, the bobbin is returned to the lathe and cleaned up. The bands or stripes may be few or many and vary in width though they were usually the same width on any single bobbin and more often they were thin rather than wide. As with other pewter decoration there may well be other decorations in pewter or turned together with the tiger strips.

See also Tiger.

A Bedfordshire (Beds) Tiger

Bedfordshire trailer bobbin

A Huntingdon name for a thick, stout, often single necked bobbin. It is unspangled but is sometimes seen adapted for spangles. It is fitted with loose pewter or wooden rings called "gingles", mostly in wood but sometimes in bone with bone gingles. The historical description is, "…have pewter rings around them but instead of being inlaid into the bobbin they were loose; these rings were called gingles and they fit loosely in a groove around the bobbin so that they can rattle about.” There can be any number of rings from one to nine, on each bobbin. Five or seven were the usual number of gingles, bone bobbins usually have bone gingles. Wooden gingles do not last as long as bone and pewter, which is probably why few were seen today. Often you will see these gingles replaced with a ring of seed beads. Some refer to these trailers not as Bedfordshire trailers but Huntingdon trailers

Note for Collectors: A pragmatic approach for collectors (but not historical or indeed provable) would be to classify double necked trailers as Huntingdon Trailers and single necked trailers as South Buck trailers.

Synonyms. trolley bobbins, trollies.

A single neck trailer with loose pewter rings.

Bees Knees

A fancy decoration of the shank. A series of elongated knops along the shank, that resembles the (enlarged!) shape of a bee’s leg or knee.

berry pin.

A pin with a spherical head. The pin is usually made of steel but other materials can be seen Early pins did not have a fixed head so the lace makers took a berry (usually a goose grass burr) and pushed over the top to form a head. When it dried it stayed on the pin quite well. A modern berry pin would have a glass spherical head.

Synonym. Seed headed bead

Berry head pins.

birdcage bobbin.

An East Midland's bobbin with long openings, or windows in the sides through which the contents of the windows can be seen. These windows were usually pierced after the bobbin is turned and this could give the impression that it was turned and drilled hollow, but it is not. Fine brass wire is wound spiral fashion around the shank to cover the openings, each strand of wire is slightly spaced from the next so that the contents within the windows on the shank can be seen through the "cage wire" but not fall out. The contents can be seeds, beads, or other objects. There may be single or multiple "cages" in the shank.


A Northampton name for a church window bobbin with a mother in babe section in the middle of the shank. Said to be made by order from a British sailor named John Chinaman. When a lover gave one to his sweetheart he is said to tell that it was a gift from “Jack”.

Biblical texts

A text inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xx.

God is Love

birdcage spangle

A particularly attractive style of spangle, where strands of small beads on wire surround a larger bead to form a cage around it. Sometimes the centrepiece is itself a stranded bead decoration e.g. an oval, which is then surrounded by a cage of strands of beads. Some are most intricate and beautiful too.


Names and dates of birth etc. As inscribed on bobbins. Freeman type xiv.

Bishops crozier

An old name for a bobbin that is turned with about 4 cylinders that are separated by narrow sections of shaft within which is a loose ring. They may be made of wood or bone and very frequently the loose rings are missing. As it can be seen by the illustration below, some of these bobbins can be very highly decorated and very beautiful to look at.

bitted bobbin

An inlaid bobbin with slanting cuts made in the shank. These sliced holes were then filled with similar sized pieces of bone or wood of a contrasting colour (bits). Dark coloured wooden bobbins were inlaid with a light-coloured wood, occasionally a light-coloured bobbin inlaid with dark wood. Described as looking like small fingernails stuck into the side of the bobbin. This is because the cuts and insertions we reconstructed before the bobbin is turned (i.e. when it is square) When this is turned the straight cuts appear as finger nails or ticks, depending on how the "bits" were inserted into the shank. Another technique is to cut small segments from the shank and pieces of wood of contrasting colour stuck into the recesses formed. An historical description is, "bits" or "slivers" of wood let into the surface of the shank in various interesting ways”. Two styles of bitted bobbins are seen; the first style involves simple straight saw cuts. The second style has curved saw cuts. These latter were probably the most technically difficult of all bobbins to produce. One maker identified by Springett as the “bitted man” produced wonderful examples of these bobbins.

Bitted bobbin by the Bitted Man.

Fingernail bitted

black beads

See Mourning bobbin.

A bobbin with a Mourning Spangle

Black-eyed girls

Nickname for the lace makers of the village of Fritwell.

Fritwell Parish Church


The local blacksmith would be the man to make or repair the wood turner’s tools and his lathe.


A blessing inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xviii

Bless James

bloodshot eyes

A Kitty Fisher bead that has red on white dots. This would not be so complimentary to her as Kitty Fisher had Blue Eyes and implied that she had possible had too much to drink. I am sure the young lace makers would have enjoyed this light-hearted fun.

See Kitty Fisher beads and beads. See Beads for illustration

Bobbin [lace]

A tool usually made of wood or bone occasionally metal, rarely ivory, which holds the thread when making bobbin lace. East Midland types of bobbins have spangles of beads for weight; others (Honiton, Downton, Bedfordshire and European or Continental) rely on the weight of the wood only.

The parts of a typical East Midlands bobbin can be seen on the picture below.

See: double head, double neck, long neck, rim, shank, short neck, single head, spangle, tail collar. See also the introduction to this Dictionary.

bobbin bag

A cloth bag made to store bobbins in. They seem to be a bag made from any material to hand, sometimes it has an open top and pinned to the side of the pillow, sometimes it has a draw string top and hung in a convenient place. My interpretation of this is that they made a bag of any fabric available to a design which the maker liked. I did see some illustrations of very ornate bags used on the continent.

Synonym. bobbin case,

See also, bobbin box.

Mary Tingey at her pillow with her bobbin bag hanging from the side

bobbin box

A box, usually made of wood, used for storing bobbins. Often has a wire hinge, which is just that i.e. some wire threaded through holes in the lid and the back panel of the box. Some have an arrangement like a split pin and fixed to one side with a staple. Other actually has a modern type hinge as we understand it. The box usually has proportions that were nominally the size of a spangles bobbin in one dimension. Though I suspect that often any available box was used to store bobbins.

bobbin in a box

A loose bobbin inside a hollow shank. Not a traditional name for this type of bobbin

Synonyms. Jack-in-the-box, secret bobbin.

bobbin case

(1) A bag for bobbins made by folding part of a piece of fabric over and stitching it at intervals to form pockets that hold one or two bobbins, this keeping them untangled and ready for use. A flap covers and protects them, and two strings were added to secure the bag when rolled.

(2) A modern type has pockets made along both sides and a zip to secure it after the case has been folded.

(3) Many people have made cases of their own design, especially in modern times.

(4) A bag pinned to the pillow with separate compartments for wound and unwound bobbins. See bobbin bag, above.

bobbin classifications

Some writers have used various classifications in their writings. (Bullock, Freeman, Huetson, Wright) At the present time only Freeman has a classification suitable for collectors to use in cataloguing their collections. He has devised a numerical classification for bobbins. I have in my possession the catalogue of a once famous collection, which has now been broken up and sold (Baker, Huetson, Knight, collection). I am personally much in sympathy with the classification used in this catalogue devised by Jenny Baker, the daughter of Mr. Baker. Regarding treatment of inscriptions, see Freeman at the end of this article also Wright pp137-175.

bobbin colours

A large range of colours can be found applied by painting or dyeing. Red, blue, green, brown, jade, white and all shades associated with these colours. Also, there were combinations using rings of colour, colour turned away to reveal the natural colour of the wood or bone etc. depending on the imagination of the maker. The colours used for incised decoration that were not taken from natural sources i.e. log chips, were bought in powder form and mixed with gum Arabic and applied with a crow quill into the indentations.

See Bedfordshire method

bobbin maker

Turned mostly treadle lathes that the reader will more readily understand by referring them to the treadle sewing machine, but instead of treadle operating the sewing machine it turned the wooden blank via a stock and drive spur. As it revolved the turner applied his tools to the work to produce the bobbin. It was possible in early bobbin history that turners used a pole lathe, which is a more primitive method of turning the work in the lathe involving long branches that bent in opposition to a single pedal moved by the operator. A rope was coiled around the shaft in such a way as to produce rotation in two ways as the branch bent and pulled the rope. The turner could only cut when the work was turning towards them.

Strictly speaking, a bobbin maker turned his bobbins on a lathe of some type but there were many examples of hand carved bobbins, but none of these (i.e. hand carved) in my opinion offer enough similarity to indicate that a person was making them as an occupation, rather as a gift for his wife or sweetheart.

bobbin makers

For a list of bobbin makers see article on bobbin “makers” later.

bobbin materials used

Mostly wood and bone, but also examples can be found made of brass, iron, pewter, silver, glass, horn, ivory and wire. Springett shows bobbins made from Jet. Wright lists the following types of woods used for bobbin making; plum, damson, box, ebony, rosewood, maple, spindle-wood, yew, blackthorn, may, cherry, apple, and oak.

bobbin overall

I fully admit that this is a strange entry, but I have found the term in the notes that I take when I am reading about bobbins. Its source is not known by me but my notes tell me that it refers to the Beds fly and pewter inlay. I include this in case someone comes across such a term in their reading.

bobbin winders

Sometimes called a turn. There were various designs, made of wood comprising a flywheel connected to the bobbin holder that spun the bobbin so that the thread could be quickly wound on it from a secondary skein holder. Later they were made of metal. Sometimes they had drawers built into the stand for the spare bobbins. For collectors, a form of classification could be based on the wheel construction. These can be seen to be solid, bent wood, solid with piercing, solid with grooves etc. Further descriptions could be added describing the bobbin boxes associated with many of the winders, i.e. table clamped, chip carved, free standing, pillow clamped etc.

Synonym. turn

bobtailed bobbin

The earliest bobbins—called Dumps or Bobtailed Bobbins—were ordinarily of box-wood, quite small and without spangles; and they were used to make only the finest kinds of Bucks Point, the thread of which would have been broken by heavier or spangled bobbins.

Synonyms. bobtails, dumps.



Heavy bobbins/large, usually with no spangles, single head. They said to be made of leftover pieces of wood from chair making. Sometimes the turning reflects chair leg design.

See also South Bucks bobbins.

Top bobbin can be called a bodger

bone beads

Beads made from bone. Quite large numbers were made in China. Frequently they were intricately carved or decorated, sometimes dyed. Some of the carved beads used were originally made for rosaries. Making bone beads would have been well within the capabilities of the English bobbin turner who could decorate and dye them as required. He would have a ready source of bone from the pieces left over from his bobbin turning. See beads for illustration.

bone bobbins

Bobbins made from bone. They were probably the most sought after bobbins because they lasted longer and the whole were very well turned and decorated. They begin to look like ivory after they have been used for a while which leads owners to believe that they have ivory bobbins. Ivory bobbins were very rare and subject to careful identification of the material, it is better to assume that all, so called, “ivory” bobbins were in-fact made of bone. They lend themselves to more intricate turning and decoration than the wooden bobbins and also were better for colouring. They also have a lovely feel to them.

bone head pin. A pin decorated with a bone head. Often inscribed with initials. Some times in particular shapes, i.e. a heart shape when the initials would be of the two lovers.

bone inlaid bobbin

A wooden bobbin with pieces of bone inlaid into the shank. These were often held in place with rivets (usually of pewter) as the coefficients of expansion bone and wood were different and the glue would work the inlay loose. There were many examples of the bone inlay being missing from a bobbin.

bones used as bobbins

When the term bones have been used in early literature in relation to lace bobbins, it has usually been assumed that the writer was being literally and meant that bones were used as bobbins. I have little doubt in my mind that there were examples of the bones being used as bobbins, but would argue that it would have been only for a short time in the development of bobbin lace, or used for reasons of the user being poor or thrifty. My arguments for this stance follow in abbreviated form.

Thomas Fuller wrote a book entitled Worthies of England, published in 1662. In it he has this to say about bone lace.

Bone lace is named because it was first made with bone (since wooden) bobbins.” …His parenthesis.

He then goes on to explain that the convention used in Latin and English names of utensils. …It is that the memory of the material that they were first made from is retained in the contemporary name. Thus, cochlea is a spoon regardless of the material that they have been made from over the years, because spoons were first made from cockleshells… You can read this quote in Yallop. I support this quote for two reasons, it is an early quote and the writer felt it important to explain or clarify his use of the name bone lace. Mrs Palliser says that the Honiton lace makers derived the term bone lace from using fish bones as a substitute for pins. [ my opinion is that in East Devon, lace makers living near the coast could well have used fish bones for pins]

See also bonne lace.

bonne lace

Signified good lace. Sometimes offered as an explanation (incorrect) for the term bone lace.

bottle neck

A bobbin shape. Like a bottle neck!

See Indian club

bottom bead

The central bead of a spangle. Usually larger and more ornate than the others. Also, called a centre bead. See beads for other illustrations of beads.

bound bobbin

A bobbin about (bound) with fine brass wire. Occasionally the whole shank was covered but more often it is but a small sections (bands) connected with a continuing spiral along its length. The wire was recessed slightly into the bobbin so that it was level or just below the surface. This makes it more comfortable to use. With constant use the wire becomes highly polished and takes on a pleasant golden look. Brass wire is almost always used, rarely copper wire or silver wire. The thickness used for this decoration is about 32 gauge, much thinner than the wire used for spangle that would be about 22 to 24 gauge. Bone bobbins were also decorated this manner and look much more pleasant and attractive than the wooden ones. Coloured decorations often accompany the wire binding.

Synonyms. Brass Bound, Wired, Spiral Wire, wire bound and wired bobbin.

box stand

A simple box cut out at the short sides to a shape that would take a bolster pillow.


Their Nick name was, “the Skegs”.

Branscombe wriggled

Branscombe is an area where Honiton lace was made. The "wriggle" decoration is a series of coloured grooves in a Honiton bobbin that we refilled in with sealing wax of different colours. The sealing wax is softened with methylated spirits until a thick consistency is achieved. It is then applied to the grooves, allowed to dry and returned to the lathe to be cleaned up with tools or sandpaper. Yallop tells us that a study of 180 sets of these bobbins he observed the following:

The rings were arranged in groups, from 1 to 11, but some as large as 23 were observed. Groups of 1-7 were fairly equally represented, but groups of four poorly represented.”

brass bobbins

Bobbins made from brass. Wright tells of a brass bobbin made in Olney that when unscrewed revealed a baby bobbin and when that baby bobbin was unscrewed it revealed yet another baby bobbin. There were many ornate examples including birdcage, mother and babe etc. and plain ones too. As they were rather heavy for ordinary use there is some speculation that they were made more for novelty use rather than practical use. Brass bobbins were fairly common.

See Metal

brass bound

A bobbin shank bound with fine brass wire. Occasionally the whole shank was covered but more often it is but a small sections (bands) connected with a continuing spiral along its length. The wire was recessed slightly into the bobbin so that it was level or just below the surface. This makes it more comfortable to use. With constant use the wire becomes highly polished and takes on a pleasant golden look. Brass wire is almost always used, rarely copper wire or silver wire. The thickness used for this decoration is about 32 gauge, much thinner than the wire used for spangle that would be about 22 to 24 gauge. Bone bobbins were also decorated this manner and look much more pleasant and attractive than the wooden ones. Coloured decorations often accompany the wire binding.

Synonyms. Brass Bound, Wired, Spiral Wire. Wire bound and wired bobbin.

brass pinned bobbin. Brass pins are driven into the shank and cut off level with it. Similarly, thorns were driven in to form a pattern. Initials of a person’s name or their Christian name, is most often the chosen when the bobbin has an inscription.

Synonyms. pinned bobbin, pin spot,

See also. inlay. inlaid thorns

Note the V on the shank

brass pins

See article on pins later. The pins were made of latten, a mixture of yellow metal (usually brass) and tin. They were thus made so that they did not rust. Whilst most brass pins were imported before lace making became an English industry, soon the English manufacturers produced the best pins and the continental countries preferred the English pins.

brass wire

Used for decoration of bobbins and for spangling bobbins with beads.


An abbreviation of Buckinghamshire.

Bucks bobbin

See South Bucks bobbin.

bugle (1)

A term for a pin decorated with beads and used in the South Bucks area. Until 1824 pinheads were separate rings of wire fixed around the end of a pin and, as these heads could be removed, the beads would be pushed on to one pin and held in place by the head removed from another pin.

bugle (2)

A type of drawn bead that varied greatly in size and length. Generally, they were much longer than their diameter, but as they come in all lengths the very smallest of them appear round. See beads.


The part of a bobbin between the short and the long necks. Mostly they were round or ogee in shape. See parts of bobbin under “Bobbin (lace) above.

See also bobbin.

bur[r] head

A pin with a head made of a burr from cleavers or goose grass. Galium aparine the green burr was skinned and pushed over the pinhead where, over a period of a few weeks, it would shrink as it dried and become a firm head.

Synonyms. hard head, hariffe pin and sweetheart.

See also striver.

butterfly/inlay bobbin

Inlaid with pewter in the form of a "butterfly,” Sometimes the projections occur only one side of the band, sometimes on both. Named after the look of a butterfly's wing, but better described as arrowhead or crows foot, also described as an anchor lying on its side.

Synonym. Bedfordshire fly.


candy wired

A decoration comprising a parallel pair of wires, usually brass and sometimes-beaded wires, snaking around the bobbin body.

Sadly, the candy wire is missing.

Here is one that is complete

candle stool or candle block

Used to provide light on the pillow to enable the lace makers to have extra light needed to work by. It often looks like a three-legged stool of suitable height with the circular "seat" (or hole board) drilled (cups) for the placement of a number of flasks filled with snow water around the edge. The centre hole was drilled to take a nozzle that contained a candle. The nozzle was the means whereby the candle height was adjusted so that the light shining from it passed through the water filled flasks and focused on the pillow. There were beautifully crafted tables that follow a similar design to the stool model. I suspect that these were made at a much later date. It is my impression that the tables were more prevalent on the continent of Europe than in England.

See also cup, flash, flash cushion, hole board, hutch and nozzle.

Candlemas day (Feb 2nd)

The end of the period when the lace makers were required to work by candlelight. It began at Tanders. See article by author: A Calendar of Lace Makers Celebration.

candle light holidays

Holidays in Cranfield Nov 5th, when they began to work by candle light and Feb 14th, when they ceased working by candlelight. See article by author: A Calendar of Lace Makers Celebration.

camel beads

A small wound bead, flat on two sides with a hole through the shorter axis (something like a doughnut). They can be found in a few different colours but they were most frequently opaque turquoise or opaque yellow. They were produced for trading with tribal people and were said to have been a popular ornament on camel harnesses, hence the name. See beads for illustration.

candle block/stool

Used to provide light on the pillow to enable the lace makers to have extra light needed to work by. It often looks like a three-legged stool of suitable height with the circular "seat" (or hole board) drilled (cups) for the placement of a number of flasks filled with snow water around the edge. The centre hole was drilled to take a nozzle which contained a candle. The nozzle was the means whereby the candle height was adjusted so that the light shining from it passed through the water filled flasks and focused on the pillow. There were beautifully crafted tables that follow a similar design to the stool model. I suspect that these were made at a much later date. It is my impression that the tables were more prevalent on the continent of Europe than in England.

See also cup, flash, flash cushion, hole board, hutch and nozzle.

cane beads

Beads cut from cane glass tubes with a shaped cross section, usually hexagonal, used to weight spangles. A cane is the result of the drawn method of bead making. See beads for illustration


A form of fancy turning. The shank is filled with alternate beads (beads here were used to describe a turned shape rather like a hemisphere, not a glass bead.) spaced with narrow inverse Vs. The beads may have coloured dots on them. The overall impression is that of a caterpillar



A phrase that surprises the reader. (They get caught) As inscribed on a bobbin.

Freeman type xxvii.

...”dint you never see a bobbin afor”

Catterns day

St Catherine’s day, 25th November. Traditionally the Patron Saint of lace makers. The celebrations included a special home-brewed drink and a cake made from sweetened dough and caraway seeds known as a Cattern Cake. See article by author: A Calendar of Lace Makers Celebration.

Cattern cake

See Catterns Day.

Centre/central bead

See bottom bead.

Chad pot

An earthenware pot in which lace makers placed hot embers/charcoal in to warm themselves. In England, it has been said they put the “pot” under their skirts. On the Continent, they seemed to have boxes in which the pot was placed and lace makers could put their feet on it. I may be wrong, but I can find no evidence of the box equipment being used in England. I suspect such evidence will be found one day. These pots, which were of rough brown ware, used to be filled every morning, at the cost of a farthing, with hot wood ashes, obtained from the nearest baker's. A pot so filled would keep hot half a day or longer. When it began to cool, the insertion among the embers of the nozzle of a pair of bellows, followed by a few puffs, would revive the heat. Synonyms. Dickie pot, fire pot, chad pot. Some areas call it a “pipkin”.

A chad pot, “stand alone” (English) version

A chad pot on top of a box

Presumably the place for the feet when the chad pot was giving warmth from under the box

The chad pot in the box

Note: See above, the English lace makers do not seem to have used the “box”.

Chafing dish

Probably a kind of fire pot used by Honiton lace makers.

Synonyms. Dickie pot, fire pot, chad pot.

chevron beaded

A left and right-handed spiral is cut into the shank and a beaded wire is wound around the shank with beads dropped off in each groove to form a chevron design.

chip carved

Ornamentation not turned on a lathe but carved with a knife or chisel in geometric patterns. Usually a hand-whittled bobbin.

Christian names

As inscribed on inscribed bobbins. Sometime prefixed with dear or sweet. Freeman.

type ii


Their nickname was “Johns and Joan’s”.

cryptic bobbin

A bobbin inscribed with coded message. Many are still un-coded. See Wright in bibliography or article that follows

chubby pricker

A pricker with a bulbous handle that fits into the palm of the hand.

church window bobbin

A shank that was pierced with longitudinal openings (slots) opposite each other; reminiscent of church windows. The openings were sometimes slanting. The windows may have a variety of contents such as miniature bobbins, balls etc. Historically this appears to be a generic term for this type of hollowed shank, but it is often used to describe a church window shank without any contents.

Note for collectors:

Church window. A bobbin that has window-shaped cuts that you can see straight through i.e. there are only two slots, they are opposite each other and the slots are empty.

Mother in Babe. A bobbin that has window-shaped cuts which contain a small bobbin or insert of that shape.

Other inserts. A bobbin that has window-shaped cuts which contains inserts other than a small bobbin or insert of that shape. I am personally attracted to the term “Lantern” as an alternative to “Other Inserts.” If this were to be adopted the contents of the lantern would need to be specified.

See examples below.

Church Window

Mother in Babe

Lantern Bobbin

Synonyms. Lantern, church window, twisted chamber, Mother-in-Babe, Mother and Babe,

cleaning bobbins

Cleaning wooden bobbins should be undertaken carefully and sparingly especially if they are antique. Use a polish made from bee’s wax and turpentine, avoiding the long neck (where thread is spooled). Do not use polish on coloured decoration. Bone bobbins can be cleaned using plain toilet soap. Use both soap and water sparingly, applying and rubbing gently with a very soft brush. Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth. Do not allow to remain wet any longer than necessary and avoid wetting any wood, metal or coloured decoration.


Cloths that were used to cover the pillow in various layers for different purposes. Names given to then were backcloth, hind cloth, heller, and drawter.

See Pillows.

cold ironing

Using an afficot to raise or smooth parts of needle lace.

See afficot above


The wider band immediately below the neck of a bobbin.

See Bobbin (lace) above

coloured bobbin

When a maker decided to colour his bobbins he traditionally soaked them in dye. At least part, or the whole of the bobbin being immersed in dye. Usually red, green or purple, sometimes with part cut away later on the lathe to reveal plain bone or wood beneath. Dye was derived from boiled wood chips or fruit juices.

See also staining, mottled.

coloured dots on bobbins

Small depressions were made (drilled frequently) in wooden or bone bobbins, usually in a decorative pattern (e.g. domino) or in the form of an inscription, and then coloured with powder mixed with gum Arabic or possibly with sealing wax dissolved in methylated spirits. Bobbins with this type of decoration were sometimes referred to as piqued.

See also piqued, domino/spots.

Wire from grooves missing

commemorative bobbin

A bobbin that bears an inscription or picture, engraved, inscribed, painted or pyrographed, to commemorate a particular event that is of personal importance to the owner. e.g. the birth of a child, or of international importance such as the Queen's silver Jubilee.

See also hanging bobbin.

compound inlay bobbin

A bobbin that has more than one type of inlay that is used separately in the design of other bobbin types i.e. the butterfly, leopard, and tiger bobbins. One example is a Leptig (not an historical name) that combines the tiger stripes and the leopard spots decoration

constructed centres

Good close-grained wood is used for the top and tail of the bobbin and a more attractive material displayed between them. These can be solid, such as burr wood, bone or "constructed” like Tunbridge mosaic.

See Tunbridge Mosaic

continental bobbin

An unspangled bobbin of the kind used in most European countries.

corking pin or corkings

A large brass pin used to secure equipment, such as bobbin bag, pincushion, pricking and so on, to the pillow.

Cornaline D’Aleppo

A small bead, with a white core surrounded by a pinkish, rose-coloured glass.

Sometimes known as "white lined rose". Made in Aleppo, Syria. Used as a trade

bead. See beads for illustration.

Cottier bobbin

A French bobbin where the bottom third of the shank unscrews to reveal a small reel upon which the thread is wound. The thread leaves by way of a very small hole a little higher on the shank. It serves to keep the thread clean.

covering cloth

One of the covering cloths for the pillow. They each have different names.

See cloths above

cow in/and calf bobbin

A wooden, bone, or occasionally brass bobbin in two parts which were joined with a screw or push fit. They have a hollowed shank containing a miniature bobbin, the calf, which is attached to the lower part of the bobbin (occasionally to the upper). Sometimes called Jack-in the-Box (incorrectly). Historical description. “Outwardly looks quite plain but has a hidden secret. Pulled apart there is a tiny bobbin, the calf, attached to the bobbin tail end. If made of brass, the two sections sometimes screwed together. Said by Wright to be a variety of the gold lace bobbin.

See also baby bobbin. See article by Author Towards a Standard Nomenclature for Lace Bobbins. The “cow-in-calf” – “jack-in-the-box” confusion.

Note for collectors:

Firstly, I would like to address the basic terminology of whether it be Cow in Calf or cow and calf.

These bobbins can have top openings or bottom openings (most usual, as illustrated below)

These are the alternatives that present:

  1. That the cow in calf is a representation of a cow being pregnant and as such has the bobbin attached to the part that pulls off.

  2. That the cow and calf refers to the cow after it has delivered its calf and has a loose bobbin inside the shank.

  3. Generically they could be named “Secret Bobbin” as they cannot be seen until the bobbin is opened.

See examples in the following photo:

cricket bat splice

A splice that joins the neck to the shank similar in form to the V shaped joint of a cricket bat handle to the blade. May be a wooden neck and a bone shank. Thought to be used to repair a bobbin. I concur with Springett when he says that some of these splices formed part of an original bobbin design i.e. made deliberately rather than a repair. I tend to make a subjective judgement regarding original design or repair based upon the quality of the splice and the consistency of the splice to the overall design and decoration on the bobbin. I have experimented with this splice and found it a difficult task and very time consuming, another fact that raises questions in my mind about the viability of repairing a bobbin in this manner, except it may have been part of the makers “guarantee”!


A form of decoration that comprises horizontal and vertical lines inscribed on the shank of the bobbin. It is said to resemble a crocodile (or its skin).

Cromwell, Oliver.

Under the puritan rule following the English civil war, the use of lace was discontinued by the middle and lower classes (Wright p 47,48).

cross gartering

A generic term for more complicated beaded wire decorations around the shank.

crumb bead

A wound bead, which has been rolled in tiny glass chips whilst still molten. Can be in many colours. The crumbs can be melted in (i.e. smooth) or left rough (i.e. raised).

See also impressed crumb bead, raised crumb bead. See beads for illustration.

cryptic bobbins

Bobbins that are inscribed with various codes or difficult to understand shorthand.

See article on Cryptic bobbins.


A description of a bead. Usually square cuts. They were not cut but rather melted off a rod of glass and pressed into a square with a file; this leaves the characteristic indentations on the glass bead. They are found in white, red, green and blue. See Beads for illustration.


A code or cryptic message inscribed on a bobbin. (see cryptic bobbins) Freeman type xxvi.


Cross you are, cross you be, and too cross you are to me.

crystal bead.

A glass bead with ground facets, usually regular in design. See beads for illustration


Chips of this wood were boiled and used as a dye for the bobbins.

See logwood.


The wooden rod that fits into the socket, in a candle block/stool that supports a flash.

See Candle block above


A curse inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xvii.


See pillow.

cut bead

See square cut.


dating bobbins

This demands more detail than appropriate in this Dictionary. See Springett for more detail. Beware of accepting the date inscribed on a bobbin. These may have been ordered at any time as a memorial etc. Hanging bobbins can be reasonably accurate to date as they were sold as souvenirs. Election bobbins can be dated fairly well through the records. At this time, women did not have the vote, but they could certainly influence their menfolk. The styles of bobbins can be said to vary with the fortunes of the industry. There were a lot of general inscriptions in the early 1800s but far fewer inscriptions during the latter part of that century. When the industry was in decline the quality, the level and amount of decoration reduced considerably. Springett states “It is probably true to say that very few decorative or inscribed bobbins were made in the traditional manner after 1890.” Thereafter bobbins were much less fine and their decoration was rather plain. Colouring limited to a few coloured bands.

decorated pin

A pin decorated with beads, goose grass seeds or sealing wax as headpins and/or


See also bugle, bur[r] head, divider, and striver.


Bobbins that are clearly East Midland in design but have many of the characteristics of the culture of the country in which they were made. In general, it is thought that the art of lacemaking was taken to English Colonial countries by missionaries.

Sri Lankan bobbins


The designs used on lace bobbins are almost inexhaustible. There were dozens of standard shapes that wood turners use and the bobbin maker uses various combinations of these shapes to pleasing to the eye, yet still be practical for use. Just what makes a beautiful bobbin is hard to say. I have attempted to discuss this in an article later in this dictionary; I do not think that I have reached a definitive answer. It is true to say that modern bobbin makers, whilst not perhaps copying the designs of the older makers draw heavily upon their work. There were combinations of shapes that were given names, for example, ball and reel, bees knees, caterpillar and types of bobbins for example church windows and bird cage.

detachable heads. Early pins had heads that were made of small pieces of wire that were pressed on to the wire pin with a press. There were “easily” detachable. An easier explanation would be “opposite to a fixed head pin”.

Devon bobbins (See also Part 2 of this dictionary)

A generic name for those bobbins used for Honiton lace. They are a single headed unspangled and generally smooth to allow the bobbin to be used for sewing. There are a variety of incised decorations used though for the most part the bobbins were plain. For a fuller understanding of East Devon bobbins, readers should take time to read the article on East Devon bobbins that follows the end of the Dictionary

Synonym. Honiton bobbins. East Devon Bobbins



A synonym for a bobbin that has actual beads for the shank

See Bead shank

Dicky pot (dick pot)

See fire pot, chad pot

divider pin

A highly decorated, long pin, used to separate the bobbins on a pillow. They may have a wooden, bone or perhaps ivory head or just a nice bead or series of beads to make it look different and to be easily seen on the pillow.

See also stacking pin.

An Antique divider pin

Domino-spots bobbin

Small indentations were made on the shank of the bobbin with the point of a fine drill, which was then filled with colour. Red, dark blue and black were the most used colours. In many instances, they resemble a domino.

See also coloured spots on bobbins.

double fairing

A right-handed and left-handed spiral groove each filled with coloured tinsel and crossing one another regularly, creating a plaid form of pattern.

double fluted spiral

Two opposite spirals each converging at the centre of the shank. Used for beads, wire, tinsel decoration

Synonym: Double Fairing

double head

This is the description of the typical head of an East Midlands bobbin. It is divided into two parts by a chamfered groove called the short neck in which the hitch should rest. Not used on Honiton bobbins.

Synonym. Thistle head (incorrectly)

See also single head, see diagram in Bobbin (lace) above


Another term for a parchment pattern used in some districts.

Downton bobbin

Straight, single headed, unspangled bobbin used in the Downton area near Salisbury, may be decorated with inscribed bands and designs. It is somewhat fatter and shorter than the Honiton bobbin. It usually has a short neck. They are plain or variously decorated with a wide range of geometrical and artistic styles of designs. There are also names, dates and inscriptions incised on them. The decoration appears to be incised in a similar manner to the Honiton bobbins. There is a notable absence of turned decoration even to the extent of rings that are turned on the lathe which quite a few Honiton bobbins have. The colour on the decoration appears to be the typical red and or black wax which is introduced to fill the incisions (chips or scratches)

draw or drawter

A linen or patchwork slip used to cover the lace on the pillow to protect it.

drawing room pillow

A derogatory term used by some professional lace makers for the new half pillow.

drawn bead

A method of bead making in which cylindrical beads are produced by blowing (usually) a bubble of air into molten glass and drawing it out into a hollow tube (cane). After annealing, the tube is cut into beads. They are cut in various lengths from various cane diameters. Drawn beads can sometimes appear round on the very small beads.

See also bugle, cane beads. See Beads for illustration

dump bobbin

A small, delicate bobbin used to make fine lace where a larger bobbin with a spangle would have been too heavy for the fine thread used. It had a single head and was not spangled. They were smaller than other bobbins both in length and thickness. It will be found that many dumps have been drilled and a spangle attached at some later date.

See also, Bobtailed Bobbins, Bobtails. South Bucks bobbin dumps.

Small Dump Bobbin

drying bottle

A bottle with straight sides. It was wrapped around the bottle with flannel, on which the lace was supported and held with fine stitches. It was then washed and dried on the bottle. A stick was placed into the neck of the bottle then stuck into the ground to aid the drying.

dyed bobbin

A finished bobbin is immersed in dye to colour it. Sometimes dyed bone bobbins would have some of the dyed material removed by further turning, revealing the white bone beneath. The dye was sometimes made by boiling chips of certain wood of some fruit juices.



Pieces of linen sewn on to the ends of parchment to enable it to be pulled firmly before pinning.

East Midlands bobbin

This is the generic term for the type of bobbin that is now commonly used for a wide variety of lace making. Its origins are in the East Midlands of England. From the great variety of surviving antique bobbins, it can be said that the East Midland bobbin is somewhat more slender than the Bedfordshire bobbin. Modern bobbins do not distinguish these differences with a special name. They have a double head See explanation and diagram at the start of this dictionary)and a spangle; they were about 5 to 8mm in diameter and about 70 mm in length. They were used for making the continuous (thread) laces of the area.

Synonyms. Midlands bobbin, English bobbins

A selection of East Midland bobbins

election bobbin

In these time women in England did not have the vote, but clearly the politicians felt that they could influence their menfolk!

See politicians

emery pincushion

A pincushion containing emery powder, or a mixture of emery powder and sand. As the pin is pushed in and out the abrasive powder helps keep pins polished.

engraved bobbin

Bobbins that were decorated by cutting/incised designs, names slogans etc. on the shank. Better called incised than engraved.

evil eye

A wound bead decorated with a complex eye. The trail of the wind starts at one hole, spirals around to finish at the other hole.

See also flush spot eye, raised eye bead, snake bead. See Beads for illustration

eye bead

A bead decorated with eyes (coloured dots). They may be simple or complex eyes. A single eye of a contrasting colour or eyes that have different colour superimposed on them, which look like pupils etc. See Beads for illustration.

See evil eye bead, flush spot eye, horned eye, Kitty Fishers eye bead, and raised eye. See beads for illustration.

Eye bobbins

Eye a village where some old bobbins were found

See Suffolk bobbins. See Coulton in bibliography


faceted bead

A cane bead ground to produce facets, usually irregular in shape. See beads for illustration.


An open spiral groove cut into the shank holds a sliver of tinsel held in place with a single strand of brass wire. Silver, gold or coloured metallic paper/tinsel such as used for wrapping chocolates was cut into thin strips and inserted into grooves cut in the shank. These were considered gaudy bobbins and were sold at local fairs and given as gifts to the lace makers or bought by them as a memento of their visit to the fair.

Synonyms, tinsel inlay. Tinsel, Tinselled, Fairing, Tinsel spirals, Tinsel and Wire


Identifying fake bobbins is not an easy task if they are well copied and is beyond the scope of this publication. I offer the following thoughts on the subject. One needs a good knowledge of antique bobbins and of what we might call a good understanding of a normal bobbin. You need to ask yourself questions such as, does it fit into what it is purported to be? Does it have the right aging? The right look? The right wear? Look closely at the hole for the spangle (that will show a degree of wear) and the wire that holds the spangle (possibly re-spangled) See if there are any colour differences between the neck and the shaft. (The neck should be paler as it is covered with thread and not subjected to light) Look at the message, the length of it and the type of printing used, the number of dots per letter, the use of finials, capitals or lower case. Compare heads and tails with known maker’s examples. Look at the beads on the spangle, the style of spangle and appropriate beads for its age.

Do be careful about buying antique bobbins of any value. Antique dealers misname them and poorly date them. I suggest buying from a reputable bobbin dealer.

Above, a beautiful bobbin by Joseph Haskins

I know this is a fake because I made it! It is after a bobbin made by Joseph Haskins, similar to the top picture.

famous people

Baring the name of a famous person Freeman type vii

feather bead

See plume. See beads for illustration

festivals or Catterns

The great holiday of the lace-makers was Tanders (St. Andrew's Day Nov. 3oth), but in some parts of Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, the leading festival was Catterns (St. Catherine’s Day), Nov. 30th, St. Catharine being the patron saint of the spinners, to whom the lace makers considered themselves related. As time went on, Catharine the Saint became confused with Katharine of Aragon (wife of Henry the Eighth) of Kat Stitch fame, who was born on Dec 6th. Minor holidays that were kept variously in different places were St Thomas' day Dec 21st, Shrove Tuesday, Candlemas day Feb 2nd. Candlelight holidays were kept at Cranfield (Nov 5th and Feb. 14th) Palm Sunday (Fifth Sunday) May Day. Cut-off day was celebrated every 5 weeks when the lace was cut off for the buyer. The lace makers at Honiton made a great day of Queen Anne’s coronation in 1702 and most likely the all kept Nutting-day September 3rd. It was the first day that they used candles in the South West lace making area. It seems that they made great celebrations for many national events but did not keep St Catherine’s day.

See article Feasts and Holidays for lace makers

first exodus: 1563-1568

Persecution of Protestants in the Low Countries by Phillip II, led to many of them fleeing to England. The first groups who made parchment lace settled in Kent in 1563. Other arrivals at Dover were those whose occupations were described as bone lace and Spinners. The lace makers from Michelin made their way to Cranfield in Bedfordshire in 1568. Later groups went to Buckinghamshire, Newport Pagnell, Olney and Buckingham. (Wright Ch. IV.) It should be noted that Yallop disputes details of this migration in relation to the start of the lace making industry in England.

fire pots

An earthenware pot filled with hot wood ashes or charcoal, used to keep the feet of the lace workers warm.

Also known as Dicky Pot (Bucks) Hotpots or Chad pots in South Bucks.

fish bone

Used by poor lace makers as a substitute for pins. This contributes to the origin of “bone” in the term “bone lace”. That with the idea that bones were used as bobbins builds a case for it. The authors opinion (but no proof) that this is quite possible.

flanking pins

A pin with a conspicuous head placed along the foot and the head of the lace in order to keep a firm edge. The pin would almost always have been decorated by the lace maker with beads or another distinctive décor.


A glass flask containing water was used to focus light from a candle for the

lace maker to work by. The water was said to be snow water, probably because of its purity. The flash could be an adaptation of the laboratory flasks positioned in an upside-down manner with a plug in the neck to retain the water. Sometimes the flask was separate from the candle block and if so it was laid upon a rush ring to cushion it an enable it to stand upright. They also used bottles of similar shape that were used to import oil into the UK

Synonyms. Flask.

See also candle block stool, lace maker’s lamp

flash stool

See candle block stool.


See flash.

flask cushion.

A plaited rush ring that was put around the flask to protect it from jarring and enable it to stand upright.

flush spot eye

A bead decoration of "eye" spots melted in leaving a smooth surface on the bead.

See also evil eye bead, Kitty Fishers eye, raised spot bead (the opposite of this entry). See beads for illustration.


See Bedfordshire fly

foil bead

Beads in which pieces of tin-foil have been embedded into the glass. See beads for illustration.

footpins. Ornamented pins used for the “foot” of the lace.

flour bag

A bag of flour or starch used by the lace maker to dry their hands.

Four-penny spot

A bone bobbin that has four largish spots arranged in an elongated plus sign. Possibly known as a domino spot.

forth exodus

This came about as the result of the French Revolution. Again’ those lace makers fleeing France came to Cranfield and other Bedfordshire villages and also many to Devon, though modern scholarship questions this influx to Devon (see Yallop).


The great houses of the time had a frippery room that was set aside for the display and preservation of the family’s collection of beautiful things that included lace.


Their Nick name was “the Black-Eyed Girls from Fritwell”.

free gift

The politicians of the day got up to all kinds of tricks to “buy” their votes. Giving an inscribed bobbin as a gift was hoped to influence the lace maker to vote for that politician. The same advertising was used by bobbin goods retailers (Lesters)


gassed thread

Lace thread was sometimes called this, as part of the process of the cotton was to pass it slowly through a gas flame to remove all film.

gimp bobbin

A special bobbin that was usually larger or conspicuous in other ways that carried the gimp thread. Often had gingles.

Bedfordshire Trailer or Gimp (Gymp) Bobbin


Also spelt Jingle. A loose ring that fits into grooves around the bobbin. These rings rattle as the bobbin is used. The rings were usually made from pewter but can be found of bone or wood though the wood rings were rare as they wore out. Often the broken jingles were replaced with beads on a wire or elastic.

Synonym. Jingle. Some use the term to imply a spangle, doubtfully historically correct, but Gertrude Whiting uses these terms

Metal gingles on a gimp bobbin. Pewter appears to be degrading

See also spangle.

glass bobbin

Bobbins made from glass. Until modern types of glass became available glass bobbins were more as keepsakes or given as prizes rather than used as tools.

glass head. Pins having fixed glass heads. Hopewell reports that they were usually imported from France.


A Buckinghamshire dialect word denoting the silent period between working songs.


Nickname for the lace makers of Yardley Gobion. I can’t resist commenting that I think that goke is a great word and that I would have enjoyed using it, in jest of course. I had a friend who once lived there!

gold lace bobbins

Bobbins plain in appearance and about 110mm long. Early gold lace for the vestments of the clergy was really embroidery and was practised in England long before what we now call lace making was introduced. There is some discussion that the Mother in Babe bobbins may well have been used also.

Suggested by Wright as a Gold thread bobbin

Suggested by Springett as a Gold thread bobbin also tapestry

gold thread

A large, plain, wood bobbin with a single neck section forming a reel to hold the metal thread used in making gold thread lace.

See also, Gold Thread, Metal Thread, Gold Lace Bobbins

goose grass seed heads. As described in “burr heads above.

grandmother bobbin

A bobbin containing a miniature bobbin, which in turn had a hollow shank in which lies a smaller bobbin.

Synonym. Three-in-one bobbin.

From South Bucks


Their Nick name was “The moon Rakers”.


A piece of acetate used to protect work underlying the current work. It was slipped between layers.

Synonyms. shield, Susan.



Their Nickname was “the Thatcher’s Wives”.

hair all North Crawley!

Rhyming slang for “hair all awry”. An allusion to the crookedness of Crawley Brook.


A Midlands term for winding a bobbin.


Synonym. for shank, but used infrequently. Used more to describe the shank of continental bobbins.

hanging bobbin

A bobbin that bears an inscription commemorating the hanging of a criminal. There were seven hangings recorded by inscriptions on bobbins. Matthias and William Lilley 1829. Sarah Dazeley 1843, Joseph Castle 1860, Franz Muller 1864, William Worsley 1868. William Bull 1871, Miles Wetherall 1868. These do not come up for sale often and are thus rather expensive though they are not as well turned as many other bobbins.


See bur[r] head.

hariffe pin.

Pins having wax or burr heads.

See bur[r] head.


This is the bulbous top of the bobbin that prevents the thread from sliding off.

See also double head, single head.


A pin decorated with a bead that was used to mark the headside.

heart-shaped cushion

A traditionally shape pincushion used by lace makers.

Synonyms. Sweetheart pincushion, strawberry pincushion, lace maker’s pincushion.

heel ball.

In the days before the advent of the photocopying machine lace makers used 'Heel Ball' to obtain copies of old lace pricking's. The process involved tracing or grease proof paper laid over an old pricking and held firmly in place. The 'Heel Ball' was then rubbed over the area of the paper covering the pattern therefor revealing an (almost) exact copy. In those early days’ museums were quite happy to allow this though it was probably not good for the old pricking's and would probably not be allow today. 

'Heel ball' dates back to the earliest days of Brass Rubbing, in the Victorian era, when the wax that was used was often Cobblers "heel ball", a stiff wax used to colour the heel of new shoes. 

hindcloth or hiller

A cloth that covers the whole pillow when not in use.

Synonym. covering cloth.

hinged spangle.

A shaped piece of bone (sometimes of wood) that is fixed, by a pin acting as an axle, to a suitably shaped tail of the bobbin in the manner of a hinge. The hanging spangle often has a bead fitted into a hole. Very rare to see then these days.

See shackle


Historical events as inscribed on bobbins. Freeman type xv.

hole board.

The top of a candle block stool with holes in which the nozzle and cups were placed. Used to hold the candles and flasks, which illuminated the work of the lace makers.

See Candle block above

Honiton bobbin

A small single headed, unspangled bobbin used to make Honiton lace. The end of the shank is either a somewhat blunted point to enable the taking of sewing's. Also called a lace stick, though modern authorities challenge this. Often stained or decorated with non-lathe turned designs that will not impede the taking of sewing's. Beer had highly decorated bobbins, crosses, fish, and anchors. Branscombe were known for their coloured rings and bolder designs including the use of aqua fortis.

A better generic name for Honiton bobbins would be East Devon, which is a term I generally use, but not within this dictionary as it has not been adopted as a standard.

See article later

Synonyms. Devon bobbin, lace sticks.

Honiton Lace bobbins-decoration.

Because of the nature of making lace where the bobbin is passed through the design, the decoration is simple compared to that of the Bedfordshire bobbin. Decoration is confined to staining, incising and filling of groves, incisions with wax or other coloured stains. They were also inscribed and had pictures cut into them. Yallop has classified the designs as follows: Circumferential rings, Abstract patterns, Depictions of natural or manmade objects, human figures, initials, dates, words (inscriptions).

Birds and brick design

Honiton lace industry - origins

See Yallop pp 12-26. He puts forward authoritative arguments for to accepting the immigration of the Flemish to the area as the origins of the lace industry, instead he argues for the entrepreneurial start of the industry that had the necessary relevant skills (the cloth industry of Devon) the availability of the raw materials (fine flax thread available in Axeminster) and an established industry and marketing network (via the cloth industry) Possible adjuncts to this scenario is that of London merchants wanting to establish business and the possible influence of the trading routes of Europe and Britain. His arguments are most persuasive; they are certainly scholarly and until other evidence is put forward should be the accepted theory though some have thought it has its flaws.


A synonym used for a spangle. Not much used.

horned eye/spot bead

See raised eye. See Beads for illustration

horn slider

A thin layer of horn, film, acetate (or similar materials) that was placed below the cover cloth for protection whilst allowing a lace maker to make a pricking whilst seeing the lace.


A wooden stand upon which the pillow is rested. There are a variety of designs but the main differences are the number of legs. A two-legged stand rested upon the lace maker’s knees whilst the three-legged stand could stand on its own.

Synonyms. Pillow horse, maid, pillow stand and in some areas, a “lady”. See pillow stand for illustration.

Huguenot (s)

A short fattish bobbin with a single neck. It was unspangled, though some have been adapted to take a spangle. Mainly found in the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire. Used in the Aylesbury and Thames districts.

See also, Thumpers


Plaited rush or straw baskets in which flasks were kept safely whilst not in use.


impressed crumb bead

A crumb bead with the tiny chips pressed flush with the surface. See beads for illustration.

incised decoration

A bobbin decoration that has been produced by scoring, cutting dashes or otherwise

making holes and/or incisions in the bobbin. Often these decorations were coloured. Pyrography could possibly be considered in the kind of decoration.

Indian beads

A drawn bead made in the traditional manner. They look much like other beads but it is possible to look at where they are broken, or cut, off (the perforation) and see some white area on the edge. Early beads of this type were made in India but later were made in Eastern Europe. See beads for illustration.

Indian club

A bobbin that resembles an Indian club which was used widely as an exercise “weight” swung in the hands. Quite few bobbins would fit into this general design shape.

Synonym. Bottle neck

An Indian club. Readers will see this similarity to many bobbins.


Initials or pairs of initials on inscribed bobbins. Mostly found on East Devon Bobbin (Honiton) Freeman type 1

NG initials

inlaid bobbin

A bobbin decoration produced by removing a part of the bobbin and replacing it with similar material of a contrasting colour or different material. Bitted, butterfly, compound, tiger, leptig, spiral pewter are all examples of variations of inlays.

inlaid thorns

Just as brass pins were driven into the shank and cut of level with the shank, similarly thorns were driven in to form a pattern. Mostly a name or initials of a person were formed.

See also, Pin Spot Inlay, Brass Pin Inlay,

Thorn inlay (Bitted Man)

inscribed bobbin

A bobbin that bears an inscription, message, saying, name and so on as a decoration, the letters being formed by a series of coloured, burnt or painted dots.

See also commemorative dots. Mottoed

(a) General Inscriptions

 Inscribed bobbins have text or illustrations added to the shanks (usually). They appear frequently on bone bobbins and quite often on wood bobbins; exceptionally on metal bobbins. They are mostly of class 7 ( see types below) in design, though occasionally of classes 9, 10, 11, 19 and 21. The inscription is almost invariably carried out in drilled dots then coloured (paint or sealing wax), though some carved, pyrographed (burnt) and a very few fully painted examples exist. In the case of wooden bobbins, it is also found punched in dots on applied or inlaid pewter bands, or picked out with inlaid wood, thorn or metal pins (studs). Many inscribed bobbins, especially those with names, are dated. Careful study of the styles of lettering and techniques can often help in identifying the maker of the bobbin.


1.  Initials or pairs of initials

2.  Christian name(s),

3.   Relationships,

4.   Names

5.   Names and places

6.   Names and occupations

7.   Famous people

8.   Royalty

9.   Politicians and Elections

10.   Murderers

11.   Transportation

12.   Suicide

13.   Memorials

14.   Birthdays

15.   Historical events

16. Presentations:

17.   Curses

18.   Blessings

19.   Admonitions

20.   Biblical texts

21.   Pious phrases

22.   Apophthegms

23.   Popular songs and poems =

24.   Verses

25.   Alphabets

26.   Cryptograms

 27.   Catches

28.   Aspiration:

29.   Invitation 

30.   Warning:

31. Flirtation

32.   Protest

33.   Question:

34.   Proposal:

35.   Refusal:

37.   Acceptance:

38.   Injunction:

39.   Declaration

40.   Plighted love

Ipswich bobbin

This is not an English bobbin. From an active lace making community in Ipswich Massachusetts, between 1700s to early 1800s.A single head bobbin with a parallel shank and unspangled. The bobbin is shorter than the typical East Midland bobbin but they are unique in that the shank is hollow or alternatively made from very lightweight woods. Five types have been described; reed, light coloured wood, dark wood, native bamboo.

See Cotterell, M. IOLI Bulletin 17:4 Summer 1996/7.


Various types of irons used for crimping and ironing. There were specific lace irons.


Very few bobbins were made from ivory. It is easy to confuse an old, well-used bone bobbin with ivory. It is best to assume that the bobbin is made from bone unless the surface is very fine indeed, and then take it to an expert who will be able to identify the material without destructive tests.


Jack-in-the-box bobbin

A wooden or bone bobbin in two parts joining with a screw or push fit, having a hollow shank containing loose miniature bobbin that jumps out (falls) when it is opened. Sometimes incorrectly called a Cow and/in calf. The historical descriptions are; a) “Outwardly looks quite plain but has a hidden secret. Pulled apart there is a tiny bobbin”. b) “Made in two sections, one fitting tightly into the other. The inside of the shank was hollow and contained a loose miniature bobbin. If made of brass, the two sections sometimes screwed together”. Said by Wright to be a variety of gold-lace bobbins.

Synonym. Secret bobbin,

jet bobbins

Bobbin made from jet. Quite rare.

Two South Buck “Jet” bobbins


See Tally.


See gingles though some call “Spangles” Jingles.


An Oxfordshire name for “spangle”. Possibly a corruption of the word spangle?

Johns and Joans

Nickname for the lace makers of Clapham, Bedford.


Katherine of Aragon

Wife of Henry VIII. Made lace famous. She delighted in working with the needle curiously, she was also often found, busy at work with her maids, and with a Skein of red silk around her neck. She appeared to favour cut work, with

patterns brought from Spain. This was not lace as we now understand it but Wright postulates that she also made bobbin lace too and also taught the people of Bedford her skills. I have searched diligently for pictures of her working at her lace or any other craft, but failed. Perhaps there is one out there?


A groove at the bottom of a channel cut for the pewter to hold to prevent turning or falling out. Usually cut with a fine saw and slightly undercuts the wood or bone of the bobbin shaft.

The undercut in this diagram is somewhat exaggerated


A Bedfordshire term for a decorated pin. I was decorated with beads by the lace maker and had various functions on the pillow

See also bugle, limmick.

Kings Sutton

Their nick name was “the Ripe Beauties”.

Kitty Fisher

An 18th century actress, said to have lovely eyes!

Kitty Fisher's eyes

A grey bead decorated with eye spots of white each having a small blue spot in the centre, said to represent the beautiful eyes of the 18th century actress after whom the bead is named. Sometimes there were pink spots, to represent her mouth; sometimes the blue is replaced by red. The eyes may be raised or melted in, probably more often raised. See Beads for illustration.


lace drying bottle

A bottle with straight sides. It flannel was wrapped around the bottle, on which the lace was supported and held with fine stitches. It was then washed and dried on the bottle. A stick was placed into the neck of the bottle then stuck into the ground to aid the drying.

Drying bottle

lace buyer

Self-evident term. They also supplied the lace makers with thread, pins and other equipment. There appears to be some evidence that they collected the work every 5 weeks. The day that they came was called cut off day. There is also some evidence that some of them exploited the lace makers in various ways.

See Lace tokens

lace card

Made of cardboard, round which the lace was wound on the pillow.

lace chest.

A container for storing equipment that is not currently in use.

Lace lamps

See candle block/stool. Often there were three circles of workers around the candle-stool—whence the terms First, Second, and Third Lights; and the stools were sometimes on different levels, those nearest the flasks being the highest. On a shelf at no great distance from the candle-stool would be seen the Tinder-box, which was usually circular and of tin. At the bottom was the tinder (burnt rag), and above the tinder was a circular cover on which rested the flints and the iron striker. In the lid of the box was a candle holder. In order to get a light, a spark had to be struck so that it fell on to the tinder. A slip of wood tipped with sulphur having been applied to the spark, the candle could then be lighted.

The term “Lace Lamp” as applied beautiful glass oil lamps, is not correct and I have dealt with this topic in one of my web docs articles listed in the appendix.

lace men

Dealers in lace who used to visit the makers, measure the lace they were selling and buy it from them, often with lace tokens.

lace stick

1. A Honiton bobbin. Some modern authorities disclaim this name (Yallop)

2. Yardstick used by dealers to measure the lace they were buying. They measured fabric in ells. An ell is a former measure of length (equivalent to six hand breadths) used mainly for textiles, locally variable but typically about 45 inches in England and 37 inches in Scotland.

Two differing Yardsticks

lace tell.

A song sung by lace makers to help them keep a good rhythm and maintain speed when they found the repetitious work monotonous. Some tells would include an immediate goal of a set number of pins to work during the course of the song. Particularly used in lace schools but in general use too.

To estimate pins placed in an hour, and to assist

themselves in the counting the lace pupils used to chant in

a sing-song voice the amount of work to be got


20 miles have 1 to go,

19 miles have I to go,

18 miles have I to go

lace token

Special coins produced for dealers/buyers and used for paying lace makers. They were redeemable only in certain shops. Introduced as the result of the shortage of small change, which was hampering the businesses of the time. (1648-1679) Sometimes found on a spangle.

lace making centres

Geographical areas that were well known for lace making.

lace maker's lamp

A stand topped with a round, hollow glass container, when filled with water it focuses light from a candle. Its design takes many forms. Yallop reports that this device could create a value of 50 lux, which is equivalent to the level of light that modern museums use to illuminate their delicate articles!

See article that follows.

See also flash.

Though these are Continental in origin, they best represent small scale lighting for lace making. See Candle block, candle stool for larger scale lighting. please note: in the authors opinion, the lamps antique dealers call “Lace Makers Lamps” are not the lamps lace makers used. See article: The Great Deception

lace men

See lace dealers and buyers

laminated bobbins

When one or more very thin sheets of wood have been glued between thicker pieces and the bobbin turned from the resulting "sandwich", the thin layers appear as stripes that may occur along the length of the bobbin or slantwise across it. I have not personally seen antique examples of these.

lancet windows

Another name for the church window holes, cut into the shank of the bobbin.

lanking pins. A pin that has a conspicuous head, placed along the foot and the head of the lace in order to keep a firm edge. The head can be ornamental or possibly a special bead or beads.

lantern and ball

See Lantern bobbin.

lantern bobbin.

A bobbin with its shank pierced with windows (slots), occasionally spiralling (twisted chamber) but usually vertical, usually in sets of two or four, with pairs opposite each other, between which beads, lead shot or bone balls can be seen. The contents were inserted through the slots, but the centre can be hollowed out by drilling upwards from the end of the bobbin, and after the contents have been inserted the end is plugged so that the join cannot be seen. These are seen on both east Midland and South Bucks bobbins.

See also church window, twisted chamber.

Synonym. church window, lantern and ball.


See pillow horse

lazy Susan

A needle with a very fine eye, set into a handle point first used for making sewings. Sometimes the needle was curved.


A sheet of lead on which the draft parchment was laid for pricking.

leather covered bobbins

Bobbin with a lead base that were covered with leather 130 mm long. In the possession of Pamela Nottingham. Possibly used for decorative chords.

leopard bobbin

An inlaid bobbin having spots produced by inserting metal rods or contrasting coloured wooden dowels into holes drilled through the shank and smoothing them off flush with the surface. The spots were sometimes filled indentations as opposed to holes through the bobbin. Can be used with other forms of inlay.

See also leptig, pewter inlay.

leptig bobbin

(Not a traditional name) A compound inlay bobbin having a combination of spots as for a leopard bobbin and bands as for a tiger bobbin. i.e. it has both pewter spots and stripes. See also, Compound inlay, Pewter inlay.


Letters can be pricked, incised or drilled, usually being filled with colour when finished. Pyrographed letters have the characteristic burn marks left. Letters are also formed with pins or thorns inserted and cut off flush. The lettering was rather poor for the most part and the spelling often deplorable. The style of lettering is a good indication of the identity of the maker. The lettering can be spiral or horizontal and is often rather untidy i.e. it does not follow a straight line. One researcher known to the author has developed an index of printing styles associated with a maker and it is a very useful tool for the identification of bobbin makers.

An impressive spiral inscribed bobbin (probably David Haskins) I need to add that there are many that have more words than this on them. Quite favourite bobbins of mine!


  1. a tool to lift pins that have been pushed into the pillow deeply. See pin lifter

A home fashioned pin lifter

  1. A long square or round device for lifting needle lace to make it easier to insert the needle.

A square ring lifter and a ring stick


A North Buckinghamshire term for a pin decorated with coloured beads.

logwood chips

Used for colouring bobbins. The chips were boiled to produce a dye.

See cudbear.

long neck

The long narrow part of the bobbin upon which the thread is wound. See Bobbin (lace) above

long toms

Fine brass pins that were specially made for lace making.

Synonym. yellow pins.

love and courtship

An inscribed bobbin. Freeman has listed aspects of love and courtship in his types xxvii – xlix.

See Freeman’s list


A very mild washing agent, which is used by some conservationists in cleaning bobbins.


A tool used for making square chord. It is lyre shaped. May be made of wood, bone or ivory.



See pillow horse.

makers of bobbins

I owe this information to C & D Springett, who have done a great deal of work on this subject. (see Success to the Lace Pillow in bibliography that follows the end of the dictionary)

Maker Number 1. Characterised by lettering of election slogans; a distinctive tail-end comprising round or oval bead with a line inscribed around its widest part; the head has a squashed bulb surmounted by a very triangular top section; collars of his tapered bobbins are heavily ridged.

Maker Number 2. Known for his distinctive pewter designs which were both complex and attractive; the condition of the pewter is generally poor; the top of the bobbin is frequently dyed; above the last ring he puts two grooves leaving a ridge between the grooves.

Maker number 3. Specialised in bitted bobbins of a most intricate and attractive nature; longer than average collar; unusually long short neck.

Maker number 4. Fine elaborate bobbins, but made simple ones too; a long tapered neck and generous sized bulb; tall short neck that suddenly flares out; to a distinctive rim.

Jesse 1793 - 1857and James 1824 – 1889 Compton. From Deanshanger. Jesse father, James son; distinguished by their spiral inscriptions; the slighter bobbins of Jesse; shape of the bulb and length of the neck.

Bobbin Brown. 1793 - 1872 Cranfield. Bold neat spiral inscriptions, tail has a shallow pint; bulb like rim.

Archibald Abbot. 1815 – 1885 Bedford. Stamped his name on many of his bobbins, known for his screw thread decoration.

Joseph, 1779 - 1855 David 1819 and Robert Haskins. Leighton Buzzard. These too made fine bobbins each of these makers had differing characteristics. Josephs were finely turned and lavishly decorated, arguably the best of the bobbin turners whose work we have today. David’s have a distinctive tapered neck and generous bulb. Robert was the lesser of this family of makers. His bobbins were somewhat fatter and had a limited range of decoration.

Samuel, (a pillow maker) and Arthur Wright 1857 -? seems to have learnt his bobbin making skill from Bobbin brown as his bobbins have similarities. Both were from Cranfield.

Blunt End Man, mid-19th century. Characteristic for his roughly cut blunt ends.

Other recorded makers.

Research by the Springetts was only able to identify a certain number of makers. Some collectors have noted maker characteristics in their bobbins, that allows them to make a reasonable assessment that they are all made by the same maker. These are not published assumptions and they have not been able to name their makers; however, they are useful observations that can be applied to their collection.

The makers below are recorded in publications or genealogical research discoveries.

Richard Adams. Stoke Goldington.

William Johnson. 1798 Olney.

Richard Kent early 1700s Olney.

George Limbis. Renhold.

John Underwood born 1802 Rushden

Paul Neal. Hanslop.

William Pridmore. Elstow.

Risley. Elstow. Sold his bobbin around the villages from a dogcart.

Thomas Sparke Brayfield.

Percy Keech 1930s Stevington.

Les Green. (20th C) Olney. Heads had a strong V on a flat bulb.

Saunders. Waddeston. (20th C) Ran a factory producing chunky bobbins with heads that have a distinct V section on top of a squashed bulb. The also made bone bobbins, but mainly wooden.

Harris and Son, Cockermouth. (20th C) Made various lace making equipment and a variety of rather poorly finished bobbins heads and bulbs that differ little on top of each other.

E.P. Rose. (20th C) Made a variety of lace equipment. They are best identified by looking at their catalogue, which Springett reproduces.

Note: Serious Collectors should consider the purchase of, Success to the Lace Pillow. Christine and David Springett.

malmesbury bobbins

Malmesbury is a town situated in the northern area of Wiltshire.

The bobbins are similar to Honiton bobbins in length and diameter and though most have a distinct, almost decorative collar to the neck, some bobbins do not have distinct neck at all. The shank is parallel and is squared off at the bottom of the shank. They have a single neck and on the whole they are plain. The most decoration they have is of a few inscribed rings and sometimes a short turned concave design just below the neck.

marker pin

A generic name for pins that were used for various marking functions on the pillow. They were individually decorated with beads


A technique to produce vertical lines and decoration on a bead. It was rolled over a corrugated surface before it hardened.

It was rolled, whilst hot on such ridges. The vertical designs vary. See beads for example.

Mary Queen of Scots

Said to be a wearer, designer and maker of lace. At her execution on February 8th 1587she “wore on her head a dressing of lawn edged with bone lace, and a veil of lawn, edged roundabout with bone lace." (Wright pp 41,42.)

melon beads

A bead in the shape of a melon (but not in size!). See beads for illustration


Bobbins were made from a variety of metals, though brass and pewter were the most popular.


Name, date of death etc. as inscribed on bobbins. Freeman type xiii

Memorial for Elizabeth Dawkes

Mercerised yarn

Named after a process developed by John Mercer in 1844. The cotton was treated with caustic soda that made it soft and more readily dyed.

metal thread bobbins

Large wooden bobbins, the single neck section forming a reel to hold the metal thread used in making gold thread lace.

See also, Gold Lace Bobbins, Gold Thread

Midlands bobbin See East Midlands bobbins, South Bucks bobbins.

millefiori beads.

A "thousand flowers". Made from chips of layered drawn glass. The drawn rods were somewhat like the confection known as "rock" where the intricate designs in the glass are visible from the ends. The end chips were pressed into wound core beads. There is infinite variety of designs and they were very popular. See beads for illustration.

miniature bobbin

A tiny bobbin placed inside a baby bobbin. Possibly too literal a description.

See babe.

moon rakers

Nickname for the lace makers of Grendon. Wright reports that the men were reputed to have raked the moon out of the village pond, thinking that it was a cheese! (Wright p 31)

mother and/in/’n babe

The shank of the bobbin was pierced with vertical slits, the whole effect being that of a church window. There could be a pair or four of long windows or many tiers of windows. In each compartment, there was usually a tiny bobbin, or "babe".

See also, Church Window,

mottled bobbin

A bobbin treated with nitric acid (aqua fortis) also called Agnes forty, usually applied only to patches to give a tortoiseshell appearance, and sometimes is greenish in appearance. Most often seen on East Devon bobbins. Nitric acid is very dangerous and should not be used without training.

mottoed bobbins

A bobbin that has an inscription, message, saying, name and so on as a decoration.


When a loved one died, the bottom bead of a spangle would be exchanged for a black

one. After a family bereavement, all the beads on the spangle could be exchanged for black.

Mourning Spangle


Names of murderers and perhaps date hung as inscribed on bobbins. Freeman type x.


(On Biddenham Gallows, Bromham Road, just outside Bedford.)

Matthias and 'William Lilley. 1829. Elstow, Beds.

(At Bedford Jail.)

Sarah Dazeley, hung 1843. Lavendon, Bucks.

Joseph Castle, hung 1860. Ravenstonee, Bucks. North Crawley, Bucks.

William Worsley, hung 1868. Weston Underwood; Oakley~

William Bull, hung ,1871 Ampthill, Beds.


Joseph \West. Cranfield


Rannson Dillingum, Botany Bay. Ampthill.[Actually Richard Dillingham)



A type of bead used on a spangle. See beads for illustration

named bobbins

A bobbin inscribed the name of the lace maker or family member. Other named bobbins may have names of politicians, trader’s sweethearts etc. Freeman type iv

names and places

A name and a place. Freeman tells us that they can appear in sets each bobbin baring the name of a member of a family. Freeman type v.

Yardley Hastings

names and occupations

Some of the occupations inscribed on bobbins are, sweep, shepherd etc. Freeman type vi

J. Mason. Mason. Trade Bead

native types

Bobbins copied by natives of other countries where lace making was introduced by missionaries and others. Have characteristics of art from the country in which they copied.


The narrow part of a bobbin, between the head and the shank, on which the thread is wound. Also, occasionally called (incorrectly) a shank, but our modern understanding of the term shank is that of the body of the bobbin. See Bobbin (lace) above

needle lace tools

Used for aspects of needle lace making. The illustration of these tools are not antique. (Made by the author)

needle pin

A sewing needle, usually size 8 or finer, set in a handle and was used for taking needle pin sewings in Honiton lace. The taper towards the needle indicates a good functional design.

nine beads

A colloquial term for the traditional number of beads used in a spangle. “It had a nine-bead spangle”.


A protective covering of the cotton on the neck of the bobbin. Made of thin horn, parchment, celluloid or acetate, and sometimes stitched in place to keep the cotton clean. Not used in England.


(1)The socket in a candle block/stool that holds the candle. It is adjustable so

the height of the candle can be altered, as it burns lower.

(2) The socket of a bobbin winder that holds the bobbin.

nut beads

Nuts used as beads. See beads for illustration.

nutting day

The first day for making lace by the light of the candle by Honiton lace makers in the south west of England. September 3rd.



Just what it says. It does not fall into any special or recognised category.

old chessmen

A wooden bobbin that could be described as of “substantial” thickness with fancy turning confined to the lower half or 2/3rds of the shank. Used in the area of Olney.

Synonyms: Chessmen

old grandfather

Quite a heavy bobbin of substantial thickness, with well defined “lumpy” baluster turning. Name used in the Olney area.

old maid bobbin

A plain, slender East Midlands bobbin. No decoration. See also Old Maid.

oldest bobbin

Late 1600s or early 1700s. Found in a dig at Gloucester. Single necked, somewhat like a South Bucks Bobbin but not so curvaceous.

See Morris.

England’s oldest “Dated” bobbin, is an East Devon Gimp. See article “England’s Oldest dated bobbin”

ornamental turning

(1) A better term would be fancy turning or fancy turned. A bobbin with decorative shapes produced while being turned on a lathe in a great variety of shapes. Technically and ornamental turning is done on a complex special lathe

See also baluster.

(2) A term that implies that the article has been turned on a special lathe that allows very complex turning and decoration to be applied to the article. It is the first term that almost always applies to the topic of lace bobbins.

ornamental bobbin

A bobbin decorated in manner that makes them look “pretty”.



With few exceptions, bobbins were always used in pairs.

Synonym. A couple.


These were the patterns for the lace makers. The patterns were pricked on to the parchment. Made from parchment they were in strips about 14 inches long, but sometimes they were made with pasteboard stiffened with shellac. The parchment is said to have been made in Hampshire, St Neots, Olney and Newport Pagnell. If parchment was not available (or too expensive) they would use cardboard.

Paisley Bead

A typical “paisley” design on the bead. See beads for illustration

patron saints

A Spanish legend tells how the Virgin Mary showed St Ursula how to make lace and she in turn passed it on to 11,000 other persons, which is how lace making spread around the world. The Spanish churches show St Ursula as patron saint of the textile makers, but St Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mother) as the patron saint of lace makers. In England the patron saint of lace makers has traditionally been St Catherine.


This varied over the centuries of lace making. It is recorded that in 1699, children were paid 20 pence a week, adults 6 shillings and eight pence a week. During the Napoleonic wars for adults the rate was 25 shillings a week. During the low period of the industry in 1882 the adults were paid 1 shilling a week and a child 4 pence a week.


        1. Letters traced on the shank in tiny studs similar to pinned bobbins.

        2. The leopard’s pewter spots

Synonym: Brass pinned

penknife bobbin

As the name implies, a bobbin made by whittling with a knife. They can vary between being expertly carved and very intricate to rather crudely carved. Some carved mother and babes are among the best bobbins created.

Synonyms. chip carved bobbin, pocket knife bobbin and shut knife bobbin, clasp knife.

pepper pot bobbin

A wood or bone bobbin that has slots pierced through the shank (church window fashion) through which peppercorns can be seen.


Pewter is an alloy of tin, i.e. a mixture. The better the quality of pewter the higher the percentage of tin is in the alloy. For example, Springett tells us that the composition of some pewter was 78% tins, 2% lead and the rest antimony. Unfortunately for us this high-quality pewter had degraded so much that most of his bobbins have now lost their pewter. Those makers that used a poor-quality pewter (e.g. Bobbin Brown) have been fortunate enough to have the pewter remain intact for our pleasure. Clearly it is the tin content that causes the degradation. It is alleged that Jesse Compton’s pewter was of this “high quality” that degraded quickly. This is challenged by some knowledgeable collectors, possibly due to imperfect identification of the maker?

Some bobbins were made solely of pewter.

See pewter degradation

pewter degradation

Tin exists in three forms, depending on the temperature. At temperatures between 13 and 160 C, it is called white tin, and the atoms are packed closely together to form the metal. Hence, it is a dense metal, i.e. it is hard.

Below 13 C the atoms re-arrange to become more loosely packed. This shows first as wart like structures on the surface, and eventually leads to the tin crumbling into a powder. This is called "tin pest". The pewter has to be subjected to long periods of sub 13 deg. C, very easy in Europe hence the number of bobbins with degraded pewter that are seen.

See also pewter

pewter inlay

A generic term to describe tigers, butterflies, leopards, leptigs, compound inlays, and other pewter inlays.


A covering used on Honiton lace pillows


A variety of shapes and sizes were used. The “square” pillow was used mostly in the East Midlands. Honiton workers preferred the circular pillow.

pillow cloth

A cover of butcher blue cloth that went over a new pillow. It came covered in hessian canvas.

pillow horse

A three-legged stool that supported the pillow. The pillow also rested on the lace maker’s knee. The bowed horse was a design of horse that allowed the horse to hold the pillow and stand upright without the help of the lace makers knee. There are many designs including some that fold.

Synonyms. Maid, single horse, bowed horse. Lace Maker’s Horse.


The earliest pins comprised a small pointed piece of stiff wire originally not with an integral head. The original heads were small pieces of wire crimped to the top of the pin. Lace makers preferred to use brass pins and often decorated with beads those with special functions on the pillow.

See brass pins, decorated pins

Examples of 8 different size pins


The early brass pins made in England had a globular head of fine twisted wire made separately and secured to the shank by compression from a falling block and die. Like a hammer!) They were removeable heads and consequently, the heads often came off whne not expected. It was not until 1840 that the kind with solid heads now universally in use appeared on the market. The workers liked to use pins with red waxed or beaded heads for the Headside' (or Turnside) of the lace, and gold wax or green beaded pins for the Footside. Sometimes, however, for these purposes they used pins on which were threaded six or more tiny beads of blue and white or red and white placed alternately. In North Bucks these pins are called Limicks, in South Bucks Bugles, in Beds King Pins, and like the other coloured pins they added greatly to the beauty of the pillow. In making limicks, after the beads had been ' Also called Dykeside if the lace has dykes.

This entry collects together the main groups of pins used in lace making around 100 plus years ago. Those with the text in italics are Historical Examples, with reasonable provenance.

The names given to various pins differed from area to area as also did the approach to decorating their pins with various beads.

You will find the various pin entries in their place within the dictionary.


Bone head pin. A pin which has its head replaced with a bead. Sometimes a few beads. The “pressed” wire heads of early pins enabled this to be done quite easily.

Often inscribed with initials. Some times in particular shapes, i.e. a heart shape when the initials would be of the two lovers.

Bonnet Veil pins.

Not a strictly English example, however there is more than a good chance that they were imported and used in England.

Brass pins

See article on pins later. The pins were made of latten, a mixture of yellow metal (usually brass) and tin. They were thus made so that they did not rust. Whilst most brass pins were imported before lace making became an English industry, soon the English manufacturers produced the best pins and the continental countries preferred the English pins

Bucks Point lace making pins. Circa 1890


A term for a pin decorated with beads and used in the South Bucks area. Until 1824 pinheads were separate rings of wire fixed around the end of a pin and, as these heads could be removed, the beads would be pushed on to one pin and held in place by the head removed from another pin. There are no “usual” number of beads on a bugle. Collectors have noted from 3 to 13.

Burr Head pins.

Blackthorn and Hawthorn pins with burr seed heads.

(Reproduction but used successfully in lace making in 1995)

Corking pin or corkings

A large brass pin used to secure equipment, such as bobbin bag, pincushion, pricking, cover cloths to the pillow and so on.

Cover cloth pin. Circa 1900

Decorated pins.

Sometimes they used the pins that had been threaded with six small beads threaded alternatively either blue and white or red and white. The names for these pins are:

North Bucks; Limmicks; South Bucks, Bugles, Beds, King pins

Detachable heads. Early pins had heads that were made of small pieces of wire that were pressed on to the wire pin with a press. There were “easily” detachable. An easier explanation would be “opposite to a fixed head pin

Divider pins with Venetian glass heads. Circa 1860

Divider pin

A highly decorated, long pin, used to separate the bobbins on a pillow. They may have a wooden, bone or perhaps ivory head or just a nice bead or series of beads to make it look different and to be easily seen on the pillow.

See also stacking pin.

Edwardian Lace making pin. Last used circa 1907.

Fish bone

Fishbone pin, made from a Mackerel.

(Reproduction but used successfully in 1995)

Used by poor lace makers as a substitute for pins. Possibly lace makers in East Devon fishing villages used them too. This contributes to the origin of “bone” in the term “bone lace”. That, with the idea that bones were used as bobbins, builds a case for it. The authors opinion (but no proof) that this is quite possible.

Flanking pins

A pin with a conspicuous head placed along the foot and the head of the lace in order to keep a firm edge. The pin would almost always have been decorated by the lace maker with beads or another distinctive décor

Footpins. Ornamented pins used for the “foot” of the lace.

Georgian Lace Making pins. 1714-1820

Glass head. Pins having fixed glass heads. Hopewell reports that they were usually imported from France.

Goose grass seed heads. As described in “burr heads above. Often known as “Sweetheart” pins


See bur[r] head.

Hariffe pin.

Pins having wax or burr heads.

See bur[r] head.


A pin decorated with a bead that was used to mark the headside.

Headside and foot side pin. Glass head. Northampton shire.

The workers liked to use the decorated or distinctive pins as markers. Wright tells us that they used “pins with red waxed or [red] beaded head for the Headside or Turnside of the lace and gold waxed or green beaded pins for the footside.”


A Bedfordshire term for a decorated pin. I was decorated with beads by the lace maker and had various functions on the pillow.

See also bugle, limmick

Lanking pins. A pin that has a conspicuous head, placed along the foot and the head of the lace in order to keep a firm edge

Long Toms

General purpose pins. Mostly with detachable heads

Marker pin. A pin used to mark one’s position, particularly at the end of a lacemaking session.

Midlands Lace Pin. Circa 1870

Needle pin

A sewing needle, usually size 8 or finer, set in a handle and was used for taking needle pin sewings in Honiton lace. The taper towards the needle indicates a good functional design.


The earliest pins comprised a small pointed piece of stiff wire originally not with an integral head. The original heads were small pieces of wire crimped to the top of the pin. Lace makers preferred to use brass pins and often decorated with beads those with special functions on the pillow.

See brass pins, decorated pins

Pins used to attach pincushion to bodice of Dress.

Pre-WW2 pin.

Sealing wax headed pins. Circa late 1800s

Striver pins. Circa 1860-1880


A decorated pin, its name reflecting its function - i.e., to mark a position at which to aim in order to work quickly, such as when working a pattern repeat or a length to be made in a certain time. The “striver pin” seems to have been used only by the Olney workers who used this specially decorated pin to set themselves goals to achieve and to time themselves to see how long it would take them to reach that pin

See also bugle, decorated pins.

Venetian Pins decorated with an ornate Venetian Bead

Yellow pins. The standard brass pin used in lace making.

See long Tom.

found embedded in a roller. 1920

pin lifter

A small implement for lifting pinheads that have been pushed into a pillow.

Synonyms. lifter, push-me-pull-you. See Lifter above

pin spot inlay bobbin

Brass pins or thorns driven into the shank and cut off flush to form a pattern of a name or initials.

Synonyms. Brass pin inlay, inlaid thorns, pinned bobbin. See Brass pin inlay above

pin vice.

A pencil shaped implement, having a chuck or screw to hold the needle firmly in the end. The needle can be replaced whenever necessary. Holders may be of wood or bone.

See also pricker.

pinned bobbin

Brass pins or thorns driven into the shank and cut off flush to form a pattern of a name or initials.

Synonyms. Brass pin inlay, inlaid thorns, pinned bobbin.

pious phrases

A pious phrase inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xxi.


The domino spots on a bobbin.

plain shank bobbin

Undecorated bobbins with a plain turned shank. In some cases, a sharp pointed tool was drawn across the shank while it was revolving in the lathe which put a series of small cuts around it. Technically, though the latter is historically recorded as plain shank, it better equates with spiral or screw thread. In the authors opinion “plain” is plain, i.e. no decoration

Synonym. Plain wooden bobbin

plain glass bead

Plain glass beads have no decoration but were both translucent and coloured. They have a wide variety of shapes and sizes. See beads for illustration.

plain wooden bobbins

Plain turned shanks. In some cases, a sharp pointed tool was drawn across the shank while it was revolving in the lathe, which puts a series of, small cuts around it. Whilst the latter is recorded historically, I am not comfortable with description complying with the term “plain Bobbin”.

Synonym. plain shank

play pillow

Children in the lace schools had their own pillow as well as the one they worked at so that they could do their own work after a nine-hour day.

plume beads

Beads with a distinct feather shaped decoration around them. Sometimes look rather smoky in appearance. See beads for illustration.

plum puddings

South Bucks bobbins made of wood with dark or light spots scattered through them.

Synonym. domino (an incorrect name for them)

Pocketknife bobbin

Hand carved bobbins as opposed to turned.

Synonyms. Shut Knife, Whittled. penknife bobbin.

poker work

A bobbin decoration produced by pyrography - i.e., scorching the surface of the wood with a very hot implement. It was a popular form of producing lettering on a bobbin by burning dots into the shank.

politicians and elections

Bobbins inscribed with political names or slogans. Freeman type ix.

Robinson forever


Wooden bobbins may be polished with a mixture of beeswax and turpentine, but this should never be used on the head or neck, where it might stain the thread.

Pompadour bead

This name was given to a Venetian bead that had a flower type decoration.

See Venetian bead. See beads for illustration

pony bead

Plain glass wound beads, usually made in blue, that were originally produced for trade in Africa and North America where they were said to be used for decorating ponies. You can also find yellow and clear pony beads.

See beads for illustration

popular songs and poems

As inscribed on a bobbin. Freeman type xxiii.


A decoration that comprises a hole with a shallow inscribed ring around it. Springett ascribes this design to maker number one.

porthole church window bobbin

A church window bobbin with a series of holes, often with shallow incisions around them, drilled through the shank instead of slits. It has similarities to the porthole bobbin above.


Pretty sayings inscribed on the shanks of bobbins.


Bobbins given as a gift and so described on the inscription. Freeman type xvi


A needle, having the same diameter as the pins to be used in the pattern, held in a pin-vice or stuck in the end of a broken bobbin. The old ones were made of brass and quite ornate. Used for making a pricking.

See also chubby pricker.


A child at a lace school might be awarded a prize of a bobbin or perhaps a pair of patterns for a good year’s work.


See cryptic bobbins.


quarten bead

A wound bead, usually transparent and often coloured, longer than its width and pressed in somewhat rectangular shape with a ridge implement. Said to represent a quarter of butter. See beads for illustration.


Wooden bobbins, with a long neck on which the whole skein of gimp was wound.

A wooden Quill, this is a very large quill and not typical



Family positions e.g., daughter, father. Sometimes prefixed with dear or sweet.

Freeman Type iii

Dear Father (Blunt End Man)


There is quite a lot of evidence that bobbins were repaired. Most cricket bat splices appear to repairs, but not all. Sealing wax replaced heads, as did buttons. Wooden long necks and heads were introduced into bone bobbins.


There appears to be a tradition amongst lace makers and bobbin collectors not to accept restored antique lace bobbins yet amongst other antiques that we may own, there would be little doubt that they had been subject to some restoration. A restorer can do most things that would be required to restore a bobbin that starts in a basically reasonable condition and that has a design or a maker whose bobbin would be worthwhile restoring. I have undertaken restoration of absent or incomplete pewter, re beading a shank, cleaning and in one case repairing a bobbin that had broken into three pieces. It appears to work well; transforming the bobbin from an incomplete and perhaps not nice looking object into a pretty and useable bobbin that has the feel of the original creation. Use will eventually return the age pattening to the bobbin. Ask a restorer to use original beads etc. if at all possible, but if not good reproductions are available.

ribbon bead

A wound bead, round, having a strip of decoration around the centre. The decoration can be striped, straight or wavy.

Synonym. rope bead. See also serpents eye. See beads for illustration.


The topmost part of the bobbin head

ringed bobbin

A bobbin with narrow, incised rings that have been coloured.

A ringed East Devon (Honiton) bobbin

ring stick

Used for making buttonhole rings by needle lace makers. It has a series of stepped diameters, which are small at the tip and get progressively larger towards the handle.

A ring stick (Needle Lace Tool)

ripe beauties

Nickname for the lace makers of King’s Sutton.

Kings Sutton


(1) A cylindrical section of French and Swedish pillows to which the pricking is pinned, and the lace is wound on to it as it progresses.

(2) A cylindrical implement, like a child's rolling pin, on which lace can be wound and stored as it is made.

rope bead

A bead that has a decoration resembling a twisted rope around the bead. See beads for illustration.


Names of royal persons on inscribed bobbins



St Cuthbert. Gold "lace" of great beauty adorned the cope and maniple of St. Cuthbert who died in 685 ad. (Wright p 23)

Catherine, patron saint of lace makers.

See second exodus (St Bartholomew’s day)

St. Ethelreda's day

October 17th a special day for fairs at which cheap lace and gaudy bobbins were sold.

See fairing bobbins


Small scissors usually suspended from the pillow by a chain or a chord.

second exodus

This was as the result of the St. Bartholomew day massacre on August 24th 1572 instigated by Charles XI of France, which targeted the Huguenots in Paris and in other towns in France. Over 100,000 were murdered. Many of the survivors chose to escape to England, the lace makers amongst them settled in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. The exodus to England continued until 1598.

screw thread bobbin

A bobbin with a very tight spiral groove running up the shank. The technique for making this screw thread requires the bobbin to be twisted and fed through a hole in which a pointed nail is protruding to cause the nail to inscribe a “thread.”

secret bobbin

Outwardly looks quite plain but have a hidden secret. Pulled apart there is a tiny bobbin. Made in two sections, one fitting tightly into the other. The inside of the shank was hollow and contained a loose miniature bobbin. If made of brass, the two sections sometimes screwed together.

See also, Jack-in-the-Box, (above) Baby bobbin

sealing wax

Used to decorate headpins and strivers, and occasionally used in depressions in bobbins. Especially used in the decoration of Honiton bobbins from the Branscombe area. They called these bobbins riggled.

sealing wax ends. A pin that has a sealing wax end. Different colours were used for pins having differing functions.

sectioned bobbin

A bobbin that consist of two different woods or of wood and bone, spliced or but jointed together. Often the but jointed bobbins were hollow and concealed a bobbin of the Jack-in-the-box or mother and babe type.

See also spliced bobbin.

serpents eye bead

A ribbon bead used to weight bobbins, with the ribbon (the serpent) undulating around the widest part and a spot (an eye) in each undulation. See beads for illustration


A loop of wire that is used to join a spangle to the bobbin tail. There were four types of shackles, staple, double loop (sometimes a bent pin) drilled and hinged.

Single loop Double loop Staple Hinged


A hand carved bobbin found and written up by Carol Morris. (see bibliography) She discovered it in the Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge. It is well carved and engraved with pictures and a carved spangle. This bobbin was given by a shepherd from Dunstable Downs to his wife.

Copyright of original image. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.


Usually applied to the part of the bobbin that is used as a handle. Comprises the area below the long neck to the tail.

Synonyms. handle and stem


See guard.

short neck

A groove around the head of a bobbin with a double head in which the hitch lies.

shut knife

Hand Carved bobbins, as opposed to turned.

Synonyms. Pocket Knife, Whittled, pen knife.

There was a wide variety of knives around. This seems reasonably typical


It is unfortunate for us that only one bobbin maker signed his work. This was Archibald Abbott.

silver bobbin

A bobbin made of silver for presentation, not for use. Some silver bobbins are, in fact, made from pewter. Very few antique bobbins are made from silver.

single head/single neck

A simply shaped bulbous top to a bobbin without a groove (small neck) having no small neck there remains only the long neck, hence single neck. Found on South Bucks, Downton and Honiton bobbins.

single horse

A pillow holder that had three legs and a simple straight or curved bar to support the pillow. It stopped the pillow coming off the lace maker’s knees and took some of the weight of the pillow too.


The best pins were said to be made from the backbone of the skate fish. They are said to take on much of the appearance of ivory when they are dried and polished.


Nickname for the lace makers of Brackley.

sleepy giants

Nickname of the lace makers of Wilstead.


Two pieces of horn that go between the pill cloths on a Honiton lace pillow. They reduced the drag of the bobbin upon the stitches.


In the 1700s lace became a commodity for which there was a great demand and consequently it was carried off by highwaymen and smuggled into England from the continent. A favourite method was the death of a person at sea. They filled the coffin with contraband including lace and buried it ashore, only to be recovered after dark.

snake bead.

A handmade bead, used to weight bobbins, having a spiral decoration that starts at the hole on one side and ends at the hole on the other side. Also called the evil eye bead. See beads.

snow water.

The flasks used to magnify the light of a candle and throw the light on to the lace pillow, were filled with snow water, probably because of its purity.

See candle stool.

An experiment set up by the author and “LM”

solid centres

A type of bobbin that has a “solid” centre of another wood or material but jointed into the shank. Good close-grained wood is used for the top and tail and an attractive material inserted between them. These can be solid such as burr wood and plastics (modern) or constructed e.g. Tunbridge mosaic. Synonym. Constructed Centres.

South Bucks bobbin

Solid looking, generically pear shaped bobbins, usually with no spangles, single head. They are said to be made from leftover pieces of wood from chair making.

Synonym. bobtailed bobbin, dump, and thumper bodgers.


A circle of beads (traditionally 9 beads) attached by a shackle to the tail of an East Midlands bobbin. Used to add weight and aid tension and to prevent the bobbin turning. May use other items other than beads for the spangle. Only the English East Midland bobbins were spangled. European bobbins were not spangled. Beads are quite old and many of the designs you find on antique bobbins come from designs made for trade in the British Colonies of that time. Beware, many antique bobbins have been re-spangled in modern times. East Midland lace makers did not always use spangled bobbins. Just when this happened and why is open to discussion, however in the opinion of the author, this transition happened around say a 20-year period around 1805, commencing around the same time as the introduction of spun thread that was machine made. For a fuller discussion see article that follows on “When did East Midland Bobbins become Spangled”.

Synonym. gingle

See also bottom bead, shackle, staple, and top bead.


The process of stringing appropriate beads on a wire and attaching them to a bobbin to form a spangle.

spiral bead

A wound bead, used to weight bobbins, made by winding hot glass around a piece of wire.

See also wound bead.

spiral shank

A decoration comprising a spiral groove running down the shank either in a right or left direction, used also to describe a bead.

Synonym. Barley twist. See beads for illustration.

spiral grooves

A form of decoration. Usually filled with tinsel, wire, beads on wire or as a boundary for an inscription. There are a few types of spiral decoration. A “double” spiral is illustrated below

An empty double spiral

spiral inscription

A bobbin bearing an inscription, such as a saying, name or date, as a decoration. The letter which were formed buy a series of dots were either coloured, burnt or painted in a spiral around the shank, and read by rotating the bobbin, usually starting from the bottom.

spiral pewter bobbin

An inlaid bobbin with a spiral of pewter inlay around the shank.

spiral wire

A bobbin bound with fine brass wire. Occasionally the whole shank is covered but more often it is a small section or sections along its length. The wire is recessed slightly into the bobbin so that it is level or just below the surface and with constant use the wire becomes highly polished and takes on a pleasant golden look. Brass wire is almost always used and it is almost impossible to find one with copper wire. Bone bobbins were also decorated this manner and look much more pleasant and attractive than the wooden ones. Coloured decorations often accompany the wire binding

Synonyms. Bound Bobbins, Brass Bound, Wired

Spiral wound bobbin. The whole bobbin can be close wound too.

spliced bobbin

A bobbin made of more than one type of wood, or bone, joined together with a V or with a diagonal joint, often secured with rivets.

Synonym. sectioned bobbins.

See also Cricket bat splice

spotted dog

A Bucks name for a leopard bobbin i.e. pewter studs in the shank.

Synonym. Bucks Spotted dog.


Dots used in decorating bobbins. They are usually made with a small drill or pyrographed. They form a design or lettering. The spots may be left as is, coloured with paint or filled with pewter.

See also pin spot.

spool holder

A spike supported by a base for holding spools of thread it is being unwound.

square cut

A glass bead used in spangles to weight bobbins. It is made by pressing hot glass into a cube between files, which accounts for the pattern of the dimples visible on the sides of the bead. They are not cut but melted off the rod and shaped. Different colours were referred to by their colour and adding “cuts” as in, “red cuts”.

Synonym. cut bead. See beads for illustration.

stabbing pins. Long pins, approximately 17 cm long (6.5inches) in length, used to store continental bobbins while working.

stacking pins

Used to store (stack) continental bobbins while working. Approximately 17 cm long.

stained bobbins

A bobbin that has been coloured by being immersed in stain, dye (often fruit juices) or nitric acid (aqua fortis). The bobbin is sometimes partially turned after staining to reveal contrasting natural wood or bone.

staining mottled

Mottled staining by dye or aqua fortis (nitric acid) has a green mottled appearance. Mostly found on Devon or South Bucks bobbins.


A U-shaped piece of stiff wire driven into the tail end of a bobbin and through which the wire of the spangle passes.

See also shackle.

Steeple Claydon spangle

This is a style of large spangle containing sometimes 20 square cut (or other types) beads. Popular with the lace makers of Steeple Claydon.

Steeple Claydon spangle

Steeple Claydon Village


The shank of a bobbin.


See lace stick, Honiton bobbin.


A pointed implement for making holes in fabric and enlarging meshes of machine made net.


A small double-decked footstool stool used by some lace makers. Other rested their feet on the cross-stay of the horse.


A decorated pin, its name reflecting its function - i.e., to mark a position at which to aim in order to work quickly, such as when working a pattern repeat or a length to be made in a certain time. Often workers would compete against each other as to who would reach their striver first. Today, the name can be used to include any decorated pin.

See also bugle, decorated pins.

striver bar

See thread clamp


(As used in bobbin descriptions). This generally refers to a style of bobbin that a particular bobbin maker might make. These styles can be the means of identifying the maker. The styles a maker uses are mostly indicated by the head or tail used, though this is not the only identifying feature that can be recognised. For example, the direction of a spiral, the style of the lettering on a bobbin, the style of pewter inlay, wooden bitting are just as useful in identifying a maker of a bobbin. The greater the combination of styles that a maker used the more certain the identification of the maker.

South Bucks bobbins

A single necked bobbin shaped somewhat like an Indian club or a fat baseball bat. Made and used in Chiltern area of Buckinghamshire. Often decorated with pewter rings, domino spots and loose jingles. About 80 to 90 mm long. Not to be confused with thumpers which were much bigger though retaining the characteristics of the South Bucks bobbin.

A “set” of South Bucks Bobbins

square cuts

A popular bead that is melted and shaped square by pressing with a file, thus the typical indentations on them. The colours were white, blue, red and green and were known as “white cuts”, “red cuts” etc. See beads for illustration

Suffolk bobbins. Sometimes known as Eye bobbins

Geof Caulton wrote a most interesting article in Lace (26/16) on the finds of bobbins in the ceiling space of old cottages. He reports some 50 finds of this nature. These finds back up the existence of a Suffolk Lace industry in the 17 century. There is little doubt that the bobbins are Flemish in origin.

Nicky Howener-Townsend has written the following book: Suffolk Lace and the Lacemakers of Eye. This book is well researched and adds a great deal to our knowledge of Lace in England

Bobbins found in the ceiling of a house in Eye.


The name of a person committing suicide as inscribed on bobbins. I have not seen one but it is recorded in the literature as follows:

SUICIDE. Joseph West. Cranfield

Freeman type xii.

sweetheart bead

A heart-shaped glass bead seen in many colours, often with characteristic file indentations upon it.

Synonym. Valentine bead. See beads for illustration.


Burr head pins.

See burr heads

swirled bead decoration

A swirl pattern in a bead that does not lend itself to the description such as a serpent.

See beads for illustration.



The lower-end portion of a bobbin often divided from the shank by a groove. Often drilled for the spangle wire. A key feature used in the identification process of bobbin makers.

See also bobbin (lace).


There were two meanings for these bobbins.

  1. Wooden bobbins with a broad pewter band (approximately 2.5 cm) let into the shank upon which was often a name or other engraving. They were given this name because they were used to carry the thread for working the tallies, or plaits, on point ground.

Synonym. Tally,

  1. Larger bobbins, approximately 135 to 145mm in length, and thicker in proportion. These bobbins were generally plain but sometimes included a small amount of decoration in the form of ornamental turning. The wool was supposed to come from the Yak but this is questionable. Synonym: Yak

Tallies probably derive their name from the French taille.

tambour hook

A fine pointed type of crochet hook inserted into a handle, probably better identified as a “wig” hook. May be fixed directly into the wood or into a brass feral with a fixing screw. Original purpose was for bead embroidery or decorative chain stitch embroidery. Appears to also have been called a wig hook. Used by lace makers for making sewing's with extra fine thread. As the name suggests they were originally used in wig making with human hair.


St Andrews Day November 30th. The beginning of the time when the lace makers were required to work by candlelight. It finished at Candlemas.


See lace tell.


Refers to the manner in which a maker went about creating a particular style, shape or feature. It would involve the tools used and how they were manipulated, as well as the stages that lead to the completed feature or features.

thatcher’s' wives

Nickname for the lace makers of Haddenham.

Haddenham Baptist Chapel

third exodus

On October 22nd, 1685, the Edict of Nantes, which had given the Huguenots their freedom was revoked by Louis XIV. Many of the thousands that fled to England were lace makers and the settled in the established lace making areas of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northants.

See also first exodus and second exodus.

thistle head

A characteristic shape of a head that resembles a thistle. Also used to denote a double head of a bobbin.


Used to decorate a bobbin by driving thorns into the shank and cutting them off smooth with the shank. The design may be a pattern or letters.

See thorn spot.


Cotton used for lace making. 14 slip was the thinnest and 3 slip the coarsest. Maltese lace used 3 or 4 slip or 6 or 8 for the finer laces, whilst Torchon used Irish Linen, 28, 35, 60, 80, 100, 120. Wright says that the Bedfordshire makers “are also partial to D.M.C. No 20" (p232). Other scales give the higher number as the finest and 300 was the finest. Natural silk lace was called “blond” lace. They used almost every type of thread in the times when lace was popular e.g. linen, cotton, wool, silk, gold, silver thread. England made the best pure linen thread and cotton about £200 per pound. Gold thread was imported from Cyprus at first, and then Venice. By the mid 1500’s the English had mastered the manufacturing techniques by importing the method from Germany.

thread clamp

Wooden bar with two holes, which is placed over the bobbin threads and pinned down to secure them in position during transportation. They varied in length and width.

Synonym. striver bar.

three in one bobbins

Bobbin that contains a babe, which also has a babe inside it.

See also, Grandmother Bobbins

thumper bobbin

Usually single necked and bulbous bobbins, without spangles though they may have had them added later. Much larger than a south Bucks bobbin. Mainly found in the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire.

See also, Huguenot, South Bucks bobbin and Nottingham in the bibliography.


The number of levels a bobbin is divided into to make the individual windows.

tiger bobbins

Pewter inlaid bobbin with narrow bands of inlay around the shank that represents the stripes of a tiger.

See also, compound inlay, leptig. Bedfordshire Tigers,


A tin containing a flint and a material that would combust from a spark off the flint. This would allow the candles to be lit. The combustible material was often a scorched rag and a sliver of wood that had been dipped in sulphur. It was this lighted stick that was taken to the candle or the candle to the tinder.


Silver, gold or coloured metallic paper such as used for wrapping chocolates was cut into thin strips and inserted into grooves cut in the shank of a bobbin as decoration.

See also, Fairing bobbins.


A bobbin decorated with tinsel.

See fairing bobbins,

tinsel inlay

See fairing bobbins.

tinsel spirals

See fairing bobbins

tinsel and wire

See fairing bobbins


An old name for a memorial bobbin or a motto that was considered rather “grim”.

tomato sandwich

A turned decoration which comprises a turned flat, a bead and then anther flat, i.e. a piece of bread a whole tomato and then another piece of bread. Sometimes applied to a sandwich that has two pieces of bread each side of the tomato.


The tools a bobbin maker may have used would differ only a little from the basic woodturning tools of today. The old-time bobbin maker would not have the quality steel that the we have today, but he would know the value of sharp tools and would have to sharpen them does the traditional turner.

See lathe.

top bead

Small beads adjacent to the shackle or bobbin tail.

Synonym. closing bead.

trade beads

Made and used for trading in foreign countries where they were used as currency. Frequently the South African set is identified, but west African also.

Trade Bead Card (there were many different cards)

trade bobbins

Dealers and shopkeepers often commissioned inscribed bobbins for them to give away as advertisements or incentives to lace makers. William Lester is the most well-known for this. They were sometimes inscribed as a gift from, or just the dealer’s name.

trade cards

Traders often used the trade bobbins as trade cards. Like our business card of today.


Huntingdonshire lace makers called their trollies by this name


treadle lathe

A lathe used by historic bobbin turners. It is best described as a lathe that uses a treadle system to produce the turning motion. The mechanism is very similar to that used by a treadle sewing machine.

treasure trove

An old name for a brass bound bobbin. Some are said to have been “sprayed with pewter”. I have never seen any of these.

Some examples of brass bound bobbins

Troll(e)y bobbin

(1) A Devon name for Honiton lace bobbins used to make continuous thread lace.

(2) A bobbin slightly thicker than the rest used for the gimp. It is stout; usually single necked, sometimes with spangles. Fitted with loose pewter or wooden rings called gingles, mostly in wood but sometimes in bone with bone gingles. There can be any number of rings from one to nine on a bobbin but five or seven were the usual number.

(3) The name is probably derived from the thicker Flemish lace called trolle kant.

See Bedfordshire Trailer.


Names of persons transported and the country to which they went were sometimes inscribed on bobbins. Freeman type xi.


A shaped piece of cardboard used in association with a lace card.

Tunbridge mosaic

A type of mosaic inlay manufactured mainly in Tunbridge. Only rarely used as a decoration in historic bobbins.


Another name for a bobbin winder.

Synonym. Bobbin winder.

turned shank

Shank embellished with ridges, rounds and hollows, and a great variety of fancy turnings.

twisted chamber bobbin

Church window type bobbin with the slots twisted around the shank. They can be used to contain a baby bobbin, glass beads, lead shot or pepper-corns etc.

See also lantern bobbin, pepper pot.

twisted shank bobbin

Bobbin with a spiral groove carved in the shank. May be single or multiple spirals.

two headed bobbins

Bobbin with two heads connected by a long neck, underneath each other. Possibly made for metal lace.

two start double fairing

A fairing bobbin with a left-hand and right-hand spiral intersecting regularly along the shank.

See Fairing bobbin.



Just what it says; a bobbin that does not fit into the usual categories.


Valentine bead

A flat, heart shaped bead often with indented surface with the hole passing down from the top pf the heart to the point.

Synonyms. sweetheart bead. See beads for illustration

Valentine inscriptions

Lovers Valentine inscriptions on bobbins. Said to have been influenced by the cult of the Valentine around 1860-1880. This is useful dating data.

village feaststes

Pronounced village feast-eeze by the older folks. These were fairs some of which were; Northampton mop (Saturday following October 11th.), Bedford Fair (October 11th.), Cherry Fair at Olney (June 29th.), North Crawley feast. (October 11th or the first Monday after that day), Cranfield feast (First Monday in July). Bobbins were sold at these feasts, often the gaudy fairing bobbin at a cost of a penny to fip-pence.

Venetian bead

A highly decorated bead having raised lines and spots of several colours. Synonym. pompadour bead. See beads for illustration

Venetian Pins decorated with an ornate Venetian Bead


As inscribed on a bobbin. Usually in sets i.e. one line per bobbin.



(1) An area of lace making in Buckinghamshire which was the location of Saunders Bros. who manufactured bobbins there in the late 19th and early 20th century. They made both wood and bone bobbins.

  1. A name for their distinctive bobbin.

  2. According to Elsie Turnham 1886-1952 all the lace-makers in Waddesdon preferred wooden bobbins to bone, there are no bone bobbins in Waddesdon as wooden bobbins can be worked more quickly allowing lace makers to make a better living. Quoted in Springett.

wagon whips

A scornful term for long dangling bobbins. They do not keep their tension when left like this.

waisted bobbin.

Bobbins with a shank that tapered towards the centre and then widened to its original width. It only occupies the top third of the shank. A form of decoration that reflects the waist of a lady. Sometimes it is "belted" by two grooves.

wearisome musicians

Nickname for the lace makers of Lavendon. One supposes that there were some dull musical groups in Lavendon at that time!


A hand carved bobbin as opposed to a turned bobbin.

Synonyms. Shut Knife, Penknife


Their nock name was “the Sleeping Giants”

wig hook

see Tambour hook


See bobbin winder.


See bound bobbins, brass bound, spiral wire

wire beaded bobbin

Decorated with small coloured beads threaded on wires coiled around the shank arranged to form a pattern, or set into spiral or other grooves in the shank.

Synonym. beaded bobbin.

wire binding

A form of decoration

See bound bobbin.

wire bound bobbin

See bound bobbin.

wired loose ring

Loose rings run upon a central spindle that is decorated with a spiral of wire and tinsel looking like a miniature barber’s pole. These are skilfully turned.


A strong cloth pinned over the front of the pillow and under the bobbins. It protected the pillow and the parchment.


Most bobbins were made from wood. Fruit woods such as apple, pear, plum, cherry was widely used probably because of availability but also because they have close grain and some have good colour. Box wood was also used. Many other local available woods are used; some were suspected as being off cuts from furniture makers.

wooden beads

Beads made from wood. They can be plain, smooth or decorated. These were often made for rosaries and incorporated into a spangle. See beads for illustration



yak bobbin

A large bobbin for making yak lace. They were not at all attractive and the early ones were quite huge, 175mm long and quite fat.


A one-yard long rod marked as a ruler. Used by the dealer to measure the lace.

Synonym. Yard-stick.

Yardley Gobion

Their Nickname was “Gokes”.

yellow pins. The standard brass pin used in lace making.

See long Tom.



Brian Lemin July 2016.


There is a very long tradition of lace making in Honiton (pronounced Huniton in the local accent) and the area of East Devon surrounding it.  Evidence from various sources indicates that lace was made in England from around 1560 and there is no reason to think that the lace industry of England at that time did not included lace made in Honiton and the surrounding East Devon villages. The first written record of the industry in Devon, appears on a tombstone in the Honiton churchyard.  It records that a certain James Rodge, was a “bone lace seller”.  The date of his death is recorded as July 17th 1617.

We do not know just what types of lace were made in East Devon in the early years of the development of the lace industry in the area but recent scholarship is leaning more towards the origin of the lace in this area being Venice and thus the type of lace making in the area would naturally be free lace. This puts the Honiton style of lace in that same school as Brussels, Milan and of course Venice.

The East Devon lacemaking area is the source of seven identifiable varieties of lace:

  1. Branscombe point,

  2. Exeter lace,

  3. Trolly,

  4. Honiton lace,

  5. Devonia,

  6. Colyton Chromatic and

  7. Kerswell lace. 

The term Honiton lace has become a generic term for these laces, but it is a far from accurate name for such a variety of laces. 

The bobbins used in this area differ from the majority of East Midland bobbins by having a single head and not being fancy turned (i.e. the shank of the body is always smooth other than for non-turning applied decorations.) This reflects the need of those who make these “free lace” styles being able to “sew” with their bobbins without them catching on the already made lace.

Basically, there are only four types of bobbins used in East Devon and they appear in the picture below. The reminder of the bobbins are identified and classified by the types of illustration used for decoration. The decoration is usually chip carved and or incised and filed with coloured sealing wax. Some appear to be painted.

Yallop (see bibliography below) has documented the types of decorations he has seen as drawings. These are reproduced at the end of this Dictionary with the kind permission of the Exeter University Press, from their book: The History of Honiton Lace Industry. H.J. Yallop. University of Exeter Press,1992.

These the four main of East Devon lace bobbins. From top to bottom: Branscombe riggled; decorated bobbin (this one happens to be decorated with bricks and diamonds); a trolly bobbin for the gimp thread, they are bigger and thicker and often richly decorated; a simple bobbin or stick, which is the most frequently found.


There are many extant examples of newspaper advertisements for thread, equipment and other supplies. I have chosen to reproduce the following advertisement because of its special history.

One of the boosts to the industry was the commission of Her Majesty Queen Victoria for the making of her wedding dress. It would appear that this commission was given in 1838, before her official engagement to Prince Albert. This leaves little doubt that the commission was given with a view to give Royal patronage to an ailing industry. Though the dress is officially labelled as being made from Honiton lace, this commission was in fact executed in Beer and involved some 150 lace makers and by all accounts it was a very beautiful dress. A further boost to the industry was the great exhibition of 1851 at which medals were awarded to some East Devon lace dealers as evidenced by the subsequent advertisements by some local shops.


A variety of anchor types are depicted. Mostly historians of that era can make a good guess at identifying them. Some are depicted artistically. The anchor has a number of folk meanings, however after reading a lot about them I doubt if the engravings of these symbols depict them, rather they reflect the maritime nature of the coastal lace making villages, the engraver of the bobbin (a seaman?) or a good sales pitch for a bobbin engraver.

Aqua Fortis

The most common bobbin decoration is that of staining the bobbin with aqua fortis (nitric acid). These are usually randomly applied to the bobbin, but occasionally it appears to have been applied with a stylus of some sort in order to effect a design on the bobbin. Aqua-fortis was known colloquially as “Agnes Forty” and the resulting stains from this acid were a mottled brown blotch. It has been reported that the stain has a green colour when freshly done, though with my experiments I have could hardly call the resulting stain as green. What can be found on a very few bobbins is a decided green stain. This is assumed to be as the result of the application of copper sulphate to the bobbin, possibly not as a deliberate application but as the result of some impurity on the aqua fortis.

The green tinge can be seen in the top bobbin

A pile of bobbins that clearly appear to have been treated (badly?) with aqua fortis


Much the same as the East midland bobbins. Small, shallow, pencil-lead-wide grooves are turned into the shank then coloured.

Beer (Village of)

It is exceedingly difficult to identify a bobbin from a particular lace making village. It has been reported that some collectors have this skill (Whiting). Whilst the names of some villages and towns do appear occasionally on a bobbin, this is no proof that they were made in the said town.  Similarly, there is a genre of bobbin that is called the Branscombe Riggled bobbin, Branscombe being the name of a lace making coastal village. This name could have come about by the lace makers in this area preferring this style of decoration or possibly that this style of decoration was indeed undertaken in Branscombe. See Later

The design on this bobbin is very complex and artistic. As well as the basic triangles, it has scrolls, lettering, anchor, leaves, a date, and of course the name of the seaside town of BEER, which is in red lettering just above the date. (Start looking above the “8 and 5”)


These can be found in many varieties.  Some knowledgeable ornithologists like to make guesses as to what bird it might represent, but for the most part the decorator just carved a nondescript bird.  Most are quite primitive in their representation but some are depicted in quite good detail.

A variety of designs which includes a bird and a fish, also initials. This bird is clearly a local “Chough”.

Black and Red. (Painted bobbins)

Of particular interest and example of good craftsmanship are black bobbins that appear to be painted with red paint. The lettering and designs are exceptionally good on the examples that I have seen. I am unaware as to the blackness of the bobbins whether they be made of ebony (doubtful), darkened by nitric acid (quite possible) or painted black.  I am beginning to suspect that the latter is the case as I have an example of bobbins with black necks and heads.  The other painted bobbins that I have seen have what I would describe as fern leaves painted on them.


Despite the historical name for the lace in this area (and indeed the whole of England too) being bone lace there is not a preponderance of bone bobbins.  I have examples of them but I am unsure as to their age.  It is suspected that the bone bobbins would have been too heavy for the styles of lace made in this area.  Certainly, none of the bone bobbins that I have seen are turned in any manner like the fancy turned bone bobbins of the East Midland, which are common.

Here is a Bone bobbin. They are not plentiful, but can be discovered

Branscombe Riggled

A bobbin from the Branscombe area of East Devon. Favoured very much by makers in that area.

A Branscombe riggled bobbin. It has turned circumferential rings filled with red or black sealing wax to keep it smooth.

Showing the variation in colours, and groupings.


These are another common form of decoration.  The bricks can be found combined into a typical brick wall, like a chequered black and white finish flag.  Single bricks and piles of brick in various configurations and colours.

A very nice all brick design

button top

The top of a large bobbin that is inscribed. The bobbin is probably for winding lace tape around the neck

E G 1818

Cat (and other living creatures)

A delightful childlike representation of a cat


It is not totally sure how dates were used on these bobbins. It is possible that they are more reliable on East Devon bobbins as some dates would appear to relate to person whose initials who also might appear on these bobbins. Not enough research has been done on this yet, but Janet Ritter has published an interesting genealogy she discovered on a bobbin in the Exeter museum.


Design Details.

See Yallop drawings in Appendix below. He gives line drawings of all the designs that he has collected. Here are some samples I have extracted from my collection

Fancy Turned

The illustration below is the nearest I can get to a fancy turned East Devon bobbin. It barely meets that description.

Tapered, banded and a half bead. Not much turning decoration, but more than most East Devon Bobbins.


These appear frequently on the nautical decorated bobbins. They come in all shapes and sizes mostly outlined in carved lines. You can find a lobster and even a whale, and various unidentified fish


Flowers, branches, bushes etc. can be found on many bobbins. This one has some nice leaf configuration, pretty sunflower, bell flower etc.

A Most attractive bobbin

Green Sealing wax.

It is not used often but the collector can find examples.

Hearts and or Love.

A perpetual story of the young lace makers and reflected in the decoration of either hearts (sometimes what I call “hairy hearts”!) or in the complex spiral inscriptions that can be found

My Heart”


You have seen this illustration before, but it is such a good example of what I call “medallion” designed decoration. Very complex, almost always with a motto and sometimes a place name. Mostly nautical in purpose.


Part of the nautical themes found frequently. Sailors loved them and their girlfriends were enchanted with them. They could also represent some other mythical creature

Miscellaneous designs

The most amazing found is a Washing Bat.

Here is a bird and tree on a “white” wood.

This seems to have an ebonized neck


A number of different names can be found, but I do note that the quality of the lettering on the East Devon bobbins is generally better than those on the East Midland bobbins.


This is the oldest that I have found as East Devon bobbins go. However, I have a private theory that the trolly bobbins were shared between areas that used the “sewing” types of lace and there are some very old dated trolly bobbins from those areas.



One of the three virtues


We have no idea who carved these, children, the lace makers themselves? They are very different from the high level of decoration on the vast majority of bobbins. This gives rise to a common theory, but not yet proven, that East Devon bobbins were decorated in various workshops around the area in which skilled artists were employed.


There are many spiral inscribed bobbins with religious inscriptions on them. Yallop tends to favour the Freeman index of Inscriptions, though he seems not to have collected them in such a manner. I need to say that his book is about the lace industry, not bobbins.

Prepare to Meet thy God


They appear on many bobbins, but I have chosen this delightful bobbin to illustrate a different take on “shells”


These are my particular passion (see article below) so I have decided to share one of my study pieces as an illustration. Ships are not plentifully found, but there are enough around to make a small but interesting collection.

Spiral Inscribed

They are very common. This illustration shows particularly good lettering.

Steam Engine

A totally unique design. The only one that seems to show a piece of agricultural equipment, though what it is has beat most of the people I have consulted with. I am guessing either a water pump or a stationary steam engine that powered harvesting equipment?

Straight Line

This could be from the same decorator as most straight-line decoration is similar to this illustration.


A stereotyped illustration of the sun appears from time to time

Thread holder

This is quite a large bobbin, say 130mm.

The Toast

Another unique illustration of social history. It looks like a wedding toast.

Trolly Bobbins

This is another type of lace bobbin used in the East Devon laces. The trolly differs from the standard bobbin by being fatter, frequently shorter and less pointed. A collector could be deceived into thinking that there are more than just the standard and trolly bobbins as there are in existence standard bobbin that do indeed clearly manifest a different shape from the normally cylindrical and pointed bobbin. Those bobbins that are shaped somewhat differently still fall into the standard bobbin class. The trolly has a specific use in these laces, that of carrying the gimp thread (thicker larger thread used for outlining the design) and as such it is marginally longer but distinctly thicker.

Two trollies, one has a sealing wax head either as a repair (most likely) or for easier identification.


Another virtue bobbin.

The Virtue Set.

They are Faith, Hope and Charity, each depicted by a virtuous lady. The collage below has one of each but I am unable to show you the lettering telling you which is which.

I encourage interested viewers to read the articles that follow, dealing with East Devon Bobbins and Ships.


Drawings from the following book. Reproduced with permission (see above) The History of Honiton Lace Industry. H.J. Yallop. University of Exeter Press,1992.















This bibliography has been collected with a view to aid the study of bobbins in the published literature. The spangles, beads and lacemaking equipment are secondary to the bobbin literature but have been annotated as they are an interesting adjunct to the bobbin and someone might be interested in the books and articles that I have found.

It has been collected with the help of a number of friends who have good access to the appropriate literature and who have a similar interest in bobbins. My grateful thanks to them for putting me on the trail of a number of publications.

Strictly speaking a bibliography is a complete list of all publications dealing with a topic but this list is but a beginning. I am hoping that some readers will be interested enough to inform me of any other sources of which I am unaware, and will be able to fill in the blanks that occur in this list of references. I will happily take on the responsibility to keep the list up to date and offer it for publication in the Lace journals as it progresses.

Of the many "hundreds" (?) of lacemaking books there are very few that cover the subject of lace bobbins in any meaningful way. A couple of pages is the most, a couple of paragraphs is par for the course, and for the most part the sparse comments add nothing to the available information on bobbins contained in the main books, booklets pamphlets and articles that are reviewed below.

I do suspect that there may be gems of information about bobbins in some of the older lacemaking books. I recall one such instance when I visited an antiquarian bookseller and was scanning a very expensive book on lacemaking. They had gone to a great deal of trouble, going down to their stacks to obtain it for me, and I did indeed find a few paragraphs on bobbins. I desperately tried to remember the information that I read and the title of the book etc., so that I could write it all down when I got to the car. (I was too embarrassed to write it all down in front of the shop owner!) I apologized for not being able to afford the book and forthwith the owner engaged me in deep conversation for some while, which resulted in me leaving the shop having forgotten the book title and author and only a sketch of the contents! I do remember references to waisted bobbins and to "Tin" decoration. (Almost certainly tinsel) Any ideas as to what book it might have been?




A Series of 9 Articles. References that are known by me are listed below.) It seems a reasonable supposition that articles number 1-4 were published in 1976.)

Bellerby, Denys. 1976 Lace Making Bobbins. Lace. (The Magazine and Newsletter of the Lace Guild. [UK])

Bellerby, Denys.  Lace Bobbins.  Antique Dealer and Collectors Guide. April 1968. pp 61,63,70.

Bullock, Alice-May. Lace and Lace Making. B. T. Baysford Ltd. London. 1981.

Caulton. Geoff. Suffolk Lace. Lace Number 26 April 1982. p 26/16

Cotteral. Marta. M. (1996) The Laces of Ipswich, Massachusetts. The Bulletin of the ILOI 17:4. Summer 1996-97. (:14-16)

Cowper and Newton Museum. Olney. Bucks. A Catalogue of Pillow Lace Bobbins. (UNPUBLISHED).

Dalton.  Miss C.L.F.  More about Lacemaking.  Romance of the Lace Bobbins.  Northampton County Magazine. (? edition) p 101-104.Durbridge,

Durbridge Nicola Lace Bobbins,- A Material World.

for The Cowper and Newton Museum OLNEY

Freeman, Charles. Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Borough of Luton Museum an Art Gallery. 1958 Reprinted 1980.

Glyn Miss E.F. Downton Lace Industry. Wiltshire. Salisbury and Wiltshire Museum. Pamphlet (now out of print) First published 1977. Reprint 1961.

Groves Sylvia. The History of Needlework Tools and Accessories. Country Life Books. Hamlyn Publishing Group. Feltam 1966. Reprinted 1961.

Hall, Oliver H.  Lace Bobbins and some Ancient History. The Girls Realm July 1915

Hartley. Susan and Parry. Pompi, (1991). Downton Lace: a history of lace making in Salisbury and the surrounding area. Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. The Kings House. 65 The Close Salisbury Wiltshire SP1 2 EN.

Head. Mrs.  A Note on Lace Bobbins. The Connoisseur Magazine for Collectors. c 1909 p 154-156

Hopewell, Jeffrey. Pillow Lace and Bobbins. Shire Publications. Princes Risborough. 1975. Reprinted 1994.

Huetson, T. L. Lace and Lace Bobbins. A history and Collectors Guide. David and Charles. Newton Abbot. 1973.

Huetson. T. L.  The Curious World of Antiques.  Originally published in the Antique Dealers and Collectors Guide. Oct 1944.  Present publication not known.

Johnson Mary. Catalogue of Antique Lace Bobbins. Cobwebs 80 Attimore Rd. Welwyn Garden City. Herts. AL8 6LP

Lace bobbins A material word. © Nicola Durbridge 2012

Lace maker's bobbins. Nicolette Makovicky,Wolfson College

Lace Making at the Cowper and Newton Museum

Lace: facilitating knowledge exchange Faye Belsey. Assistant Curator

Levey Santana. 1983. Lace a History. Victoria and Albert Museum. London.

Luton Museum Service. The Little Bobbin Book. Luton Museum and Art Gallery. Wardown Park Luton LU2 7HA.

Makovicky Nicolette Lace maker's bobbins,Wolfson College:

Morris Carole. A Shepherds Gift. Lace Number 58 Spring 1990.

Morris. Carole (?) To those who Wait!!! Lace number 49. January 1988.

Morris. Carole England’s Oldest Bobbin? Lace. Number 49 January 1988

New Edition 1999.  It is a much better production.  The contents are somewhat improved too.

Nottingham. Pamela. Keeping the Record Straight. Lace Number 77 January 1995 p31/77.

Number 1. "Lace Making Bobbins" Jan/Feb 1976.A very brief overview.

Number 2. "Lace Making Bobbins" April/May 1976 A description of the various types of bobbins.

Number 3 "Lace Making Bobbins" (undated) but probably July/August 1976. Inscriptions

Number 4 "Lace Making Bobbins" Love and Romance. (Undated) but probably Oct/Nov. 1976. Love and romantic inscriptions.

Number 5 "Lace Making Bobbins" "Murder most Foul". 5 January 1977 Issue number 5. Hanging inscriptions.

Number 6 "Secret Messages" Issue number 6. 6 April 1977. Cryptic inscriptions.

Number 7 [un-numbered]"Bobbin Care". August 1977. Advice on care of the bobbins.

Number 8. [un-numbered]"Pierced and Hollow bobbins" October 1977 Church Window, baby bobbins etc.

Number 9 "Lace bobbins" Issue number 10. April 1978. Honiton bobbins including some very nice line drawings of decorations.

Palliser Mrs Bury. 1901. History of Lace. Re print 1984. Cover Publications NY.

Pel Henk. A Matter of Evolution or here comes the Canadians. Canadian Lace Maker Gazette. Vol. 11 No. 2.

Pinto E. Treen and Other Bygones. Bell

Shepherd Rosemary. Batavia 1629. Source unknown. Possibly OIDFA

Shepherd Rosemary. The Batavia Lace. OIDFA. 1994/1

Springett C and D.  English Lace Bobbins (source not known) p 4-9.

Springett D. Mother and Babe Bobbins. Lace #50 p31

Springett, Christine and David. Success to the Lace Pillow. Privately Published. C & D Springett. Rugby. 1981.

Stillwell Alexandra Illustrated Dictionary of Lacemaking. (Cassell) Cassell Publishers Limited London 1996.

Sykes, Marjory, Lace Makers Bobbins.  The Antique Collector August 1988. p70-73.

Taunton, Nerylla. Antique Needlework Tools and Embroideries. Antique Collectors Club. Woodbridge. 1997.

Tyrrell, Ros.  Not England's Oldest bobbin but perhaps the oldest "Thomas". Lace #50 p 23.

Watts Yvonne. Lace in the making ’82. Lace. number 26 1982 p 26/3,4,

Whiting, Gertrude. Old-Time Tools and Toys of Needlework. Dover Publications Inc. New York. Reprint 1971. Originally published in 1928 under the title, Tools and Toys of Stitchery.

Wright, Thomas The Romance of the Lace Pillow. H.H.Armsrtong. Olney 1919. Reprinted Ruth Bean Carlton 1982.

Yallop H.J. 1992. The History of the Honiton Lace Industry. University of Exeter Press.



Boulter Bruce. Bobbins Beads and Spangles. Practical Woodworking April 1981.

Harris Elizabeth. A Bead Primer. The Bead Museum Prescot USA 1987.

Springett Christine and David. Spangles and Superstitions. C & D Springett Rugby 1987.



Barnes Richard. Lace makers Lamp. The Woodturner Vol 3. August 1984 p43-45.

Boulter Bruce. Bobbins Beads and Spangles. Practical Woodworking April 1981.

Correspondence. Bone Lace Bobbins (Mr. Gorton) Making Lace Bobbins from Bone (Ann Moyles) Bone Bobbins (Alec Baxter) Lace Vol 20 p 18.

Darlow Mike. Turning Thin Spindles. Lace maker’s bobbins demand speed and precision. Fine Woodwork (? issue not known.)

Editorial. Bonny Bobbins. Woodturning No. 35 September 1995. p 30, 31.

Fisher John. Baby Bobbins. Woodturner Vol 30 March 1995. p 50, 51.

Grantham Len. Reflections of an Amateur Wood Turner. Lace Bobbins. Vol 3 The Woodturner August 1984. p 41,42.

Hammond Charles. Correspondence. The Woodturner. Vol. 4. May 1985. p4

Hudson. Jack, Lace Makers Bobbin Winder. The Woodturner. Vol 2. Issue 5 December 1998. p60-64

Martin Ron. Lace Bobbin Winder. The Woodturner. Vol.5 1986. p 12,13)

Lewis Alan. Letters. Still Bobbin Along. Woodturner. Vol 39 February 1996. p 5.

Martin Ron. Correspondence. The Woodturner Vol 4 May 1985. p4

Martin Ron. Lace Bobbin Winder. The Woodturner. Vol.5 1986. p 12,13

Pollington Brian. Letters from readers. The Woodturner Vol.5 June 1986 p 5

Seiser Michael. Mini marvels. Woodturning Vol 30. March 1995. p 48, 49.

Springett, David. Turning Lace Bobbins. Privately Published. C & D Springett. Rugby. 1995

Springett, David. Best Bobbin Blueprint. Woodturning. No. 43, June 1996.

Wilkie, Ian. Turning by the Book. Putting Words into Practice. Good Wood Working. No 52. June 1977.

Williams. Judy. Bonny Bobbins Woodturning # 70 p 19-23 (Dec 1998)

Wallwin Jamie. Making Lace Bobbins. Woodturning # 62. P44-45.

Wood Vic. View from Down Under. John Atkinson/ Bobbin Making Expert. Woodturner Vol 30 March 1995. p 75-77.

Unknown Author. Detailed instructions on how to make a Lace bobbin. The pages are in a landscape orientation and are number 1-17. It looks to me like a self-published booklet.


Notes on pins.

Stacker: These are all brass.  The two pairs with bobbins on the head are used when you have bobbins held to a strip of wood by an elastic strap.  These strips have a hole on each end, and by running the long pins through several strips, you can stack four or five at a time.  I think these are a relatively modern way of stacking.

The other stacker pins are the "old fashioned" kind, and believe me it takes a bit of practice to use them!  Two pins are put vertically in the pillow.  Two more pins are used to "scoop" bobbins up and stacked against the first two pins.  I've seen it done, but never mastered the technique!  It was done using continental bobbins (no spangle) but I suspect that using Midlands would be much easier, and in fact one would only need to use one pin to scoop!

The plain pins are 7" (17.78 cm) long and the ones with bobbin heads are 8" (20.32 cm) long. See pic below...

The Freeman Index.

Freeman’s Classification of Bobbins

Freeman, Charles. Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Borough of Luton Museum an Art Gallery. 1958 Reprinted 1980.

Not in production, still available on the web from time to time. If it is then it is a very worthwhile book to have. In fact, this was the first book I bought and could be said it was this book that started my quest.



1 ' Dumps' or ' Bobtailed'. Wood only, small, usually single-

necked, plain, without spangles.

2 ' Cow-in-Calf' or 'Jack-in-the-Box '(plate 9 ; 13, 14). Made in sections with a hollow space inside concealing a miniature bobbin either loose or attached to the foot. Some with single necks.

3 'Trolly ' or ' Bedfordshire Trailers' (plate 9; 18, and 10; 12). Stout, sometimes single necked, sometimes with spangles, fitted with loose pewter or wooden rings called 'gingles', mostly in wood but sometimes in bone with bone gingles.

4 ' quills'. Wood, with long neck on which the whole skein of gimp is wound. Used to refill trolly bobbins, not on the


5 Yak (plate 9; 12). Large heavy wooden bobbins used in

making worsted lace.

6 Gold Thread (plate 9; 19). Large wooden bobbins, single-neck section forming a reel to hold the metal thread used in making gold thread lace.

7 Plain Shank (plate9; I). Plain turned shanks. Exceptionally thin ones were called 'Old Maid' bobbins. These occur also in metal

8 Turned Shank (plates9; 2,3, and10; I). In a great variety of baluster, ball-and-reel, bobbin and other turnings. These occur also in metal.

11 Coloured. Dyed green, red, purple or other colours.

12 Mottled (plate 9; II). Mottled staining by dye or aqua fortis.

13' Bedfordshire Tigers'(plates 9 ~ 6, and 10; IO). Plain shaft inlaid with lead or pewter bands

14 ' Bedfordshire Leopards' (plates 9; 8, and 10; 9). A similar type with pewter spots.

15 ' Butterflies' (plates 9; 7, and 10; 8). A similar type with

splayed or winged pewter bands.

16 Pewter Inlay. Similar but with other decoration in pewter


17 'Tallies'(plate 9: 9). Similar but with broad pewter or tin band around the shank. Used for working the plaits or leadworks on point ground net.

18 ' Bitted' (plate 9; 4). Wood, rarely bone, inlaid with wood of contrasting colour in various designs, or occasionally

with bone.

19 Spliced (plate 9; 5). Two colour woods, or wood and bone, sometimes metal, spliced and riveted. Some were repairs to broken bobbins.

20 Sectioned. Made in sections in contrasting woods or wood

and bone.

21 Wired (plates 9; 17, and 10; 3, 4). Shank covered completely or intermittently with tightly wound brass or copper wire.

22 Wire-beaded (plate 10; 6, 7). Decorated with small coloured beads threaded on wires coiled around the shank and arranged to form a pattern, or set into spiral or other grooves in the shank.

23 Tinsel (plate 10; 5). Decorated with tinsel set in spiral or

interlacing grooves.

24 'Mother-in-Babe' (later ' Church Window') (plates 9; 15,16, 10; 13, 14, 15, and 11; 1, 2, 5). Shank hollowed and cut into open-work compartments in one or more sections, sometimes spirally, the spaces often containing miniature bobbins, coils of wire, lead shot, wooden balls or glass beads. The collection includes an iron example.

25 ' Bird-cage ' (plate 10; 16). Similarly cut, but with more compartments each containing a miniature bobbin or beads kept in position by wire coiled around the shank to form the bars of the ' cage '. A variation appears in metal (plate11; 3), where wire uprights threaded with metal or glass beads unite the two halves of the shank to form an open bird-cage for the miniature bobbin.

26 Adapted types. Bobbins from other English or foreign lacemaking districts were sometimes provided with spangles and used by East Midlands workers.

27 Native types. Missionaries and others sometimes taught East Midlands lace-making to native workers in the colonies and other parts of the world, the bobbins being copied by the natives, often with characteristic variations. plate 11 ;16 illustrates an Indian example in ivory, in which a carved open-work bird and flower ornament takes the place of the spangle and the shank is engraved with a design of grotesque animals.


(a) General Inscriptions

Inscribed bobbins were usually of bone, a few of wood, exceptionally of metal. They are mostly of class 7 in design, though occasionally of classes 9, 10, 11, 19 and 21. The inscription is almost invariably carried out in coloured drilled dots, though some incised and a very few painted examples exist. In the case of wooden bobbins, it is also found punched in dots on applied or inlaid pewter bands (plate 9; IO), or picked out with inlaid or metal studs. Many, especially those with names, are dated.


initials or pairs of initials = ss. cS CB 1828. cY 1861 Lu.

ii Christian name(s), sometimes prefixed ' Dear' or 'Sweet' =JAMES (plate 10 ; II). WILLIAM (plate 9; 9). MERCY LOVE


iii Relationships, sometimes pre-fixed 'Dear ' = DEAR FATHER.MY DEAR SISTER 1870. MY SON HABRAM PRENTIS. DEAR



v Names and places = These and class iv sometimes occur insets, each bobbin bearing the name of a member of A family. WILLIAM PETETT AMPTILL. JOHN MALLET MY DEARRIDGMOUNT. HENRYASH LITTLEHORWOOD 1840. REBECCABATES DRATON 1843. A set of four: WILLIAM, JOSHUA, ELIZABETH and MARY WAITE, YARDLEY HASTINGS.

vi Names and occupations Rare. A wooden Mother-in-Babe bobbin in the Museum collection inscribed:

WILLIAM CLARK SHEPORD GOOD GAL MAKE CAST AND WORK (William Clark, Shepherd, good girl, make haste and work) is probably unique. THOMAS BARKER BRAFIELDGREEN SWEEP (Wright).

vii Famous people = JOHN BUNYAN. LORD NELSON. WAKES OAK; made from the oak in Whittlebury Forest traditionally connected with Hereward the Wake (Wright).



ix Politicians and Elections VOTE FOR OSBORNE; probably John Osborn, MP for Beds. 1806-7, 1818-20 (Wright).GUNNING AND REFORM; a Northants. MB (Wright). CRAWLEY FOR EVER; probably S. Crawley, Beds. 1832(Wright).

x Murderers JOSEPH CASTLE HUNG 1860· (plate 10; 17); Castle murdered his wife at Luton and was tracked down with the help of a bloodhound kept at Luton police station. On the night of his execution at Bedford Goal, the friends of his wife held a party at which every guest was given an inscribed bobbin as a memento. WILLIAM WORSLEY HUNG 1868; Worsley murdered William Bradbury at Luton; his was the last public hanging at Bedford Gaol. WILLIAM BULL HANGED 1871; Bull murdered an old woman named Sarah Marshall and was executed at Bedford. FRANZ MULLER HUNG 1864; Muller was the first person to commit murder in a railway train.



xii Suicide = JOSEPH WEST; West hanged himself during a

night in the lock-up at Cranfield (Wright).

xiii Memorials SARAH HOBBS DIED FEB 10 1836 AGED 18YEARS plate 10; 18). JOHN WESTON MY HUSBAN AGED 28.



xv Historical events WATERLOO 1815(Wright). ALMA 1854


XVI' Presentations: A GIFT FROM LESTER (a reward for good lace given by Thomas Lester, the Bedford lace dealer).






ME. I'HOU SHALT NOT STEEL. JESUS WEEPT. TIME IS SHORT. Wright records a set of 12 each inscribed with a clause from the Lord's Prayer.


xxii Apophthegms = TIME FLIES 1714. BETTER TO DO WELL LATE



xxiv Verses: These usually occur in sets, one line to each bobbin. TAKE ME FOR BE'IT/ER OR FOR WORSE/YOU PRAISE ME


xxv Alphabets AsCDEFcHrJKLMNoPQRsTwwxYZ.

xxvi Cryptograms = + UR + UB AN ++ UR TO ME (Cross you are, cross you be, and too cross you are to me).

YM RDAB r LEOV OW SAS SRIDB OLVE SHEREIE (My dear I love you as the birds love cherries) Bedford Modern School Museum).


(b) Aspects of love and Courtship









IGH HER NO (Bedford Modern School Museum).

xxxiii Protest = LET GO. LOVE ME OR LEVE ME ALONE.


DARLING (Wright).












xliii. Reconciliation: LOVE DONT BE CROSS.




Xlvii Sailors return: JACK ALIVE


Xlix Husband and wife: EDWARD AND MATHER WALTON.

This appendix lists the articles that I have written and are hosted by the Arizona University “Webdocs”.

I need to say that in some way they are picture of the development and knowledge of lace bobbins over some 20 or more years. Some I even resuced from old back up disks and as as result of poor computer knowledge I have lost some or all of the illustrations. Sure, some of my earlier articles stated a few things that I would now disagree with, at least to some degree, but they still appear to make enough valid points for me to include them in this data base.

Many of the articles deal with problems and conundrums that come with collecting lace bobbins, and I have tried hard to deal with them the best I can; others deal in depth with aspects of lace bobbins that have been dealt with in the Dictionary in a brief manner, suitable for such a document.

Dispite the fact that over the years I have increased my knowledge of bobbins and bobbin history, I think the totality of this collection of articles makes a reasonable contribution to the study of lace bobbins.

They are linked to the Webdocs web page and may be downloaded from that link.

Lemin, Brian. A Bibliography of Books and Articles that Deal Substantially with the Topic of Lace Making Bobbins, 11 pages. Posted June 5, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 116 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Bobbin Love Story, 8 pages. Posted May 18, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 1.3MB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Calendar (sic) of Lace makers Celebrations, 13 pages. Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 52 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Classification of Antique East Midland Lace Bobbins for Collectors., 25 pages. Posted October 19, 2016. FIRST PAGE. File size 385KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Historical Analysis of Church Window Bobbins, 7 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 160KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Note on the Use of the Word 'Baluster' as a Generic Word for the Description of Ornamental or Fancy Turned Bobbins, 6 pages. Posted June 19, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 24 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. A Quick Analysis of Decorations upon 'Pale' Wood Bobbins, 2 pages. Posted April 27, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 124KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. An Analysis of Maritime Decorations and Possible Decorators of Ships Depicted on East Devon Bobbins , 23 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 1.2MB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Antique English, Hand Carved and or Decorated, Lace Bobbins 11 pages. Posted July 13, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 1.04MB PDF

Lemin, Brian. AUCTION HARVESTING: Two unique bobbins found., 4 pages. Posted October 19, 2016. FIRST PAGE. File size 385KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Baubles Beads and Spangles on Lace Bobbins, 1 page. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 576KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Bobbins of St Scania by Axel Horlen, 8 pages. Note: transliteration of original work by Axel Horlen. Posted December 29, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 128KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Cow and Calf or Jack in the Box, 6 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 224KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Cryptic Bobbins or Puzzle Bobbins, 11 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 224KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. East Devon Bobbins, 9 pages. Posted June 6, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 92 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. East Midland Spangled Bobbins, 15 pages. Note: Illustrations lacking. Posted June 19, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 64 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. East Midland Spangled Bobbins some Speculations, 10 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 192KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. England's Oldest Lace Bobbin. Do We Really Know ?, 8 pages. Posted February 17, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 896KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. English Lace Bobbins and Their History: A Brief Overview, 11 pages. Posted June 5, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 144 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. First Words, 5 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 96KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Gertrude Whiting Talks About Lace Bobbins. An Essay, 3 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 320KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Ghosts and Smugglers of East Devon v2, 3 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 352KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Historical Methods of Attaching a Spangle to a Bobbin, 5 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 672KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. In Praise of Antique Lace Bobbin Makers, 8 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 320KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Kitty Fisher. Rhyme, Beads and Lace, 8 pages. Posted December 22, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 256KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Lace Bobbin CV, 4 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 224KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Lace Bobbin Fashions, 6 pages. Posted December 28, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 864KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Lace Bobbin Repairs, 4 pages. Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 20 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Lace Bobbin Repairs, 2 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 32KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Lace makers Lamps, 12 pages. Note: (updated Jan 2011). Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 416 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Naive Decorations on East Devon Bobbins, 8 pages. Posted May 24, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 1.2 MB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Names and Descriptions of Shapes/Designs Found Lace Bobbins, 6 pages. Posted January 27, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 256KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Pewter and Lace Bobbins, 8 pages. Note: Illustrations lacking. Posted June 19, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 24 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Pins and Lacemaking, 9 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 128KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. South Bucks Bobbins; Some Difficulties in Identification and Naming, 10 pages. Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 36 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Terms Used to Describe Lace Bobbins, 4 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 224KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Batavia, re-visited, 5 pages. Posted May 3, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 107KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Country Bobbin - Elizabeth Jones, a Unique Lace Bobbin 4 pages. Posted June 27, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 224KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Degradation of Pewter in Antique Lace Bobbins, 4 pages. Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 24 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Gertrude Whiting Spangle Illustration, 10 pages. Posted May 21, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 1.2 MB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Ghosts and Smugglers of East Devon. An Essay, 3 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 352KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Jewess Maiden, 8 pages. Posted December 22, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 192KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Lace Bobbins of East Devon, 22 pages. Posted April 27, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 63KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Shepherd's Bobbin from the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge - a second look, 8 pages. Posted February 8, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 256KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. The Unique Names of Lace Bobbins used in the Olney Museum, 3 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 352KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. Two Unusual East Devon Lace Bobbins, 7 pages. Posted February 12, 2011. FIRST PAGE. File size 448KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. What is it Made of?, 12 pages. Posted June 10, 2003. FIRST PAGE. File size 36 KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. When did East Midland Bobbins Become Spangled, 4 pages. Posted December 20, 2010. FIRST PAGE. File size 160KB PDF

Lemin, Brian. and Smith, D.A Most Unusual Lace Bobbin from a Surprising Source, 18 pages. Posted May 3, 2014. FIRST PAGE. File size 1,000KB PDF