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Trail or curved headside

Trail headside
Trail headsides in English Midland lace (pattern 81) and Bucks Point.

Trails are common in English Midland lace, as a headside, or inside the lace. A headside is a non-straight edge of lace and this technique allows the edge of the lace to curve outwards. The technique is also used to make a picots and passives headside in Bucks Point curve rather than being straight.

A trail is a wavy ribbon of cloth stitch. It looks like a constant width on the pattern, but the number of passives is likely to vary. The extra passives are squashed together, so they are not too noticeable, unless you look closely!

This subject overlaps with tape lace, which is treated in a different place. I am defining a trail as existing within a strip of lace, without making a sewing (using a crochet hook). Tape lace has a pattern relying almost entirely on tapes and sewings.


Trails in Bucks Point

Here, pairs leave or join the trail one at a time.

Trail headside pattern
Pattern representation of a Trail headside

Traditionally, the ground of lace is not marked on patterns. I find this rather confusing, so in my patterns, I mark where all the threads go, outside the cloth stitch solid area.

The following diagram shows 2 pairs of passives in the thinnest part of the trail, and quite a long bending area. It is possible to have more passives, and a different bending area. In Bucks Point, there may well be more than one pair entering or leaving the trail, as a plait or tally. I hope you can see how to adapt the following explanation for those.

The diagram avoids the complexities of the individual stitches by showing each pair of threads as a single line. Where one line crosses another, you should work it in cloth stitch (inside the trail).

The number below shows the number of pairs actually part of the trail at each row. This number varies according to whether the trail is bending inwards or outwards.

Trail headside

Repeat Step Back

Working: A number of passives will always remain within the trail. This diagram shows two passive pairs always in the trail. It is possible to only have one passive pair, but it risks the trail looking weak at this point. There may be more than a minimum of two. You also need a worker pair, which may stay the same throughout the trail. You work it back and forth across the passives. Move the passives so they stay within the shape of the trail. As the trail bends outwards from the lace, you discard pairs into the lace, as the pattern requires. (English Midland lace may require two pairs to leave at a pin, as mentioned above). When the trail is at its further point outwards, the widest part of the lace, it will have the minimum number of passives. Work the rest of the lace inside the curve of the trail. Carry on working the trail, now picking up pairs from the lace at pins, as the pattern requires. At the minimum width of the lace, the trail will now have its maximum number of pairs. This will tend to make the trail look wider, but the pins will tend to squash the passives together more, keeping the trail looking roughly the same width.

I have mentioned above that a trail may keep the same pair of workers throughout. A Bucks Point picots and passives headside have the worker pair leaving and re-entering the lace, and as the width of the trail fluctuates, the worker pair may leave for several rows, and one of the passive pairs become a new worker pair. It gets complicated...

When making a piece of bobbin lace, you tend to have the same number of bobbins working at any point. A line drawn across the lace will cross all of the threads. But lace is not constant width, so how do we make the same number of bobbins cover more or less space? Torchon lace does it by spreading the bobbins out over a wider area for the bulges, so a fan is more spread out than a triangle. That means if you have a photo of some lace, and you want to calculate the number of bobbins, in Torchon lace, it is easier to look at the narrowest part of the lace, and count there, because that is where the threads correspond closest to the grid. But in English Midland lace, the different widths are accommodated by squashing the pairs closer together at the narrowest part of a trail. So it is easier to count pairs at the widest part, because that is where the pairs are most visible. Click here for more about the number of bobbins in a pattern.


Trails in English Midland

In English Midland lace, trails are not usually headsides, and there may be several trails within the lace. These trails may be connected to each other, or to a bud, or to the footside, in various ways. They may be connected by a tally or plait (leg, bride or braid). This transfers two pairs from one trail to the other. Both the start of the tally or plait, and the end, happen at a single pin. Alternatively, they may be connected using a cucumber or kiss, where, the two worker pairs make the join, then return to their own trail, so the two trails maintain their original width.

Trail inside lace
Trail inside lace

While the trail is within the lace, it may have a headside attached to it, as above (a nine pin headside. The trail has created the 'bulge', taking in the passives at the narrower part (squashing them together in the process) and releasing them back into the lace at the wider part. The headside is attached to the other side of the trail, with pairs from it joining and leaving the trail. But this headside does not alter the width of the lace - only the trail does that. You might like to think of the trail as part of the headside, perhaps!

Trail inside lace
Trails inside lace

In this example, there are many trails throughout the lace, with pairs joining and leaving them all the time. It shows that a trail is a useful place to 'hide' pairs, and this type of lace (English Midland lace) is more tolerant of mistakes where pairs are in the wrong place. You can tuck an excess pair away in a trail, or take a pair out of a trail if you are missing one!

Joining trails

Here are some examples of how to join trails. Green is a tally, red is a cucumber, pink is a plait and blue is a kiss.

The following is an odd use of a trail in a headside, with pairs leaving one bend of the headside and rejoining it at the next bend.

Trail headside
Trail headside. See pattern 180.