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Pattern 498 - Maltese lace

Picture of lace

Pattern of lace

Bobbins: 20 pairs

Style: Maltese

   cloth stitch and twist
   twist single pair

   various joins

Description: Click on the links above to see how to do the different parts of the lace. One difficulty in this pattern is the "joins". If two pairs cross, then it's a cross stitch and twist. But there are various joins with various numbers of pairs (sometimes doubled up as plaits or tallies) coming into the join, and of course the same number leaving. I have given a link above to the Spider index, since that covers various types of joins. I think I used a spider somewhere in this pattern. (I didn't use a pea!) Generally speaking, I tried to figure out which pair needed to go where, and do the stitches to get it there. I put in the pin where it would stop a pair drifting away from the join. Sometimes this meant taking the pin out and putting it between two other pairs instead!

This is the first time I've tried a Maltese pattern. I think that the direction of the pairs is all important, so I've marked arrows to show this. One arrow means a single pair. Two arrows means two pairs, either a plait or a tally. I haven't marked the tallies as different from the plaits in the pattern - I hope they're obvious! The colours in the top half of the pattern show where the pairs are going. The bottom half of the pattern is all the same colour, in case you can't see all the colours in the top half.

When looking at the original, I saw there was a serious problem. 6 or 4 petals flowers in Maltese lace are easy - 3 (or 2) tallies come in from the top, and cross over to go onto the bottom. But with 8 petals, there are two petals which are horizontal. One must come in from one edge, and then cross over the others to carry on to the other edge. But that means that one side is short of two pairs, and the other side has two pairs too many! And the lace has a very symmetrical feel. My solution is to start two pairs as shown, work the tallies with them, and then tie them off at the other side of the lace, at *. It doesn't matter which way you go. You can see from the knots I did both ways!

Tallies, oh dear, oh dear! Go on, have a good laugh! I do NOT like tallies. However, this pattern gave me some practice. I did this in thread far too thin for the size of the pattern, and that meant that the tallies had an enormous numberr of rows, which didn't help. Also, my tallies in the past have tended to be thin. If you look carefully at the top, you can see the thin tallies, and how I gradually managed to make them thicker (which is what Maltese petals should be), but that the bottom petal of the lower flower has gone back to being thin again. I did figure out a couple of principles. Keep the working thread (just a single thread for tallies, remember!) very slack inded. I was working on a flat pillow, so when I laid it down (to tighten the edhe threads) I made sure that the thread was not only not pulled tight (do NOT pull the worker thread!) it was so slack that there was almost a loop in it. This seemed to help. Occasionally I had to carefully pull the worker thread a little to stop a loop in the tally (and sometimes I obviously failed to). I found that allowing the weight of the bobbin to straighten the worker thread was enough to produce a thin petal. The other problem is pulling the edge threads apart to shape the petal. This slides the worker thread rows upwards, but it also pulls the work pair outwards to make the wide petal (or it's supposed to). It can be a problem pulling the edge pairs wide enough apart if you've worked lace too far down on either side. The pins get in the way! So you say - well, don't then! It's not that easy. Once you've worked a tally, you need to put a pin at the bottom, to stop the tally starting to unravel. The bottom pin gets in the way of the next tally, which starts above it. That may be one reason why the bottom tally is so thin - I was working in quite a narrow gap between pins. I did find it helpful to push the cental pins of the flower in quite far - enough to catch the threads it should catch, but far enough in that the next tally could be worked above it. Perhaps I should have done that to other pins as well!

Picture of lace
Close up of the lace, so you can see the working in more detail.

I've called this Maltese lace. The person who asked my advice about it thought that it was Portugese. Here is the original pillow. The pattern looked to me like Maltese lace (see my lace collection, and a Maltese lace pillow looks the same. However it may be Portugese. Different countries often picked up styles from each other.

I've copied the pattern from this, but looking at the original, I think that the lacemaker has taken part of the pattern, and perhaps not very wisely. The original starts with a curve. You can see that starting it with square corner means they curl over (which often happens with lace). Also there is a single pair at the edge, and I think that isn't strong enough. I would have made that two pairs, and plaited them. The original had a zigzag edge, which would have been plaited, and quite strong.

Picture of lace