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Introduction to English Midland and plaited lace

Click here for free English Midland and plaited lace patterns.

Click here for more on bobbin lace made in England.

Plaited lace is the term that I use for Guipure lace. It connects the motifs with bars or plaits rather than ground. A very early lace pattern book called Le Pompe was published in Italy in 1562. It had patterns based on simple plaits.

English Midland lace came from the Midland counties in England. The lacemaking area was centred round Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire, and spread out as far as Cambridgeshire (where I live). They made different styles of lace depending on fashion, including Bucks point. However, once lacemaking machines started producing cheap lace, the lacemakers settled on a lace style with plaits and tallies, possible to make with thicker thread and so quicker. I suspect that style was also harder for the machines to copy. Maltese lace is a similar type of lace. This was exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851 which made it fashionable, so this lace is sometimes called English Maltese. Cluny lace, originating in France, is similar, so that name appears as well.

Nowadays, lacemakers call this lace Bedfordshire lace (or Beds lace, or Bedford lace). It was made in other counties than Bedfordshire, and patterns may use various techniques, so I have decided to call it English Midlands lace. (Bucks Point is a completely different style of lace, but that does not matter, as Buckinghamshire is not in the Midlands!).

This style does not have a grid, as it does not have a ground or net. Instead the shapes are held together with plaits, decorated with picots. The tallies in these patterns make leaves, or the petals of flowers. Thin strips of cloth stitch called trails are used to pick up unwanted pairs from the pattern and release them back again when required.

Here are the designs used in plaited (or guipure) lace:

Plaited headsides

English Midland:

pic of lace Nine pin       pic of lace Crown


pic of lace Simple plaited


pic of lace Simple plaited       pic of lace Sri Lankan headside

Plaited footside

pic of lace Twisted footside

Plaited features


pic of lace Plait       pic of lace Picot       pic of lace Knotted picot       pic of lace Tallies and cucumbers      

English Midland:

pic of lace Trail       pic of lace Raised tally       pic of laceKiss       pic of laceTwist single pair

Plaited joins

pic of lace Lazy Join - 4 pairs (or windmill)       pic of lace Join - 2 pair + 1 pair       pic of lace Lazy Join - 6 pairs       pic of lace Join - variable pairs      

Plaited shape

pic of lace Bud or Bedford spider

Here are some examples of traditional English Midland lace.

Picture of lace

Picture of lace

Picture of lace

Picture of lace