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How to do a gimp

Repeat Step

Description: This is not possible to describe using the cross/twist system, since three bobbins are involved, two with normal threads, and one with a thicker, gimp thread. Twist thin pair, pass the thick thread over one thin thread and under the other, twist thin pair again.

Working: This is the one time in lace that threads do not go under-and-over in a regular way. This is because the gimp is a single thread, which messes things up. It passes under one thin thread and over another - it doesn't really matter which way round. The thin pair are twisted both before and after this, to keep the gimp in position.

Gimps are used in Bucks Point, plus other lace traditions. The Dutch for gimp is Sierdraad, and the Catalan (from Spain) is Torcal.

There is no pin involved with a gimp (except to start a new gimp thread) and it is not on the regular grid of the pattern. Instead, it travels before two lines of normal stitches (usually ground stitches). These hold it in position.

The function of a gimp is to outline a pattern. The thread is much thicker than the rest of the threads. It can be a different colour, to make the outline stand out.


This gimp is underneath the honeycomb, to separate it from the Bucks Point ground. See pattern 13.


Here are two gimps surrounding the honeycomb, above and below. They cross over each other regularly. This is a twist single pair, although these gimps are not treated as a pair in any other way. See pattern 29. for another example.


See pattern 12. Here the two gimps make a pattern in the Bucks Point ground, but they keep finishing and starting again. You start two gimps by winding them as a pair, then hanging them from a pin. See below for how to finish a gimp.

Starting a gimp

If two gimps are started together (which they often are), then they can be wound and hung as a pair, even though they then separate.

If there is only one gimp, you will need to attach it to the starting pin somehow. I suggest a slip knot, to make it easier to pull out afterwards.

start gimp

Two gimps crossing

If one gimp has to cross another, then just lift it over the other. It doesn't matter which goes over which.

gimps crossing

Doubling gimps

Sometimes a pattern has two gimps side by side, squeezed together, making double gimps. When a normal pair of threads need to cross these double gimps, lift one bobbin over both gimps, then lift both gimps over the other thread, then twist the pair to push the gimps together.

gimps doubled

Sometimes the gimps are coming from different directions, and you can't do the whole of this at once. In this case, lift one bobbin over the first gimp, and the gimp over the other bobbin, but don't twist the pair of bobbins yet. Then when the other gimp arrives at this point, do the same, making sure that the same bobbin goes over both gimps, and the gimps both go over the other bobbin. Then twist the pair of bobbins to squeeze the gimps together.

Gimp as stem

A gimp can make a stem or branch by catching a single stitch at the end, then doubling back on itself. Click here for how to do tthis.

gimp stem

Finishing a gimp

Gimps are sometimes used to outline a single pattern, which means they need to be finished off within the lace (and then started again, a few rows further down). There will be two gimps. Work the main pattern down to where the gimps will go, including twisting all pairs. Then work one gimp across all pairs (one thread of each pair over and one thread under), but do not twist the pairs after. Now work the other gimp across the pairs, going, of course, in the opposite direction, and in the same way, but do not twist the pairs beforehand. This means that the two gimp threads sit next to each other, without any twists between them. (The unders-and-overs must be the same for both gimps, or they will not sit next to each other). Now twist all pairs, after both gimps. Lift the gimps out of the way for now, and do a row or two more of lace, which will push the two gimps so close together that they will look like a single gimp thread. Now tug the gimps gently so they are taut, and cut the gimps close to the lace. (If you wish, you can wait until the lace is removed from the pillow to trim the ends close.)

How to finish a gimp

Repeat Step Again

You can see in the above example, that one of the gimps seems to be worked upwards. This is strange! Lace tends to be worked downwards, or to the left or right. However, this is only for a few stitches, and it works OK, as long as you have worked the necessary lace stitches before the gimp stitches.

If you finish a pair of gimps inside the lace, then you probably need to start a new pair of gimps further down. Push in a pin somewhere along the top of the gimps' path, and hang the pair of gimps from them. After this, they will, of course, go their separate ways, until they need to cross, or finish!

Sometimes two gimps do not just cross, but run together for a bit before separating again. Hopefully the pattern will point out where this happens, or perhaps you can figure it out from the photo of the lace. Where they run together, treat them the same as when they get finished off - work one gimp across the pairs, but don't twist the pairs yet. Then work the other gimp across (probably in the other direction, but not always). Then twist all pairs to push the two gimps together.

If you have a single gimp, then of course you cannot hang it from a pin. I suggest that you tie it to the pin instead, with a slip knot. Then, when you take all the pins out, slide the knot off the pin, and 'slip' the slip knot to remove it, then trim the gimp thread close to the rest of the lace. If you need to finish a single gimp, by itself, then work it to where it finishes, and once you have done a few more rows of lace, then you can just cut the gimp off, and trim it later. It won't be as neat a finish as two gimps ending together (as above), or as strong, but it seems safe enough - I've never had a gimp get pulled out by mistake.

When trimming gimp threads, be careful not to cut other threads by mistake!

Using a pair of threads as a gimp (false gimps)

In some of my patterns, I have used a pair of threads which act as a gimp. These follow the line in the pattern that a gimp would take, but instead of the single gimp thread passing between other pairs crossing it, this 'false gimp' pair is worked with the crossing pair in cloth stitch and twist. (I think I used cloth stitch once, but it's better with the twists.) So in one way, this 'false gimp' pair is not a gimp at all, as it uses normal lace stitches rather than special gimp stitches (as shown on this page), and there are two bobbins involved rather than one. However, it behaves like a gimp in other ways. None of its stitches use pins (except possibly to start it off). It follows its own line in the pattern, off-grid. It may start and end within the pattern, and possibly do this several times. And the end effect is of a thicker line than usual, often used to outline parts of the pattern.

What is the point of doing this? A real gimp thread is quite thick, and this shows up as bumpiness on the lace. You may want this effect, but if you don't, a 'false gimp' pair gives the thick line without the bumpiness. Also, since you are using ordinary thread, you may have a wider choice of colour than you have in thicker threads. I'm always on the look-out for decent gimp threads, but I have a limited range of colours. The 'false gimps' can even use the same colours as some of the rest of the pattern, which can be effective.

False gimps

I first discovered this 'false gimp' idea in pattern 232 where I was trying to reproduce some effects of an old Maltese lace mat (see above). Here the gimp line is on-grid, and I have used cloth stitch rather than cloth stich and twist, but I found the idea interesting, and I've developed the idea in other patterns. Feel free to use real gimps rather than 'false gimps' if you prefer, or of course, you could experiment with using 'false gimps' rather than real gimps.