Tapering Around

Lynn Schoeffler © 2012

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Sorting out my bits and pieces of all kinds of lace, I recalled that at some point in my CQ career, I had been motivated to purchase a couple of yards of daintily scalloped Princess lace tape. As I put piles of lace into order, I realized that I indeed had several examples of vintage "tape lace". While I never intended to actually make lace, inspiration has dawned from these lovely old fragments from a different time.

From Lynn's Collection

Tape Lace, be it Princess, Battenberg , Renaissance, or any of a hundred other names, can be traced as far back in history as the seventeenth century. According to lace expert Elizabeth Kurella, "tape lace is a generic, descriptive term for laces made by securing a straight, pre-made tape to a design on a pattern, and then securing with decorative needlework." *

Tape laces can even include the homey versions made from Rick Rack. It's fascinating to look at old pieces of tape lace and realize how many types of tape were actually manufactured.

From Lynn's Collection

Although I only had scalloped Princess lace tape, I knew that insertion lace, or lace with two straight sides, is also used for tape. I managed to find two narrow types in my stash, one of which I cut down slightly. I had three little 'baskets' from a motif exchange, which looked just like the ones at online Lace Magazine.** I took a very tattered old tape lace hanky and cut the leaf shapes out of it; I also had a yard of this bristly looking little lozenge shaped tape, which I found is actually used for Cluny Lace.

Each individual lace element is Couched to the fabric using cotton sewing thread; new lace tape is 100% cotton. This scalloped lace tape has a thread at the bottom that can be pulled to gather the tape; use tweezers if necessary. For this flower, I pulled the thread from both ends--it's easy to pull the thread completely out from one end! It's also a good idea to treat cut ends with a fray check product.

When assembling the pieces, think about the order in which you will sew them to the fabric. I wanted the little round circles on the basket shape to extend over the bottom of the scalloped lace tape, which was a little messy when drawn. I Couched the bottom of the basket shape to the fabric, and then tucked the gathered lace tape under the circles, stitching the circles to the fabric. The side edges of the scalloped tape are turned under and stitched down. Use the point of your needle to edge stray threads under.

As I started the main stem, the tape seemed too bulky to lay in a smooth curve, so I cut both outside edges off; it's old machine lace, so it didn't ravel. As I worked, I realized I liked a twisted look as is done with silk ribbon, so I ended up with that--probably didn't need to cut the lace, after all!

This pattern is adapted from one in the Waverly Honor Workbook of Embroidery Designs.+

For the pattern on the blue background pictured below, I just pinned the thin insertion tape to the fabric in a gentle curve for the stem, and then stitched a bar across each tiny oval, moving the tape with the point of the needle to keep the curve smooth. The inside curve was stitched with even smaller stitches to keep the tape from ruffling. Close examination of old tape lace shows that much of it had a raised thread on one or both borders for more emphasis. A Running Stitch or Back Stitch on the outside curve of any insertion lace could be added to stems for texture.

These flowers are assembled from small pieces of the Princess scalloped tape; be sure to fray- check the cut ends! The pieces were really too short to use the "pull" thread to curve the tape; I found it easier to take a tiny Running Stitch at the base of the heavier ground on each piece.

Each flower is composed of two rows of gathered tape, one on top of the other. Sew several stitches over the bottom ends of the top layer of petals, nudging them into a cone shape with the point of your needle. When you stitch the stems, add a few longer stitches to cover the base of the flower. The stems to each flower are embroidered Stem Stitch, using a Yli 20M Silk Perle. Not cotton, but it was the weight and color that I needed. Add Colonial Knots on stems for the flower pistils.

The leaves are tiny pieces cut from the same tape as the stem. You can see the same technique used in this picture of vintage tape lace.

From Lynn's Collection

To get the pointed ends on the leaves, I made one tiny stitch at the bottom end of the piece to hold it to the fabric, and then used the point of the needle to tuck one top edge under, forming a point at the end of the leaf; repeat at the opposite end of the leaf. Do a few more tiny stitches over the ends to catch loose threads. This works much like needle turn appliqué, and I admit the points are finicky--but I do like the dainty results!

My little butterfly is made of just a few scraps. Please take a look at all the photos of wonderful lace butterflies from LaceFairy.com. Thanks for permission to share the photos from the Lace Fairy herself, Lori Howe.

Finally, I could not help but wonder how the cotton Princess lace tape would dye; here are a few of the pulled thread flowers that I tried. Although I love the elegance of the white-on-white pieces, these little flowers will certainly find a home on future crazy quilted pieces.

Dyed Flowers

References & Sources:

* Guide to Lace and Linens by Elizabeth M. Kurella; published by Antique Trader Books, Dubuque, Iowa

**Please take time to view all the Princess Lace photos and information; lots of inspiration here!

+Waverly Honor Workbook review: http://www.cqmagonline.com/vol07iss03/articles/829/index.shtml

Sources for tape lace supplies:



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