Finishing Techniques: Blocking Lace

Blocking a piece of lace really changes the way it looks. This is my recent lace project, unfinished.


Wash the lace in hot water. I wash my lace by hand, with a little liquid dish soap in running water for 2-3 minutes, then rinse in hot water. I wrap the wet lace in a clean dry towel and firmly squeeze the excess water from the lace. I never twist wet lace.


Next I lay a clean pillowcase over my ironing board to protect the lace and keep it clean while it is drying. I pin the edges, gently stretching the lace as I go, until the entire thing is molded to the shape I want and stretched out to snowflake precision.

When the lace is dry, remove the pins. Voila! The lace will hold its shape without pins once it is dry.

Birds in Flight first lace

Chicago Temple: Story of Dedication and Sacrifice


Altar Lace: A gift to the Lord

I came across this story in my search for historical accounts of other LDS lace makers. The story of this 78 year old sister was just beautiful:

“The dedication was a day of fulfillment for many of the temple district’s 160,000 members in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. In addition to contributing toward building of the temple, many had labored to help furnish it or make it ready for the dedication.

A couple from the Wilmette Illinois Stake, for example, helped unload and place furniture in the temple, then clean it prior to the open house, which began July 15. “It was such a privilege to be asked to help,” the wife recalled. “We wept as we vacuumed and dusted.”

Women from throughout the temple district who are skilled in crocheting and tatting made altar cloths for the ordinance and sealing rooms. One 78-year-old sister from Indiana wrote that though the infirmities of age might make it difficult for her to go to the temple, she was thrilled to be able to participate in this way. An 82-year-old sister from the Dayton Ohio East Stake sent with her finished altar cloth a note offering to make a second one if it were needed; she wept when she received a telephone call accepting her offer.

A group of girls in the St. Paul Third Ward, St. Paul Minnesota Stake, made a dozen dolls for the nursery in the temple, each named for the girl who made it, with the names embroidered on the back. The dolls were presented as the girls toured the temple during the open house. Afterward, their leaders wrote to temple matron Betty Cahoon: “It was an exceptionally good experience for the girls to do something that would be meaningful for the young people. It will be a wonderful memory for them.”

The temple not only touched Latter-day Saints, but also many non-LDS visitors. Some 100,065 visited the temple before the open house ended August 3. They expressed sentiments such as “an obvious place of devotion,” “I felt the hand of God,” “everyone should feel closer to God in this special place.”

Read the entire article in the October 1985 Ensign.

Repair Project: Beautiful 100 Year Old Antique Irish Lace


This lace belongs to a friend of mine who has had it for many years.  It’s hand made Irish crochet lace.  A few of the floral motifs have been torn out here and there, and the picot netting is torn in several more places. 

She asked me if I would be able to repair it, and help her preserve it.  I have to admit that repairing a hundred+ year old piece of handmade Irish lace is a nerdy kind of wonderful. I readily agreed.  So much history here.

In examining the lace, it was easy to see how the damage had happened.  These little hook closures across the front of the jacket have caught on the lace and inadvertently been pulled, ripping through the aging thread.

The culprit: sharp little hook and eye closures

The culprit: sharp little hook and eye closures

My first job was to whiten the lace. I had no thread that would match the deep antique yellow it had become over the years, so I consulted with my mother-in-law who has a lot of experience laundering old lace.  She suggested Clorox II.  It has no chlorine bleach in it, so it won’t damage the fibers, but it does an amazing job of whitening.  It has a bit of bluing in it also, which helps the thread appear whiter.

The washing process took an entire evening, soaking, agitating, and rinsing.  The gentle process did a great job of taking a lot of the aged color from the thread.  Once the lace was a lighter color, not quite pristine white, but tolerably close– my thread was a sufficient match and the repair could begin.


Irish floral crochet motifs embedded in picot ground.

I’m not done with this project yet, but making good progress.  I just love studying all the old motifs.  I can copy most of them from experience and observation.  The stitch tension is tighter than my tension, so I’m using my very smallest hook, Tulip, size 23.

A good variety of flowers

A good variety of flowers

Such a pretty piece.

Such a pretty piece.

I’m looking forward to posting finished pictures.

Tatting Altar Lace: Ann’s Story

Ann's Tatted Altar Lace: a new work in progress

Ann’s “Snowflake” Tatted Altar Lace: a new work in progress

This beautiful tatted lace is from Ann, a lacemaker I featured about a month ago.  She has started another altar cloth lace.  This will be her third altar lace for the Boise Temple!  She’s made one tatted altar lace, one crocheted altar lace and is beginning her third altar lace.

Ann sent me this picture of it, and this story:

“Years ago I thought it might be fun to tat an altar cloth for the temple. At the time I thought I’d just get started and the Lord would know where it was when He needed it. Finally, after I’d mentioned it a few times, my husband directed me past the temple matron’s office, and we asked about measurements. I remember her comment very well, “We’ll see you in a couple years!” Wow! I didn’t know if I could do it that fast.”

This pattern is Ann’s second tatted altar cloth for the Boise Temple. See her finished tatted altar lace here. Tatting takes a long time.  Ann’s first tatted altar lace had over 500 motifs, and took over 600 hours over five years to make.

Ann says:

“I was about half way done with my first tatted altar lace when the temple sent word to our stake Relief Society that they needed altar cloths as soon as possible. I stopped working on the tatted one and made one out of crochet (which is much faster).

Over the years I had plenty of distractions with that first tatted altar cloth… a cruise, two returning missionaries, a wedding, a fiftieth wedding anniversary party, a huge calling in the church, and our temple closed for 1 ½ years. Finally, after five years, I made it back to the temple with the first tatted altar cloth.

I felt like I had nothing to do after finishing the first tatted altar cloth last April, so I got this pattern out, made some adjustments and started fresh. Tatted altar cloth number 2 is underway. Hopefully, it won’t take 5 years to finish it!

The lace I am making now is called “Snowflake.” I love this pattern because it really does look like snowflakes. The large motifs are 4 inches in diameter so I’ll only need to make about 77 of them. I like making both sizes of motifs and connecting them as I go rather than do all the small ones at the end because my hands are rather small. This pattern also has a couple nice sections where only a shuttle is used, and rings are formed on the inside and outside of the row. Since I started this lace five years ago I have learned how to jump from row to row without breaking the thread so I still only have to hide ends once per motif! This pattern had many picots that were what I call “empty,” meaning they weren’t connected to anything. I find that picots don’t hold their shape with repeated washings and I wouldn’t expect every single picot to be pinned out when it is blocked. So I altered the pattern so that all the picots inside the design are joining with other parts of the design. The only picots that are “empty” are around the edge. All the others are “occupied.”

This pattern is called “Snowflake Tablecloth” from Traditional Tatting Patterns, Edited by Rita Weiss, pg. 13″


Another beautiful lace in progress!  Ann describes how she makes each motif:

The large motifs have five rows…meaning five places to tie off threads and five places to hand stitch the ends to hide them. I’ve been practicing my skills for jumping from one row to the next. All I have to do is wind enough thread on two shuttles and start in the middle. Then I do a split ring to move to the next row,
Beginning a new tatted motif

Beginning a new tatted motif

Ending the row with a split ring

Ending the row with a split ring

Ending the next row with a split chain

Ending the next row with a split chain

Starting the next row with a split ring

Starting the next row with a split ring

Coming to the end of the frilly row

Coming to the end of the frilly row

Last row

Last row– motif made!


Lillie and Lily: Another Generation

A trip through history: Lily Adeline with great-grandma Lillie's original lace bonnet and gloves.

A trip through history: Lily Adeline with great-grandma Lillie’s original lace bonnet and gloves.

When a child joins our family by adoption, we have a tradition of holding “Name Changing Day”, and each child receives a name– a gift tied to our family history.  It is a milestone day that we look forward to with each child.  Our philosophy is even if we don’t share biology, we can share history, and that history helps tie our precious children to us.

Each child that has come to our family has a name that is meaningful to our family in some way or another.  My daughter Lily is named Lily Adeline, after my husband’s Great-grandma Lillie and my Great-grandma Ada, both wonderful role models, and women we look up to.

A few years ago we visited Grandma Rockwood’s house in Colorado, and learned more about our grandma Lillie.  While we were there, we saw the original lace bonnet made by Grandma Lillie.  We have a replica of it in our house, but Lily had never seen the original.

Mary taught me grandma Lillie’s roll stitch.  Lily and I sat together as Mary made each beautiful roll.  I was able to learn it, while Lily watched.  When she is ready, I will teach it to her.

Learning Grandma Lillie's Roll Stitch

Learning Grandma Lillie’s Roll Stitch

Lily wrote up her thoughts on her namesake and history here.

Grandma Lillie’s Star Lace Edging (Pattern)

Grandma Lillie's Star Lace

Grandma Lillie’s Star Lace

Grandma Lillie’s Star Lace Edging Pattern for Crochet

Ch 70

Row 1:  dc in 4th ch from hook, 3 dc in same ch, ch 8, skip next 8 ch, sc  in next 5 ch, ch 8, skip next 8 ch, dc in next 4 ch, ch 8, skip next 8 ch, sc in next 5 ch, ch 8, skip next 8 ch, dc in next 4 ch,* ch 2. Skip 2 ch , dc in next ch, *  repeat from* to* 4 times to last ch.

Row 2: Turn, ch 5(ch 5 counts as 1st dc and 2 ch threw out design), dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc , 2 dc in ch-2 space, dc in next dc,   ch 3 ,* dc in last dc of dc-4,  3 dc in ch-8 space, ch 7, skip first sc and sc in next 3 sc,  ch 7,  3dc in next ch-8 space, dc in next dc, ch 3 * Repeat one more time from * to*, dc in next dc, 3 dc in ch-3 space.

Row 3: Turn, Ch 4,  4 dc in top of 1st dc, *ch 3, trc in ch-3 space, ch 3, dc in last dc of 4-dc,3 dc in ch-7 space,  ch 5, skip 1st sc, sc in next sc, ch 5, 3 dc in ch-7 space, dc in first of 4-dc, * repeat from * to * ch 3, trc in ch-3 space, ch 3, dc in last dc of 4-dc, 2dc in ch-2 space, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in 3rd ch in ch-5.

Star Lace Edging, detail

Star Lace Edging, detail

Row 4: Turn, Ch 5, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc, 2 dc in ch-2 space, dc in next dc, *ch 6, sc in ch-3 space, sc in trc, sc in next ch-3 space,  ch 6, dc in last dc of 4-dc,  3dc in next ch-5 space, ch 2, trc in sc, ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-5 space, dc in first dc of 4-dc, repeatfrom  * one time,  ch 6, sc in ch-3 space, sc in trc, scc in next ch-3 space, ch 6, 4 dc in ch-3 space.

Row 5: Turn, Ch 4,  4 dc in top of 1st dc, * ch 8, sc in ch-6 space,  sc in next 3 sc, sc in next ch-6 space, ch 8, ** 2 dc in ch-2 space, 2 dc in next ch-2 space, * Repeat once from * to * repeat again  from * to **, dc in last dc of 4-dc, 2 dc in ch-2 space, dc in next dc, ch2,  dc in 3rd ch in ch-5.

Row 6: Turn, Ch 5,  dc in top of 1st dc, ch 2, skip next 2 dc, dc in next dc  * 3 dc in ch-8 space, ch 6, skip  sc, sc in next 3 sc, ch 6 , 3 dc in ch-8 space, dc in top of next dc, ch 3, dc in last of 4-dc*  Repeat 2 more times. Ch 3.

Row 7: Turn * 1 dc in top of 4th dc of 4-dc, 3 dc in ch-6 space, ch 5, skip sc, sc in next sc ,ch 5, 3 dc in ch-6 space, 1 dc in next dc,**ch 3, 1 trc in sc , ch 3,*  Repeat from * to * 1 more time, then repeat from * to ** ch 2, dc in last dc of 4-dc , ch 2, dc in top next dc, ch 2, dc in 3rd ch of ch-5.

Row 8: Turn, ch 5, dc in top of next dc , ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next dc of 4 dc, ch2,skip next 2 dc, dc  in next dc of 4-dc,* 3 dc in ch-5 space, Ch 2, 1 trc in sc, ch 2, 3 dc in ch-5 space,1 dc in next dc, ** ch 6, sc in ch-3 space, 1 sc in trc, 1 sc in ch-3 space, ch 6, dc in last dc of 4-dc*, Repeat from *to* once .  Repeat from * to **.

Row 9: Turn, ch 3, *2 dc in ch-2 space, 2dc in next ch-2 space, ch 8, 1 sc in ch-6 space, 3sc in next sc, sc in next ch-6 space,  ch 8*  Repeat  from * to * one more time, 2 dc in ch-2 space, 2dc in next ch-2 space, ch 2,skip 2 dc, dc in next dc of 4-dc, ch2, dc in next dc 3times, ch 2, dc in 3rd ch in ch-5.

Repeat starting with Row2:  through Row 9: until it is long enough.    Shrinkage is usually 1 inch for every 20 inches.  So make it  an inch longer for every 20 inches of finished product. If making a pillow case, connect on row 8 to the other end. I used a 60 wt thread and # 12 crochet needle.

Lillie's pillowcase lace pattern on a sheet set --by Mary Rockwood

Lillie’s Star Lace Pattern on a sheet set –made by her granddaughter, Mary Rockwood

Grandma Lillie’s Heirloom Lace Bonnet

Reproduction of the bonnet Lillie Lang Robison made for her daughter, Birdie Isabella Robison Swasy, by her granddaughter, Mary Swasey Rockwood

Grandma Lillie’s Heirloom Roll Stitch Blessing Bonnet

This bonnet is a beautiful reproduction of the bonnet Grandma Lillie Lang Robison created for her daughter, Birdie Isabella Robison Swasey.  It was made by Birdie’s daughter, Mary Swasey Rockwood, who has the original lace bonnet.  The original bonnet is nearly 100 years old.  Mary has made many copies of this bonnet, one for each of her grandchildren to wear for their blessing day, and to keep to remember their heritage.

Lillie Lang Robison, who designed the original bonnet, was a talented lace maker.  She designed this bonnet without a pattern.  There are a few variations of it in the extended family, but this one is a favorite.

One of the most distinctive features of this pattern is the use of the roll stitch, also known as the bullion stitch.  Usually roll stitches and bullion stitches are short, but these are long.  The longer the roll, the harder it is to make. Pulling one loop through a long tube of loops takes patience and skill.

Mary studied grandma Lillie’s lace until she figured out how to reproduce the distinctive stitches.  The bent roll stitches, (they look like pill bugs), are made the same way as the straight ones.  Yarn over 18-20 times, hold it steady, and pull one loop through the roll of yarn overs.  It takes a special brand of hook to do it well. Mary uses only steel Boye hooks for her roll stitch patterns because they are straight enough to make the rolls without having one end graduate larger than the other.  She has been able to reproduce this stitch and pattern in even size 100 thread, the very smallest thread available.

Because of the heritage associated with these stitches, I often try to incorporate them into laces I design.  I love this pattern. It is beautiful.

Grandma Lillie's Lace Bonnet, detail side

Grandma Lillie’s Lace Bonnet, detail side

Grandma Lillie's Bonnet, roll stitch lace edge

Grandma Lillie’s Bonnet, roll stitch lace edge

Grandma Lillie's Lace Bonnet

Grandma Lillie’s Lace Bonnet

Twin Falls Idaho Temple: Crochet Lace Altar Cloth by Kiren

Altar Cloth, made for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, with love by Kiren

Crochet Lace Altar Cloth: made for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, with love from Kiren

Twin Falls Idaho Temple-- by Robert A. Boyd

Twin Falls Idaho Temple– by Robert A. Boyd

This beautiful crochet lace altar cloth was made by a lacemaker for the Idaho Twin Falls Temple:

“I’ve wanted to make a temple altar cloth for a long time and was so excited for this opportunity. There are a total of 273 motifs–each one took 20-30 minutes to make (to give you an idea of the time that went into this project).

It turned out beautifully and I’m excited to know that it’s going to a temple near where I grew up.”  –Kiren

Kiren crochets all kinds of things, and also enjoys tatting.  Such a beautiful lace.

Lace altar cloth for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, detail

Lace altar cloth for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, detail

Brothers and Sisters Forever: Handkerchief Lace for Sealing Day

Crochet lace edged handkerchief, made by Anna's Grandma Mary Rockwood

Special Day: A crochet lace edged handkerchief, made by Anna’s grandma, Mary Rockwood

When my three sons were sealed to us in the Sacramento Temple following their adoption, I made them each a white tie from the material I’d saved from making my wedding dress years before.

Each tie had their initials stitched into the back, with the date of their sealing, for them to keep as keepsakes of that day.  Anna was also to be at the sealing, so I made a flowing white dress for her to wear inside the temple.  This was a day she’d waited for.  She’d longed for brothers and sisters for a long time. The day was finally here, and she wasn’t about to miss it.

My mother-in-law, Mary, wanted to make something for each of our children as well.  She made beautiful white vests for each of the boys, but for Anna she made something more appropriate for a little granddaughter.

This beautiful handmade crochet lace temple handkerchief was given to Anna by her grandma Mary, to honor her special day in the temple with her brothers, sealed together forever, as part of one family.

Such a beautiful day.

Sealing day at the Sacramento Temple

Sealing day at the Sacramento Temple

Anna, Gabrien, Daylin and Ethan, brothers and sisters forever

Angels from Heaven: Anna Celinda, Gabrien Dean, Daylin Michael and Ethan Nathaniel Rockwood, brothers and sisters forever

Manti Temple Irish Wedding Dress Lace

Handmade Irish lace wedding gown

Handmade Irish lace for wedding gown

This intricate piece of Irish lace is one I made for the front of a friend’s wedding gown. She was married in the beautiful Manti temple, and wanted a traditional Scotch-Irish theme for her reception.  All the men wore traditional kilts and her wedding dress was laced with bits of Ireland.

MJ Stegeby, and I worked this lace together. The back of the dress has clusters of Irish roses just above the train, Irish roses are in her hair, and the sleeves are sprinkled with roses, clones knots, and insert lace.

This was one of my favorite lace projects. A beautiful couple, with beautiful heritage, on a gorgeous day at the temple.

Manti Temple Irish Lace Wedding Dress

Manti Temple Irish Lace Wedding Dress

Constructing the Irish Lace:

Irish wedding lace under construction

Irish Wedding Lace– under construction


Irish Wedding Dress- front bodice lace

The Irish lace was constructed in parts.  Each motif was made first, and then pinned to a sturdy surface, in this case a sheet of cardstock.  Then the netting with clones knot picots was added to fill in between the motifs.  This project took several months of patient labor, but the completed dress was worth it.