Needle + Thread = Lace

My heart skipped a beat when one of my dear students brought this beautiful piece of needle lace to class last week. Her mother, Yerkena Michigian, born in Turkey in 1899, made it around 1935 after leaving Istanbul to live in Kingsburg, CA. She learned this intricate art form as a young girl and made these lovely pieces to earn money to leave the country. Between running a household, working on the farm, and raising three children, she managed to keep her hands busy creating delicate works of art. I can’t even image the number of hours that went into the making of this amazing piece.

The diameter of this piece is approximately 24″. This gives you some idea just how small and intricate the stitches are. Here’s a detail photo of the center.

Supplies are simple: a needle and DMC cotton thread.  The stitches, on the other hand, are anything but. I did a quick google search to find that all needle lace is based on the “buttonhole” or “blanket” stitch. The lace-like stitches are made with a series of embroidery stitches worked between couched-thread outlines of shapes.

If you are interested in a tutorial, go to

As luck would have it, the weekend after “oohing” and “aahing” over these lovely handmade treasures, I attended a local Shakespeare Festival. Little did I know that there would be a lacemaker present, sharing some pieces she has collected over the years.

Here are some samples of what I found at the Festival.

Sample of bobbin lacework.
Needlelace doily.

I would be saddened to think that needlelace might become a lost art. I’m curious to know if you or anyone you know does this kind of work, as I would love to write more about it in future posts.  Please “drop me a note” by leaving a comment below.

Coincidentally, Lilo Bowman at the Quilt Show just posted an interesting article on antique textiles also.

Hope you are all enjoying the last few days of summer. Until next time….. happy sewing.


6 thoughts on “Needle + Thread = Lace

  1. This is called filet netting this particular lace also makes my heart jump skip and beat rapidly It is done with the same netting knot sailors used it uses a netting shuttle and a dowel or Popsicle stick. The most amazing part to me is it it done on an angular so to create a circle rectangle or any shapes theater involved is exquisite. My husbands grand mother left me a table cloth yes a table cloth done in this method. Darning makes the filet patterns but the needle stitched creates an amazing lace piece. If interested ill send you a picture of my table cloth. It is so nice to have others to express the true magnitude of pleasure these pieces bring to me jenni


  2. That first bit of lace is a needle lace, but it is not one made over couched thread. It is a knotted lace made in rounds. Here is an example – Think like a fisherman’s net. The 3rd lace is also needle and also a knotted lace called filet. A net it made and then patterns are embroidered over that. Other kinds of needle lace – Reticella, Gros Point, Aemilia Ars – are made over some kind of couching.

    The 2nd lace is torchon, though it’s much denser than any I’ve made or seen.

    Lace making, while not a common as it once was, dose have a large and friendly community; with conventions and classes all the time. There are many local lace guilds and several international groups. IOLI – is the North American group with chapters all over. There is OIDFA – the bobbin and needle lace guild in Europe, and the Lace Guild in the UK. Also the Guild of Needle Lace is and international group.

    Two major online communities are InTatter, which is mostly for tatting lace, but has a bit of knitting. And Needle Lace Talk which, as you can guess, is all about needle made laces. If anyone reading this wants to learn just go to the guild web sites or the forums and we’ll gladly help you!


  3. you are correct. this is a beautiful art that few people are learning. we are the “machine” age. i still crochet doilies to keep my fingers from the ache of arthritis. i have one of my mother’s doilies that she did with sewing thread. at first i thought it was a plastic doily, as the stitches were so small. upon examination i could see all the work in her piece of art. it’s good to hear that there are lacemakers still teaching and continuing this art. thanks for sharing and reminding us of our ancestor’s art.


  4. Laura
    My grandmother and my Mom did “tating. This was in southern VIrginia and was passed down generation to generation. I have some of their pieces. Very beautiful and I also hope it doesn’t become a lost art.
    Pam Appel


    1. Hi Pam – How very lucky you are to have these treasures in your family. I think they are even more special when there is a connection. No one in my family (at least that I am aware of) did any of this… not even sewing. Sometimes I wonder where I came from! Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well and happy.


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