Quick guide to resizing a lace pattern for different thread sizes

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When I started making lace, one of the great mysteries for me was how to match thread size to a pricking.  Lace patterns typically provide recommendations about the thread type and thread size.  So, for example, the lace pattern might suggest Egyptian cotton 70/2.

But as Murphy’s Law would have it, I would go and dig through my stash of threads and find that I don’t have enough of the recommended thread to work the pattern.  But, I might have a reel of Egyptian Cotton 60/2 that I could use instead.  The only problem of course is that the 60/2 is thicker than the 70/2, so if I do not enlarge the pricking, the finished product might appear a little too ‘crowded’ and not as airy as what it could perhaps be if I use the recommended thread.

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This post (Part 2 of my ‘Quick guide to resizing a lace pattern’ series) is a quick guide to resizing a pattern if you want to use a thread size that is different to the thread size that is recommended for the pattern.  (In Part 1 I explained how I resize a pricking to compensate for copier/scanner distortion.)

I will demonstrate the process with two examples.

The first example deals with a situation where the thread you will be using is thicker than the recommended thread for the pattern.

The second example deals with a situation where the thread you will be using is thinner than the recommended thread for the pattern.

Example 1

Assume for the purpose of our example that the pattern recommends Egyptian Cotton 70/2, but that you want to use Egyptian Cotton 60/2 instead.

The thread you want to use is thicker than the recommended thread, which means you are going to have to increase the pricking size.

Follow these four easy steps to work out the required percentage increase to the pricking.

Step 1:

Work out how many wraps per centimetre the recommended thread yields.  In this example it is the Egyptian Cotton 70/2.

To work out wraps per centimetre, take the thread and wrap it around a ruler or a piece of cardboard.  Wrap the thread so that the strands lie snuggly next to each other, but don’t overlap.  Count how many strands of thread fit into 1cm.  This is the wraps per centimetre.

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Alternatively, you can refer to Brenda Paternoster’s book Threads for Lace to determine the wraps per centimetre.  I will use the wraps per centimetre as reflected  in this handy little book for the purpose of my calculations below.  (If you don’t have access to this book, you can easily calculate it yourself by using the method described above.)

Egyptian Cotton 70/2 yields 46 wraps per centimetre.

Step 2:

Work out how many wraps per centimetre the thread you will be using yields.  In this example, it is Egyptian Cotton 60/2, which yields 39 wraps per centimetre.

Step 3:  

Divide the answer from step 1 by the answer from step 2.

=  (Wraps per cm for recommended thread) divided by (wraps per cm for thread you will be using)

= 46 / 39

= 1.18

Step 4:

Multiply the answer from step 3 by 100 to convert it to a percentage.

= 1.18 x 100

=  118%

This is the copier setting you should use to enlarge the pricking.  The resized pricking should therefore be 118% the size of the original pricking.

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Example 2

Assume for the purpose of our example that the pattern recommends Egyptian Cotton 70/2, but that you want to use Egyptian Cotton 80/2 instead.

The thread you want to use is thinner than the recommended thread, which means you are going to have to reduce the pricking size.  Follow these four easy steps to work out the percentage reduction in the pricking size.

Step 1:

Work out how many wraps per centimetre the recommended thread yields.  In this example it is the Egyptian Cotton 70/2, which yields 46 wraps per centimetre.

Step 2:

Work out how many wraps per centimetre the thread you will be using yields.  In this example, it is Egyptian Cotton 80/2, which yields 50 wraps per centimetre.

Step 3:  

Divide the answer from step 1 by the answer from step 2.

=  (Wraps per cm for recommended thread) divided by (wraps per cm for thread you will be using)

= 46 / 50

= 0.92

Step 4:

Multiply the answer from step 3 by 100 to convert it to a percentage.

= 0.92 x 100

=  92%

This is the copier setting you should use to reduce the pricking.  The resized pricking should therefore be 92% the size of the original pricking.

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Experimenting with thread size

Brenda Paternoster’s book Threads for Lace will teach you everything you need to know about thread, and how to select the most appropriate thread size for the lace that you want to make.  (One of my earlier blog posts listed six of my favourite lace books, and this is one of them.)

Threads for Lace contains a comprehensive survey of more than 1,800 different types of thread.  The threads are listed in groups under fibre type and then alphabetically by manufacturer.  This is followed by a comparison of thread thicknesses based on wraps/cm.  You can read more about it on Brenda’s website.

For me, one of the best ways to learn more about different thread types and sizes is to experiment by working little ‘swatches’.  Below is an example of an experiment that I did to test out different thread types and sizes.

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I used a pricking from Rosemary Shepherd’s book Introduction to Bobbin Lacemaking.  The pattern recommends Bockens Linen 40/2.  I worked the pattern in three different thread sizes – using the recommended thread size, a thicker thread size, and a thinner thread size.

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The lace in the middle is worked with the recommended thread type and size (Bockens Linen 40/2).  This thread yields 23 wraps per centimetre.

Sometimes I find working with linen quite frustrating because the ‘slubby’ bits inevitably look rather untidy – I find that it detracts from the overall appearance of the lace (as you can can see from the cloth stitch portion of the sample.)

The sample on the right is worked in DMC Cordonnet Special No 30, which yields 20 wraps per centimetre.  So, theoretically the thread size is a bit too thick compared to the recommended thread size.  For me, this is my least favourite sample of the three – I think the lace looks too crowded and squashed in.  (It looks really awful actually…)

The sample on the left is worked in DMC Cordonnet Special No 80, which yields 30 wraps per centimetre.  So, in theory, the thread size is too thin compared to the recommended thread size.  For me, this is my favourite sample of the three in terms of overall appearance.  But of course, if you use a thread size that is too thin, the lace might end up distorting quite easily if you remove all the pins.

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So, my advice is to experiment a bit to find out what your preferences are.

Over the last few weeks I have created a new Pinterest board about lace bonnets.  Hope it gives you as much joy as it brought me while I was pinning all the gorgeous pictures.

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Thanks for visiting, see you next time!