“Milking the Faerie Cows”

Isn’t that an odd saying?  If you do bobbin lace perhaps you’ve heard it before.  Although I have heard it before, I did not heed it.  I did not even remember it!

I had finally gotten to the point in my current lace project where I believed I had made all the mistakes possible to make.  Ha!  I had gone backwards and forwards, and backwards again so many times, and had solved problems in all the segments of this pattern:  from being short a pair of bobbins in my half trails which then gave me problems in my braided edge,  to then ending up with too many pairs of bobbins for my sewing edge.  It was an embarrassingly long process which could have been shortened if only I’d had access to some experienced lace maker…..but impatience and stubborness always drove me on!

Finally, just when I thought that forward was the only direction for me now, one of my threads broke right at the edge of the weaving so there was no tail to use to tie the bobbin back on.  Ugh!  The break definitely happened because of all the weaving and unweaving I’ve been doing.  Twisting and untwisting caused this fine linen thread too much stress.

Along came my wonderful lace mentor and dear friend Micheline, who heard of my dilemma and called to ask me if I remembered the phrase “milking the faerie cows.”  Well, yes I did…..but I had no memory of what it meant. Micheline credits Christine Springett with this bit of sage advice, which is:  when you are making a braid you must tension it as if you are milking faerie cows; i.e, very, very gently.

Bingo!  (On top of everything else!) That is exactly what I was doing wrong.  I was really giving my edge bobbins a good strong pull to get my braid threads to tension evenly.  And on top of all that forward and backward weaving….well, that fine linen just could not take any more.  It doesn’t solve the dilemma I’m in now, but it sure will help me not to do it again.

So….alas….yet another bit of unweaving.  Micheline says I need at least 1/2″ of unwoven thread to make the mend in this thread.  I believe the mend is called a ‘lace knot.’  It’s the knot you make to connect two bobbins of thread together.  It involves making a slip knot in one thread, then putting the other thread through the loop of the slip knot (in this case my tiny 1/2″ bit of somewhat shredded linen) and closing the slip knot while pulling on the thread in the loop so that the slip knot transfers onto the thread in the loop and so that slip knot no longer slips.  It’s the very thing you do not want to happen when you are tatting.

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Instruction from my beginner’s lace notebook by Lynda Barber

 Since I’m dealing with such a short bit of linen where the break occurred, I plan to enlist Bob’s help (I can hear him returning home just now!) to hold the little bitter end of broken thread with a tweezer while I attach the longer thread from the bobbin with this technique.  Wish me luck!

….no luck on having the third hand for help.  I released Bob from bondage and managed to do the knot by myself on the first try.  Even at this magnification, I cannot see the mend….I hope you can’t either! Forward again!

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