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Using glass bobbins

The recent discussion on turning your own wood bobbins got me to thinking. My husband started me on lampwork bead making. Now I can spangle my bobbins with glass bead I made myself. Now I am wondering if it is possible to make glass bobbins from glass rod.

I use Effriti soft glass mostly for bead making, though with my husbands mini bench burner we can do some boro silicate (pyrex) work. Does anyone make glass bobbins this way? The one place I had seen that does items like bobbins in glass uses a glass lathe -- way out of my range.

Julianne Pierson
In theory this could be possible, but in reality it would be very hard to keep a bobbin's length of glass evenly warm while you are working on it. Plus, that length would increase the odds of the sludge not releasing the bead from the mandrel (metal working rod which needs a release mixture on it before you make your beads). Let eveyone know what kinds of results you have!

Anne Reaves
Indianapolis Indiana
I have several glass bobbins and more on the way that I got from Tom & Nancy Clark in New Jersey. They don't have a web page but their e-mail is tcbobbinsglass@aol.com . Perhaps they could supply you with some information. I haven't had a chance to use them yet, but the look & feel sturdy enough to hold up.

Right now they have quite a few glass bobbins for sale on e-bay (which is how I got mine). Just put in a search for: Bobbins, Glass

Helene Dowler, Bronx, NY
It is my understanding that Pyrex is the way to go for glass bobbins. You know those guys who sit at the fair or in the mall making hummingbirds? I took a glass bobbin I had, and a plastic midlands bobbin to the fair with me. I asked if they could make me one. As I stood and watched, he held a long rod, melted and flattened a top, melted and squished a middle (so that between the two melts is where the thread goes). Then he held it by the head and the opposite end of the rod, melted it again, and this time twisted and pulled as he melted to make a loop for a spangle and pull off the rest of the rod. Tadah! He charged me $5 but said he'd not do any more!

The lathe would be helpful in that it would hold the bobbin while it got heated and squished, and they would all be similar. Doing it by hand is much less precise. The thing about Pyrex is that you can heat a small area and work it without having to heat the whole thing. I do know that glass bobbins are well liked, but pricey. If you get going with this, please let us know.

Lauren Snyder in Washington State
There is a glass bobbin maker in the UK - Martin Tuffnell - E-mail Address martintuffnell@compuserve.com . He makes all sorts of bobbins including mother and babes and different colours. I saw him at Preston where he gave a very interesting talk on glass blowing and then again at the Borders lace day where I asked him to make a bobbin which you can insert a momento - he already makes ones that you can insert a piece of lace into but they are sealed at the factory; I wanted one that I could send to a special friend and she could seal it herself. Lacefully yours

Margaret Ringway
There are pretty glass bobbins available, from Martin Tufnell and at least one other bobbin maker. I had a pair of purpleish ones in a barley shape, which I used for a while, without any fear they would break.

I do advise anyone interested to try these before making a substantial investment in them. As the glass bobbin is heavier than a wooden bobbin, the spangle is usually of lighter beads to even up the total weight. This gives the glass bobbin a different weight and balance when it is picked up.I found that they jarred my hand just as badly as an unspangled bobbin amongst spangled ones. Eventually I decided I didn't like using them, so I swapped them with Robin Panza for a pair in spliced wood, which do get used. For me, glass bobbins remain a pretty thing to look at, but not for practical use. I'm sure lots of people (including Robin I hope) do use them happily, but my advice is try them first to see if you like them.

Steph Peters
Manchester, U.K.
When I started making lace my husband asked the glassblower at the university where he worked to make me some bobbins. They are in pyrex tube with solid heads and shafts for the thread. The main problem I have with them is the knot tends to slip. I als have some from other bobbin makers (Malcolm Fowler I think)

Do you make traditional squarecut beads? formed with a file to make the pattern on the sides.

Diane Whitehead
I have a few glass bobbins because they intrigued me. I found out that they have a different feel when on the pillow and do not mix well with other bobbins. The first person I saw with them had only glass bobbins on her pillow, and loved them. For consistency, this is the way they should be used.

They are more slippery than wooden bobbins, and the threads do tend to come loose. A double hitch might be needed on them. And--they make more clicky noises when in use. The sound of glass clinking must be music to your ears, or it will drive you (or your family ) nuts.

Look around at different suppliers. They are available from several sources.

I use mine when I set up a pillow for demo, and want to display the wide variety of bobbins from around the world. I don't use them on projects that are worked on at home, or need done in a hurry. Try them--you may love them.

Alice Howell in Oregon
Lori asked me to describe my glass bobbins. When I first met Tom Clark, the glass blower in NJ, I asked him to start making bobbins for me. My collection is made from clear (crystal) or blue glass. Some are mother and babes, and some have things inserted in them (like salt in one/pepper in the other). Others have swirls of blue/clear (like candy canes). Some have decorations added, like you would decorate a fancy cake. Some have pressed designs. I did buy some of the plain tube kinds from other vendors, but they do not have the "character" of Tom's bobbins. Like lace, there is something special about the individual bobbins he makes. It is important to remember that Tom Clark is a professional glass artist and focuses on glass.

I keep these bobbins on a large lazy-Susan type round almost-flat pillow, covered with rose fabric. And they are covered by a very pretty large round whitework embroidered doily most of the time, to keep everything clean. They are on a large walnut table in the parlor, which is mostly furnished with American Empire furniture (early to mid-1800's). A formal setting, and one that animals would "love", but there is nothing larger than a stray spider in the house!

I know of one lacemaker in NJ (she might de-lurk!) who has collected an entire glass menagerie of bobbins by Tom for her young daughter. Tom makes some bobbins with a sort of colored opaque glass, and that is wonderful shaped into the elongated animals.

Jeri Ames in Winthrop, Maine USA
I couldn't agrre with Steph more. I too ahve a few pairs of glass bobbins, but these days they tend to be the last ones I would add to some Chantilly which takes all I have.

It wasn't so much the different weight which bothered me, but the fact that the necks were so slippery that the hitch tended to slip slowly longer and longer and I was continually winding them up again. They do look beautiful though and make a wonderful talking point.

David Downunder in Ballarat Australia
I have a suggestion if you have difficulty because the bobbin glass is slippery. If you will wind a base layer of very fine thread on the bobbin, and secure it with something like Fray Check or a daub of clear nail polish - and leave it on the bobbin permanently, you can wind the thread you are using for your lace over this and it should not slip as much. I am suggesting very fine thread, because you do not want to use up too much space on the bobbin that you will need for your actual threads.

This trick may also work as a base on wooden or bone bobbins for slippery metallic threads. Will save you from needing extra lengths of expensive threads, because you will not need to put as much on the bobbin to "hold". Everyone works differently, so I suggest you try this with one pair of bobbins first, and then if it works for you .... you can "treat" more bobbins to a layer of "underwear".

Jeri Ames in Winthrop, Maine USA
I have lots (approximately 100+) of the glass bobbins. I've been collecting them since 1987. I have ones purchased from the Lacemaker (when it was owned by Allison), Beggar's Lace (when owned by Gretchen), Van Sciver's, Snowgoose, and Tom Clark.

By far, my favorite ones to use are the ones made by Tom Clark. His bobbins have a very nice head, which holds the hitches nicely. I don't like to mix the glass bobbins with anything else, as the weight is different. Remember with glass bobbins the hitches will slip, due to the glass, and the weight of the bobbin. They are great with heavier threads, but don't work so nicely with fine threads. You will need to make double hitches, even with heavier threads.

Tom Clark is going to be a vendor at the IOLI Convention, in Indianapolis, Aug 6-12.2000.

Judy Sexton
In Indianapolis Indiana! Home of Convention 2000!
I too, love my glass bobbins. I don't have too many, yet, but I'm working on it slowly! hat if we were to take some of that etching cream and spread it on the necks of the bobbins to take the shine off? Will it work on Pyrex? I know it works on regular glass. Would it otherwise damage the bobbins in any way? It might be a solution to the slippage problem! Comments?

Lauren Snyder in Washington State
I purchased a glass bobbin from Tom Clark at the 1991 convention in New Jersey. It was his display bobbin, about 18" long and about 6" diameter. The head comes out to allow 'things' to be put inside the shaft. The contents of the bobbin change with the seasons, redheart candy for Valentines, corn candy for Halloween, red and green candies for Christmas, beads and buttons (for a 'guess how many' contest), etc. The list is endless. My husband made a cradle to hold it out of walnut wood. The family joke is that it one day will hold my 'ashes' with a brass plaque that says 'A lacemaker in life, a lace bobbin in the afterlife'.

Barbara Bulgarelli
After being off this list for nearly a year (due to health problems) and then jumping back on, only to start reading all these reports of glass bobbins, I have to re-de-lurk! Tom Clark also made glass bobbins (clear and colored) for me especially with a flattened thumbprint sort of end, which I then placed small handpainted porcelain ovals on. I love of fine arts of both bobbin lacemaking and porcelain painting. I was taught to paint on porcelain by my great grandmother and later when researching the history of bobbin lace because it is all so fascinating, there are references to many of the artists working both mediums!!!

Heathere Booth Cericola
I agree that Tom's are wonderful. No two are the same. His heads certainly hold better than the other glass bobbins I have. He does a very nice English double head on the bobbins meant to be spangled. If I have a little trouble with the hitch slipping, I often put a third loop on the hitch on the upper head. The Continentals and Honitons do not have a double head. I do mix them with my wooden ones. And perhaps I can get away with that because most of mine are fairly small, well under 4" not counting the spangle, and with small spangles so that the weight difference isn't especially noticeable. I've happily worked fine Bucks with them using thread as fine as Egyptian cotton 160 and Kreinik's silk organzine. Tom has learned over the years that different people like different sizes and shapes of bobbins and does his best to accommodate all tastes. Some people likeme prefer small, slender bobbins but then I rarely work with anything heavier than a linen 60, and even then not often. One of my friends has small hands and like her bobbins to be short and a bit plump. Other people want their bobbins to be over 4" long. It's all a matter of taste and what you are comfortable with.

I find the sound of glass mixed with wood very pleasant. And, sure I have broken a few. But Tom cheerfully makes invisible repairs. And they are sturdier than you might think. I have dropped them on the floor (not something I would recommend) with no damage. On the other hand, I did break two very slender ones when I had them rolled up in a bobbin case. So I don't do that any more. I finally have enough of Tom's that I can do a nice bookmark with just his bobbins. Kind of exciting. Once I finally get them all spangled, of course. So much lace, so little time!

Susie Johnson in southwestern Pennsylvania

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