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[Mail: Kenn@Bobbinmaker.com ]

Spangling bobbins

Also see Steve and Heather Smith of Winslow Bobbins for their method of spangling

I happened across your website this afternoon and was interested in the discussion about spangling bobbins.

While on holiday overseas a couple of years ago, I found some lovely local wood bobbins and a great bead shop, so I bought some wire to spangle the bobbins for gifts. The ladies in the bead shop had no idea what I was trying to do, (although they were very helpful) and the wire I bought was too thick. On their suggestion, I tried a product called 'tiger tail' - which I could describe as a stranded, flexible wire much used for jewellery making. Any bead shop should stock it. This wire is used with tiny metal beads called 'crimps' which are flattened over the doubled wire, securing it in place. For this you need a special pair of inexpensive pliers to flatten the crimp.

I worked as follows: Thread the tiger tail through a crimp, then the bobbin, then through another crimp bead and all the beads of the spangle in order from the bobbin, through the bottom bead and finally through the crimp, bobbin and crimp a second time.

You can see that the wire goes through the set of 'crimp, bobbin and crimp' twice, lapping the two ends over each other.

Now use the crimping pliers to close the crimps either side of the bobbin and secure the spangle in place. Cut the tiger tail close to the outside edge of the crimp.

The main challenge is to achieve the closing of the crimp with as little gap as possible, but this changes with the shapes of both beads and bobbin.

Hope that this idea helps someone out. I have never been able to spangle bobbins well using wire, but find this method quicker, easier and more reliable.

Cheers - Judy in New Zealand

In a recent message, Margaret Allen suggests that spangles were added to stop bobbins from rolling. After trying to work with unspangled Danish bobbins to try to save on work and money (spangling is expensive!), I know I switched back to Midland bobbins because I found that the rolling unspangled bobbins were breaking my thread -- a problem I'd never had with spangled bobbins. Without knowing any of the history, at that point I assumed that the spangles were added to stop rolling and it was a surprise to me to learn that they also provided weight.

I guess this is my round-about way of saying that I agree with the archaeological evidence!

Marcia in California

I'm sure I'll catch h--- for this! I learned with belgian bobbins. They were cheap in those days and I had a lot of them! I too, had problems with rolling and breaking threads. Finally, I got fed up and spangled them! I still use them for torchon as I like the shape.


I have just spent two hours or more trying to spangle two Danish bobbins that I have made for a customer. I have never spangled these before and found it most difficult. Basically I have been using the same technique as I do for the East Midlands, but having to pull it up tight against a piece of wood has proved rather difficult.

Is there something that I don't know? A trick? Different wire? Perhaps it is just more skill and patience!Any ideas would be appreciated.

Brian Lemin

You don't really say what technique you do use but you sound as though you make a knot or connection of some kind next to the bobbin. Is that right? I've never spangled a Danish bobbin so please excuse me if this piece of advice is irrelevant to you. But I thought you might be interested to know how I spangle Midland bobbins.

[ spangle1 ] First, I pass the wire through the bobbin and the side beads. Then I take the bigger bottom bead and pass the wire through the hole once, make a loop with it and put the looped end back through the bead (so there is a loop sticking out from the bead), pass the other end of the wire through the loop, attach pliers to each end of the wire and pull up the loose wire of the spangle aiming to get the hooked together part of the wire in the middle of the bead. Break off the ends of the wire at the surface of the bead (by rocking the wire back and forth until it breaks).
        It takes a bit of practise but makes lovely, neat and, most importantly, un-snagging spangles. You need to get wire that is neither too thick (won't double up inside the bead) or too thin (breaks too easily) and it helps if the hole through the bead is not too small, though average size holes are fine. Sorry about not being able to give you any guidance about the wire. I couldn't tell you the gauge - I'm afraid I know it when I see it. Experience helps of course. The close proximity of the bead hole around the wire prevents the hooked knot from coming undone without any further need to secure the ends.
        I was taught this method years ago and can't remember now who told me about it (if she is on the list, please excuse me for stealing your thunder). I'm sure lots of lace-makers use it and it does make for spangles without any apparent wire knots. I have never had any trouble with it as a method - the wire tends to oxidize and break before the knot comes undone and a fresh length of wire quickly remedies that.


Try fine fishing line (nylon monofilament). I used 4-lb. test for mine, and was it ever easy compared to my struggles with wire (which closely paralleled yours!).

With the monofilament, I was able to get the beads on much more tightly than I could with the wire, which basically left me with a sliding ring of beads that often loosened and fell off, or just plain broke (at the place where I'd stressed the wire bending it.

I can't remember for sure, but I think others have used thread? It seems like the subject might have come up at the Tonder class I took at the IOLI convention in Bellevue, but I must have been noodling over my pillow at the time.

The trick is to have a material that is springy and makes and holds a good knot that you can draw up as tightly as you like. My method is to string up, make a surgeon's knot (oh, dear, what's the best way to describe it... weaver's knot with an extra over on the 2nd half??) and draw up tightly. It still amazes me how tightly I can draw the monofilament and have it stay. Then I thread back the ends a few beads to hide them, and cut off. In some cases I threaded all the way back around, made a second surgeons knot, and tied the ends again. This was even tighter, but I got very tired of trying to thread the filament through all those beads (not so easy when they're on the bobbin!)

By the way, I got the idea for using monofilament from this very list a couple of years ago, although the discussion at the time was to use it for spangling midlands bobbins. I use 8-lb weight for that use, twice around, and those spangles are delightfully springy and always remember their shape.

Mimi in Snohomish

First check the size of the hole in the bobbin to make certain that three wire thicknesses will fit through the hole. Normally I use 28 gauge wire, but occasionally need to use 30 gauge or 34 gauge wire (you could also drill out the hole sightly if so inclined). You can buy the wire at any craft or hobby store. Generally it is found in the fake flower section. You can also buy it from me, but I charge truely outrageous prices.

[ spangle ] Lay out your beads in the sequence that you want end up with, then string them, adding the bobbin last. Then bring the wire back around through all of the beads and bobbin again, as shown in the sketch on the left. (Unfortunately I only took an art minor in college. It shows.)

Now you can draw the wire up tight and should end with a wire end on either side of the bobbin.

Wrap the ends around the wire between the bobbin and first bead, keeping tension on the wire. I generally alternate the sides when wrapping to help maintain the tension. After two or three wraps on either side, you can clip the wires as close as possible. The kinking of the wire when wrapped will keep it from coming loose, and if one side should fail, the additional wire through the beads keeps it from letting go. I have done a number of these and have never had one fail. I have regretted using this method when dis-assembling one though.

Kenn Van-Dieren - Bobbins by Van-Dieren

[ Has anyone had to respangle a bobbin while it was on the pillow? Any suggestions greatly accepted.]

For a temporary 'spangle', put a safety pin through the spangle hole. This stops the bobbin rolling. You may have to tension more than usual,as there will be no weight on the bobbin.

Chris Hancock in Adelaide, South Australia

[ For a temporary 'spangle', put a safety pin through the spangle hole. This stops the bobbin rolling. You may have to tension more than usual, as there will be no weight on the bobbin.]

How about putting a few beads on the safety pin?

Adrienne Kattke (Long Island, NY)

Thanks for all the suggestions folks. Right now I have a safety pin and a bead stuck thru the hole. The reason I want to respangle it is because this is a piece of yardage which has already been on my pillow for almost 3 years and I would rather not use the pin & bead method for another 3!

(And no, I do not have lots of yardage from these 3 years, rather this is a piece I have done on and off - and for a while mostly off - but have picked up again with great gusto in the past few months. I'm hoping that someday I might make the '5 metre club' from the Canadian Lace Gazette, but I'm sure it won't be anytime soon.)

The suggestion to rewind the thread directly onto another bobbin (which I have done few times over the years) would be good if I didn't have so very much thread wound on my now spangle-less bobbin.

So I think this weekend I'll go ahead and try the respangling method suggested and see what happens.

Arlene, San Francisco, California

[ bead stuck thru the hole. The reason I want to respangle it is because this is a piece of yardage which has already been on my pillow for almost 3 years and I would rather not use the pin & bead method for another 3!

I seem to have missed some of the suggestions (possibly, they were sent privately?) but you were dead on target the first time, Arlene. If there's too much thread on the bobbin to be worth re-winding, unwind enough to take the tension off and re-spangle the original properly (I agree, years of a pin spangle doesn't appeal ). What's "enough" depends mostly on the pillow shape and its placement. You need a "leash" long enough to allow you to lay the bobbin flat (without any tension) on some comfortable surface and enough to allow you to pick it up and manipulate it, also without tension.

Of course, when I was still working with spangled bobbins and the spangle broke, it always gave me such a start that I'd jerk the thread and break it. I then had a bobbin free of the "tether" to work with.

Actually, you might consider doing it on purpose: when you get to an inconspicuous place, free of other snags etc, break the thread off, re-spangle the bobbin and then proceed as you would with an ordinary broken thread....

Tamara Duvall
Lexington, VA, USA
Previously of Warsaw, Poland

I had a bad lot of brass wire and this happened quite often. My solution was to tie the beads onto the bobbin with fairly thick nylon fishing line. It is quick and you don't have to unwind the bobbin much.

It is surprisingly robust and withstands travel, whilst fastened into a knitting stitch holder. I found a reef knot the best and to pass the ends back through the other beads. Hope this helps.

Love, light and peace
Sue Hanson

[Thanks for all the suggestions folks. Right now I have a safety pin and a bead stuck thru the hole. The reason I want to respangle it is because this is a piece of yardage which has already been on my pillow for almost 3 years and I would rather not use the pin & bead method for another 3!]

Some people spangle bobbins with fishing line. How about using some sort of strong thread rather than wire, as a bit less temporary than a safety pin, but still not really permanent. Tying a piece of thread should be less dangerous for the lace than trying to pull wire through the hole.

Steph Manchester, England

Hope and trust you are all doing ok in the new year and digging out from under the weird weather wherever you are. I had forgotten how hot and humid Malaysia is (duh ;)

My question... I have found the neatest handmade bead stalls at the street markets. They are so incredibly neat to watch... Even the littlest kids have this incredible control, and they are almost all lampworked beads. A lot of the beads I went nuts and bought are a little bigger than the 'center' beads of my spangles, but they were so pretty, I bought them anyhow. (But sweetheart, I can make divider pins out of them. How big is the largest (and I know this is a matter of personal preference really) you guys feel comfortable making a spangle out of? I notice that I tend not to spangle my bobbins as heavily now as I used to... The biggest beads I bought for the most part are about 8 or maybe 9 mm. Prices are doing weird weird things here... (pandemic to SE asia I think).

Annie (the Yank in London)

[Annie asked: How big is the largest (and I know this is a matter of personal preference really) you guys feel comfortable making a spangle out of?]

How right you are about the personal preference part! So this is entirely my experience I am writing about, but I often use 10-12mm beads for bottom beads in spangles. If you run across a particularly heavy bead, this might be a problem, but I have had no difficulties with glass. I assume that the beads you spoke of were glass due to the reference to lampwork. Anyway, my motto with BL is "try it and see". If you don't like the feel of the larger beads, you can always make divider pins or a pretty necklace with them.

Sarah MacDonald
Alameda, California, USA

[On Sun, 11 Jan 1998 (Annie, currently in Malaysia) wrote:
How big is the largest (and I know this is a matter of personal preference really) you guys feel comfortable making a spangle out of? I notice that I tend not to spangle my bobbins as heavily now as I used to... ]

Like Sarah, I used to use 10-12mm beads as bottom beads in my spangles. And, like you, felt less and less need for heavy spangles as my threads got finer and re-spangled a lot of them with the 8-9mm ones. SO then I was left with a lot of biggies which I didn't want to get rid of (too pretty, too expensive). Many of them are still in a box (and a couple of sets of bobbins are still spangled that way -- who knows when I might need them?) but the prettiest were used to spangle gimp bobbins and hookies. Those *do* need the weight to offset whatever it is you put on the neck and still keep it under tension. Depending on what kind of lace you make, it should not be too difficult to use at least some of the beads for their intended purpose....

Tamara Duvall
Lexington, VA, USA

Did the English thread have anything to do with the need for spangles?

When I left the list I was exploring with you the various theories regarding the shift to spangled bobbins. Since then I have, in what spare time I have had, pursued this somewhat further and I am becoming more "convinced" that it could have been related to the thread that the English makers used.

Santana Levey, quotes on thread on page 29, "thick and fluffy...will not wash fine" Page 49 A Scottish visitor to Valenciennes...."the thread is of so exquisite fineness they can not make it in this country " (Scotland?) page 52, 53 she talks about thread in general and we did not seem to have the best conditions in England for good manufacture.

On page 57 she talks about the English lace industry concentrating on the "low End" of the market (after having said that some very good lace was made in England)

I understand that Carole Morris suggests that the invention of the Spinning Jenny had a lot to do with the need for spangles, but I have never had the opportunity of hearing her talk or reading her paper.

One final thought. English lace was taught in many countries being introduced there by the missionaries. I know, for example that Sri Lanka (Ceylon) made Beds lace. Yet none of the Sri Lankan bobbins that I have seen (Only one in real life and rest in illustrations!) are not spangled. What could be the difference? Not the style of lace... could it have been the thread that they used?

If English lace was made in other countries of the Empire why do we not see examples of spangled bobbins from these countries? (perhaps there are examples.. please let me know. I do remember that possibly some were made in India to be sold in England e.g. antler bobbins, perhaps the few Ivory bobbins that exist? Perhaps they were also used there..I don't know!}

Of course I am aware that we imported good thread also, which complicates things.

Once again, I throw myself on your "mercy". You have taught me so much and I am sure that you will be able to enlighten me on this topic.

I look forward to your replies.


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