[ Home ]   [ Bobbins ]   [ Pillow Parts ]   [ Lacemaking Furniture ]   [ Lacemaking Accessories ]  
[ Sewing & Needlework ]   [ How to Order ]   [ Payment & Warrenty ]   [ Lace & Bobbin FAQ-tory]  
[ Supplier Links]  [ Bobbinmakers]   [ Museums, Org's, & Guilds ]   [ Upcoming Events ]  
[ Other Names of Lace]   [ Wood Definitions]   [ About me.]  
[Mail: Kenn@Bobbinmaker.com ]

Notes on String Bobbin Winders.

Do you have an electric sewing machine with the bobbin winder on the top. Get some plastic tubing the right size to go over this then add smaller pieces on the inside to fit the head of your bobbin firmly. Start winding the bobbin until the thread is caught then put the bobbin up side down supporting the bobbin and any spangles and it will wind the thread on in the correct way. You may need to make a few to fit different bobbins. Much easier on the hands and quicker!

Coral Westley
Just a warning. If you wind your bobbins on the sewing machine as described by Coral, DON'T plant your foot! go slow. I did this the first time I tried this, and nearly lost an eye when the spangles came loose and flew all over the room. These days I use one of Shirley Tregellas' bobbin winders, and after you read the instructions she supplies with it, I wouldn't use anything else! (on most bobbins, if you turn the handle 10 times you wind on 1 metre of thread - this is of course dependant on the diameter of the neck of the bobbin)

Chris Hancock in Adelaide, Sth Australia
After a couple months I guess it's time to quit lurking and join in. There has been some interest on winding bobbins lately and I thought I would pass on a tip that a sweet little old lacing lady taught me - how to wind bobbins using a piece of string. Size 10 works well.

Cut a piece about 12-14 inches long.

Tie a knot at one end and stick a pin through the knot.

You can pin the string to your pant leg (at the knee) or pin it onto the far edge of the pillow on your lap.

Start winding the thread (your lace thread) onto the bobbin until it will stay (usually only a couple wraps).

Then twist the size 10 thread (pinned to your pillow) once around the middle of your bobbin. Hold the bobbin in your right hand - palm down with the bobbin loosely grasped in the downward curl of your fingers and the heavy thread running out between the fingers of your right hand. The shaft (where your winding the thread onto your bobbin) should be pointing to your left clear of your right pointer finger. Your left hand will be holding the end of the size 10 thread (straight down against your stomach) and the thread you will be winding onto your bobbin. Then it's just a simple up and down motion - adjusting the tension on the size 10 thread as you move the bobbin - rolling it as you pull it toward you and sliding the bobbin on the thread as you push it away from you. Try this with an empty bobbin till you get the hang of it.

I have seen similar instructions in The Bobbin Lace Manual by Stott (if I remember right). They show the size 10 thread wrapped differently but the principle was the same. This method is quick and easy and my hands don't bother me anymore from winding bobbins. I hope my instructions aren't totally confusing - if anyone is interested I could try to draw it out for you.

Jonn from Custer, SD
Thank you for posting this useful method. Joan in Vancouver some time ago wrote how to do the same, but tying the winding thread to a table leg. Someone else ties the winding thread around their waist. I recently saw a lacemaker deftly winding bobbins from her pillow in this manner. It's the sort of thing that leaves me, otherwise of calm mind when it comes to fibre and tricky techniques, a quivering heap.

Bev W. in Sooke, BC Canada,
I am also a beginner at bobbin lace and had the same thoughts as you did: I need a winder. But, then I wound a few more here and there and all of a sudden it seems not so bad. I think your hands (thumbs in my case) get used to the new movement very quickly. What I also do is I don't wind all of the bobbins at once. I break what ever else I am doing for a few minutes and wind say 4 pair and then go back what I was doing before etc. this way, I am not sitting winding for hours but usually by the end of the day I have all of the bobbins wound without my hands falling off.

I actually now enjoy the time of winding, preparing mentally for the pattern to come. It seems to be a large part of the whole thing for me, so I think I will put off buying a winder a lot longer.

Etha Schuette
I didn't have any trouble figuring it out, but I got the black nylon bobbin winder and found it to ba a quicker ane easier way to do it. It is small and lightweight, so I can stow it away in a nearby drawer when I'm not using it.

Tammy Currently in Baltimore County, USA
I have been using the "string as pulley" method of winding bobbins for years. Every cupboard handle in my house has a piece of string hanging from it so I can wind bobbins whenever/wherever necessary. Have found:
1. that I can measure the length of my stroke and keep track of how much thread is going onto the bobbin.
2. it's extremely portable method of winding since all it requires is a piece of thread- doesn't even have to be #10 or anything thick although thin thread frays and breaks sooner. I actually use a piece of fine nylon filament hanging off my work light in my work room and that has lasted several months at least and
3. with practice you can also wind spangled bobbins this way which eliminates the worry about a bobbin winder which can accommodate spangles.

Only drawback is that when I teach adult ed classes at the local technical high school I have to remember to cut the strings off the handles of the file drawers or the real classroom teachers get tense!

Marni- with just a few loose threads
I have used the string as a bobbin winder since I first learned BL. I found it in a lacebook written by a local woman many years ago. My variation is that I sit in my recliner, pin the winding string to the two arms of the chair, and relax while I wind (with a sideways motion). The drawback is that my extended legs make a perfect resting spot for my cat--with nose about 2 inches from the action. After winding several bobbins, she cannot resist the flipping threads and bobbins, and gets into the act. Knowing that's not allowed, she immediately retreats to a hiding place and I can wind in peace.

Also, I have wound bobbins by hand while sitting in meetings, outdoor concerts, and other such occasions. It makes dull meetings go faster, and gives me something to show for my time. And is easily portable. (The last time I took my travel pillow to a church meeting, I managed to dump it right in the middle of the meeting. Was my face red! But my church people are getting used to me and my lace. They are starting to ask what I have done lately each time they see me. Haven't converted any of them to lacemaking yet, though.)

Alice in Oregon, USA
There was a whole long discussion on this about a year ago but here goes.

Winding a bobbin using a pulley string
1. attatch one end of a 12-18" piece of string firmly to something . Place a large double knot at the loose end.

2. prewind about 6" of thread onto your bobbin or until the tail of the thread is anchored. Remember to windclockwise around the head for S twist and counter clockwise around the head for z twist thread.

3. Take the loose winding string and wrap it IN THE SAME DIRECTION once around the body of the bobbin, just below the neck.

4. Using your left hand pinch the winding string and the thread being wound onto the bobbin against the middle of your left index finger. Make a loose fist and use the other four fingers to press loosely against the palm to control the tension on the thread being wound onto the bobbin.

5. With your right hand slide the bobbin all the way to the top of the winding string thus pulling out a length of thread. *** Keep the tension on the winding thread tight enough so that it will support the bobbin if you remove your right hand, but not so tight that the bobbin cannot roll***

6. With your palm up or down (your choice, experiment and see what works best) and the winding thread between you index (pointer) and middle finger, cup the bobbin loosely with your fingers and slide your right hand down the winding string. The thread acts as a pulley and your bobbin rolls within your hand, winding on the length of thread you had pulled out when you slid the bobbin to the top of the string.This is what I count as one stroke.

7. At the bottom of the string, grasp the bobbin in your right hand firmly so that it won't roll, slide it back up the winding string thus pulling out another length of thread to be wound onto the bobbin.

8. When you have finished winding one bobbin, make a hitch, measure out the length of thread for the second bobbin (I usually end up tossing the wound bobbin across the room) and repeat for the second bobbin. The trick in all of this is coordinate your two hands and the tension on the winding string- sort of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy. It takes PRACTICE . You will find that you can adjust where on the neck of the bobbin the thread rolls by tilting or slanting your right hand. That is how I accommodate the uneven rolling of spangled bobbins.

You will also find it works better if the thread you are winding on is on a holder or contained in some way so that it doesn't got leaping about and tangle with everything else. It is also easier to have a shorter winding string than a longer- and the knot helps you keep your left hand in place and keeps the tail of the winding string from entangling itself with the thread being wound onto the bobbin. When I wind at my pillow I just fasten the thread to the pillow and put my thread in a ziplock bag hanging off the edge of my pillow. I close the zip lock part way and that contains the thread and keeps it from leaping about without putting too much tension on it. If you're really desperate, the back of an airline seat or a friend and an empty cup work well too!

Marni Harang
I'm fascinated by this method and have been playing around with it all afternoon... At first I couldn't get anything to work right, but finally, I did the following:
stuck the pin in at an angle away from me... I used a hat pin; made a loop with heavy crochet cotton (#20, bright pink... why did I buy that stuff???) and looped it over the pin; took a double wind around the middle of the bobbin (cheap-o Midlands with spangles) for added "traction"; held my left hand palm down with the fingers cupped under ("over" would be a trick...grin!) and rested the bobbin on my fingers with the winder thread coming out between the two middle fingers.

I wrapped the thread I wanted to wind around my thumb for tension (after securing it to the bobbin with a couple of winds). Then I pulled the winder thread *away* from me... this was a major break-through, duh! I also worked on putting two parallel saftey pins in the pillow so that I could run the bobbin through them with the spangle off the edge of the pillow. It needed a white index card underneath to keep the bobbin from rubbing the pillow. That way I had both hands free, but it didn't seem to be worth the added effort to secure the safety pins each time. This isn't a tried an true thing, here, just posted for fun... kind of like when I was learning to tat cluny leaves with the middle thread wrapped around my big toe!

Marcie Greer
I tried this method last night. Although it was purely to see how it worked so I could write it up for our lace group's bulletin. I found a very quick way to fasten the far end of the string was to put my foot on it. Have a long enough string so you don't have to bend forward, and don't wind all the way to the bottom as that would make you constantly be bending over. I like it!

Jacky Manchester, UK
Thanks to all who responded to my question about bobbin winders. This seems to be a very supporive group. I tried the string winding method. What a neat idea!

I placed the string in the groove on the top of the bobbin (I have the Kliot "student" bobbins). I pinned one end of the string to the armrest of the couch I was sitting on. I am still working with thick threads, and wished I had more bobbins to wind because it was sp much fun! I want to try different ways of fastening the ends of the string to maximize comfort and efficiency. I was sitting in a rather contorted position the way I had it set up on this first try. I suspect that as I get into more complex projects and thinner threads I will still want to buy a nice winder, but this gives me the opportunity to keep going without one, and to learn a very useful skill. So glad I joined this mailing list!

Tammy (a.k.a. Tamar)
I too use the string method to wind my bobbins, however I don't tie both ends of the string. I secure one end to a convenient knob, handle, my lace cushion whatever.

I hold the end of the winding string and the thread being wound on in my left hand.

The thread is wrapped on the bobbin a few times to secure it. The winding string is then wrapped once around the bobbin in the same direction as the thread being wound onto the bobbin. (this means that you can as easily wind z twist as s twist threads.) The tail of the winding string is held between the thumb and index finger of the left hand with the palm up. The thread being wound onto the bobbin is also held in this manner with the rest of the fingers of the left hand providing additional pressure on the threads as needed to maintain tension. The right hand is held palm down with the winding thread between the first(index) and second(middle) finger and the fingers loosely cupping the bobbin.

If the tension is right, the winding string itself will support the bobbin and all the right hand does is gently push/roll the bobbin down the winding thread. At the bottom, the right hand grasps the bobbin and slides in back up the winding string, thus preventing the wound thread from unwinding. The bobbin is then stroked down the winding string again and as many time as needed to wind sufficient thread.

It takes practice and coordination to get the stroking method smooth and the tension on the winding string and thread balanced and right, but one you have it down you can wind all sorts of bobbins- even midlands and honitons.

I use a piece of nylon monofiliment line on my work ligt with a knot at 12". This means that as I wind my bobbins, I can, if I choose, actually count the number of down(winding) strokes and have a good idea of exactly how much thread I am putting on the bobbin. Useful if you are trying to make a certain thread or color of thread stretch to finish a piece.

Plus I'm never more that a string away from being able to rewind bobbins if they need adjustment while I'm working.

Marni J. Harang,Acton,25 miles NW of Boston MA.
The recent talk about bobbin winders brought up the subject of winding bobbins with the use of a string when talking to a new lacemaker recently. I promised I would write it up again and send it. This may help out with newer lacemakers who cannot yet afford a mechanical winder, or don't know which one they want. It is also very portable.

Winding Bobbins With a String

Take a string about 1-1/2 yards long and attach each end to something sturdy. (I like to use the 2 arms of my recliner and pin the string to each one.)

Two sturdy chairs work, or one chair and a table leg, etc. The string should be fairly taut, but have some give in it. A movable chair or a pin allows adjustment to be easily made to the tautness of the string.

Start the thread on the bobbin, winding a few times until it is attached. Holding the bobbin with the head away from you, reach across the string and tuck the body of the bobbin under the string. Then twist the end of the bobbin up, over and again under the string while holding on to the head.

You should end up with a loop of the string going around the middle of the bobbin, the tail pointed at you, and the head away from you. This method will work with either midlands or continental bobbins because the tail of the bobbin hangs loose. Realize the midlands, with spangles, may feel a bit wierd as you proceed, but can easily be done. I like the string to be about 1/3 of the way from the threaded section to the tail of the bobbin. The design of the bobbin may determine where the string lies best.

Hold the bobbin with your right hand by putting two fingers on each side of the string and bending your fingers under the bobbin--sort of a cradle.

Your left hand will hold the winding thread parallel with the string. I like to have a yard or so of thread unwound from the spool so it can flow freely. By unwinding the thread a yard at a time, I can keep count on how much thread is going on the bobbin.

With your right hand cupped loosely under the bobbin, push the bobbin to the left across the string. The loop around the bobbin will make the bobbin spin, and the thread will wind around the bobbin. Be aware that the thread may not wind up in very neat, precise rows, but with practice you can control it to some extent. When you reach the left side of the string, put your right thumb on the bobbin and hold it firmly in the right hand. Pull the bobbin back to the right side of the string without letting it turn. The string will slide around the bobbin.

When back to the right side, release your thumb and again hold the bobbin loosely with your fingers, and push it back across the string. (I guess that I take about 10 seconds a yard, and do about 3 passes across the string per yard.) When the bobbin has enough thread on it, remove from the string and tie your half hitch.

The second bobbin of a pair may be a bit trickier. You have to unwind the total amount of thread needed, and start from the cut end. If you are needing only 1-2-3 yards, it is not much of a problem. If you need many yards, you need to develop a system of laying out the unwound yards in a manner that will allow the thread to wind freely without tangling. (I have wound up to 14 yards successfully.)

A bit of caution on midlands bobbins. The bobbins that have a spiral design along the body of the bobbin may be more difficult to wind. The winding string tends to catch in the spiral, and travel to the tail end. The string has to be repositioned frequently. Also I have found a few bobbins that have such a smooth, slick finish that the string can't get traction on them. Glass bobbins also are slick to wind. However, 95 percent of my midlands can be wound easily in this manner. Continentals are very easy.

If the string breaks, use another piece--very inexpensive to replace.

I hope this may be of help to some of you. I have yet to buy a machanical winder because the string process has worked so well for me. Please write directly if this discription is not clear on any point. I will be happy to respond.

Alice Howell in Oregon
Hi everyone and thanks Alice in Oregon for the description of this neat trick. I saw it done by a maker of continental laces *on her pillow* ("you see, she explained," when I need to fill a bobbin I simply do this..."). Also with some laces, single bobbins are used, hung on at the beginning with a knot. Anyway, I never really mastered this method until Lenka showed me at a lace event - a quick minute of instruction as we were about to pack up - then I went home and tried it.

I'm sure there is a term for this way of winding thread/rope in other occupations. Is this how a winch on a sailboat works? a capstan or something?

The one thing I had trouble with was where to put the spool of thread. Eventually I settled on supporting it horizontally on my lazy kate (a spindle threaded through two uprights - a knitting needle poked through a shoe box would work; the spool of thread turns on the needle). Otherwise I had the spool rolling all over the place (and doing dreadful things to the twist, therefore).

Mostly I wind by hand. It's something that can be done a bit at a time.

Bev in Sooke, BC (west coast of Canada)
You can wind your bobbins right on the pillow, as was suggested. Just keep a long hatpin in your "kit" (string, stout pins) and put it through the spool of the thread and down into the pillow. This way, the thread is held vertically and feeds freely and easily. It was watching Marni winding her bobbins on her pillow (see her excellent description in yesterday's posting) which gave me the idea and encouraged me to perfect my winding skills.

Tess in Maine

Return to previous page
Go to home page.

This page was created by Kenn Van-Dieren
Copyright © 1998/20072 BVD Euro; all rights reserved.