Fir-trees in Bobbin Lace

treesDuring the 2016 OIDFA congress in Slovenia I helped select a border of linen cutwork and bobbin lace for the Lace Guild’s museum collection, in the UK. The bobbin lace is of the design often described as the ‘fir-tree’. I had seen other fir-tree examples, but never explored the design in any detail until I had the opportunity to study this piece.

Over the next few months I discovered more and more versions of the fir-tree and what started as a short article for the Lace Guild soon expanded beyond the bounds of a single magazine. Rather than try to squash everything into a few pages I decided to select different aspects of my study for each of the newsletters, bulletins etc of the organisations with which I am connected.

The articles are attached here as a PDFs – these are either my drafts, or a scan or proof copy of the printed article. Inevitably there is some overlap to explain the background, but otherwise each article covers different aspects of the fir-tree.

One of the first things I discovered was that the tree is not as difficult to work as I expected, and it is a very efficient way of producing relatively wide  pointed scallops using only a few pairs of bobbins. The working method is described in the article I prepared for issue 166 of the Lace Guild’s magazine, Lace, attached here as Cutwork and Fir-Trees. Instructions for a slightly different tree are included in Introducing Bone Lace, the prequel to my series on Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Lace.  Cutwork and Fir-trees

I became intrigued by the way various fir-tree designs can be found across the world, and this is the focus of Well-travelled Fir-trees published the IOLI bulletin (spring 2017). This article has been extended for the website to include further analysis of the similarities and differences between various styles of fir-tree.Instructions for a slightly different tree are included in Introducing Bone Lace, the prequel to my series on Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Lace.

The third article – Finding Freehand lace and Fir-trees – looks at the importance of freehand techniques – ie working without a pricked pattern and with minimum use of pins – and the ways individual lacemakers might copy and adapt printed patterns and existing lace to create a range of related effects.                           Finding Freehand lace and Fir-trees 

I hope to add to this section of my website as more fir-tree information comes my way and I would be very grateful for any contribution via  the contact section below.


I had just started writing this introduction when I came upon a miniature of ChristianChristian IV of Denmark (Buccleuch collection, probably by Jacob van der Doort, c.1605, reproduced in The Lost Prince, by Catharine MacLeod, published by NPG.)

My initial thought (hope?) was that the lace on Christian’s falling band (collar) is a fir-tree. The portrait is tiny, just 5.7cm x 4.6cm, however the painting is so good and the photography at such a high resolution that it is possible to see that the lace depicted is a plaited one, not a fir-tree – a big disappointment, so I’m still looking for fir-trees on a portrait.