Excerpts from a Halas lace article and project written for the IOLI Bulletin Summer 2014.
I was asked if I would share the article I wrote for the IOLI Bulletin with this group since not all of you are members of IOLI. I’m happy to share it, with a few revisions since you already know what Halas Lace is, that is why you are a part of this group.
Halas lace is a special type of needle lace that took form about 1902 in Kiskunhalas, Hungary. So, what makes Halas lace unique? There are several things:
- The use of a single corded outline that is not covered with buttonhole stitches during the finishing.
- The use of woven areas where warp threads are stitched between the outlines and filled with weft stitches done by needle.
- The use of a large variety of needle lace stitches in each piece. There are said to be 60 stitches in use.
- The designs usually have lots of loops in the outline and have an Art Nouveau look. Popular subjects are butterflies, figures, flowers, swans, deer and peacocks. A symbol of three overlapping fish is the trademark of all the work that is made in Kiskunhalas.
Here are some examples of Halas lace, from the collection of Nancy Evans.
The butterfly is about 4” across, and the round piece about 4½” from tip to tip.
Here is a little flower like design that you might try working in Halas type lace.
I stitched it in two different sizes, and two different sized threads. First the larger one is stitched in color. The cord is #5 pearl cotton, but #8 would also work. The lace thread is cotton quilting thread. I had some shaded colors Superior Threads King Tut, a 40/2 thread that I really liked using because the thread held its shape well, creating well defined lace stitches. I'm not sure how the pattern will turn out when printed from this article, but it should be about 3½" across from tip to tip. The second piece was reduced in size by 85%. It should turn out about 3" across. The outline is #10 crochet cotton but I think #20 would be better. The lace is worked with 100/2 Egyptian cotton. This was certainly more difficult to work than the one with quilting thread. Looking carefully at the two pieces of authentic Halas lace, the outlines seem to be about #40 crochet cotton, and the lace stitched with 120/2 or finer cotton thread. The size ratio of the lace thread to the outline thread is said to be about 1 to 4. If you take a doubled strand of the lace thread, twist it tight, and let it double back on itself, it should become about the same size as the outline thread.
Steps in making a Halas lace flower:
- First copy the pattern to a piece of colored paper (white will work of you use colored threads) and create your working surface by adding clear contact paper to the top and a couple of layers of fabric below and baste together. (I frequently fuse a stiff fusible interfacing to the back of the pattern paper rather than the fabric layers below.)
- Couch the outline thread to the pattern. Start near the bottom of a loop at the center of the design and work around all 6 petals. If working in color, end when you have come to the join, or if working in white or a single color, continue couching the inner circle. To complete the join, or joins, overlap the thread about ¼” and whip the ends to the other thread with matching sewing thread. Do this as inconspicuously as possible, placing the cut ends on top of the continuing thread. This is the wrong wide of the piece. The front side is down on the pattern. At the overlaps of the loops and along the center, use matching sewing thread and secure them together. This might be done when you get to a join while working the lace stitches if you like, but be sure to secure them.
- Switch to the lace thread, and place it in a small sharp needle. Unlike most needle lace you will need a sharp needle because the thread must pierce the outline thread hiding it inside rather than overcasting it. A ballpoint needle simply does not pierce the larger thread well. I like to place a very small knot at the end of the thread and cut all excess tail off for starting. I also like to knot my thread into the eye of the needle, but that is a personal choice.
- Begin with the woven area at the center. With the knotted thread, slip it into the outline thread for a short distance. Take a little back stitch and then begin laying the warp thread. Start at the center and work toward one side, then back to the center and work to the other side. Make the warp threads about a thread’s width apart. Take the needle through the upper core of the outline thread from center to outer edge. Then take it back in from the outer edge to the center and across and out through the opposite edge. Since I stitched this sample with contrasting thread, you can see the little spots where the thread makes the turn along the outside edge.
- Now starting in the center horizontally, begin the weaving process. Take the needle over one thread, under the next, all the way across. On the return trip, go over the threads than had been under previously, and vice versa. Try to keep the distance about the same between threads as you did when setting up the warp threads. It is very easy to end up with these closer together. End a thread by sliding it through the core of the outline thread, tie an overhand knot against the surface, and take another stitch through the core before cutting it off.
- If you are working in color, switch to the petal color and begin stitching a petal, starting at the center and working out. As you end a row, slide the needle through the outline thread from one row location to the next. Try to keep the rows even on both sides. It is easy to move a bit further along on one side than the other and end up with crooked rows. I used 3 different stitches and did two petals in each. These are stitches that are frequently used in Halas lace so you may want to try them. You can always use any of your favorite needle lace stitches instead. Below are the diagrams for these stitches. Just one row of the next repeat has been shown. Of course you will need to compensate at the row ends for the shape of each petal.
- When stitching is complete, clip the threads on the back and release your lace. Soak it with some fabric sizing and pin it out to dry. Remember, the front side has been down as you were stitching. The outline cords should be rounded without lace thread showing when you turn it right side up.
References: Outlines and Stitches, A Guide to Design with Special Reference to Halas Needlelaces by Pat Earnshaw, 1992 and Needlepoint Halas Lace, an Australian Interpretation by Marie Laurie. Check You Tube and the Internet for Halas Lace.