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Half stitch spider with 12 legs

Half stitch spider (left), next to 12 legged conventional spider on the right. See pattern 298.

A spider is a decorative effect in Torchon lace where 4 or more pairs meet. The pairs form the legs before and after the centre, or body. This body is usually made of cloth stitch. However, it is possible to use half stitch instead, and this page describes this. The diagrams show 12 legged spider, with 6 pairs, but of course you could have an 8 or 16 legged half stitch spider. I hope you can see how to extend the idea.

Please note that the leg of a spider is a twisted pair of threads. This should not be confused with a plait, which can be called a leg in English Midland lace.

Pattern for spider
Spider pattern

You can see that the spider fits within a diamond of pins. Unlike solid areas, you do work up to and including these surrounding pinholes before starting on the spider. The threads from the points of the diamond of pins are not actually involved in the spider at all.

I recommend that you are confident with cloth stitch spiders, such as 8 legged conventional spider, before trying this version.

The stitches used in this spider are twist single pair and half stitch. This diagram shows each thread as a line, with each pair as a different colour.


Repeat Step Back

Summary of working: Work this spider exactly as you would a cloth stitch spider, except do half stitch instead of cloth stitch! There are a couple of minor differences in working - see detailed description below.

Working: First work all lace above the spider, down to and including, the framing pins. In the diagram this is shown as Torchon ground, but it could be something else. Spiders are often framed by solid areas of lace.

Work out the pairs that will form the spider. This is a 12 legged spider, so there will be 6 pairs, 3 on each side. Twist each pair a few times - say two. You should not twist as many times as for a normal cloth stitch spider, which needs its body to be squashed together as much as possible. A half stitch spider is better if you let the central area stay bigger (by not twisting the legs so much), as the half stitch centre makes an attractive design.

Take the third pair from the left (just before the middle), and work across the three pairs on its right in half stitch. Since this is half stitch, the pairs will get split up, but take the resulting end pair and push it to one side. You will not use them again until after the central pin.

Take the second pair from the left pair, and work across the three pairs to its right, again in half stitch. Only three stitches, remember - do not work across the last pair in the row! (This is a common error.)

Take the left pair, and work it across the three pairs to its right, again in half stitch. Careful not to work it across the last two pairs! You will have worked 9 stitches, 3 in each row, and all the bobbins are now apparently completely mixed up!

Put the pin in the middle of all those bobbins. Spiders can end up a bit of a mess at this stage, so make sure that you have placed the pin correctly. There should be three pairs to the pin's left and three pairs to its right, and rather a mess of stitches above the pin. It is not as important to tighten the threads well at this stage as it is for normal spiders, but tightening is never wasted!

Take the fourth pair from the left (the most recent pair used) and work back across the three pairs on the left, still in half stitch. Then take the fifth pair from the left, and again, work back across the three pairs (making sure that you do not work any more). Then take the pair on the right, and again, work it back across the three pairs (only). Perhaps to your surprise (certainly to mine!) the pairs of bobbins are now back together, and they are diagonally opposite from where they started.

Twist all pairs the same number of times as at the start (e.g. two times). That is now the end of the spider. You tighten a half stitch spider by tugging both threads in a pair along its natural line, diagonally. Do the lace underneath the spider, and retighten once you have a pin to tighten against, and the spider should spring into shape.