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How to do a plait

Repeat Step

Description: C T and then repeat

Working: Swap the middle two bobbins (left over right), then both the outer pairs (right over left), then repeat.

This is also known as a leg, a bride or a braid. It is used in Bedfordshire lace. Please do not confuse this leg with the Torchon leg of a leg of a spider, which is just a twisted pair.

You work the four bobbins in a half stitch continuously without pins. This forms a plait-like effect.

If you are careful always to work the plait in pairs of stitches, then the bobbins will stay in their original pairings. Here, two plait stitches are demonstrated. It looks the same as a cloth stitch and twist, as that is made up of two half stitches.

The Dutch for this is Vlecht.

This definition of Plait belongs to the Cross twist lace tradition. Click here for the difference between Cross twist and Twist cross.

The bobbin pairs stay together whenever you use cloth stitch and twist.

Plait, leg or bride
Various plaits crossing using lazy joins. They are decorated with picots. See pattern 15.

The problem with plaits is to do the right number of stitches to get the length that you want. The plait will be between two pins on the pattern. Too many stitches means that the plait is not taut between the pins. Too few means that the plait is not tightly woven.

This means that you need to tighten the plait well, then measure the completed plait against the pattern. So you need to tighten the plait frequently. It is not enough just to tug the bobbins downwards gently, as you would for cloth stitch or a ground. You need to pull the pairs apart, one in each hand, and then possibly tug out any little loops in the plait. If you work lace by leaving the bobbins on the pillow and only picking up a bobbin involved in the stitch, this involves constantly picking up bobbins to tighten, then putting them down again, which is annoying!

A plait uses the same two pairs constantly, and with this need for tightening, it is better to keep both pairs in your hands all the time, one in each hand. A cross involves swapping the relevant bobbins between your hands. Twists involve manipulating the bobbins in each hand, so they are in a different order. If you are used to leaving bobbins on a pillow, this is a bit fiddly at first. However, it is worth mastering, since then tightening merely involves pulling your hands apart, which speeds up the working of the plait a lot. It is important to keep the thread lengths the same for all four bobbins - adjust this before you start. This 'hands' technique is used for all lace working in some lace traditions, especially if you are using a bolster pillow. But I don't see why you cannot use both pillow and hands techniques if you want, and the hands technique certainly is the best here (although elsewhere I prefer the pillow technique.) Click here for more on this.

Lace patterns are naturally repetitive, so figure out how many half stitches are needed for a certain length of plait, then carry on using the same number for the rest of the pattern.

Plaits are common in English Midland lace.

I thought that I'd invented the word plait, but I've been told by a correspondent "The continuous half stitch plait was called this in the old days of lacemaking, and sometimes, particularly in Bedfordshire called a leg, and the leaf was sometimes called a plait. Lacemakers with long hair plaited their hair using four strands of hair, except on Sundays, when 3 strands were used because of the Biblical Commandment "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy, in it thou shalt do no work", so if a lacemaker plaited her hair with four strands, she was, in effect, working!! My teacher told me this in the 1950s. She was a fourth generation lacemaker from Bedfordshire."