Developing a Mathematical Model for Bobbin Lace

Veronika Irvine, Department of Computer Science, University of Victoria, Canada.
Frank Ruskey, Department of Computer Science, University of Victoria, Canada.


Bobbin lace is a fibre art form in which intricate and delicate patterns are created by braiding together many threads. An overview of how bobbin lace is made is presented and illustrated with a simple, traditional bookmark design. Research on the topology of textiles and braid theory form a base for the current work and is briefly summarized. We define a new mathematical model that supports the enumeration and generation of bobbin lace patterns using an intelligent combinatorial search. Results of this new approach are presented and, by comparison to existing bobbin lace patterns, it is demonstrated that this model reveals new patterns that have never been seen before. Finally, we apply our new patterns to an original bookmark design and propose future areas for exploration.

In the figure above, the digraphs (a), (c), and (e) (called grounds by lace makers) were discovered by our program and form the basis for the lace patterns that are illustrated in (b), (d), and (f). As far as we can tell those particular digraphs (grounds) were never used before in making bobbin lace. Each vertex in the digraph can be woven in various ways and in each of the lace patterns 3 different weaves have been used. Note the nice 4-fold rotational symmetry in (a) and (b).

Back to list of publications.