Unbroken Trails

Torchon Corners with Unbroken Trails

Can you spot the difference between the corners in this Torchon sample?

The top left corner has a continuous trail of half stitch, whereas in the top right corner the flow of the half stitch is broken by a ‘ladder’, marked in yellow in the enlarged detail. Similarly for cloth stitch, the bottom left corner has a continuous trail, whereas the bottom right corner has a ladder.

Many Torchon patterns will look more pleasing if the trails are extended across the corners, instead of being divided by a ladder. When Vibeke Ervø was told that unbroken trails were not possible she took it as a challenge to devise a way of working them and published her method in the 1989/4 and 1990/2 issues of the OIDFA Bulletin. I was intrigued when I read these articles and made various samples including the one above (you will find the pricking I used for this sample at the end of the article). With Vibeke’s permission her methods for working unbroken half-stitch and cloth-stitch trails are explained below. To make the description suitable for both the Continental and English way of working, the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ have been avoided, and instead ‘inner’ as nearest to the footside and ‘outer’ as nearest to the headside, are used.

Half-stitch Instructions

For this method to work the trail must be drafted with two pin-holes close together where it changes direction as in Figure A, rather than as in Figure B. To work the continuous half-stitch trail it is necessary to change the direction of the workers (Figure C). This is done before the corner line by adding extra pairs which are then used for the rose ground.

The workers are left at a without a pin. The last pair that the workers went through will be the new workers when all the other pairs have changed direction. The pairs are worked to the outer edge one by one and it is helpful to use a pin to keep track. The first workers are the outermost pair of the trail and the ‘next worker pair’ is always the next towards the footside.

The exact method used depends on the number of passives in the trail — Method 1 makes the trail a little too open but for Method 2, which looks best, the trail needs to be six passive pairs wide when inserting two pairs. If the trail is four ‘lines’ wide (as shown on the right) Method 1 is used twice, if it is five lines wide Method 1 and 2 are both used once, if it is six lines wide Method 2 is used twice, and if the trail is wider more pairs must be added.

  1. Leave the workers at a without a pin.
  2. Hang an extra pair at b. Make a stitch with the workers and the pair at b, put a pin in c and close. Remove the pin at b and pull the bobbins down into position.
  3. Then work either:

    Method 1: Put the outermost pair aside to go into the fan at b.


    Method 2: Take the next worker pair to the outer edge, where they leave the trail without a pin to go into the fan at b.

  4. Take the next worker pair to the outer edge and repeat from 2, above, using the next pair of pinholes.

The two added pairs leave at the inner corner

If you want to check that all is well you can take the trail a little further adding extra pairs instead of the pairs coming back from the fan. You will have to go back a little if you do this, but if you have made the whole fan before you notice that something is wrong you will need to go back a lot more! The two pairs added to the trail leave the lace at the inner corner and are tied to keep the edge pair against the pin.

Cloth-stitch Instructions

It is much easier to imagine how the threads go in cloth stitch, but it isn’t possible to give a ‘recipe’ for continuous cloth-stitch trails like that for half-stitch trails. The problem is best described using weaving terminology. In weaving you have only one weft thread and many threads in the warp. In a lace cloth-stitch area you have the worker pair as weft and all the passive pairs as warp — so there is one weft pair and many warp pairs.

The workers go both forward and back for each pin, whereas there is only one passive pair for each pin. This means that the thread count in the warp in the cloth-stitch area — in a normal Torchon lace — is only half of the thread count in the weft.

The weave will be more balanced if the thread count in the warp is increased by adding more passive pairs. One or two extra pairs are sufficient in narrow trails (I added one extra passive pair in my sample). When making a corner, the working direction changes 90° — i.e. the warp and weft are exchanged. As a result the thread count has to change in both directions, and the new worker pair will finish in the current ‘passive’ direction and all the new passive pairs in the current ‘worker’ direction. This is done by adding extra pairs in the new ‘passive’ direction and by ‘turning’ pairs around a pin — with a twist — at the edge of the trail. It may be necessary to have these ‘turnings’ at both sides of the trail to even out the change in thread counts.

Extra pinholes are needed at both sides of the trail to avoid it getting too open and the trail must be drafted with two pin-holes close together where it changes direction (see Figure A in the instructions for half-stitch trails ).

The diagrams above are for one particular example, but continuous cloth-stitch trails in other patterns can be worked in a similar way. Start by making a diagram and when you are happy with that make a sample.

Pricking for sample

Here is the pricking I used for my sample — enlarge or shrink it to fit the thread you want to use. You will need 18 pairs for the corners with ladders, two extra pairs for the half-stitch continuous trail, and three extra pairs for the cloth-stitch continuous trail — one of them is added as a passive pair to increase the thread count in the warp (see above). I worked my sample in the English way with the footside on the right — if you want to work in the Continental way with the footside on the left you will need to reflect the pricking (flip horizontal) to get the pins where pairs are added in the right place.