Random Nudges

I have added a new feature to the Inkscape extensions for bobbin lace. You can now jiggle the patterns about by small random amounts.

After updating your Inkscape bobbin lace extensions, you will see a new area at the bottom called “Optional effects”. Here you can choose how much you want to jiggle the pattern around as a percentage of the distance between footside pins.

You can jiggle the pattern in just the x-direction, just the y-direction or both. For example:

Examples of randomly jiggling various patterns

One thing this feature brings to mind is an interesting circular Moiré pattern that creates a sense of order from a random distributions of dots. As shown in the following YouTube video, Tadashi Tokieda calls them “Freaky dot patterns”:

I am curious whether we can get a similar effect in lace. You could create two layers of lace, each from the same randomly jiggled pricking, and rotate one layer on top of the other. Overlapping two randomly jiggled prickings of a diamond net gives the figure below which would make an interesting kinetic lace piece. Notice the suggestion of concentric circles as described by Tokieda.

Similarly, a Moiré effect created by rotating two regular diamond ground prickings gives the result in the following figure. Because the regular pattern repeats periodically, the interference pattern also repeats periodically.

I will update this post when I have had a chance to experiment with these Moiré effects in lace. My prediction is that a highly symmetric stitch, such as Torchon ground, will give the best result.

Creating tapes


Step 1) Draw the path that the tape follows

There are many ways you can draw a path in Inkscape.  In the example shown here, I have used the spiral tool, the freehand pencil, and the Bezier pen.  At the end of this post, I will discuss additional options.

In this example, I started with the spiral tool.  Select the spiral tool  (spiral icon.png) from tool icons along the left side of Inkscape.  You can adjust the appearance of the spiral with the options along the top of the Inkscape window (see red box below).  For information about each of the values that you can change, take a look at Tav Mjong’s Shapes and Spirals Chapter or the FLOSS manual. In the main drawing area, click and hold down the left button on your mouse and drag the mouse to create the spiral on the canvas.  When you have the right size, release the mouse button.

1 Spiral

I drew the rest of the heart, using the freehand pencil tool.  Select the pencil icon (pencil.png) from the left side of the Inkscape window.  You can adjust how the pencil draws using the options along the top of the window.  I used the “Regular Bezier Path” mode and increased the “smoothness” to 58 so that, even though my hand shakes a bit when dragging the mouse, the line is smooth.  To find out more about the different modes and settings,  have a look in  Tav Mjong’s Creating Paths Chapter.  Click and hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse to draw your curve.  When you are done, release the mouse button.   Don’t worry if it is not perfect; you can change the line after you let go of the mouse.  I will show you how later on in this tutorial.

Note: If you are going to do a lot of freehand drawing, you might want to consider getting a graphics tablet.

1 Freehand line

We now have a spiral and a curve but, for drawing the zigzag pattern, we need them to be connected together.  Select both the spiral and the freehand curve.  To do this, click on the Select and Transform tool (select.png).  To select more than one object, you can hold down the Shift key and click on each object, alternatively, you can click and drag the mouse to create a box around both objects (Note: no part of the object can be outside the box).  You should see a dashed box around both objects.

From the top menu, select Path -> Combine.  Now you should just see one box around both items.


Step 2) Edit Path

Now we can modify the path to get rid of any wobbles.

Select the Edit Path by Nodes tool (edit nodes.png). When you select a path, it will display little gray squares or diamonds along the path – these are called nodes.  The nodes control the appearance of the path.  You can change the position of a node by clicking on it and dragging.  You can also change how much the path curves by clicking on a node and pulling on the two little whiskers that appear by the node node.png. You can also add or remove nodes as well as many other options, too many for me to explain in this tutorial.  I recommend having a quick look at Tav Mjong’s Path Editing Chapter or in the FLOSS manual.


Step 3) Add zigzags along path

Now that you have the path that you want the tape to follow, it is time to add nicely spaced zigzag lines showing where to put the pins.

The first step is to create one copy of the “zig” (or is it a “zag”?).  I used the Bezier pen tool to do this.  Start by selecting the pen tool (Bezier.png). To create lines with this tool, click and release the left mouse button at each point in the path you are drawing.  A straight line will join the nodes together. To finish the path, double click.  You can find out more about the Bezier pen tool from Tav Majong’s: Creating Paths Chapter or the FLOSS manual.

To create the zig, draw an upside down V shape (see below).

2 zigzag A.png

To make sure the Λ is perfect, we can edit the nodes using the alignment tool:
First, select the path editing tool (edit nodes.png).  Next, select Object -> Align and Distribute from the top menu bar of Inkscape.  This will open a little toolbox on the right side of the Inkscape window.  Click on the Λ  to select it.  Drag your mouse to select the two  little grey boxes at the bottom of the Λ.  The boxes should turn blue.  Click on the “align to horizontal line” icon (see below) to make the two points line up.

2 zigzag B

Now drag your mouse to select all of the boxes in the Λ and click on the “distribute horizontally” icon (see below).  Now the space between the points should be the same.  To find out more about the alignment tool, see Tav’s Align Chapter.

2 zigzag C.png

OK, now we have a very nice “zig” so let’s use it.  Select the Λ  and copy it to the clipboard (Edit -> Copy).  Select the path you drew for the tape.  From the top menu bar, click on Open -> Path Effects…  This will open a toolbox, called “Path Effects”, on the right side of the Inkscape window.


Click on the Plus sign (plus.png) in the “Path Effects” tool box. A list will pop up.  Scroll down the list and click on “Pattern Along Path” and click on the Add button below the list.


Click on the “Link to path on clipboard” button (link.png).  Change the “Pattern copies” to “Repeated”.  Now you should see zigzags along the path.


You can adjust the size of the zigzags by changing the original Λ.  Choose the Selection tool (select.png), click on the Λ and drag the corners of the dashed rectangle (scale.png) to make the Λ bigger or smaller.  If you hold down the Ctrl key while dragging the box, the width and height will scale proportionally.  You can also move the zigzags along the path (maybe you don’t like the way the zigzag looks at the bottom point of the heart) by changing the value of “Tangent offset”.   To learn about more tricks, take a look at Tav’s Pattern Along Path Chapter or the Floss manual .

4) Fine tune the zigzags

OK, you have played around with the Pattern along path and it is pretty good but you still want to change it a little bit.  As a last step, you can turn the pattern along path into an editable path object.  Using the selection tool, select the zigzag path and from the top menu choose Path -> Object to Path.  This will turn all of the little zigzags into a path with individual nodes.


You can now edit individual nodes the same way we did in Step 2 above.

I didn’t like the way the zigzags became rounded so I went into the Edit Path by Nodes tool (edit nodes.png), selected all of the nodes (Ctrl A or drag a rectangle around everything) and clicked on the “Make selected nodes a corner” (corner.png) option (see A below). This made all of the lines straight.  I also dragged some of the nodes so that the different parts of the spiral would be connected together (see B below).

3 edit path

5) Create outline of zigzag

Finally, I wanted a curve along the inside and outside of the tape.  I drew this using the Bezier pen tool (Bezier.png) similar to what we did in Step 3.  I wanted the curve to lie exactly on the nodes of the zigzag so I used Inkscape’s snap to target feature which appears along the right side of Inkscape.  This feature has many options so I recommend reading up about it in Tav’s Snapping Chapter.  I used “Snap to cusp nodes”.

4 Draw outline.png

Once I had finished drawing with the pen tool, the curve was made of straight lines so it did not look nice and smooth.  To fix this, I used the Edit Path by Nodes tool (edit nodes.png), selected all of the nodes (Ctrl A or drag a rectangle around everything) and clicked on the “Make selected nodes smooth” (smooth.png) option

4 Smooth Outline.png

Now it’s your turn!


Additional notes:

There are many other ways to draw a path.  You can draw a shape and convert it to a path.  This is very useful if you want to combine circles (or parts of circles) with triangles, squares etc.  I recommend reading Tav’s Paths from Objects Chapter.

Instead of zigzags, you could also place dots along a path using the “Pattern along path” technique discussed in Step 3.  Just replace the Λ with a circle.  Notes: You will need to convert the circle to a path. You will need to set the “Spacing” parameter in the Path Effect Editor to create a gap between the dots.



Filling a shape with a lace ground


Step 1) Create a patch of lace ground pattern

Create a rectangle of lace ground pattern that is bigger than shape.  For example, below I create a rectangle of rose ground that is 120mm by 120 mm.

Ground from template tool

Screenshot from Inkscape: Ground from template

Step 2) Group all of the little lines into one object

Select the entire rectangle by dragging your mouse to form a box around it.  Notice there is a little bar at the bottom of the window and it shows what you have selected.  In the picture below, I have selected 1536 little lines, each line is called a “path”. Each little line is surrounded by a thin black dashed box.


All lines in ground selected

We need to group all of these little lines together so that we can treat them as one object.  To do this, select Object -> Group from the top menu of Inkscape.

group menu

Menu for grouping objects – keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+G

Notice that now there is just one thin black dashed box around all of the lines and the text at the bottom of the window says “Group”.


All 1536 lines are in one group

Step 3) Create the shape you want to fill

Create the shape that you want to fill in with the ground pattern.  In the example below, I have drawn a star using the “Stars and polygons” tool.  To learn more about drawing stars and other shapes, you can visit the following Inkscape tutorial: shapes tutorial.  NOTE: If you want to create a Gimp outline or a tape outline as I did above, you need to create a second copy of your shape.  You can do this using the copy and paste menus.


Create a shape such as a star

Step 4) Clip pattern to shape

Drag the shape on top of the ground pattern and position it so that the ground lines up with the shape exactly as you want it to.


Place shape on top of ground

Select both the shape and the group containing the ground pattern.  Now select Object -> Clip from the top menu.

clip menu.png

Object -> Clip -> Set menu

You will be left with just that part of the ground inside the outline as shown below.If this does not happen, there are a couple of things to check: 1) Make sure that you have grouped the ground pattern together as described in step 2.  2) Make the shape is ON TOP OF the ground pattern.  If the shape is behind, you can select the shape and press the “Home” key on the keyboard.  This should bring the shape to the top. 3) Make sure the shape is not grouped together with the ground pattern.


Rose ground clipped to star outline

Step 5) Outline the shape

Position the second copy of the shape around the pattern.  You can use the alignment tool to help make the alignment perfect (reference on how to use the alignment tool).


Second copy of star place around clipped ground

Step 6) Create a zigzag border

Several steps are required to create the zigzag tape so I will cover this in a separate blog post (Creating a tape).

Additional notes:

For more information about clipping a pattern to a shape,  try the following sources:

Windows: Updating the extensions

1) Download the latest version

On my Inkscape extensions page, locate the extensions.zip file (Step 2 on that page) and click on it to download.  The file is called extensions.zip and it is a compressed file.


Red box shows where to look for the link to extensions.zip file

2) Copy Location of Extensions

Launch Inkscape and go to the top level menu “Edit” -> “Preferences”. A window will pop up and you will probably have to drag the bottom right corner to resize it in order to see everything. On the left side, scroll down to “System” and click on it. On the right side, find “User extensions” and copy the text that appears in the white box beside this label (see below).

find location.png

3) Extract the files from extensions.zip

Open the explorer.png application and navigate to the downloaded extensions.zip file.  Select extensions.zip.  With the right mouse button, launch the file explorer menu and select “Open with” -> “Windows Explorer”.


This will list all the files in extensions.zip (see below).  At the top right of the window, there is an icon with the label “Extract All”.  Click on it.

extract all.png

This will launch a new dialog window called “Extract Compressed (Zipped) Folders.  Here, enter the name of the folder that you copied in Step 2 above.

extract location.png

Finally, click on the “Extract” button in the bottom right corner of the dialog window.  Close Inkscape if it is currently running.  Next time you open Inkscape, the updated extensions will be running.

Inkscape on Mac OS X

NOTE: As of Inkscape 1.0, these special instructions for Mac OS X are no longer required.

Installing Inkscape and using XQuartz

  • Inkscape does not run directly on the Mac OS X operating system.  It uses a go-between called XQuartz.  Nothing to be concerned about, but there are a few things you should be aware of.
  • To install Inkscape on Mac OS X, follow the instructions given here: Inkscape Extensions for Bobbin Lace.  NOTE: You will need to install XQuartz first and restart your computer as per the instructions in the link.
  • When you launch Inkscape on Mac OS X, you will see two applications start in your Application bar as shown below: Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.44.57 PM.png
    The left one in the red box is for Inkscape and the right one is for XQuartz.  Inkscape runs “inside” the XQuartz application.
  • The top menus for Inkscape are a little different from what you are used to for applications on Mac OS X.  Instead of being at the very top of the screen, they are located at the top of the main Inkscape window.  The top of the screen will show the XQuartz menus and below that, in another window, you will see the Inkscape menus.Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.49.25 PM.png
  • Where did it go?!?! If you minimize Inkscape, usually you can make it come back by clicking on the Inkscape icon in the application bar.  If this does not work, click on the XQuartz icon in the application bar and from the top menu of XQuartz select “Window -> YOUR DOCUMENT NAME – Inkscape.Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.48.09 PM.png
  • As of Inkscape 0.92, the Inkscape keyboard shortcuts use Ctrl (^) instead of Cmd (⌘) as a modifier key for commands such as Copy (Ctrl  C) and Paste (Ctrl V).  Hopefully, this will be fixed in future releases.

Installing or Upgrading Extensions

  1. Download the file “extensions.zip” from Inkscape Extensions for Bobbin Lace.
  2. Launch Inkscape and go to the menu Edit -> Preferences.  A window will pop up and you will probably have to drag the bottom right corner to resize it in order to see everything.  On the left side, scroll down to “System” and click on it.  On the right side, find “User extensions” and copy the text that appears in the white box beside this label (see below).Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.42.29 PM.png
  3. Launch the Finder application and in the top menu of Finder  select “Go” as shown below.  From the “Go” menu select “Go to Folder…”
    Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.45.51 PM.png
  4. In the window that pops up, paste the path you saved in step 2 and click on the “Go” button.  Finder will take you to this folder location.Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.46.10 PM.png
  5. Drag the files you downloaded in Step 1 into the folder you opened in Step 4.

Finding the path for Lace templates

  1. Download the “templates.zip” file from Inkscape Extension for Bobbin Lace Grounds and copy the files to a folder where you like to keep your lace documents.
  2. In Finder open the folder that contains the lace template files. Select the text (.txt) file for the template you want to use (NOTE: There is also a .png file with the same name.  Make sure you select the .txt file). For example, select the “rose.txt” file if you want to create some Rose ground.
  3. While holding down the OPTION key, click on the right mouse button to open the context menu for this file and select “Copy rose.txt as Pathname” as shown below.ALT-Option-Key-Mac.jpgosx-finder-copy-as-pathname.jpg
  4. In Inkscape, go to the Extensions top level menu and select Extensions -> Bobbin Lace -> Ground from Template.  A window will pop up as shown below.  In the white box to the right of the “File name for ground template (full path)” label, paste the path name you copied in Step 3.Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.44.06 PM.png

Using the Clipboard

Because Inkscape uses XQuartz, the clipboard is a little different.

  1. You have set-up the clipboard on XQuartz correctly.  From the XQuartz menu at the top of your screen, select XQuartz -> Preferences.xquartz pref.pngMake sure there is no checkbox beside the item “Update Pasteboard when CLIPBOARD changes”.


  2. As of Inkscape 0.92, the Inkscape keyboard shortcuts use Ctrl (^) instead of Cmd (⌘) as a modifier key for commands such as Copy (Ctrl  C) and Paste (Ctrl V).  Hopefully, this will be fixed in future releases.


Inkscape for Bobbin Lace

Note: These instructions have been updated for Inkscape 1.0

Inkscape is a free, open source drawing tool (inkscape.org).  I have created “extensions” to Inkscape that make it easier to create patterns with bobbin lace grounds.

You can find instructions on how to install Inkscape and my extensions on my web site: Inkscape Extension for Bobbin Lace Grounds.

In this blog, I will talk about how to use my extensions and also describe some of the many other features of Inkscape that bobbin lace designers might find useful.

How to use my Bobbin Lace extensions

When you start Inkscape, if the lace tool extensions are installed correctly you should see a menu called “Bobbin Lace” under the main “Extensions” menu. Under the “Bobbin Lace” menu you will see three options: “Circular Ground from Template…”, “Ground from Template…” and “Regular Grid…”.

Screenshot from Inkscape: Bobbin lace tool menu under Extensions

Screenshot from Inkscape: Bobbin lace tool menu under Extensions

The Bobbin Lace “Regular Grid” tool will allow you to draw a grid of dots. In the pop up dialog you can specify the angle of the grid, the distance between the footside pins and the size of rectangle you want to fill with dots. After you have selected the desired values, click on the “Apply” button.

Bobbin Lace Grid Dialog

Screenshot from Inkscape: Bobbin lace regular grid dialog

The distance between footside pins is the vertical measurement between two dots on the grid. When designing lace, you can use the handy reference by Brenda Paternoster to determine the size of your grid based on the size of your thread.

Drawing Lace Grounds

The Bobbin Lace “Ground from Template” tool will allow you to draw a lace ground pattern. Note: In the ground pattern, each line represents a pair of threads. In the pop up dialog you can specify the grid angle, distance between footside pins and the size of rectangle you want to fill with the ground pattern. You must also choose what type of ground to draw by giving the location and name of a template file.

Working with lace ground templates

First, download the “templates.zip” file from Inkscape Extension for Bobbin Lace Grounds and copy the files to a folder where you like to keep your lace documents.
The template files are in a zip file.  You will need to extract them from the zip file (also known as unzipping the zip file) and place them in a folder on your computer (unzip instructions for Windows, unzip instructions for Mac  – skip down the page to “Unzipping a File”).

The template file you downloaded has two different kinds of files inside it: 1) PNG files (file names that end in .png) which show a picture of a small sample of the ground pattern and 2) TXT files (file names that end in .txt) which contain a description of the pattern that can be read by the tool.

In the Ground from Template window, you need to tell the tool where to find the TXT file for the ground pattern you want to draw.  Click on the “…” button beside “Template file name” and select the template file. For example, in the picture below, the full path to the file rose.txt is shown.

Bobbin lace ground dialog

Screenshot from Inkscape: Bobbin lace ground dialog

Drawing lace grounds in a circle

The Bobbin Lace “Circular Ground from Template” tool will allow you to draw a lace ground pattern wrapped around a circle.  In the pop up dialog you can specify the inner radius of the circle, the number of copies of the pattern around the circle, number of rings and the grid angle. You must also choose what type of ground to draw by giving the location and name of a template file.

Bobbin lace circular ground dialog

Screenshot from Inkscape: Bobbin lace circular ground dialog