Torchon 1

Torchon Stage 1 is the most popular proficiency test, probably because most people learn their lacemaking skills through Torchon lace. At this stage the assessors are checking to make sure that you’re correctly working the basic techniques and that your tension is improving. You do not have to achieve 100% in order to gain your certificate, you need to show that you have got a reasonable understanding of the techniques and you lace is improving. This is why for Stage 1 that the requirements ask you to arrange your folder in the order of working, so they can see such improvements.

It is advisable to choose patterns which show various techniquies within them, this includes the 3 major pieces. More than one technique can be included in one piece and if you plan in advance, you can avoid unnecesary repetition, which may reduce the number of pieces you have to make. Source your patterns from a variety of books so the assessors can see you have access to different authors. It is not required for you to buy all books listed, source your state library or friends to see what they have. Also use a variety of threads, cotten, linen and silk, kept in soft colours. Do not use variegated thread, for it makes it harder for the assessor to see the techniques.

Do not be afraid to adapt a pattern to meet your needs. For example: you may not easily find a pattern using vertical and horizontal divisions in fans, but you could insert these divisions into most patterns with a fan. When working your chosen pieces, leave your major pieces to last, they should demonstrate the very best work that you are capable of at this stage.

It is important to note that Torchon 1 requires samples of both half stitch and whole stitch trails and these whould be shown in both wide and narrow trails. It is not acceptable to only work, for example, one wide whole stitch trail and one narrow half stitch trail. You should work a wide trail in in both half stitch and whole stitch, and a narrow trail in both half stitch and whole stitch. And not just one of each, do a few repeats to show you know the techniques. And do not forget the trails with divisions.

There are 5 directional changes illustrated in the requirement sheet and you need to use at least 4 of them. Make sure that you correctly identify which change you are working and note it in your workbook. It is not uncommon for directional changes to be marked as incorrect because they have not been correctly identified in the workbook.

© Extracted from The Journal of the Australian Lace Guild ~ Spring 2011


Torchon 2

The most common mistake a candidate makes in Torchon Stage 2 is approaching the work in the same manner as they did for Stage 1. Meaning they looked for a sample of a technique and worked a simple piece of lace showing that particular technique. And therein lies the main difference between Stage 1 and Stage 2.

The requirements stipulate that work needs to be of a higher standard than Stage 1 and most of us interpret that as meaning our workmanship has to be higher. So we make sure that our tension, mounting, finishing have all improved. However, assessors are also looking for evidence that you can work more difficult patterns and mange a greater number of bobbins, so the patterns need to be of a higher standard of difficulty as well as your workmanship. Consider patterns which are not just a square eding or mat. Can you find a piece which is a different shape and is a bit more unusual than most?

It is actually very difficult to find published patterns which contain the Stage 2 techniques, a large proportion of which focus on roseground and spider variations. So be prepared to either design your own patterns or substitute existing patterns. A couple of very useful books for researching variations are Practical Skill in Bobbin Lace by Bridget Cook and the Book of Bobbin Lace Stitches by Cook and Scott. It is never a good idea to use sampler patterns in any proficiency. Candidates often use the sampler from Building Torchon Lace Patterns in a Stage 2 folder because it has lots of spiders in it. However, there are not enough repeats of any spider varaition, roseground variation, or ground variation to make this piece acceptable to assessors. Remember that the requirements ask for a minimum of 15cm of any length of a sample and if you show the requirements in a finished piece, there must still be multiple patttern repeats in the piece. Accessors need to able to see that you can consistently work a technique, which is why the minimum size is required.

Remember that you need to show examples of both wide and narrow crossing trails, in both half stitch and whole stitch. Many people forget this and only submit one crossing trail. Assessors are also looking for some indication that you understand variations, rather than just following the path of the threads drawn in the pattern. So research the variations of any technique you use. Draw working diagrams, give references and background information to show the assessors that you are thinking about what you are doing.

Gimp woven fans seem to cause problems with Stage 2 candidates. At a previous assessors meeting it was rules for the purposes of the proficiency requirements, a gimp woven fan has one single gimp which is woven back and forwards through the passive fans (see page 166 of Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace by Bridget Cook), and not a fan worked with a pair of gimps as the workers.

All four sides of a footside is an exercise in starting across the top of a square or rectangle replicating a Torchon footside as you do so, and removing pairs in the footside at the bottom edge. It is not a square worked in strips with sewing. The all four sides of a footside piece must have a Torchon footside on all sides, not a Winkie Pin edge.

It is good idea to explain yourself to the assessors if you work a technique differently to the published version. Tell the assessors why, they may or not may not agree with you, but at least it shows that you are thinking about what you are doing, rather than just following the published book.

© Extracted from The Journal of the Australian Lace Guild ~ November 2011


Torchon 3

It can be difficult to decide what to submit for the Torchon 3 proficiency. There are no technical requirements listed apart from four major finished pieces of lace showing advanced techniques, meaning a high degreee of difficulty. One of these must be of the candidates own design. The only other clue the asessors may be looking for is in the General Guidelines, where Paragraph 12 states: At Stage 3, a very high standard of work is required. Assessors are still looking for clues that the candidates skills has progressed since Stage 2. Consider the following for this is what assessors will be considering when they assess your lace:

  • Have you really pushed yourself to do something special or is your attitude “this will do”?
  • Can you keep the pattern correct through multiple changes from one stitch or element to another?
  • Are you using various stitch variations, or are you sticking to basic stitches?
  • How does your Stage 3 pieces compare to your Stage 2 pieces?
  • Are you trying harder or more adventurous patterns or are you still working with similar patterns?
  • Have you successfully worked shaped pieces such as hexagons where the corner turns are more difficult to work?
  • Have you added and removed pairs to achieve shaping?
  • Are you still using a limited amount of bobbins, or have you used more bobbins?

But most of all what assessors look for is the WOW factor.. . that unspoken message from a piece lace that tells that the candidate has developed skills, undestands what she is doing, can work out complications and solve problems. The following are two samples and assessors remarks about them.


The shape of this hexagon pleased the assessors, it was very elegant.
However, the assessors thought the actual design was too simple for Torchon 3
and there was way too much ground.
Compare this piece with the previous piece.
You will see that there is a lot less unadorned ground and a couple of different grounds have been used.
The variety on the headside is interesting and there is a lot more for the eye to consider.

Look for patterns which require adding pairs, shaped pieces, pieces that use a greater variety of stitches and most of all pieces that make you say WOW!

© Extracted from The Journal of the Australian Lace Guild ~ February 2012


In Conclusion

Do not get discouraged by any Stage, these notes are a guide and hopefully be a bit of help. They have been put together based on feedback that has been received from assessment teams.