Sol Looms (Teneriffe/Tenerife)
Click on thumbnails for details on each item



Ñanduti Frame

Ñanduti Frame


Polka Spider-Web


Perpendicular Pegged:    



Sarah Hadley

Studio Twelve









Koppo Cushion

Lux Lace Maker





Knifty Knitter
Parallel Pegged:        

Le Ténériffe









Magic Loom

Free 'Sol' Looms

This page presents the technique for making the free 'Sol' type laces in terms of a discussion of the motif looms - I am not concerned with the actual weaving process here. Even though this section is under the 'Teneriffe' heading, I prefer the name 'Sol' to encompass all these examples in one place. Actual examples of lace are presented on my web site under the country of origin.

Free 'Sol' encompasses native Teneriffe, Ñanduti, and other Spanish techniques, as well as the more commercial 'teneriffe' methods still promoted today. I do include yarn 'flower loom' techniques. One should be cautious in assuming that any one method is the direct decendent of another - e.g., Teneriffe evolves into yarn flowers. Development of needlework techniques is more driven by material availability, and is often influenced by seemingly unrelated applications. In examining early patents for the 'yarn' flower looms, mention is often found of bow-tying techniques, or artificial flower manufacture, particularly with straw (the term 'daisy winder' did not come about by chance). The development of yarn flower looms seems to be a kind of spike in time rather than a smooth continuous transition. It seems as though it was a sudden adaptation of Sol techniques rather than a smooth progression from needlewoven lace. This is a surprisingly important area of study, since we know so little about the evolution of early bobbin and needlelace. Seeing how something as simple as yarn flower looms evolve at a time when we still have much original documentation, may give us insight into how 16th century lace techniques developed. In this vein I briefly consider further branches in this family such as knitting looms or square weaving frames, but only as they have can also be used as 'flower looms'.

I am not covering the drawnwork 'Sol' techniques here - there are other pages on my site where this is discussed. This page is limited to items which stand free from their loom foundation, as does needlelace. Free Sol laces are not classified as needlelaces due to the very sparse use of buttonhole stitch. Instead we call these 'needleweaving' to reflect the extensive use of "plain" weave using a needle as a shuttle through the motif web warp threads. 'Sol' historically implies a circular needlewoven motif based on a 'spiderweb' foundation, however there must be some means of connecting the motifs together. Therefore looms can have irregular shapes still based on the web pattern. Deviations from the converging ray pattern to fill in spaces are really only found in freeform looms (see classification below).

This is a growing area of collecting for me, and I do not have actual examples of some of the looms. What I don't have I try to illustrate with advertising or instructional material from my lace library. These will be replaced as I find the actual looms. As always, click on the thumbnails for extensive information on a particular item.

It is a fascinating exercise to try and classify the various techniques for making these textiles, and I have organized this page according to my own thoughts on the subject. There are two main functions that a Sol loom must serve - Design and Mechanics. The Design of a motif is set by its geometrical outline and the spacing of the web ray tips. Together these two elements dictate the region of convergence of the rays. (Occasionally the convergence is enforced by a loom element, or forced into a different position by the artist.) Mechanics is concerned with both securing and tensioning the threads, and in Sol looms this is limited to the tips of the Sol web 'rays'. Modern artists might find it productive to think about outline, spacing, convergence, securing, and tensioning in their work. The loom also carries implication for thread size and type, and again this is a productive area of for modern artist exploration.

The Design and Mechanics loom functions can be accomplished in a 'Freeform' or a 'Template' mode. 'Freeform' allows the artist to design virtually any motif possible. 'Template' relies on a fixed form which at a minimum provides the Geometry and Spacing function. I designate 3 Template variations: 'Fixed' (where the points of attachment cannot be removed from the loom), 'Removable' (where they can be removed), and 'Dynamic' (where the points remove themselves by some mechanism).

The following table presents my thinking on an organization scheme, with an 'x' in the table where I have been able to find actual examples:

  Outlined Perpendicular Pegged Parallel Pegged
Freeform x x  
Fixed Template   x x
Removable Template x x x
Dynamic Template     x

According to user preference, one can classify looms with either the rows or the columns as the top level. Let me discuss this using the "loom Type" at the top level (Outlined, Perpendicular Pegged, and Parallel Pegged). I call the vertical colums (Freeform, Fixed Template, Removable Template and Dynamic Ttmplate) the "Mode of use".

A) In 'Outlined' looms, support for the web ray tips is provided by a base thread outlines or couched stitches similar to the couching
   used in traditional needlelace techniques.
   1) Freeform: Primarily seen in the embroidery frame techniques found in Ñanduti. Alexandra Stillwell in her book 'The
       Technique of Teneriffe Lace', also endorses this method. The artist is free to design any motif desired, and designs the ray spacing
      to accommodate the thread thickness. This primarily uses a running stitch with stitch length set by the ray tip spacing, although
      couching is possible. (first photo in the 1st row of thumbnails)
   2) Fixed Template: I haven't found any examples here - one really does have to remove the securing threads to release the motif.
   3) Removable Template: Outline or couching threads are strung along a series of holes in a fixed form, and cut away after       completion. (Last part of the 1st row)
   4) Dynamic Template: Again, no examples, and I can't think of any possibilities (at the moment)

"Pegged" looms provide a solid 'pin' as opposed to an outline thread to secure the web. 'Pins' are not limited to traditional sewing pins; they can also include pegs, nails, or projections that provide the design and mechanical functions.
B) 'Perpendicular Pegged' have pegs arranged perpendicular to the surface of the web. (the term 'perpendicular' is borrowed from music
     where one describes instruments like harps which have strings perpendicular to the soundboard.)
   1) Freeform: Using some kind of base, like a hard pillow, or even a wooden block, the artist inserts 'pegs' to form the motif shapes.
       (2nd row)
   2) Fixed Template: These looms (normally plastic) are one solid piece which cannot be modified and are usually designed for yarn        flowers. (3rd row). Note the similarity of these devices to 'knitting' looms which are not considered here.
       Knitting loom pegs have some kind of 'head' to prevent the thread from slipping off - very bad for a Sol loom where the work
       must be removed entirely intact.
   3) Removable Template: The template forms a pattern with holes through which removable pegs are attached. They can be used        alone, or attached to a working support like a small, hard pillow. They often have a slightly curved surface, and I find them the        easiest of all the Sol looms to use. (4th row)
   4) Dynamic Template: I have not been able to find anything in this category. But I think I could figure it out - perhaps a parallel plate
       sandwich with holes in the top and pins in the bottom. Bringing the two plates together secures the pins in place, separating        the plates releases the work. One might even be able to 'dial in' a pin pattern.

C) 'Parallel Pegged' have the pegs arranged parallel to the surface of the web - normally around the geometric perimeter. (the term
   'parallel' is borrowed from music, where one describes instruments like guitars which have strings parallel to the soundboard.)
   1) Freeform: In principle this should be easy to do, but I haven't found any examples. A thick geometric form which would allow the        artist to place pegs around the perimeter in any location desired would do nicely. Some kind of material with a 'memory' would do        nicely to recover from the holes and allow reuse.
   2) Fixed Template: These looms have projections or notches cut into a solid template. Getting the work off the often inflexible        material of the loom can be a challenge. Note the many innovative solutions, which make these looms very collectible.
       (5th row)
   3) Removable Template: These usually involve sticking pegs around the outer edge of the template, making them easy to remove.
       The holes are preset, which makes this form differ from the Freeform category. (6th row)
   4) Dynamic Template: Many of these work on essentially the same principle, a retractable edge pin controlled by a twisting                        mechanism in the center of the loom. The Bucilla 'Magic Loom' is an interesting variation.        (7th row).

first posted 10/3/2009