How is Oya Lace made?

How is Oya Lace made?

Now this is one of those strange coincidences that happen on line. First Barbara Blankenship has an article Oya lace in CQMag online. The lace illustrated in this article is the lace I know as Oya. Next Allison featured her collection on her blog, then I received an email from from Elizabeth of Quieter Moments (check out what she has done with this weeks stitch it’s fantastic) who pointed me to Sunshine’s Creations who is also asking questions about this form of lace.

There is very little online about this type of lace. This brief definition in Art of Oya describes Oya as a knotted lace but the image featured does not match what I know as Oya. The same article suggests that another term this lace is known by is Bebilla but the lace that I have seen was not the same as the lace illustrated here. I saw Bebilla lace in the Victorian and Albert Museum and it was the same type of  Oya that Barbara and Allison have.  The lace I saw was fringed with little 3 dimensional shapes of flowers and fruit and did not lay flat, like the lace in Allison’s and Barbaras collection. It may be a knotted form of the lace but when I saw it I thought it was a 3D form of needlelace.

Why do I say I think it’s needle lace? Apart from seeing the samples in the V & A I have worked needle lace and know that you can work it into 3d structures. Below is an image which is part of a crazy quilt block. The little flowers have a cup into which I tucked a bead. They are three dimensional and built up using detached buttonhole stitch which is the foundation of all the variations of stitches found in needle lace.

There is more information on needlelace structures and an example of needle lace worked in a three dimensional fashion. Take a look and you will see what I mean. Here is a contemporary needle lace also worked in a 3D fashion. Finally if you go to this site, select needle lace and then click small you will see Oya being sold online. As I have said I could be wrong but I think Oya is made using a needle rather than knotting thread. I could be totally wrong. Any lace makers out there know the answer?


  1. My friend from the Netherlands, Berta Hesen-Minten, has traveled to the north (Amsterdam) for a number of weeks for private lessons from a Turkish woman, to learn Oya.
    At present, Berta is the only person to have written COMPLETE directions in English and has just taught the first Oya workshop here in the States: a huge success – all students were able to understand and produce Oya lace.
    It looks complicated but is actually quite simple to do. I find it much easier to explain – in photos & text – than the tension changes in Tatting.

    It truly is worked with just a needle and any type of thread, from perle cotton through sewing threads to very fine silk thread. It can be worked along fabric edges or just into its own loops: virtually a ‘pocket project’ to be carried with you and worked anywhere.

    If Berta’s name is Googled, her name contact info can be located.

  2. It is called igne oyasi (or igne oyalari, plural). Igne means needle and oya means lace. They make it with one needle, like a cross stitch needle, and different thiclnesses and colors of thread. They do not use any kind of thread, but occasionally they work it directly onto a piece of fabric. I live in Turkey and lots of women do it but it is difficult to find an explantion in English.

  3. Hi Sharon,

    Piecework Magazine had an article about Oya a couple of years ago. I believe it included instructions, and it was definitely needlelace. There are also a couple of books out there on the subject, possibly even in English, that would give you definitive proof of the technique. From a vague memory of the magazine article, I believe other techniques can be used, such as crochet, but that needlelace was the more common method.

  4. Sharon,I have a postcard, which was exchanged in a group swap, with two small pieces of oya on it. The friend who sent it lives in Turkey; she had found a small shop selling new Oya and was told that it is needlelace made with a thread slightly thicker than regular sewing thread. Second hand information I know, but it would seem to confirm your impressions.

  5. Inspirations magazine issue 55 had an article on needlelace, which after looking at Barbara Blankenships article I realise is Oya. According to the article it is called Igne Oyalari in Turkish and can be three dimensional or flat – no mention of whether a needle is used though! Apparently it is also called Armenian Lace, Rumanian lace, oriental or Rodi, Arab or Smyrna Stitch, Nazareth,Palestinian or Syrian lace, Bebelli or Oy. (everybody wants to take the credit for something so beautiful!)

  6. I purchased a book on oya lace on ebay from Turkey and have toyed arround with it. You do use a needle. The piece of lace that is flat in the site you suggested is oya. In all of the examples in my book the flowers are attached to the scarf with lace like this. The difference is how they are worked flat or in the round. The flat is similar in many ways to needle tatting using the thread to tie on to. It takes a great deal of practice to be even and I am unable to find the right thread here in the sticks. I started to think it might be better to just purchase the perfect looking examples…
    or Maybe I should play some more


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