The roots are made entirely in free form techniques – twisting and knotting – and attached to the background by sewing. There is no pattern to follow, and it is left to lacemakers to find their own way.
Simple or complex, the root work can take a lot of time, sometimes more that the lace itself, but that’s OK. Just set aside a quiet time and immerse yourself in the secret underground world. Let your tree and your instincts guide you to find the flow, and slowly proceed, one root at a time.
Remove the cover cloth and unwrap the threads.
Form the tree trunk to the final shape. Insert a few support pins to prevent distorting it later, when threads are manipulated.
Start on one side of the trunk, taking a small bunch of threads and laying out the first roots. Twist two strands a few times to create one root.
Use one thread from the group for sewing : thread a needle and make a buttonhole stitch over the bundle.
Sew through the canvas, pulling on the thread gently to secure, but not distort the root. Leave the thread on the back side of the work.
Continue twisting the threads and sewing. Allow the roots to cross each other to create a lace like network of branches, and fix them in place, here and there, by sewing through the canvas.
The threads used for sewing are hanging at the back of work.
Tie the threads together in pairs. When the threads are knotted the roots are firmly attached, so make sure that you are happy with the shape and position of the roots before tying them off.
In the secured section some threads can be cut off to thin out the volume. Use sharp scissors and clip random threads to create fine root hair.
As the work progresses sideways toward the edge of the frame, it might be helpful to lay out the rootball perimeter. Cut out the desired shape from a piece of paper and use it as a template.
After one side is laid out, continue work on the opposite side. If the centre part is worked last, it is easier to balance out the design and achieve an even spread of the roots.
Observe the template guide and fill the outlined space evenly.
Knot all threads at the back.
Cut off the remaining threads along the template edge.
This sample shows roots that are not as elaborate, but they still look good and perhaps more artistic.
In wire lace, the roots are easier to work with, because wire stays twisted and put, and therefore does not need as many sewings.
In this sample, all bronze wire ends were sewn through the background, to create more uniform edge.
As every tree has a different root system, there are many ways to solve the rootball design.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find a unique footing for your Old Wise Tree!