Home: Tutorials

Lace Cane

by ShelleyM

I love making lace canes, they can be the basis for all sorts of designs. Start with the basic lace can and then experiment as your confidence grows. You can chop them about and recombine them to change the design, combine different colours, make them with skinner blends etc. They are exceedingly easy to make and are a wonderful beginners project.

2 oz turquoise (1 small pack)
1/2 oz black (1/4 small pack)
Cutting blade: tissue blade, razor blade, exacto knife, sharp kitchen knife, etc.
Pasta machine or something to roll the clay into sheets (marble rolling pin, perspex brayer etc.)
Clean work surface (ceramic or glass tile - not wood)
Long needle tool - if you want to make beads
Darning needle, or knitting needle - if you want to make beads

Step 1
Choose two colours that have a good contrast. It doesn't matter how much you use, if you use more clay you will have a larger lace cane. I have chosen a turquoise as my main colour and black as my surrounding contrast colour. Roll the main colour into a log, making it as even as you can. I made a 2" log here.

Step 2
Roll your second colour into a thin sheet. For my sheet I rolled black on the thickest setting of my pasta machine which is about 1/8" thick. Cut it into a rectangle as wide as the log is long. My log is 2" long so I cut the black sheet 2" wide. Roll the log with this sheet to cover it. When you have the turquoise log wrapped, press gently where the edges overlap and then pull the sheet back again. You will notice a line where the clays meet. Using your cutting tool, cut along that line. Remove the scrap clay. Wrap the black clay back around the log, the edges should abut one another nicely with none of the blue showing and no overlap of the black. Roll gently to smooth the join. You now have a simple Bull's Eye Cane.

Step 3
Roll this log slowly and evenly along it's length to reduce its diameter. Continue rolling until it is just over 6 times it's original length - about 12 1/2". Trim off any distorted ends which should leave you with a 12" log. Then cut your log into six equal lengths. Don't worry if your log is longer or shorter than this, it really doesn't matter. But do try and cut them all the same length. If you end up with 5 logs the same length, just put the excess aside and use the 5 logs.
Step 4
Combine the pieces together as shown with one in the centre and 5 on the outside. Or if you have a different number of logs, just combine together as you find appealing. You can use as few as 3 or several in your grouping.

Step 5
Gently compress the cane together to form a round log again.
Step 6
Repeat steps 3-5. Cutting and combining as before. Again you can use a different number of logs if you want. You could cut your recombined log into just 3 if you wanted.
Step 7
Cut a slice from your smoothed log and take a look at your lace cane! You can carry on cutting and combining again if you want a smaller design. But don't do this too many times or the lines will become so fine that you will loose the definition and the pattern will blend together.

For variations why not use more than just two colours. Here I have surrounded my purple log with a thin white layer and thin a thin turquoise layer. You can add as many layers as you like. Experiment and have fun.


Here are some of the things I've made with my lace canes In the front row are some slices from my canes. In the middle row, I used scrap clay (cut ends etc.) and covered them with slices of lace cane. In the top row are a few of my tiny wish bottles. Some are completely covered with slices, whilst others only had a few slices. For these, I kept the background colour the same as the thin lace lines in the cane.

Beads: To make beads some people let their canes rest overnight, I only do that if it's an intricate cane and I want to keep all the lines and design very neat, I don't usually bother for a lace cane. Resting the cane will allow it to cool and then you can cut it more cleanly without squishing. I actually quite like the slight distortion you get when cutting while it's fresh. It's up to you.

Use some of your scrap for the centre of the bead. Take a small piece of clay - about half the size you want your finished bead to be and roll into a smooth ball. Cut a minimum of two slices of your lace cane and apply to the bead. You can apply several slices, overlap them, or just use two. Smooth over the seams with a smooth needle tool or knitting needle and then roll between the palms of your hands until it is round and smooth and then roll into the shape you want if you don't want it to be round. Let the clay rest for at least an hour. Then take your needle tool and pierce your bead halfway through, twisting it as you go. Turn the bead round and pierce from the other side until the two holes join up. If you do it from one side only it tends to distort the clay and push it out on one side. I use hatpin blanks for piercing and then put several beads on one pin I suspend it for baking. Bake according to your manufacturers guidelines.


Shelley McLoughlin
©2001 Text and Pictures