"But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a... a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one."

-- Bruce Coville,
The Last Hunt

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Outdoor Tatting

I spent the day today tatting at the Duck Pond. I forgot to take the camera, so here are some pictures I took there a couple of years ago, on a day much like today.

I love sitting on this tree and reading a book or tatting. Today, somebody even recognized that I was tatting and got very excited about it! I was still working on my Top Secret Project, so all I can show you is this:

I showed the lady a finished version of whatever this might happen to be, and she oohed and aahed. It was very gratifying. She told me that she had bought some tatting supplies a few years ago but had never learned. Maybe seeing some actual tatting in progress will inspire her to get started.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Poor, Lonely Apostrophe

There's nothing about tatting in today's post, and it's a long one. However, I did say that my blog would occasionally be about "whatever else comes up", and this is something I just have to get off my chest. If you're bored by this post, you probably really need to read it. :)

I went to school in days of yore, when children in English-speaking countries were expected to- get this- learn English. Reading some of what shows up on the internet is thus quite painful to me. I see mistakes everywhere, including the sites of big corporations, which you would think would employ professional copy editors. Why, why, WHY do people think that grammar and puctuation are not important in an electronic medium? If anything, they are more important; your audience can't see your facial expressions or hear your tone of voice, so you must make your meaning abundantly clear. The position that "they know what I meant" doesn't cut it with me. I might be able to guess what you meant, or I might not. It is a matter of respect and consideration for your readers not to make them guess. Here is a classic example of how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

As you can see, the same words in the same order can mean complete opposite things depending on the punctuation. If I simply write, "A woman without her man is nothing" it's anybody's guess what I mean. Should my feminist sensibilities be offended? Should my male readers be offended? I don't know, and neither do you. Punctuate it, and the meaning will be clear.

There was a case in British law where the lawyers were debating the meaning of a law based on whether there was or was not a comma in it. A man was actually hanged (not hung, but hanged) because it was decided that the law did not contain a comma. For the full story, see the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, a very entertaining and educational read. (Why won't Blogger let me use italics in my link?)

Here's another example of how just one punctuation mark can make all the difference:

Those old things in the corner are my husbands.

As written, this sentence means, roughly, "I have several husbands. They are elderly, I regard them as objects rather than people, and they are sitting in the corner." Let's try it this way:

Those old things in the corner are my husbands'.

This one means, "I have several husbands, and the battered objects in the corner belong to them collectively." Let's give it one more try:

Those old things in the corner are my husband's.

Ah, that's better. Now it means, "I have one husband, and the battered objects in the corner belong to him."

This brings me to the subject of today's rant: plurals, possessives, and the correct use of the apostrophe in general. The poor, lonely apostrophe. It is abused by some and neglected by others, and yet when used correctly, it can do so much to clarify a sentence. It's really not hard, either.

To form a plural noun, you do not need an apostrophe. Now, don't argue with me; you just don't. In most cases, the plural is formed simply by adding an s (es if the word already ends in s, z, or x) to the end of the word. For example: things, corners, husbands, boxes. Sometimes, you have to change the spelling of the word a little bit; the plural of wife is wives. Sometimes the word changes altogether and there is no s at all: children, geese, feet. Occasionally, a word may be the same in both the singular and plural forms; you may have one sheep or many sheep. For the most part, though, adding s or es will get you through. The bottom line for the purpose of my discussion is, DON'T PUT A BLOODY APOSTROPHE IN A PLURAL WORD!

To form the possessive of a singular noun, add 's. That's right, you may use the apostrophe now. The word husband's means belonging to my (one) husband. Possessive words nearly always have an apostrophe. I can only think of six exceptions, and I will list them in a bit.

To form the plural possessive of a noun, add s'. Use the apostrophe, and put it in the right place. The word husbands' means belonging to my (two or more) husbands. Now, it does get a bit muddy here. For those weird nouns that don't form their plural by adding s, you will form the plural possessive by adding 's to the plural form: children's.

There you go. Four rules. Surely you can remember that many.

The other place where apostrophes should be used is where certain letters are omitted, as in contractions. For example, can't for cannot, doesn't for does not, and she'd for she would or she had.

Now, remember I told you there are six possessive words that don't take an apostrophe? Here they are. Memorize them. The possessive of I is my. The possessive of he is his. The possessive of she is her. Everyone gets these three right. The other three are trickier, because they are often confused with other words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean something different as well. The possessive of you is your; you're is the contraction of you are. The possessive of they is their; they're is the contraction of they are (and there refers to a place). Finally, the one that bugs me the most, and the one I see most often: the possessive of it is its; it's is the contraction of it is or it has. It's very important that you know how to form both the plural of a word and its possessive. See? It's not hard.

OK, end of rant. And no, anal retentive does not have a hyphen. And read Lynne Truss's book. Really.

Ah, I feel better now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

May I have the envelope, please?

First off, you are all amazing. I love all of the title suggestions I received in the Name That Snowflake contest. If I can count correctly (and I did run out of fingers and toes), there were a total of 44 entries by 37 people. Looking at my design, you saw things that I never would have- but I do now! Crowns, Queen Ann's lace, paw prints, go-go girls with their hair done up in juice can rollers, hen and chicks edging, Bali headdresses... all these things are in the design, and I didn't even know it.

It was a difficult decision. There were so many beautiful names, I wanted to use them all. Some of these titles are already suggesting ideas to me for new snowflakes. But in the end, I had to pick just one. And the winner is...

.................................drum roll......................................

ANGELS IN THE SNOW by quayceetatter!!!!! See the angels? The large single rings are their heads, the SCMR's with small rings on them are the upraised wings, and the chains are their arms holding hands. Congratulations, Linda, and thank you for such a beautiful title! Linda will receive the book and the pattern.

And... there was another entry that was so close, I had to name it runner-up. "Dancing Angels" by TAT19540 also requires recognition. Congratulations, Sue Anna! You will also receive a copy of the pattern.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contest Closed

The Name That Snowflake Contest is now officially closed. I will ponder the entries today and announce the winner tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep 'em coming!

Wow, some of you could hire yourselves out as title creators. I've got lots of great entries so far in the Name That Snowflake Contest. I'm having a great time reading them all. I might have to design more snowflakes to go with some of the titles, since I can't use all of them!

Tatskool suggested it would look good in a pale variegated thread. Well, great minds must think alike, because I was already halfway through this when her comment came in:

Here I used Lizbeth 114, Sea Shell, and 626, Shell Pink Light. It gives it a much softer look I think. For some reason I've been drawn to the more delicate hues lately; this is unusual, because I normally go for the eye-popping colors.

Keep those entries coming! Remember to leave them as comments on the correct post (the one immediately below this one), because I need them all in one place to keep track of them all. And remember the deadline is Thursday at noon Mountain Time. Oh, and it is OK to make more than one entry, but please try to be fair and not flood everybody else out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Name That Snowflake Giveaway Contest!

I've been posting a lot of Christmasy things lately, haven't I? It's April, for heaven's sake. I actually have been doing something seasonally appropriate, but I can't show it just yet. Oh, OK, here's a taste:

Please, no public guessing, though. It's a gift for someone very special and I don't want that person getting any ideas. I promise I'll show you all when I'm done.

So, back to Christmas. A few months ago, I designed a snowflake. I made several of them, and gave them all away without ever writing down the pattern. Ooops. Fortunately, I had a scan that I was able to enlarge enough to see the stitches.

So now I've got it written down. I made another today, which will again be for the hospital craft fair.

The top one is in Yarnplayer's "Winter Blend" size 40. This one is in DMC white size 80, doubled with Kreinik Blending Filament metallic thread in white, which you can't see except a little at the picots, but trust me, it's nice and sparkly in real life. The blending filament is a pure nuisance to work with, but it does add just the right element of sparkle to a snowflake. Here it is on the spool:

Hopefully you can get an idea from this of what it looks like blended with a cotton thread.

Designing this snowflake was a lovely experience. I simply picked up my shuttles and started tatting, with only a vague idea of what I was aiming for, and this came out. I hardly had to redo anything, and on the first try my stitch count came out so that it doesn't even need blocking. I don't know about anyone else, but that NEVER happens to me, and I doubt if it ever will again.

Alas, the luck that was with me in the tatting eluded me when it came to coming up with a name. I like to give anything I design a title that describes it in an interesting and attractive way. I've made snowflakes I call "Crazy Daisy", "The Twist", and "Star-Crossed", for example. For this one, all I can come up with is SCMR Snowflake. It's accurate enough, but hardly catchy.

Now, I happen to have an extra copy of this book:

It's got a gorgeous photo gallery of tatting that will hopefully give you some new ideas, and lots of patterns. Patterns include doilies, edgings, a candle shade, a tatted frog (the dress closure, not the amphibian), a small basket, and lots more.

So here's the deal. You name my snowflake, and I'll send you the book and the snowflake pattern. The contest is open to anybody except my family members. Just leave your suggestion in a comment on THIS post, and include a valid way for me to contact you if you're the winner. You may e-mail me with questions, but only entries made as comments on this post will be considered. I'm looking for something catchy and poetic that captures the essence of this snowflake. The one I like best will be the winner. Yes, it's subjective, but I promise not to play favorites. If two or more people happen to come up with the same title and it's the one I choose, then I will use a random number generator to pick the winner of the book, and the others will also get the pattern. The contest will close on Thursday April 22 at noon Mountain Daylight Time (2:00pm Eastern Daylight Time). The winner will be announced on Friday April 23.

Put your thinking caps on, and good luck!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mmmm, Gingerbread!

Not the edible variety, but still pretty tasty looking. This is another for the hospital craft sale. Isn't it the cutest tatting design ever?

The pattern is by Gina Brummett, the Tatting Goddess. You can get it in the sidebar of her blog. I also have to thank Jeff for introducing me to this pattern. I found Gina's directions very easy to follow, though I did change the joins on a few rings for symmetry. There were also a couple of other things I did differently, but these are just a matter of personal preference. I used Jane's alternate method for adding beads to the center of a ring. For the head and body I decided it was faster to finger tat the three stitches of split ring than to wind a second shuttle; this meant changing the center ring of the body to a regular ring instead of a split ring. I did Catherine wheel joins on the outer chain for a smoother line; the only lock joins are at the boy's joints. Unfortunately, some of my chains got a little too long so he looked a bit puffy on one side, but I was able to make this better with blocking.

The threads are Lizbeth color 691 Mocha Brown Medium and Lizbeth White, both size 20. The beads are called druk beads in 6mm for the buttons and 4mm for the eyes; I got them from Artbeads. I chose these red beads because they look kind of like those Red Hot candies that are so often used to decorate gingerbread cookies, but they come in lots of pretty colors. I got a few other colors as well for future gingerbread boys; after all, you can make the eyes in any color frosting you want!

This one went a little bit faster because I was used to how to add the beads and where to make the joins. I also counted the stitches on the outer chain so that it came out the same on both sides. I used the same brown thread and also color 638 Christmas Green. The beads didn't photograph very well, but they are silver, like those little silver sugar balls used for cookie decorations.

A word on Lizbeth thread. I've seen a couple of people lately say they were disappointed in the quality of Lizbeth. I was very surprised to read these comments, because I've always loved it. This time around, though, I got a bad ball. The brown thread was extremely frustrating to work with; I had problems with breaking, fraying, and untwisting. I e-mailed Handy Hands, and they are going to replace it for me. Barbara also told me that the factory is getting a new machine that should help with any problems in spinning. Handy Hands has really excellent customer service, and they are committed to selling quality products, so if you've had problems with your Lizbeth, I suggest you tell them about it. They will do what they can to make it right for you, and they can't fix a problem they don't know about.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interesting Blog Posts

Sorry I haven't posted lately. I've been tatting, but it will be another day or two before I'm ready to post it.

In the meantime, there has been some thought-provoking stuff in the blogosphere in the last couple of days. If you haven't already, you really should read IsDihara's post from 4/12 and Jon's for 4/14, and the comments for each.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jane Eborall: Genius or Fiendish Madwoman?

That was the question going through my mind as I tatted Jane's Snowsettia pattern. Two pairs of shuttles attached to the work at once? You fiend, Jane! The ones that are dangling tangle worse than IV tubing and monitor cables on the way to a stat CT scan... ummm, OK, no more hospital references. But the shuttles did tangle a lot. Working little sections at a time and interlocking them as you go? Mad genius. A pattern that can represent two completely different things depending on what colors you use? Pure genius. You know I love you, Jane.

What I can say for sure is that brain cell #3 must have called in some of his buddies to work overtime on this one. Usually I can intuitively understand a pattern from the diagrams and a quick scan through the written directions. Not this time. I had to just start tatting, reading every word of the instructions, and trust that all would be well in the end. It was, of course, but I really didn't understand what I was doing until about halfway through. Then I had to make a couple more to make sure I really had it.

Lizbeth size 20 in Christmas Red and Christmas Green. Beads by Darice in one of those big cheap bags; they looked gold all together in the bag, but seen individually like this they are more silverish.

Lizbeth 20 in Red Burst and Dark Evergreen, with the same beads. I'm not too happy with the way this one came out. I was hoping the colors in the variegated thread would fall out more randomly; instead I ended up with the same color always on both shuttles. If I do it again with this thread I'll make sure I start tatting right at a color change so that doesn't happen. Hopefully somebody will like this one.

"Snowflake" HDT by Yarnplayer in size 40, doubled with a Coats and Clark metallic silver machine embroidery thread, and Lizbeth size 20 in White. Mill Hill seed beads; I'm not sure of the color name, but they're clear, slightly iridescent, and silver-lined. The Coats and Clark thread I used is pretty nice as metallic threads go. It's nice and smooth, not too stretchy or brittle, and holds up well if you have to untat. It's very fine, though, so it's best if you double it with a cotton thread. Even though it's so fine, doubling it with the size 40 resulted in nearly the same size tatting as the size 20.

Since these are Christmas ornaments, I stiffened them. I don't normally do this, but I've got a lot of tatting hanging in my windows and have found that if it hangs long enough, any motif will eventually collapse in on itself if it's not stiffened. I used Aleene's Stiffen Quick. I've tried other stiffeners, but this is the one I keep coming back to. I laid waxed paper down on my blocking board first, to keep the tatting from sticking to it, then put another sheet of waxed paper over the hanger threads (the tails from the second pair of shuttles, left long and tied in an overhand knot) to keep the stiffener off of them, thusly:

The stiffener also adds a bit of shine to the thread, which caused some color distortion in the scans. The Red Burst doesn't have any brown in it; that's really burgundy.

And in case you were wondering, I haven't lost track of what time of year it is. The hospital I work at has a craft fair fundraiser every November. I always plan on donating some tatting, but they send out the reminder e-mails in October. By that time, I've got so much else going on that I don't have time to make anything else for the fair. This year I've remembered in advance, so I'll be making a few things here and there for this event throughout the year, with plenty of time to do other stuff as well. It won't all be Christmas stuff either, but I figure that's mainly what people will be looking for in November. Jane is one of the designers who have generously given me permission to use their work for this fundraiser.

Finally, thanks to my dad, who found the quilt shop I mentioned in my last post. It's called Mrs. S Fabrics. You would think my search for "quilt shop dillsboro nc" would have turned it up, but it didn't. Anyway, it's a nice little store and you should definitely stop in if you ever take a vacation to Dillsboro.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vinnie's Doily Again, and Blendables Thread

As promised, here's another version of Spring Doily 2 by Vinnie.

The thread is Vickie's Lilacs by LadyShuttleMaker, and as you can see, I added lots of decorative picots. It completely changes the look, doesn't it? For comparison, here's the first one I did again:

I thought I was just going to do these two, but then Mark had to go and mention Sulky Blendables Thread. It's a 30-weight quilting or machine embroidery thread available in lots of nice variegated colors. There was some discussion on the Here Be Tatters list about what size tatting thread it's really equivalent to. Is it like 80? Is it smaller? What's it like to tat with, anyway?

Well, I just happened to remember that I have three spools of it that I picked up last summer in a quilt shop in Dillsboro, North Carolina. (Unfortunately, the shop is not listed on this website, and I can't remember the name of it, but the town is small enough that if you're ever there you'll find it.) I've had this thread since August and have done nothing with it! Shameful!

What we have here are colors 4033 Grape Wine, 4028 Storm Clouds, and 4021 Truly Teal. Aren't they gorgeous? The photo really doesn't do them justice. I had a hard time limiting myself, but I was on a budget.

In order to answer the above questions about the thread, I decided to make one more of the doily. Here it is, in Storm Cloud. I like how the color changes are so subtle.

And the verdict is, while it looks a lot like size 80 on the spool, it actually tats up a lot smaller. The size 80 versions of this are about 2 3/8 inches (6cm) across; this one is only about 1 7/8 inches (4.75cm). I'm not sure what size tatting thread it's equivalent to because I don't have anything smaller than 80 on hand to compare it to.

This thread was a bit different to tat with. I don't mind working with small threads at all; in fact I prefer them because they put less strain on my left hand, and for some reason I don't have trouble seeing the stitches. So the size didn't bother me. I found that this thread has a finish that makes rings close very smoothly; that was nice. Unfortunately, the finish does not prevent the thread from getting all fuzzy as you work with it. If I had to untat, the fuzz got really bad. Also, because it's only a 2-ply, it's not as strong as the cordonnets I normally work with. The thread broke three times just in this small piece, and I was trying to keep my tension loose. The finished piece has a much softer hand than tatting done with cordonnet.

The bottom line is, if you're comfortable with size 80, you'll find this thread slightly challenging, but not terribly difficult. It's not designed or intended for tatting, so it does have its limitations. However, the colors are so pretty that I think it's worth it. Go into it knowing what to expect, and you'll keep your patience. If you expect it to tat like tatting thread, you'll probably be disappointed. I would recommend this thread for smaller pieces, not for Mark's next wedding dress. :P

Back to the doilies (really coasters), here are all three of them together:

I think this shows how, at least for some designs, the color choice can affect the number and character of decorative picots that you include. In a bold, busy thread like Stardate, decorative picots would have been distracting; this thread calls for smooth, clean lines. On the other hand, the soft, feminine Vickie's Lilacs cries out for lots of feathery, frilly picots, so I included them and graduated the sizes. Storm Clouds is too masculine-looking for frills; however, it can take a few picots as long as they are bold and regular. This is one thing to think about when choosing a thread for a particular pattern. Will the picots in this pattern look right with this thread? If not, can the picots be changed to suit the thread better? I had never thought about this in quite this way before, but playing with the picots in these different threads helped me to see it.

I learned quite a few things about design from Vinnie's pattern. In addition to the picot thing, there was the paperclip trick. You put a paperclip on the core thread to make a downward picot; a later join will hold the picot in place, and you get to work multiple sections in one pass. I already knew this one and have done several patterns that use it, but I always forget about it. After doing three of these, I'll remember it. Then there's the order of working various elements. I tend to think that if I want a 3-ring cluster, I need to work all three rings together. This can limit where you go afterwards. Vinnie has you do two rings (with a chain in between, but the rings are joined), then go off and do something else, then come back and do the third ring. You get much more freedom of movement by not constraining yourself always do everything in order. A lesson for both tatting and life. (It's 2:24 in the morning; I can't help saying things like that.)

Karol from OBC, I can't get your e-mail address. Would you please contact me at luthien1 at comcast dot net?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Vinnie's Doily

I finished what I started yesterday, Spring Doily 2 by Vinnie.

The thread is Stardate by Yarnplayer. In size 80, it's really a coaster rather than doily. It measures about 2 3/8 inches (6cm) across, which is just about what I was hoping for.

Overall, I found the pattern pretty easy to follow. I really like how Vinnie has you use a paper clip or marker thread to make a "down" picot so that the whole thing can be done in one pass. It reminds me of some of Iris Niebach's patterns. I knew that the paper clip would create a picot of a certain size, so I tried to make the other picots that size as well. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.

I'm going to make another one in a more subtly-colored thread and add some decorative picots just to see how different it looks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's Our Special Day!

Here's the tatting I'm wearing today:

It's a bracelet I made a couple of years ago, adapted from one of the cross patterns in Mary Konior's Tatting with Visual Patterns.

I completed the last bookmark this morning, before I even left the house.

This is the Flowery SCMR Bookmark by Jane Eborall. BTW, if you recently had trouble viewing Jane's pattern page with Internet Explorer, you'll be glad to know that the problem has been cleared up. This was a bit of a challenge to make, mainly because I do frontside/ backside tatting and it was tricky to keep track of which side I was on with all the SLT's. Yes, I know it doesn't really matter with a bookmark because both sides are visible, and the person I'm giving it to won't know the difference anyway, but I know and I care. Because I'm an anal retentive freak, that's why. Anyway, I got it done the way I wanted to. The only alteration I made was to change the orientation of the little flower at the end so that it could be done in one pass with the split ring tail. I had never thought to join a row of split rings the way Jane has you do here; it was a bit time-consuming, but it resulted in a much firmer piece of tatting.

I think this is a very pretty pattern. I did it in- surprise!- Lizbeth size 20, but I think it would be a lovely dainty edging if you did it in size 80. I was kind of disappointed that it got to bookmark-length just as I was getting the hang of it. It would be fun to keep going with it.

The thread colors are 621, Light Dusty Rose, and 681, Light Pistachio Green. Not what I would have chosen for myself, but perfect for the person I'm giving it to.

It being Tatting Day and all, I did do some tatting in a coffee shop this afternoon so that everyone could see it. Here's what I got done:

It's the start of the Spring Doily Number 2 by Vinnie. In size 80 thread, it's going to be more of a coaster than a doily, which was my intention. I need to do a bit of untatting now, because I've realized that that ring at the bottom requires another picot. I think I'll just unwind the shuttle and pull the core thread out; I'd much rather do that than pick out all those stitches.

Next on my list of Tatting Day activities: Get Chocolate!