"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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Passel of Paperclips

A WIP, Marilee's "Wondrous Window" pendant:

It's done now, but needs blocking. I'll show the completed pendant with full stats in a day or two, after I make the matching bracelet and earrings.

This is the variation that uses woven beaded picots. It requires a total of 6 paperclips, some of which are re-used a couple of times. I chose this variation because, given a choice, I am basically incapable of choosing the simpler version. Plus, it was fun and I got to explore a new technique.

Don't forget that April 1 (it's after midnight here, so that's tomorrow!) is the most important holiday of the year: International Tatting Day, the day that tatters have chosen to celebrate and publicize our craft. The original "instructions" for ITD are (1) tat for yourself, (2) wear something tatted, and (3) eat chocolate. A good set of instructions for any day of the year, I'd say. If I might add a couple of suggestions, try to tat in public if you can-- a coffee shop, the library, a park, anyplace where people might notice what you're doing and ask you about it. And don't eat the chocolate while tatting, unless you happen to be working with brown thread!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hey, Tatting is Fun!

Now that I've put the table runner on indefinite hold, I can tat for me, me, meeeee!!!!! Hmm, that didn't sound very nice, did it? But I think it is actually one of the "rules" for International Tatting Day, which is coming up on Friday.

I made myself a necklace using one of Marilee Rockley's designs, "Belle".

The pattern is in Marilee's latest book, Up and Tat 'Em (which, incidentally, I think is one of the best titles I've ever seen on a tatting book). I felt that this pattern really needed a thread that was variegated but not too dramatic, so I went with one of Marilee's threads, "Night Wind".

I did make one very slight modification to the pattern to accomodate the beads I had on hand. That group of beads at the bottom should be an ordinary beaded picot, i.e. beads pre-threaded before winding the shuttle and slide them into place when you need them, and the center bead on that picot would be a top-drilled teardrop. I didn't have any teardrops on hand in a suitable color, but I did have these pretty blue and silver Czech faceted beads that I just bought. I could have simply used it the same as the teardrop, but then it would have been horizontal, while the one in the middle of the pendant is vertical. I wanted them both oriented the same way, so here's how I did it. Instead of pre-threading the beads for the long picot, I turned it into a joining picot and placed the beads on it as I made it. I put on the 4 seed beads, the large bead, a small silver seed bead, then ran the picot back up through the large bead so that it would hang vertically with the silver seed bead securing it, then the matching set of 4 seed beads, and joined the picot to the first stitch of the following chain. It turned out to be a bit tricky doing it this way. I had to pull on the correct side of the picot a little bit at a time on each side of the silver seed bead and at the end of the picot (yes, of course I used a paperclip) so that there was no extra thread showing between beads. It took me nearly ten minutes to get that picot adjusted correctly. It came out right in the end, though.

This pattern worked up very quickly. Even with having to futz with the long picot, it still took less than an hour.

I've also decided that my favorite method for putting a bead in the center of a ring is Marilee's way of not making a true ring at all, but a SCMR. It's much easier than any other method I've tried, and lays very nicely.

Later this week I'm going to make some more jewelry from the same book.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Confession, Comparison, and the Fantastic Flying Feline

Remember this?

Yeah, it still pretty much looks like this. The truth is, I'm sick of it, and I don't think I'm going to finish it, at least not in time for the wedding. Some people can happily tat the same thing over and over again, but I am not one of them. I knew this about myself before I started, but somehow I thought it might be different this time. At this point, thinking about this project makes me dread the idea of tatting instead of looking forward to it. When that happens, the project must be put aside.

I am also playing harp for the wedding. It is conventional among musicians that if you aren't charging for the music (which would normally be hundreds of dollars), you don't really have to give a gift. I probably will still get them something from their registry, but practicing the music and making a handmade gift is just too much in a limited time frame.

There. I got it off my chest.

To celebrate my decision to preserve my sanity, I wanted to tat something in my favorite color, PURPLE!!! I had two HDT's sitting next to each other, Tatskool's "Berry Burst" and Yarnplayer's "Purple Glory". They have similar colors in them, but in different proportions, and I wanted to see how they compare.

Berry Burst

Purple Glory

As you can see, the Purple Glory has a few more shades in it, but the darkest purple and the fuschia are almost exactly the same. I honestly have no preference between the two, although they look quite different-- more different tatted up than on the skeins.

They are both size 80. I have no idea why the Purple Glory one came out so much bigger than the Berry Burst. The motif is "Faith" by Mary Konior, from Tatting with Visual Patterns.

I also made something else this afternoon, but I can't show it just yet.

On a completely different topic, I think Squijum can fly. He hasn't actually done it in front of me, but how else do you explain this?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who Gets the HDT's?

And the winner is...

Number 35, Elizabeth! Congratulations, Elizabeth! I will mail your threads as soon as I get your address. Thank you to everyone who entered and who has read my blog during the last year.

Here's a bracelet I made last week. I didn't share it before because last week's post was getting way too long, and then I didn't post again because I wanted to keep the drawing at the top of the page.

I made this for a friend, but I really like the way it came out, so I may have to make another for myself. The pattern is by Jane Eborall. The threads are Lizbeth colors 641 Lilac Dark and 631 Country Purple Light. Yes, I do use size 20 occasionally; for jewelry I find it's usually best to use the size the designer calls for or close to it, or the beads will be out of proportion.

To make this pattern work, you need a focal bead with 2 horizontal holes, like this:

I found these at Jo-Ann's a couple of years ago.

I bought this package and one of similar larger ones because I just knew I needed them even though I had no idea for what at the time. I forgot all about them until I was rummaging through my bead and button collection trying to find something that would work for this bracelet. The larger ones were too big and these were too small, so I went with one of these plus a few regular beads on each side of it.

I like to use magnetic clasps for bracelets because they are easy to fasten with one hand. They're not always so easy to tat with, though-- if you're using a paperclip to temporarily secure your beads, well, you can imagine.

This bracelet was a fun project to tat, although I must say it took considerably longer than I expected. Between having issues with the magnet and having to work with two pairs of threads and make sure the chains were correctly interwoven as I went, I had to work much slower than usual. I think the result was worth it, though.

Finally, March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, so if you are interested in the "Angels in the Snow" snowflake and haven't purchased it yet, now would be a good time! See the sidebar on the left for details.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Has It Really Only Been a Year?

That's right, I've been blogging for exactly one year now. I had been thinking about starting a tatting blog for a while before I up and did it. The impetus for actually getting started, was, of all things, boredom. This time a year ago, I was recovering from a major illness, and having to be on oxygen was severely limiting my mobility. I was getting a LOT of tatting done, though!

A lot has happened this year. I made a full recovery and returned to work and to normal life. My sweet, affectionate cat Poly died, and I now have the vivacious, charming Squijum. I've learned a few new tatting techniques and created several original designs. Most of all, I've made lots of friends in the blog world.

The truth of the matter is, I tat more than I used to because of my online friends. If I don't tat, then I have nothing to blog about. If I don't blog, then my friends start worrying about me. Therefore, I have to tat.

So to celebrate my blogaversary and thank you all for reading, here's the giveaway:

A selection of 4 HDT's, each made by a friend of mine, in blues, greens, and purples because these are my favorite colors. Left to right we have the resplendent "Royalty" by LadyShuttleMaker, soothing "Sue's Blues" by Yarnplayer, vibrant "Coral Reef" by Tatskool, and jewel-toned "Sea Glass" by Krystledawne.

This giveaway is also meant as a challenge for some of you. It seems that some tatters are afraid to work with the smaller threads. In my opinion, though, the prettiest tatting is almost always made with the finer threads. So to help build your confidence in your ability to use the more delicate sizes, the two on the left are size 50, which is really a medium size; and the two on the right are size 80, which is truly small. Maybe the winner will be somebody who already uses these sizes regularly; but maybe it will be somebody who never has and can learn to appreciate their beauty and delicacy (and that they are really no harder to work with!).

There will also be something else in the box, but I haven't quite decided what yet.

To enter, just leave a comment on this post, and make sure that I have a way to contact you. Either include a working e-mail address (you can use the form "yourname at emailprovider dot com" to foil the spammers), or have a blog where I can leave a comment. I will use a random number generator to choose the winner in one week, at noon Mountain Daylight Time on March 19.

So, I've got another heart to show you, although this one was made for another friend, not Kay.

This is "My  Fluttering Heart" by Teri Dusenbury, from her book Tatting Hearts. The threads in the center are "Coral Rose" and "Helm's Deep", both by LadyShuttleMaker, and the outer threads are DMC solids (I don't have the numbers handy). And they are all size 80!

I did make a couple of minor changes to the pattern-- one of them hardly even counts as a change. Those clusters of three pale yellow rings, according to the pattern, would be made before the split ring to which they are attached, and then a third thread added to make the split ring, the SR being joined to the base of the middle ring of the cluster. Then the third thread is cut off and the split rings continue normally. "Ridiculous!" said I. Why on earth would you add an extra thread and have extra ends to hide when there's a much easier and tidier way? This pattern has quite enough ends without all that. I just made the 3-ring cluster with the second shuttle while the SR was in progress. I think it looks nicer, and it was certainly simpler.

The other thing I did differently is the one that I don't think is really a change to the pattern, just a different way of doing it, again in the spirit of "why do it the hard way if you don't have to". The pattern has you do the split rings using the outer (green) thread as the core; all the joins are therefore made with the second thread. I'm not afraid of making a join on the second half of a SR, but it is a bit fiddly to make it look right. So for all of the SR's except those two where I needed the yellow to be the second thread to make the rings, and the one immediately after the bottom clover where I needed to join with the green thread, I used the yellow as my core thread so that I could make normal joins on the first half of the SR. You should always feel free to question the way a pattern is written, and if you see an easier way to do it that will give the same result, go for it!

Oh, and here's how it looks in the picture in the book:

What a difference color makes! I think it's just as pretty in white, but a completely different look with colors.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Hearts for Kay

I've tatted a couple more hearts for Kay Foster. This will be the last I do on this project, but I hope lots of other people will contribute.

This is "Antique Rose Heart" from Martha Ess's book Tat's Amore.  The thread is "Coral Rose" by LadyShuttleMaker. I like the way Martha designed this pattern; although it's in several rounds, you never have to cut the threads thanks to split chains and a split ring. Since I was using HDT on a small floss bobbin, I was able to use the bobbin to tat the second half of the split ring, so I didn't even have to wind a second shuttle.

 Many will recognize this as Mary Konior's "Queen of Hearts", from Tatting with Visual Patterns. I used Krystledawne's "Vineyard at Dusk" HDT for the rings, and the matching "Twilight Grape" for the chains, and I really like the way it came out-- I think it has just the right amount of purple.

This is the first time I've ever made this pattern; I was always afraid of getting lost in all the twists and turns. It turns out it's much simpler than it looks. It actually has a repeating motif, which was not immediately obvious to me at first glance. Just the joins and the length of the chains connecting the repeats change; the only part that's completely different is the ring on the bottom. As for the twists and turns, you just have to remember to do a shoelace trick at the beginning and end of each of those connecting chains between the repeats.

The "Vineyard at Dusk" HDT,

if you took the purple out, would look a lot like Squijum's eyes.

You have to look closely to see it in these photos, but he's got a bit of green around his pupils that just matches the light green in the thread.

Trying to get a cat to hold still so you can take a picture of his eyes...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bare Bones of the Heart

Most tatters who've been online for a while are familiar with Susan Fuller's "Heart's Desire". The swirling chains are so fascinating to follow, and such a great way to show off a variegated thread. Here it is, as tatted by Tatskool in her "Berry Burst Dessert" HDT:

She very sensibly uses this pattern to test nearly all of her new threads, because you can really see the way the colors flow into each other.

When I decided to tat it in Krystledawn's "Sea Glass" thread, I was going to make it exactly like the pattern, as above. But when I pulled the pattern out and looked at the picture, I thought, "That is way too many picots for this thread." It's just not a colorway that works well with frilliness; it calls for a very smooth design. So I decided to see how the pattern would look with no decorative picots at all.

You can see the bare bones of the design here. It's a completely different look. Honestly, I prefer it with the picots in most colorways, but in this one I think the picots would detract from the thread.

It was actually harder to tat this way, too, because of the way the pattern is written. Repeated groups of stitches within a ring or chain are given in parentheses and the number of repetitions given. When you want to see how many stitches total are in the ring, it's easier to count them on the picture than to try to add them up from the written directions. Even so, I kept making mistakes and having to re-open rings. I don't think it shows, though.

I made this heart for Kay Foster of Handy Hands, Barbara's sister-in-law. I think that most tatters in North America have probably talked to Kay at some point when calling Handy Hands. Many people have heard on the various tatting lists that Kay was in a serious car accident in Texas and is still in the hospital. She is doing somewhat better now and hopes to be moved to a hospital nearer home. Karey Solomon has made a nice shawl for her and is asking tatters to make hearts sew onto it. E-mail Karey if you'd like to contribute a heart.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Question for Needle Tatters

Is it possible to make a dimpled ring in needle tatting? How about a lock stitch?

I've added some information to the cardinal pattern, so if anyone was having trouble with the beak, the new version might help you. And don't forget that "Angels in the Snow" is still available, too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tangentially Related to the Cardinal...

After I made this, it occurred to me that this sort of thing doesn't have to be confined to Christmas. You could just as easily put spring, summer, autumn, or other holiday scenes on satin balls. Then if you had an attractive "something" (I'm not exactly sure what, it would probably end up being a random find) to hang them from, you could create an attractive year-round display that changes every few months. After I get the current WIP done (and I WILL!), I might start working on this.

A couple of days ago, another cardinal flew into my inbox.

This one was tatted by Beelizabeth. It's always gratifying to see that other people can follow my instructions-- and that they want to! Based on Beelizabeth's feedback, I have, I hope, clarified the directions for the beak a bit. That's the only really fiddly part, as it combines the techniques of dimpled ring and downward-facing picot, and then that picot gets twisted and the thread tails passed through it. After that, it's all straightforward rings and chains. Thank you, Beelizabeth!