"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, September 30, 2010

Recent Etsy Purchases

I got a lovely new batch of HDT's from Krystledawn, aka Dr. Von Threadmore.

On the left is "Vineyard at Dusk". In the middle are the solid colors from this colorway. Krystle, I love, love, LOVE this purple! I'll definitely buy it in more sizes when you do it again. On the right is "Sea Glass", which I already had in size 80, and now have in size 20.

Just so you know, Krystle doesn't wind her skeins this sloppily. I was too tired to put them away properly, and Squijum got ahold of them while I was sleeping. Fortunately, Krystle secures her loops well enough that he couldn't create a tangled mess, as he undoubtedly wanted to. And they are still clean, and now safely stored.

I also bought a pair of Krystle's lovely earrings, tatted over rings, with discs of shell dangling in the middle.

Aren't they pretty? I sometimes find myself not buying other tatters' work because I think, "I could do that". What I've been trying to do lately instead is to think, "I could do that, but will I?" After all, there are so many things I want to tat that I know I won't get them all done in my lifetime, so why not support my fellow tatters?

If you don't mind, I'd also like to share a recent purchase that has nothing to do with tatting. Well, I suppose you could add tatting if you wanted to, but they really seem complete as they are.

These are reusable fabric gift bags from VZ Wraps. As you can see, they come different sizes, in prints for all kinds of occasions, and the workmanship is excellent. You put the gift inside, then wrap the attached ribbon around the top and tie it in a bow. If you like giving gifts with a nice presentation but don't like killing trees, this is the answer. The bag then becomes a part of the gift, and hopefully the recipient will "pay it forward" by reusing the bag when they give a gift. These bags are airport security-friendly, too; if you're bringing a gift in your carry-on, it would be easy to take it out upon request without ruining the "wrapping". I gave my sister her graduation present in one of these, and it was a big hit.

I have no financial ties to either Krystle or VZ Wraps, other than being a very satisfied customer and wanting to spread the word.

Still working busily on the placemats....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Are You Tired of Looking at This Yet?

I hope not, because I'm not tired of making it yet, and even if I were, I've got a long way to go!

I started out all gung-ho, thinking how great it would be if I could do a set of 8 placemats, matching napkins, and a table runner. Deep down, I knew that wasn't going to happen, but I had my fantasies. My current, much more realistic, goal is to make 4 placemats. I should be able to do that by the end of April. And if I feel like keeping going, I can always add more stuff as anniversary presents or something. Or not.

Fortunately, my cousin has no idea I'm doing this. So instead of being disappointed that I can't do all of my ideas, she can be thrilled that I did this at all.

He always starts out sleeping curled in a ball and ends up like this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Human Beings: An Owner’s Guide for Cats

Congratulations on your new acquisition of a human being! Humans are endlessly fascinating and entertaining creatures, but there are certain things you must understand in order to ensure a long and mutually rewarding relationship between you and your person. It is important to remember that humans are largely inept in certain areas, so you will be responsible for much of their health and psychological well-being.

The underlying issue in any feline-human relationship is control. Humans have a need to feel that they are in control of any situation. Your challenge as their owner is to allow them the illusion of control, while always ensuring that all decisions are in fact made by you. This can be a delicate balancing act, requiring that you occasionally appear to defer to their absurd demands, only to reassert your authority later; remember that you are a cat, and balancing acts are your specialty.

Human Health

Nourishment: Most humans do not have nearly enough rodents and small birds in their diets. You must correct this by frequently presenting them with a fresh kill. They will refuse to eat it in front of you. However, they will take it away, and when they return, the meal has disappeared; we can infer from this that they are in fact eating your gift in private.

Also remember that when humans prepare their own food, there will always be enough for you. Therefore, you should jump on the table to claim your share. Another tactic is to walk under their feet while they are carrying food, causing them to trip and drop it. This is only fair after all the mice you have given them.

Sleep: Human beings tend to sleep at highly inappropriate times, such as the middle of the night. This is clearly unhealthy, so you should make every attempt to wake them during these hours. If you fail to do so, they will remain awake all day long, thus continuing the unhealthy cycle of nocturnal sleep.

Hygiene: Humans clean themselves, not by licking, but by standing under a steady stream of hot water. While this does appear to work, it is obviously dangerous. Therefore, you should remain just out of reach of this stream, ready to jump in and help in case anything happens.

Play Time

Play is one of the most important aspects of the feline-human relationship. Humans have very limited capacities to run, jump, and pounce; it is probably for this reason that they appear so fascinated with normal feline abilities. You should periodically put on a display for them; this provides them with mental stimulation while making them want to cuddle you when you have finished. There are several other forms of entertainment that your person will also enjoy.

Humans like to play with computers, as we can tell from the enormous amount of time they spend doing so. Since you and the computer are their two favorite things, they will absolutely love it when you walk across or sit on the keyboard. They may even try to chase you off of the keyboard just so that you can walk across it again.

Humans find it highly entertaining when you knock objects off of shelves; doing so will always meet with an immediate noisy response. When they put the object back, they are asking you to continue the game by knocking it down again. If the object breaks, they will become even more excited.

One area where you must always assert your authority as the dominant species is when humans are playing with thread or yarn. They will often behave as though they had some inherent right to these playthings and try to prevent you from obtaining them. This is clearly unacceptable, as all thread and yarn are the unquestionable domain of cats. Use force if necessary.

Odd Human Behaviors

Many human behaviors are fascinating but as yet not well understood. One of the most bizarre is their occasional insistence on taking the cat to a place called “The Vet”. This experience is mildly unpleasant for the cat, although it can be endured; no one knows what benefit humans derive from it. “The Vet” is one of those situations where the balancing act comes in. If you play along, they will open a can of tuna for you upon returning home. Thus, the person believes that they have been in control, while you know all along that you are really only making them give you tuna.

Your person will typically leave the house for a significant portion of the daylight hours. No one has yet determined where they go or why. Clearly they do not spend this time sensibly sleeping, as evidenced by their persistent unhealthy habit of sleeping all night (see above). More research needs to be done to learn exactly what activity they engage in during this time, and if anything can be done to prevent it.

People will sometimes attempt to mimic feline vocal sounds. This appears to be an attempt to communicate with us. However, the mimicry is usually so poor, and unaccompanied by appropriate body language or release of pheromones, that no sense can be made of it. You can mock them if you wish. They will not even know that they are being mocked; in fact, they will probably continue the attempted vocal mimicry, much to your entertainment. If you need to assert your control, the best tactic is usually to ignore these pathetic imitations and walk away; they will follow you. If your control is secure, you may comfort the human by rubbing against their legs and purring; this appears to make them feel loved, and they will usually respond by petting you. Either of the latter two responses will have the additional benefit of causing the person to abandon their attempt at sounding like you.

Remember that humans have a very weak sense of smell; they must rely on vision and the other lesser senses. For this reason, it is difficult for them to understand territorial boundaries. While they will generally respect areas like the cat tower or scratching post, they will attempt to enter some of your other spaces, including the sofa and the bed. Most of the time, you can allow this on condition that they show proper affection; however, you will occasionally need to remind them whose house it really is.

In Conclusion

We hope that this guide has given you some insight into human behavior. By following these guidelines, you should be able to ensure that your relationship with your person is long and happy for you both.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Cat's Out of the Bag

And hopefully, the bag will also stay out of the cat.

Squijum likes my new Roly-Poly Bag from Jane Eborall. Don't worry, Jane, I'm keeping it safe. I just couldn't keep him away from it long enough to take a picture, but it's put away now.

I still use my Dolly Bag from Jane as my tatting bag. The inside pockets in the dolly bag are perfect for keeping all my tools organized. However, the it sometimes gets a bit overstuffed if I have, say, two balls of Lizbeth in it. Then it's hard to keep the WIP in there. That's why I got this one, to hold the WIP when it won't fit in the dolly bag. I love this fabric!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Leaves

The first official day of fall is this week, so I got a hankering to make some leaves.

These maple leaves are from Karey Solomon's book Tatting Turns over a New Leaf. Left to right, the threads are "Fuschia" by LadyShuttleMaker, "Golden Glow" by Yarnplayer, and "Diablo" by LadyShuttleMaker.

This pattern features roll stitch, so I've officially joined that trend. Roll stitch has a couple of advantages for this particular pattern. First, it is less bulky than regular tatting, so using it at the points of the leaves keeps them from getting all wonky. Second, a roll stitch chain can be made to curve in either direction, so there's no need for SLT's or switching shuttles to change direction.

Here's what I learned about roll stitch while making these. (1) Make sure you have a good length of thread around your hand, because you do not want to have to stop in the middle of the roll to pull out more thread. (2) Move the "pinch" a little farther back on your fingers (closer to your hand). This will allow you to hold more roll stitches in place at a time. (3) Continue to pinch the roll until the DS following it is complete. Otherwise, the DS may not end up facing the right way. (4) The core thread will twist as you make the roll, so be sure to let the shuttle dangle periodically.

Karey has you do a spiral (half-stitch) chain for the stem, but I thought I'd try it a couple of different ways. I used the spiral for the "Fuschia" leaf. For "Diablo", I used node stitch, aka Victorian sets, in sets of 4 1st hs, 4 2nd hs. For "Golden Glow", I used a lock stitch chain. I don't have any particular preference among the three. The spiral and the node stitch both make the chain somewhat thicker, which I think is good for the stem; however, they also give the stem a texture that it wouldn't have in nature. Lock stitch keeps it smooth, but also makes for a very skinny stem. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

I also made a couple of oak leaves:

 The pattern is from the same Karey Solomon book; the threads are "Golden Glow" and LadyShuttleMaker's "Treebeard". I couldn't quite tell from the picture if there was a join between the middle and bottom sections of the leaf, so I tried it a couple of different ways. I prefer the way I did it with "Treebeard".

These leaves are all going to go in my grab bag. At some point, I should probably go commit acts of public tatting so I can get people to take stuff out of the grab bag.

Karey's book also has patterns for an acorn and a maple seed "wing". Those would be nice touches to add if you were doing a picture with these leaves. Lots of other leaves in the book, too.

I also received the other skein of HDT that I had ordered, so here's the last of Jon's dragonflies:

This thread is "Sea Glass" by Krystledawn. Thanks, Krystle!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's All My Dad's Fault

My dad has a friend from grad school who, many years ago, developed a word processor that is specialized for academics. The software is called Nota Bene, but the company was originally called Dragonfly Software. They are no longer called Dragonfly, and in fact there's another software company that has taken the name, but they still use dragonflies in their promotional material. The reason why is simply that the founder, my dad's friend, likes dragonflies. He spent much of his childhood in Indonesia, where there are apparently some really spectacular ones.

My dad has always used Nota Bene in his work, and he recently asked if I could tat a dragonfly for his friend as a token of appreciation. At first he wanted a "large one that could be framed" (he said, holding his hands about a foot apart). I had to say no to that at this time, given that (a) I'm not aware of any pattern for a dragonfly that large, so I would have to design it myself; (b) even with a pre-existing pattern, a dragonfly that size would take some time to tat; and (c) I've got kind of a lot on my plate right now with my cousin's wedding present. So he agreed to a small one that could be turned into a lapel pin. That was quite easy to manage, using Jon Yusoff's pattern; all I had to do was pick the colors.

A Google image search for "Indonesian dragonfly" showed me that dragonflies of all colors exist in Indonesia; however, the color I saw most was red, specifically the Red Grasshawk. So it was off to LadyShuttleMaker's Etsy shop for some "Diablo" HDT. I'd been wanting it anyway, so here was the perfect excuse.

I love this pattern so much, and it's so quick and easy, I just had to make a few more. On the same site that showed me the best Red Grasshawk photos, I saw this beauty (not Indonesian). Of course, my first reaction was, "Hey, I have that thread!"

And so the dragonfly in Tatskool's "Berry Burst" (not to be confused with the Lizbeth colorway of the same name) was born. If I were more patient, I would redo it and try to make the colors more symmetrical, but it's still pretty.

I had lots of threads and beads crying out to be used for dragonflies, so they all had to have their turn.

LadyShuttleMaker's "Pear Glace"...
...and "Enchantment". I had been holding off on buying this thread because I already had so many blue/ purple colorways; but I just got it, and I have say, it's my new favorite!

A Sulky cotton thread I got in The Thread Exchange, and that's all I know about it. I think it's one of the Blendables threads, but in the heavier weight.

And finally, two in King Tut threads, which I also got from TTE. I'm not sure of the name of the colorway on the left, but it's very dragonfly-ish in all those shades of green. On the right is the colorway "Jewel of the Nile". A thread this vivid with such short color changes certainly wouldn't be appropriate for every pattern, but it's gorgeous for a dragonfly! This was the first time I had ever used King Tut, and I like it a lot. It tats much more smoothly than the Sulky.
All of the beads for these dragonflies are Delica seed beads in size 11. I'm too tired to check all the color names right now, but if you want to know what a specific color is, just ask me in the comments.

There's going to be at least one more of these; there's another HDT on its way to me that I think will be perfect dragonfly colors. I had lots of fun playing with thread and bead colors. The "Diablo" will be for my dad's friend, I'll keep some of the others, and some will go in the grab bag.

If you like photos of gorgeous insects and other critters, the website I used is http://www.mongabay.com/


He's all tuckered out from his first visit to the vet.

Naturally, he got extra cuddles, but I also took advantage of the opportunity to wind some HDT skeins onto floss bobbins.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Blues

Even the best-behaved kitten will slow your tatting down a bit, so I haven't made quite as much progess as I would have liked on Jon Yusoff's "Clover Mat" placemat. I am halfway done with row 3, though, so here's what I've got:

From this scan, you can get an idea of what the whole thing will look like. (It will be upright; I just have to lay it diagonally to fit on the scanner.) Have I mentioned how much I love Jon's patterns? I really like the way the motifs come together on this one.

Here's a closer view, a bit blurry because it needs blocking and doesn't quite lie flat on the scanner:

I think this view shows the negative spaces a bit better. Did I mention I love Jon's patterns?

Friday, September 3, 2010

More Kitty Pics!

Squijum finally let me take a couple of good photos of his face.

And here's a video of him playing with a ball of aluminum foil (these make the best cat toys ever, and they're practically free). Sorry it runs so long; I don't have the full version of QuickTime that would allow me to edit it. I think the incessant clicking noise is the camera itself as it adjusts the auto-focus. Sheesh, I need some decent equipment around here. You'll need QuickTime to view this video; it's pre-installed on most computers, but if you don't have it, you can download it here.

And he's surprisingly well-mannered when I'm tatting, too.

In case you've lost track or have just joined me, this is the Clover Mat designed by Jon Yusoff; you can find the pattern here. It's a great design; since it's made of small motifs joined together, you can make it any size, shape, and color combination you want. Also, it's just rings and chains, so a beginner could do it. I'm using Lizbeth Dark Wedgewood and Light Wedgewood.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My New Friend

I told you I'd be meeting somebody special today.

This is my new companion. He's about 4 months old; I got him from a lady at work who found his mother in a park last spring. I am tentatively naming him Squijum, after the small gray creature in The Unicorn Chronicles series. The Squijum in the books is infinitely affectionate, boundlessly energetic, capable of leaping amazing distances and catching any object in mid-air. So far it seems appropriate.

He got a death grip on that feather toy. I had no idea that, without opposable thumbs, it was possible to hold onto a feather that tightly, but cats can do anything.

I'll see if he'll let me get a face shot tomorrow.

After I post this, I'm going to find out what happens if I try to tat in front of him. It was challenging when Poly was this age, and I'm anticipating that it will be much the same with this one.

I did get a little tatting done earlier in the day, before I picked him up.