"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, February 24, 2011

Cardinal Pattern

Remember this little guy?

I first blogged about him here. In response to a query on the Here-Be-Tatters list, I have written out the pattern. It's just a rough draft with no diagrams, but if anyone would like it, just e-mail me.

EDIT, 3 years later: I now have links to all of my tatting patterns, including this one, available here. Scroll down and you'll find it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Presenting Your Earrings, and Something Funny

I was trying to find a nice box in which to put the earrings I made my sister, but couldn't find quite the right thing; I wanted something more than just a plain cardboard box. I did find a little satin bag that was just the right size, but I didn't want the earrings just flopping around in there; they needed to be on a card. That gave me two choices: buy a pair of earrings just to re-use the card, or make my own for just a few cents. No question there, especially since the shop that I found the bag in happened to be primarily a paper shop. All I needed was some card stock, an inexpensive paper awl, and (optional) another paper and gluestick.

Since this was for my sister, I used a fancy metallic cardstock, which cost a whopping $0.75 per 8.5x11 inch sheet; there were also plain white and ivory for $0.10 per sheet. And of course, the decorative heart was completely unnecessary. My point here being that if you happen to be looking for a way to display your earrings at craft shows or shops, this is really cheap, fast, and easy.

On a completely different subject, this morning I got one of those ridiculous scam e-mails; this one was so funny I had to share it with the world. Apparently I have won, without entering, the North Carolina Education Lottery. Er, the West African branch of the North Carolina Education Lottery.

We are requested to notify you about your winning prize
$1,000,000.00 USD that was awarded to you by the North
Carolina Education Lottery. Your E-mail address was
selected Globally as one of the beneficiaries of this
year. In order for us to start sending your fund. You are
advised to provide the requested information below:

* Full Names:
* Current Address:
* Country:
* Tel:
* Age:
* Sex:
* Occupation


Mr. Christopher Odu.

Tel: +2348073233613
Wire Transfer Manager,
West Africa Office
Copyright © 2011 North Carolina Education Lottery.

Sheesh, who falls for this stuff? Why didn't they go ahead and ask for my social security number, bank account number, and mother's maiden name while they were at it?

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Earrings

These are "Grand Aura" by Marilee Rockley, from her book Up and Tat 'Em. I used "Withered Vine" HDT by Krystledawn, with Miyuki Delica seed beads in pale green and pale lavender (in fact, they are so pale that you have to look really closely to tell them apart) with a "silk" finish. The larger beads are amethyst.

When I went to the bead store to pick out the large beads, I was thinking of getting something in a light green to sort of blend with the thread and the seed beads. In fact, I found some almost as soon as I walked in that I nearly bought. I'm really glad that I kept an open mind and kept looking (I think I looked at every bead in the store). When I saw a strand of Czech glass beads in a dark purple, I knew that was the color I needed, but they only had them in one size, and I needed two. I turned around, and there were the amethysts!

It makes sense, really; the thread is from Krystle's "Vineyard at Dusk" line, and that's the purple that goes with it. Goes to show what a great sense of color Krystle has.

These earrings are a birthday present for my sister. (As far as I know, she never reads my blog, and even if she does there will be other things in the box as well that will still be a surprise.) Picking the pattern was the hardest part; I knew as soon as I had the idea which thread and seed beads to use, but it took me a couple of days to settle on the pattern.

The ring at the top is the last element made. Since it's just a single ring, not joined to anything else, I decided that this was the time to try out finishing with a single-shuttle split ring to hide the ends. It worked beautifully, and I will definitely do it again whenever I have the chance. Unfortunately, there aren't that many patterns where it can work. But where it will work, it's definitely the best choice-- you finish tatting and your ends are already hidden! How much better can it get?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Math for Tatters

The same issue seems to be coming up on several blogs and tatting lists lately. If I'm making an edging that I want to attach to a pre-made fabric center like a hanky or doily, how do I know that the edging will fit? It seems that this question gives a lot of tatters fits, while others simply start tatting and hope for the best (and this often works, too). I've seen many tatters say they are "not math people". I suspect that this is at least partly because the majority of tatters (and all of the ones that I've seen that phrase from) are women, and there was a time when girls were commonly told that they were naturally not as good at math as boys were. I've even heard of girls in decades past being told not to bother taking algebra in high school because as women they wouldn't need it! Never mind that women were largely responsible for doing the household accounts; it obviously didn't occur to these people that math is necessary for the traditionally feminine pursuits of sewing, quilting, and fitting a tatted edging to a fabric center. And of course, heaven forbid a woman should want to be an engineer, but that's a rant for a different day.

I was lucky enough to be born in an era and a family where I was never told that girls couldn't do math, so I've always enjoyed it. OK, there might have been a year or two in high school when I wouldn't admit to it, but I still to this day blame a certain teacher for that. Trigonometry was the only form of math that I never "got", and it was specifically because this teacher was such a royal ***** that I simply refused to learn from her. Other than her, though, all of my math teachers were wonderful, enthusiastic, dedicated, encouraging, made a point of calling on girls and boys equally, made it fun, and made you see the real-life applications of it. I was very lucky.

Then, of course, some people simply dislike math or have trouble with it, even if they've never been discouraged. Also, I do not mean to exclude my male tatting friends from this discussion.

As it turns out, calculating how many repeats of an edging to make is really quite simple if there are no corners; you learned how to do it before you got to the "girls don't need that" kind of math. You tat a sample of the edging, measure the outer edge of what you are trying to fit the tatting to, measure the inside length of one repeat of the edging, and divide. Here's an example:

I made this doily a couple of years ago; the center is from Handy Hands and came with pre-made holes so that the tatting could be joined directly to it for those of us who hate sewing. The edging pattern is "Fleur-de-Lys Edging" by Tat-Man Mark Meyers, and the thread is "Vanilla Sky" by Tatskool.

So here's the math. Since the doily had pre-made holes, I didn't even need a tape measure; I simply made "holes" my unit of measurement. There are 120 holes around the edge. I made a sample and found that one repeat of the edging was 5 holes long. This was easy: 120/5=24. Therefore, I needed to make 24 repeats. See, you can do this. Incidentally, I'm sure that the doily manufacturer chose the number 120 on purpose because it is divisible by a lot of different numbers, so an edging with almost any length of repeat will fit evenly around.

If you are using fabric that doesn't have pre-made holes, you still do the same thing. Measure carefully around the edge with a tape measure, and measure the length of one repeat; be sure to use the same units for both measurements. So if the doily is 36 inches around and one edging repeat is 2 inches long, 36/2=18 repeats.

For a piece with straight sides and corners, the math is slightly more complex but still very do-able. Tat a swatch of edging that includes at least one straight repeat and a corner. Measure along one side of the fabric; we will call this number F. Measure the inside length of the straight repeat; we will call this number S. Also measure the inside length from the start of the corner repeat to the actual corner; we will call this number C. Now we can create a formula to find out how many straight repeats you need on this side; the number of straight repeats will be x, the number we are trying to find. There are 2 corners per side, so we need to multiply C by 2. Thus the formula is:

2*C + S*x = F

(I'm using the asterisks to represent multiplication so as not to confuse them with the variable x. There are a number of different "correct" ways to represent multiplication in algebra, but I'm going to use this for consistancy.)

To plug in real numbers, let's say that F, the length of the fabric edge, is 15 inches. Suppose that S, the length of one straight repeat, is 1 1/2 inches. And say that C, the length from the start of the corner repeat to the actual corner, is 3/4 inch. It's easier (I think) if you convert the fractions to decimals. Thus we have:

2*0.75 + 1.5*x = 15

The first thing to do is to simplify the equation by doing any basic arithmetic funtions that we can; in this case, multiplying the 2*0.75. You are allowed to use calculators in my class! This gives:

1.5 + 1.5*x = 15

Now we're going to get rid of the lone 1.5 by subtracting it from both sides of the equation:

1.5*x = 15-1.5 = 13.5

Finally, get rid of the other 1.5 (which was S) by dividing both sides of the equation by 1.5:

x = 13.5/1.5 = 9

You need to make 9 straight repeats along this side. If another side is a different length, do the same calculation for that side. This method will work not only for squares and rectangles, but for any polygon; you just have to do the calculation for every different length of side.

Obviously, I have deliberately chosen numbers that result in a whole number of repeats. In real life, it won't always work out that way. If you get something that's very close to a whole number, like 8.9 or 11.2, you can choose to attach the completed tatting by sewing or crocheting, rather than joining as you tat. Then you can stretch or scrunch the tatting a little bit as you attach it to make it fit. Or you can try using a different size of thread; this will change the values of S and C in the formula and give you a different result. Or you can change the size of the fabric by either trimming a bit away and re-hemming it or sewing an additional strip of fabric along each side. Or you might have to choose either a different fabric center or a different edging to come up with numbers that work.

Regarding the tatting itself, if there are no corners to turn and your calculation resulted in a whole number of repeats without having to do any stretching or scrunching, you can either join directly to the fabric as you tat, or attach it later by sewing or crocheting; there are arguments to be made either way. If there are corners, then I highly recommend attaching the tatting after it is completed; that way you don't have to worry about starting in exactly the right spot to make the corners line up.

Some people will be tempted to tat their sample using a cheap thread, thinking that they are being thrifty. Do not succumb to this temptation! You should always tat your sample using the same thread that you plan to use for the real thing. As we all know, the "same" size of thread made by different manufacturers will often tat up differently; this is especially true with cheap threads. Then your measurements will be off, and all your calculations will be useless. Don't think of your sample as a waste of thread; instead it is a valuable step to making a beautiful finished product-- and think how much more thread you will have wasted if you get almost to the end of your project only to find that it's not going to fit. And of course, if it's an edging with more than one round, you only need to tat the innermost round for your swatch.

I hope that I have managed to demystify how to calculate fitting an edging to a piece of fabric, and have not confused you even more. If you still need help with this or any other tatting math, or if you want to send me hate mail for making you think about it, please feel free to e-mail me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just to let y'all know...

...I have sold 76 copies of "Angels in the Snow" so far. That comes to $228 for the Brain Injury Association of New Mexico!!! You all are wonderful! Thank you!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Future Tatting Addict

While I was tatting at the coffee shop yesterday, I met a family that really liked what I was doing. The mom was very interested, but the daughter was downright ecstatic about it, practically glued herself to my shoulder. She was literally bouncing up and down as she watched me. I showed her how to make the double stitch, gave the mom a couple of websites and my e-mail address, and let the little girl pick a motif from my grab bag. I really think they might follow up and learn tatting together.

If they do contact me, I'd like to be ready with some ideas. Teaching the mechanics of tatting is not a problem. What I want is suggestions for patterns for a young girl; I think she's about 7. I have a few ideas, a basic 4-ring butterfly, a ring and chain flower, a simple bookmark. Can anyone recommend a book of very simple patterns, ball and shuttle only for now, that would hold a kid's attention and is written at a level she can understand?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Going Buggy

Cold. Frosty. Frigid. Arctic. Gelid. With a wind chill of about minus a zillion, too. That's been the weather around here for the last week. We're now back to normal temperatures for the time of year, which are cold but not unbearably so. But because it's been so miserably cold all week, we have a statewide shortage of natural gas (NM produces natural gas, for heaven's sake!), so we've all been asked to conserve. I've turned down the thermostat and the water heater (except when I need to take a shower), and keep warm by drinking endless cups of tea, boiling the water in the microwave instead of on the gas stove.

It's funny how 60 degrees inside seems so much colder than 60 degrees outside. When it's 60 degrees outside, I debate whether to wear long or short sleeves. When it's 60 degrees inside, I feel the need for long underwear, heavy sweaters, and extra socks.

With the wind being so bitter, I haven't felt like leaving my apartment all week. This drives me nuts. I'm a person who needs a certain amount of sunshine in my life, and when I don't get it, I start feeling antsy. I've channeled my wish for spring into tatting a pair of ladybugs.

I'm going to turn them into a pair of earrings for a co-worker who is about to move to a different city. She has expressed admiration for my tatting, and ladybugs have a special meaning for her, so these will be perfect.

The pattern is by Jane Eborall. Done in size 80 thread with size 11 seed beads, they are about the size of a US quarter. Adding beads to the center of a ring has always been a challenge for me, and these certainly gave me a lot of practice. For the bodies, I used Jane's alternative method for adding the beads, because it's much easier to close the ring this way. My only gripe with this method is that if I put the bead on the shuttle thread as instructed, I can't get the ring flush with the previous chain. I got around this by putting the bead on the ball thread and pulling the loop behind the ring so it doesn't look funny. For a ring on top of a chain, putting the bead on the ball thread obviously doesn't work; so for the eyes I used the method given in the pattern, even though I couldn't quite close those rings all the way.

It also occurred to me that before the heads are made, the body makes a good start for a strawberry. You'd just have to add leaves instead of a head.

Don't worry, I haven't lost focus on the table runner. This was just a little break. Now that the wind has died down a bit, I'll take a walk to the nice warm coffee shop this afternoon to work on it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Did You Start Tatting?

Murray at The Tatting Whisperer has posted the delightful story of how and why he learned to tat. I had been thinking of doing a similar post but hadn't gotten around to it. Murray's post has given me the tuit, and it is indeed round (if you're reading this via Google Translator or similar, just ignore that). My story isn't as good as his, but here it is.

I was 18, a  freshman at Indiana University and starting to make friends with the people in my dorm. I had one friend in particular who was very creative; she was a fine arts major and highly skilled with all kinds of fiber arts. I myself could barely thread a needle but I did have a great fascination with anything to do with fabric, thread, yarn, etc. One day I was hanging out in this friend's room when she said, completely out of the blue, "I feel like tatting something", took out a shuttle and thread, and started making these little knots. I had encountered the word tatting somewhere before, probably read it in a book, but I had no idea what it was. I'm sure that my eyes were as big as saucers and my jaw scraping the floor as I watched my friend do this magical thing. Evidently she noticed, because she asked it I would like to learn. Heck yeah I would!

So she got out an extra shuttle, a Boye stainless steel bobbin shuttle to be exact, and a ball of ecru thread which I think was probably Cebelia. She wound the bobbin and showed me the right way to put it in the shuttle, then cut the thread off the ball and tied it back on with an overhand knot. I now realize that she only did that to give me something to hang onto, but it did take me a while to figure out the continuous thread method and other ways to start without a knot. She first taught me how to make a chain. I'm very grateful that she started this way. It seems that a lot of tatters are taught rings first, but to me the chain is the much more intuitive structure. I was able to get the flip right away, which I'm sure I wouldn't have if I had started with rings. After I had made a chain of several passable double stitches, she showed me how to reverse work and make a ring; I remember going, "Whoa!" when she showed me how to close it. Once I had mastered rings and chains, she showed me picots and joins. The whole session took maybe twenty minutes, and that was the only tatting lesson I've ever had. My friend gave me that Boye shuttle (which I still have and treasure, even though I don't use it because I've found other shuttles much more pleasant to work with) and ecru thread and some patterns photocopied from Workbasket magazines.

As she was teaching me, my friend told me how she had found an old shuttle of her grandmother's in the attic. (This shuttle was also a Boye, but much higher quality than mine, being of an earlier vintage.) She knew what it was because it said "Tatting Shuttle" right on it, and determined to learn how to use it. She asked older ladies in her community to teach her tatting, but none of them knew. She finally found a book in the library and learned from that.

She hated the way the book told her to hold the thread and shuttle, and she knew enough about needlecrafts to know that there is no one right way to do anything, so she developed her own way, which I still use. The left hand is just the "crochet hold", where you pinch with the thumb and middle finger instead of the index finger. This just makes sense to me; whichever of these two fingers holds the pinch, the other one has to do the flip. It is more logical to do the flip with the more dextrous index finger and let the middle finger passively hold the pinch. With the right hand, she taught me to hold the shuttle just with my thumb and middle finger. Instead of catching the thread with your whole hand as you manipulate the shuttle, the thread is just caught with the index finger. I've tried using the "normal" way, and it is very uncomfortable for me, although I'm sure that my way would be uncomfortable for someone who learned the "normal" way.

After that lesson, I went back to my own room and practiced and practiced. Luckily I didn't have a roommate. Some of the patterns she had given me called for two shuttles, so at some point she gave me another one (she must have had quite a collection of those Boyes). I still couldn't figure out how to use two shuttles, though. I didn't understand that the second shuttle was in place of the ball. I thought it was in addition to the ball, and I was completely bewildered about what to do with that third thread! By then it was summer and I couldn't ask my friend.

Eventually I found the book Tatting Technique and History by Elgiva Nicholls at Borders. This book showed me how to use two shuttles correctly, as well as how to start without a knot and how to sew my ends in (I had just been clipping them about 1/4 inch from the final knot, which was very ugly). Plus I learned all kinds of things about the history of tatting and got ideas for different shapes that can be made; I highly recommend this book to all tatters. I also found the modern reprints of Anne Orr's books, as well as a gem of a book called Tatted Snowflakes by Vida Sunderman. I liked the snowflake book the best because it had easy patterns for a beginner. From the Orr books, I learned to do what she calls "reverse stitch"; a few years later when I encountered the description of a split ring for the first time, I realized that it was the same thing, and that there are ways to use it that never occured to Mrs. Orr. In the meantime, I got a job at Jo-Ann Fabrics, where I was able to buy cheap crochet threads. There was also another craft store in town where I could get slightly better threads in a larger selection of colors. I continued to pick up every tatting book I could find at Borders.

A couple of years later, I discovered the Internet. It was still pretty new, and there were only a couple of tatting sites, but it was better than nothing. I also found that I could mail order DMC tatting thread, which was a godsend. Having a really good thread to work with makes all the difference, plus this was back before DMC started discontinuing colors left and right, so I had plenty to choose from. I lost the Internet for a while because the computer had belonged to my boyfriend and we broke up. Then I moved in with my sister, had access to a computer again, and rediscovered the online tatting world. It had grown a lot, and now there was Handy Hands, where I could get any tatting supplies and patterns that I could possibly dream of. I also discovered David Reed Smith's shuttles and have never looked back. Now, of course, the online tatting community is huge, and there are all kinds of sites to teach you any technique you could possibly want to know. Frankly, if it weren't for the Internet, I would not tat nearly as much as I do.

So, tell your story of learning to tat. Post it on your blog, and then let me know. I love reading other people's stories of how they came to tatting.

And Vannessa from Farmland, if you're out there, THANK YOU!!!!!