"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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Angels

Hey, there are 12 days of Christmas, right? Anyway, I'm going to save these for next fall's sale, so I'm actually well ahead of the game for once.

This is Anne Bruvold's SSSR Angel, although once again, I made them with regular split rings rather than wait till later to add the second thread. The top one is done in LadyShuttleMaker's "Holly Jolly Christmas" HDT, size 50. The other two threads are both by Yarnplayer: "Elf" and "Forest", both size 40.

I'm going to keep making these miniature ornaments because they're fun, so I hope there are a lot of people with small trees who want to buy them!

On a completely unrelated note, Squijum just discovered that he likes marinara sauce. Other foods he likes that he theoretically shouldn't include spanokopita, banana chips, and pumpkin bread. What weird foods do your feline masters enjoy?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Scent of a Dragon

I made Anne Bruvold's dragon again.

I used Tatskool's "Violet" for the body, tail, and head, and Yarnplayer's "Night Wind" for the wings. In size 80, it fits nicely on a little organza bag.

The edging is from Tatting with Anne Orr. It's the very last pattern in the book, used by Ms. Orr as a placemat edging.

Then I filled the bag with yummy-smelling things-- dried lemon peel, pieces of vanilla bean, and pieces of nutmeg-- and put it in my sweater drawer.

In case you're wondering, I joined the edging directly to the bag as I tatted by sticking a small crochet hook between the weave of the fabric. I stitched the dragon on with invisible thread.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

That Night in Bethlehem

My favorite Christmas pieces to play are the songs I like to call "so traditional that nobody has ever heard of them". By this I mean songs that may be popular and have a long history in their cultures of origin, but for some reason have not spread widely to other cultures. On the one hand, you have pieces like "Silent Night", which was originally German, but is now sung wherever Christmas is celebrated-- and with good reason, because it's so beautiful. On the other hand, there are many wonderful songs that are virtually unheard of outside the place where they came from, but that somebody somewhere will be touched to hear again.

And so for Christmas Eve, and the last in this series of holiday harp videos, I offer the Irish carol which I happen to think is one of the most beautiful melodies ever written: "An Oiche ud i mBeithil". I have it on good authority from Tatskool's authentic Irish son-in-law that this is pronounced "an EE-ha ood ee MAY-hill". In English, it's "I Sing of That Night in Bethlehem", arranged by Sunita Staneslow.

"That Night in Bethlehem": Traditional Irish, Arranged by Sunita Staneslow ©2003, Used by permission.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Minis

Continuing with the mini-ornaments, here is another of Jane Eborall's bells.

I must have had better tension on this one, because the shape is more even than the first. Even so, I think I will need to wet both of them and shape them properly. The colors on this one are Yarnplayer's "Night Wind" and Lizbeth color 631 "Light Country Purple". It pretty much has to be tatted in size 20 thread because there are so many beads that any smaller thread would make it all out of proportion (unless you can get your hands on some ultra-tiny seed beads, of course.)

Actually, the bell may or may not be a mini-ornament. While it is only 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) tall, and 1 3/4 inches (4.5 cm) in diameter at the bottom, being 3D gives it enough substance that it could be put on a full-size tree without getting lost. However, it is definitely small enough to go on a table-top tree as well. Anne Bruvold's SSSR Angel, on the other hand, is definitely a mini. I got out my giant quarter again for this scan. (Thanks for that comment, StringyDogs, it gave me quite a chuckle.)

These are both tatted in size 50, but they would still be minute even in 20. The colorway on the left is "Icicle" by LadyShuttleMaker; on the right is "Snowflake" by Yarnplayer. As I do with Anne's dragon pattern, I decided to make these with regular split rings instead of SSSR's, and for the same reason. You do have to add a second thread eventually for the SCMR, so why give yourself extra ends to hide, when you could just start with two shuttles CTM and have all the threads you need? In any case, this was a fun little pattern to make, and very quick. I like the way the skirt is designed; I never in a million years would have thought of doing it that way. Two of them would make a nice pair of earrings, too, if you need a last-minute gift.

These mini-ornaments are fun, and I'm going to keep doing them-- partly because I'm in the mood for some instant gratification, and partly because I'm trying not to get caught up in a large project right now. In years past, I have always observed the TIAS with great interest, but I've never tatted it before because I was always in the middle of something else and didn't want to get distracted. This year I am determined to participate, so I'll save the big projects for February.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanukah!

It is Tuesday evening here, which means Chanukah has begun. If you're confused because your calendar says it starts on Wednesday, that's because the Jewish religious day runs from sundown to sundown; thus Jewish holidays begin at sundown the evening before the day they're marked on the "regular" calendar.

Tonight I offer two Chanukah songs, "Ma'oz Tsur (Rock of Ages)" and "Blessings Over the Candles (Blessings on the Menorah)", both arranged by Sylvia Woods.

(1) "Ma'oz Tsur": Traditional Jewish, Arranged by Sylvia Woods ©1990, Used by permission. (2) "Blessings Over the Candles": Traditional Jewish, Arranged by Sylvia Woods ©1990, Used by permission.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent": Traditional French, Arranged by Stephanie Curcio ©2001, Used by permission.

This melody always gives me chills, and Stephanie Curcio's arrangement makes it even more haunting. Harpists can find the sheet music at her website, http://www.harpmusicpublisher.com/.

At one point in the video, you can hear my next door neighbor coming home; I hope it's not too distracting. I decided not to do another take because I wanted to be done before my downstairs neighbor started her regular nightly screaming and swearing fit... apartment life, gotta love it. I was doing these videos to help people calm down during the holiday season, remember?

A couple of people have asked me what I'm doing when I reach up to the top of the harp with my left hand. The short answer is I'm flipping sharping levers. Now I'll try to explain that as simply as I can, but I don't think I can do it without using at least a little bit of musical jargon.

The type of harp I play is most accurately called a lever harp; you may also hear it called a folk harp or Celtic harp. Near the top of each string is a lever that raises the pitch of that string by one half step. In other words, it takes a string that would be equivalent to a white key on a piano and makes it equivalent to a black key. Before you start playing, you set the levers for the key you will be playing in. Sometimes, though, there is a sharp that is not in the key (called an accidental). If the accidental is present throughout the piece, you can also set that lever before you start playing; if that note alternates between being sharp and being natural, you will have to change the lever with the left hand while you are playing. This is what you see me doing at a couple of points in this piece, "Carol of the Bells", and "The Cherry Tree".

Below is an illustration of my levers, which are known as "blades". Click on it to read the labels. You can see another type of lever here.

This should not be confused with tuning. Tuning, which has to be done before you play, is when you turn a peg to adjust the tension on a string in order to produce that string's particular pitch as accurately as possible. Raising a sharping lever changes the length of the string to produce a completely different pitch.

Just don't ask me about pedal harps-- way more complicated!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Star/ Flake Rant

When I saw this on Fox's blog, I knew I had to tat it. I love the look of rings on rings, and this one has both SCMR's and rings on split rings! I literally bounced with excitement when I saw it. OK, so maybe I need to get out more. Anyway, here it is, tatted in size 50.

The colorway is "Holly Jolly Christmas" by LadyShuttleMaker. I love how she's added just a hint of blue to the Christmas mix. The pattern is by Julie Patterson.

The design is called "Christmas Snowflake". I can barely bring myself to type that. My frequent readers will know that one of my biggest pet peeves is calling something a snowflake that clearly isn't. It is a fact of nature that snowflakes always have six points. That is simply the way that water molecules crystallize. Google it if you don't believe me. You wouldn't call a triangular motif a butterfly, because it's not shaped like one; likewise, a motif with any number of repeats other than six is not a snowflake because it's not shaped like one. I am therefore choosing to call this a "Christmas Star" instead. There, I feel better.

The tiny little bell I tatted a few days ago and this pretty little star have inspired me to do a series of mini-ornaments for table-top trees. I probably won't do a huge number of them, but enough to have a good selection at next year's sale.

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Drive the Cold Winter Away

This is what it looked like around here last week:

I much prefer to look at snow in pictures than to actually have to deal with it, so I'm happy to live in a place where it is infrequent and short-lived. Tatted snow I like, though. The flakes on this ball are all improvised and quite small. And by improvised, I mean that several of them really wouldn't work if they weren't pinned in place. I might work on the stitch counts on some of them to come up with designs that could actually stand on their own. These are all tatted in DMC size 80. EDIT: Just to be clear, these are four different views of the same ornament.

Not being a fan of winter, I love the title of the song "To Drive the Cold Winter Away", and I also enjoy the cheerful lyrics. This arrangement is by Ellen Tepper, from her book The Harper's Accomplice. Please visit Ellen's site, by the way, and click the "Reviews" link at the bottom-- all of the images on that page are Ellen's own embroidery, and you can click to enlarge them and see every detail-- WOW!!! Anyone in the Philadelphia area should also check out her schedule, as she has several concerts next week.

"Drive the Cold Winter Away": Traditional English, Arranged by Ellen Tepper ©1998, Used by permission.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Carol of the Bells

This is one of Jane Eborall's 3D bells. It is quite easy to tat; as long as you're comfortable with beads and split rings, it's a very simple pattern done all in one pass. I'm definitely going to make more of these. I have several ideas for different color schemes, and since I'm making them for next year's relief sale, I can make as many as I want, and they don't have to be done before Christmas.

I was a little surprised at how small it turned out. It's tatted in size 20 thread; here it is next to a shuttle for scale.

"Ukrainian Bell Carol" is probably the only tune in this holiday series of mine that you might conceivably hear on some store's Christmas soundtrack. However, the version you'll hear on Muzak will probably make you want to run screaming from the store, whereas this one, IMHO, is pretty and interesting to listen to. It is arranged by Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher.

"Ukrainian Bell Carol": Traditional Ukrainian, Arranged by Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher ©1997, Used by permission.

Side note: Has anyone else been having trouble lately with Blogger putting the paragraph breaks in random places? I've been having to fight with the computer to put them where I want them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem

Today's musical interlude is not strictly a Christmas song, but is nonetheless completely in keeping with the spirit of the season, or at least what should be the spirit of the season. This version of "Dona Nobis Pacem" is arranged by Angi Bemiss.

"Dona Nobis Pacem": Traditional, Arranged by Angi Bemiss ©2003, Used by permission.

I've added links in the sidebar to the previous harp videos so you can still find them when they drop off the front page.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two Finished Projects

In the last week there have been two things I've posted and said I was going to do more with them. I have now done so.

First up, Mary Konior's "Posy", which I showed four days ago. It is now attached to a small organza bag along with MK's "Leaf Braid" edging.

And the bag is filled with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and dried orange peel for a wonderful scented sachet.

I found out that Jo-Ann's sells the bags, so I'm going to do more of these.

Next up is the dragon I posted last Saturday, which now has a friend.

I joined them first by the middle ring of the clover at the end of the tail; I put tiny little joining picots on either side of the decorative picot/ bead. Then after every couple of split rings, I joined the second dragon to the first and brought the threads around to the other side so that the tails would wrap around each other. Then I joined the dimpled rings on the heads in the same way that I joined the ends of the tails. I didn't join the bodies or wings to each other at all. After the dragons were finished, I made a lock-stitch chain about six inches long and threaded it through the picots that form the dimples on the two dimpled rings at the head; this is the hanging cord.

This is really hard to photograph, so I hope I've been able to describe what I did adequately. Here are some close-ups of the heads and tails.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Cherry Tree

This is Nancy Tracy's cherry pattern, more or less. As I was making the second cherry, I noticed that I had made the first one too big by one repeat, so I made the second one to match it. And because I was making it in colors instead of all white, I obviously couldn't tat the leaf continuously with the cherries. Instead, I made a lock stitch and small picot at the end of the first stem and reversed work, then worked my way down the second stem to make the second cherry. I joined the green thread to that small picot between stems to start the leaf. I used balance double stitches for the stems to help them lay more nicely.

The legend of the cherry tree has its origins in the Apocrypha. The version that has come down to us in song is slightly different from the original, and there are many different Cherry Tree Carols. It's quite possible that none of these may be the one you know. First is a tricky (at least on the harp) Appalachian tune called "The Cherry-Tree", arranged by Thom Dutton. Next is an English version arranged by Sylvia Woods (if you like harp music, visit Sylvia's website-- she has has best selection of harp CD's of any place I know). Finally, another Appalachian tune called "As Joseph Was A-Walkin'", also arranged by Thom Dutton. This last one doesn't actually mention a cherry tree in the lyrics, but its lyrics were incorporated into later Cherry Tree Carols, so it is considered part of the "Cherry Tree Series".

(1)“The Cherry-Tree”: Traditional American, Arranged by Thom Dutton ©2001 Cape Side Music, Used by permission. (2)“The Cherry Tree Carol”: Traditional English, Arranged by Sylvia Woods©1984 Woods Music and Books, Used by permission. (3)“As Joseph Was A-Walkin’”: Traditional American, Arranged by Thom Dutton ©2001 Cape Side Music, Used by permission.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Purple Posy

This is Mary Konior's "Posy" motif from Tatting with Visual Patterns. It's the same thread I used on the dragon.

This is not the first time I've tatted this, but I always have to be careful joining the last ring of each repeat to the last ring of the previous repeat. It usually takes me several tries to get it right. I either end up with the thread coming out on the top-- it needs to come out on the bottom in order to pass it behind the work to start the next repeat-- or else I somehow manage to get the ring wrapped around the whole piece so that I can't close it. Once I figure out how to hold the threads to make it work the first time, subsequent repeats are much easier, but I still have to go through this process every time I make this pattern.

I have plans for this posy. You'll see.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Taladh Chriosta

This year I decided I would like to reduce the stress of the holiday season and counteract the nerve-jangling music inflicted on us by the malls (actually, I can't remember the last time I was in a mall, but I assume they still play nerve-jangling music) by making a series of videos of harp music. I'll be presenting these at random intervals throughout the month of December. The first one is the Scottish carol "Taladh Chriosta", or "The Christ Child's Lullaby", arranged by Sunita Staneslow. Sunita's own recording of this piece can be found on her CD Christmas Day. Lyrics can be found here.

"The Christ Child's Lullaby": Traditional Scottish, arranged by Sunita Staneslow  © 2003. Used by permission.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


The second "Emily" doily is now finished, but not blocked yet. I haven't had a chance when I would be around to keep an eye on Squijum the pin-muncher for the entire time it takes to dry.

The doilies are pretty and elegant in all white, but I have to say, I'm really a fan of color.

This is, of course, Anne Bruvold's Flying Minor Norwegian Dragon, to which I added a lot of beads along the spine and tips of the wings. The thread is one of LadyShuttleMaker's; I think the colorway is "Royalty", but I could be wrong. Sherry? It's size 80.

This pattern calls for SSSR's for the tail and neck, but I always make it with regular split rings instead. You have to add a second thread anyway to make the chains on the body, and that gives you two extra ends to hide. If you start with two threads CTM from the beginning, then you already have what you need when you get to the body and don't have to hide any ends till you finish the head.

I have an idea to tat a second dragon and have their tails twined around each other. I think it will work, but of course I won't know until I try.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Down...

Here is the first "Emily" doily completed.

I'm 3/4 of the way done with the last round of the other one as well.

The pattern is by Janet Carroll, from the book Elegant Tatting Patterns. The book says the finished size is 7 1/2 inches (19 cm) in size 30 thread. I used size 20, so I expected it to come out slightly bigger; instead, mine measures 6 3/4 inches (17 cm). Either I tat WAY tighter than I thought, or else Ms. Carroll must tat very loosely. In any case, it's a nice size for putting under a candlestick, vase, or other small knick-knack.

I've been thinking lately, a lot of people don't like doilies because they consider them fussy and unnecessary. But they actually serve the very practical purpose of protecting your furniture from being scratched by whatever you set on top of the doily. People do still put decorative objects on their tables and shelves, so it seems like it shouldn't be that hard to make them see the value of doilies. The problem is with the word "doily" itself, which reminds people of some spinster great-aunt. So maybe we should start calling them "anti-scratch mats" instead and people might start getting interested again. And while we're at it, maybe we should bring back hair oil for men to revive interest in antimacassars... nah, that's going too far!