"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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TIAS Day 8

Day 8 of the TIAS is out, and it seems that, given the extraordinary colors that some of us have chosen, there must be a lot of new and unusual breeds of goats around.

Mine will look a bit extotic in these shades of blue and pink (Lizbeth "Denim Whisper"), but I'm really looking forward to seeing the green and pink goat, aren't you? I did consider making the TIAS in brown or gray, on the theory that these colors would be neutral enough to work with whatever it turned out to be; but you know that if I had gone that route, Jane would have given us a parrot instead!

Monday, January 30, 2012

More Little Snowflakes

Just a very quick post to show you two more mini snowflakes. They are again two flakes off this ornament.

This time I didn't have to adjust the stitch counts on either of them, as they both stand perfectly well on their own.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

TIAS Day 7

Well, now I'm starting to think it is an animal after all, if days 4-6 were the hind legs and today we made the tail. I have no idea what kind of animal, though.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chains and Locks

Don't worry, this post isn't nearly as unfriendly as the title makes it sound. I'm talking about zig zag chains and lock stitch chains.

In all of today's samples, I had red thread on the shuttle and blue on the ball. For simplicity, I started all of them by just tying the two threads together in a Big Ugly Knot. Obviously, you would normally use standard techniques to begin without a knot and hide the ends.

A zig zag chain is made by alternating sets of flipped and unflipped double stitches. As with the second half of a split ring, you have to switch the order of half stitches when making the unflipped DS. Mark Meyers has a video of it here. Mark uses two shuttles in the video, but you can also do it with ball and shuttle. When you alternate flipped with unflipped DS, you are also alternating which thread is the core thread. You are essentially making a series of short chains going in opposite directions; hence the zig zag or rick rack effect. Here is a sample using sets of 4 flipped, 4 unflipped.

As Mark demonstrates, you can also put picots at the places where you switch, but I didn't in this case.

This technique is not very common, but there are a few patterns that use it. Rozella Linden (Ruth Perry) makes use of it in her book Celtic Tatting: A Design Journey on an Ancient Theme, and Mark uses it as a header in this edging. I also used it in my "Crazy Daisy" snowflake.

If you make a zig zag chain with only 1 flipped and 1 unflipped DS, the zigs and zags are so short that you basically get a straight line, something that a normal tatted chain doesn't do very well.

This is a useful technique where you need a straight line, such as a bookmark tail or the stem of a flower. I did this for the flower that I made the other day.

(Note: regarding the flower itself, I came up with the design on my own, but it turns out that it is basically the same as a Mary Konior pattern that I wasn't familiar with, "Wild Rose". Thanks, Suzanne, for pointing this out.)

Then there is the lock stitch chain. You know what a lock stitch is, right? It's just like a regular DS, except that you don't flip one of the half stitches; it doesn't matter which one. It's common to do it after you use a split ring to climb from one round to the next; you need a picot at the top of the SR to match all the other rings in the round, so you make a mock picot and begin the following chain with a lock stitch so that the core thread doesn't pull through the MP. Well, for a different effect, you can make a whole chain of lock stitches. As with the 1/1 zig zag chain, it makes a straight line (although either of them can be forced into a curve), and when using two colors, they both show up.

Jane Eborall has a snowflake here that uses lock stitch chains. I often use them for bookmark tails as well.

At first glance, the lock stitch chain looks similar to the 1/1 zig zag chain, but on closer examination you can see the difference. In the zig zag chain you can see the double stitches; on the lock stitch chain you can't because there aren't really any. The two colors interlock more closely, and the surface of the chain is slightly bumpier. The lock stitch chain is also a little bit thinner than the 1/1 zig zag and is therefore more flexible as well. This scan shows the two of them together.

These two types of chain can often be used interchangeably. Just be aware that they do give slightly different effects and choose the one that best suits your needs. As always, I encourage experimentation!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bird Bag

Here's the latest organza bag, complete with hummingbird, flower, and edging.

The flower didn't quite go on straight (this is why I don't sew), but that's OK; this is New Mexico, after all, I can always say it's blowing in the wind. Also, the purple Lizbeth thread I used for the flower is not as good a match as I thought for the purple in the hummingbird-- I should have looked at it in the morning when I have sunlight-- but again, that's OK. Colors wouldn't match like that in nature anyway, and it still goes pretty well. The green is a near-perfect match.

The edging I used is #34 from Anne Orr's Classic Tatting Patterns. It's such a simple pattern that it doesn't even matter about it being written "old style" because you don't have to read it again after the first repeat. Yet it is one of the first patterns ever to use split rings. Orr first published the book as Tatting, Book No. 35, Revised in 1940. In it, she gave instructions for "reverse stitch", which is exactly the technique that we now call split rings, and also for joining while making reverse stitch. Compared to most tatting instructions of that time, Orr's directions for both the reverse stitch and the join are remarkably clear and concise (although she does neglect to tell you that you have to switch the order of the half stitches). While this is one pattern where Orr did use what we now call split rings, there are several patterns where she has you cut and tie in places where today's tatters would use split rings to climb out of a round, so she obviously didn't realize the full potential of her invention. Still, to have thought of it at all was quite an achievement, and we owe her a great debt.

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I always fill these bags with nice-smelling things to help freshen up my apartment. In this case, I went with dried jasmine flowers, lemon peel, and vanilla bean.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TIAS Day 6

Here's day 6 of the TIAS.

It could still be a locomotive, if these are streamers of smoke we're making at the top. Or it could be a jellyfish (rotated the other way), a lady's fancy hat, or a deformed rabbit. I don't really think it's the latter, of course, because Jane's designs never look deformed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Flower

I devised this flower yesterday to go with the recently made hummingbird (scroll down a couple of posts), because you can't have a hummingbird image without a flower, can you?

The leaves are obviously just big rings. The stem is a 1/1 zigzag chain; this is slightly different from a lock stitch chain-- I might do a post on this sometime soon. I ended the chain with a mock picot secured by a lock stitch, to give myself something to join the flower to. If I were going to do it again, though, I would make the flower first and join the stem to it to avoid that extra stitch of green after the join.

I was originally planning to make a simple 5 ring flower in the purple, using dimpled rings to make it more interesting. Then I decided it really needed a pale yellow center to counterbalance those intense plum and jade colors, so I did ordinary rings of yellow in the center with dimpled chains of purple. An added benefit was that I was able to make the petals larger than I would have the other way; also I didn't have to mess around with closing dimpled rings, which is sometimes not that much fun.

The threads are Lizbeth 688 Sea Green Dark, Lizbeth 643 Grape Medium, and DMC 579, the light yellow. The green and the purple are both amazingly close matches for LadyShuttleMaker's "Marina" HDT that I used on the hummingbird.

I have also put an edging on the bag that this is going onto. Now all I have to do is stitch the flower and the hummingbird to the bag. I'll show it again when it's all assembled.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

TIAS Day 5

Have you read the Golden Compass series? In the third book, The Amber Spyglass, there's a world where, instead of having a central spine like we do, all the large animals have a diamond-shaped body with a limb at each of three corners and a head at the fourth. I've decided that must be what the TIAS is.

I have been doing other tatting as well, but it's going a bit slowly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

TIAS Day 4

Here's the progress thus far. No new guesses.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pretending and Remembering

I'm tired of winter-- hence the new background. As part of my effort to pretend it's summer, I tatted Karey Solomon's hummingbird, from her book Make Many Merrily.

The thread is LadyShuttleMaker's "Marina" in size 80. I'm not sure if she's still making this colorway-- I hope so, because I don't have much of it left.

This is a fun pattern to make, what with the floating chain beak and block tatted wing. As you're tatting it, that block tatting looks alarmingly straight, but it develops this nice graceful curve as you add the feathery chains at the back.

This is not the first time I've tatted this pattern. I first made it several years ago for my grandparents. Now that they have both died, it has been given back to me.

In this version, I used rayon machine embroidery threads in turquoise and green doubled with metallic threads in silver and gold, and let me tell you, that was NOT a fun combination to work with! The rayon by itself was no problem-- the flowers in this picture are the same type of thread, and they were easy-- but combine the rayon with another thread with completely different characteristics, and it becomes a nightmare.

Moreover, when I made this one, as you can see, I made alterations around the beak in order to change colors. I made the beak in advance, in plain black cotton, and set it aside. I started the bird using two shuttles in the turquoise/ silver threads, and when I got to the beak, tied it on-- sorry, I can't remember exactly how-- then cut off the second turquoise/ silver shuttle and replaced it with the green/ gold shuttle. In the block tatting section, you can see that one turquoise/ silver shuttle is still there. The bead used for the eye is sewn on later, when I sewed the bird to the fabric.

If I hadn't been so determined to make it in these colors, I probably would have given up; it was much easier making it the second time around, not only because I was using ordinary cotton thread, but also because I used the same thread throughout-- an advantage of tatting this particular pattern in a variegated thread.

And as an example of the difference thread size can make, here are the two birds together:

I'm planning to put the new bird on one of those little organza bags, but I need to tat a few other things to go with it, so it could be a while.

Monday, January 16, 2012

TIAS Day 3, and a Small Flurry

First, day 3 of the TIAS.

Like most people, I am intrigued by the extra picot on the first corner. The obvious inference is that something will be joined there that's not joined to the other corners, but what? And of course, knowing Jane, we can't necessarily assume something just because it seems obvious. I still think a locomotive is a possibility, with this section representing the smokestack. Or, as I said to Jane, it could be the window of a house with someone looking out of it. Or a slice of Spam!

Remember this ornament? This weekend I altered a couple of the snowflake designs on it to make them sturdy enough to hang on their own. The ones that were on the ball are still on it; I've just made others as stand-alone ornaments.

The first flake I looked at was the first one I made:

The problem with this one is that it's really just the outline of a snowflake, with nothing to support it in the center. As snowflakes go, it's actually pretty boring, as well as not being stable.

Inspired by Jane and Wendy, both of whom enjoy joining their tatting to various metal filigree findings, I placed this link in the center. It's not exactly filigree, but it's got loops you can join to, and more importantly, there are six of them.

The tatting has the exact same stitch count as the original; I got lucky enough that the link fits perfectly. It really livens up the design, don't you think? As with the original, this is DMC size 80 thread.

Next, I took on this flake:

Here, the problem is that the outside is too big for the inside. First I tried it with another silver link. The loops of the link are considerably bigger than the inner tatted rings on the flake, so I omitted these rings and joined the chains to the metal loops instead. I also joined the clovers to each other for stability.

This worked out fine, but it doesn't really look like the original. The thing I really liked about the first one was the tighter curves on the chains. In order to achieve this, I had to go back to the small inner rings of the first one; in this case, I compensated by making the clovers a little bit smaller.

I like this one very much, and now that I have a workable design for it, I'll probably tat it again and write it down.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spiced Ham

Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone? It was, thankfully, for less than 24 hours. My blog was blocked because Blogger's automated detection system had flagged it as a possible purveyor of, well, Monty Python said it best...

What I had to do was request a real live actual human person to review my blog to verify that it's not spam, and then it was restored. They said that it could take up to two business days, so I was pleasantly surprised to find my blog back up and running this morning. I'm not even angry about it anymore, and won't say some of the nasty things I was planning to about Blogger and Google. They are doing the best they can, after all. The only thing I wish they would have done differently is that it would have been nice to get an auto-reply when I submitted my request for review, just to let me know that my request was not lost in cyberspace; that would have made yesterday a lot less anxiety-ridden for me.

I'm still not entirely clear on what a "spam blog" is, despite having read half a dozen articles on the topic yesterday. All these articles are full of words that look remarkably like English, yet convey little or no meaning to a person who is not already an expert on spam. I did manage to glean than it was something somebody else did, not anything I did; but then, I had already made that assumption based on the knowledge that I am not a spammer.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this is what a spam blog would look like:

I've got a story about Spam and Spam-like substances, too. When I was 16 my family took a road trip from Atlanta to the Grand Canyon. It was a lot of fun, and the only downside was that the brand-new tires on our car turned out to be defective. One of them fell apart on the way out, luckily very near my aunt and uncle's house where we were spending the night. Another fell apart on the way back, in the exact center of nowhere, on Sunday July 4. Amazingly, we actually managed to find a service station open that could sell us a tire, but there were people in line ahead of us and we had to hang out there for a couple of hours. Needless to say, there was absolutely no entertainment available except for browsing the convenience store. During that time, my sister came across three items side by side on a shelf. The most expensive was "Deviled Ham", and the middle one was "Deviled Spam". Yeah, of course we were familiar with these items even if we had never consumed them ourselves. But then, just in case the Deviled Spam was too hoity-toity for some people, the cheapest of the three was "Potted Meat Food Product". Yes, that was the actual name of it. Some real marketing genius went into that one.

This is actual Spam, not some cheap knock-off. Doesn't it look appetizing? Now that your appetite has been whetted with this image and the thought of "Potted Meat Food Product", it's time to think what you're going to have for lunch today. How about a flavorful pulled Spam with slaw sandwich, followed by a delectable apple and Spam turnover?

Or if you're in the mood for something more exotic, why not try the Hawaiian classic Spam musubi, incorporating Spam with elements of sushi? Here's one variation on it:

I did consider trying to tat some Spam, but I realized that no one has dyed any thread in just that color-- and let's pray they never do. So instead, I'll show you the tatting I did do, day 2 of the TIAS. If you're new to the online tatting community, TIAS stands for Tat It and See. Every January, Jane Eborall presents us with a new pattern but doesn't tell us what it is. She releases small bits of it every few days, and you just tat what the directions say, then take a photo and send it to Jane to post on the TIAS blog, along with any guess you might have as to what it is. Here's what we've got so far:

I still haven't ruled out a locomotive, and I see on the TIAS blog that someone else has the same idea. Part of the trouble, of course, is that you don't know which way is up; it could be oriented any way, and we won't know till later.

I hope the one or two weirdos out there who actually like Spam haven't been too offended by this post; you must be used to the mockery by now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Galaxy!

Well, I guess five stars don't really make a galaxy, do they? Close enough.

Sorry about the grotty background color; it was the best I could find to show all of the threads equally well. The two on top are size 50, in "Pear Glace" by LadyShuttleMaker and "Sue's Blues" by Yarnplayer. The three on the bottom are size 40, in Yarnplayer's "Elf", Krystledawne's "Fairy Faint", and "Wine Berry", also by Krystle.

The pattern is Julie Patterson's Christmas Snowflake Star. It is a really fun pattern to make, challenging enough to make it interesting, but small enough to tat in an evening.

On the three tatted in "Sue's Blues", "Elf", and "Wine Berry", I shamelessly stole Fox's idea of using JK's instead of regular rings off the SCMR's. For the other two I stuck with regular rings. To be honest, it probably doesn't make that much difference to the untrained eye.

My regular readers will know that with larger pieces, I prefer to block properly using pins and water. With small pieces like this, I don't find blocking necessary; instead, I do like Fox does and just press them under a weight until they lie flat. Specifically, the weight I use is Squijum. For some reason, he likes to sit on the scanner lid; so after scanning the tatted items, I just leave them on the scanner with the lid closed (I do take out the colored background paper, just in case the color rubs off) and wait for the 11.7 pound tiger to do his job. After a couple of days of this, the tatting is perfectly flat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TIAS Day 1

Here is the e-mail I just sent to Jane:

Here's my day 1 tatting. I'm excited to finally be participating. In years past, I've always followed along and had some private guesses, but never actually did the tatting because I always had some large project going that I didn't want to be distracted from. This year, I deliberately avoided having anything big going in January.

It's really too soon to make a reasonable guess, but I'm going to have a go anyway. I can't think of any critter that would have that angle, so I won't guess an animal at this point. Following on last year's airplane, I wonder if this might be a locomotive? Although in that case, I'm not sure how the beads will be used.

Pretty simple so far, but we'll see. The thread I'm using is Lizbeth color 120 Denim Whisper.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Blog Alert!

Just in case you haven't seen it, Martha Ess has started a new blog called Tatting Origins, exploring tatting history and old techniques. This is fascinating stuff, and everyone should check it out!


The thing is, I can't get into tatting Christmas things until it is properly winter, and around here that doesn't happen till mid-December-- a fact for which I am mostly grateful, because as previously mentioned, winter is not my favorite season. It does mean, though, that I then continue to want to tat Christmas things well into January. But hey, Christmas happens every year, so that's all right too.

This pattern is LaRae Mikulecky's Berry Wreath. The lock stitch chain hanger is my own addition; I couldn't decide whether I liked it better with the chain looped back to the starting point, or carried over to the next repeat, so I tried a couple each way.

The green variegated thread on the bottom is Yarnplayer's "Forest" colorway. All the other threads are Lizbeth: 685 Dark Evergreen, 638 Christmas Green, 601 White, and 671 Christmas Red. I made the white one because I needed a fourth one so that there could be two of each style of hanger-- otherwise when they're all on display together the one hanger that was different would have looked like a mistake-- and I wanted them all in different colors but didn't have another appropriate shade of green. That logic makes perfect sense, right? Right? Anyway, I think the white with red josephine knots makes an attractive ornament, even though by definition it no longer represents a wreath of greenery.

This could also be made as a spring wreath by using a lighter shade of green, and a variegated thread for the JK's to represent flower buds.

I have a couple of comments on this pattern, in case anyone feels like making it. It's not spelled out in the directions, but what you need to do is make the first round with green ball and shuttle CTM. After joining the last chain to the base of the first ring and before starting the second round, cut off the green shuttle thread and replace it with a red shuttle thread; keep the same green ball thread. Also, in round 2 the directions say to make the berry at the end of each chain before you join to round 1; however, I found that it lays better if you do the join first and then make the berry.

In size 40 thread, each wreath measures just over 1 1/2 inches, or about 4 cm, in diameter, so I'm adding them to the collection of mini-ornaments.