"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, January 25, 2013

Combining Knitting and Tatting

You knew that had to be coming, didn't you?

There's a baby coming at my workplace. The mom, dad, and one of the grandmas all work there, so it feels very much like a family event. It's going to be a girl, and the grandma is getting her a lot of very girlie stuff in hot pink. Here's how I decided to do my part:

The butterfly is Jane Eborall's "Painted Lady Butterfly" in Lizbeth size 20. The colors are Black, Purple Iris Dark, and Niagara Falls. I was originally going to use just the black and the Niagara Falls. When I looked at the pattern, I realized I would have to change it a bit, tatting the head and body separately. Doing them as split rings all in one pass, as Jane wrote it, works great if you're just using one color of thread, but not so much with two colors. So I tatted the bodies and heads first in black. Then I was going to do the wings in black and turquoise, but I happened to see the ball of purple thread next to the ball of Niagara Falls and noticed how well they complemented each other (and also the black ball got taken by Borrowers sometime between finishing the heads and starting the wings). I think this color combination ends up looking really good. I'm also happy that the color changes on the Niagara Falls thread worked out to be pretty symmetrical on the butterflies. The "Painted Lady" pattern also works well on the booties because it is wider than it is tall; a taller butterfly wouldn't have fit, while a narrower one would have gotten lost in the sea of bright pink.

The pattern for the knitted Mary Janes is here. I have to admit, mine didn't come out shaped quite as nicely as the ones pictured on the pattern, but they're pretty good for a beginner. There was obviously quite a bit of shaping involved in knitting these, so I got to learn a lot, too. The pattern says they're for 0-6 months; seeing them completed, I'd say they're definitely going to be closer to the 6 month end of that range.

A couple of other co-workers had babies about six months ago, and I feel bad for making something for one person and not the others (just because I didn't know how to knit back then, what kind of an excuse is that?). So I'm going to knit them each a hat with a tatted animal on it. Except for a brief cold snap, it's been a pretty warm winter here, so I think I'll make the hats a little larger for them to wear next winter.

I've been slacking on reading the tatting blogs recently. I will try to correct that this afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what you've all been doing the last couple of weeks!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Here is the completed Carolina Jasmine Hat.

This is definitely the most complex thing I've knitted so far, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I learned several new techniques, and I don't think I made any mistakes.

Since the above photo looks kind of like a big blue mushroom, here it is over my usual kitchen canister hat model, from the side and the top.

It stretches out even more on my head to better showcase the design. I'm not about to do any modeling right now, though. I just got off my 12-hour shift at work, and I look like I'm about to collapse, because I am; besides, I think people who take photos of themselves in the mirror to post on the internet usually just look silly.

The yarn is by Wolf Creek Wools. It's called "Great Wall"; unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be currently listed on their website, although my local yarn store has plenty of it in stock. It's a blend of 60% merino wool and 40% bamboo in a worsted weight. Merino, of course, is a pretty soft, non-itchy wool to begin with, and the addition of the bamboo eliminates any itch at all plus giving it a slight sheen.

I wore this hat walking to work last night, and it was wonderful. This morning, when it was even colder, I wore both the hat and the earwarmer and stayed nice and toasty.

I've decided not to do the TIAS this year. I have too many other projects I want to get started on-- some gifts for several co-workers who either just had or are about to have babies (don't worry, these will include some tatting), and I'm also feeling ready to knit my first sweater. I'll still guess along with the TIAS, I just won't be making it myself this time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is This Becoming a Knitting Blog?

Finally, the hat I've been planning to make myself is well underway.

The pattern I'm using is called "Carolina Jasmine Hat" by Katie Rose Pryal. Isn't that a beautiful title? I've completed the rather long ribbing section and the first row of increases-- my first time doing an increase, yay. The pattern also calls for several different types of decrease, so that will be more skills I get to learn; up to now, I've only knit 2 together.

My one beef with the pattern is that it gives neither a gauge nor a finished circumference. I know that I tend to be a fairly tight knitter, so I went up by two needle sizes while sticking with a similarly sized yarn. Hopefully it will all work out. Sitting flat like in the above picture, it doesn't look like it could possibly fit my head, but the ribbing is so stretchy I think it will work.

The only other difficulty I've had so far was with my needles. I started with size 6 needles and moved up to size 8 near the end of the ribbing. But when I first started knitting, I wanted to try out needles of various materials to see what I liked, so I bought size 6 dpns in metal. It turns out I don't like metal needles; the stitches just keep sliding off of them. It made for very slow going the first couple of inches of ribbing. So yesterday I went out and bought some bamboo size 6 dpns (I already had size 8 in bamboo) and was able to finish the rest of the ribbing in no time. It's amazing what a little friction can do!

The TIAS starts today, but I haven't gotten around to winding my shuttles yet. I'll try to do it this afternoon. It's a good thing Jane gives us several days between pattern sections.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Keeping Warm

Margaret let me know on Friday that Sandy Hook already has as many snowflakes as they can use, so I ended up not sending off the ones I had made. Instead, I will save them for the sale next fall. I'll make some more snowflakes for the sale, since I'm in the mood.

Since my tatting deadline was no longer in effect, I decided to finish my newest knit piece. If there's anything I hate worse than cold ears, it's earmuffs. So I made myself an ear warmer, which is like half a hat.

I used the bamboo stitch again, both for visual interest and to make the fabric thicker. I also went down a needle size from what was recommended on the yarn label, so as to make tight stitches that will hopefully be more wind resistant. I began and ended with a few rows of stockinette to make rolled edges. The yarn is Rowan Belle Organic Aran, a wool-cotton worsted. It will get its first test on my way to work tonight.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beads and Ruffles

I made a couple more snowflakes from Vida Sunderman's book.

This is the "Beaded Snowflake". I really like how the shapes of the negative spaces jump out at you in this design. This was a very quick tat, too. Round 1 is so small and simple, it only takes a few minutes. Round 2 is all chains (those things that look like rings in round 2 are actually chains joined twice to the same picot; I like this look, which I consider to be a form of mock ring), so there's no unwinding and rewinding of the shuttle or reversing work. All the beads are on the ball thread, too, so you don't have to worry about spacing them on the shuttle (which I don't do well at all).

I couldn't take an in-focus photo of tatting to save my life this morning, so I had to use the scanner, even though I knew the beads would be too shiny to look good in a scan. They are Miyuki delicas in the brightest, shiniest silver color they make (the actual color name has worn off the tube). The pattern calls for size 10 thread, and I used size 20, which resulted in the beads being just a little more crowded, but not excessively so, I think. In fact, I like how the beads in the center sit right next to each other in a tight circle.

This is the "Ruffle-Edged Snowflake". I got lazy and didn't block this one, but I probably will, just for good measure. It lies pretty nicely without blocking, but it could be better.

The outer round is all in Victorian sets, but I did add a regular DS before and after each picot so the picots would sit straight. I also used size 20 Lizbeth for this one.

I have one more snowflake I'd like to tat from this book, and then they're all going in the mail tomorrow.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Elegant Snowflake

That's the name of this flake from the book Tatted Snowflakes by Vida Sunderman.

I like the shapes in this one. The middle looks like a daisy, and the points look like Christmas trees. It's all tatted in one pass, which is always good. I used Lizbeth size 40 in white, combined with Coats and Clark metallic thread in silver. I wish I could figure out how to get metallic threads to show up well in a photo.

This was the first tatting pattern book I ever bought, in 1996, in Bloomington, Indiana. I was 19 and had just learned to tat from a friend a few months previously. I chose this book because it was one of the few I could find at the bookstore-- the Internet was still in its infancy back then; there were few tatting websites, if any, and anyway I barely knew how to use a computer. So I had to buy whatever tatting books I could find, wherever I could find them, and work with whatever cheap crochet thread was available locally. The Jo-Ann's I worked at didn't even carry tatting shuttles, but we were able to special order one. And of course, I didn't even know that the thread I had wasn't any good. A year or two later, I got Internet access and discovered online craft retailers and DMC tatting thread, and vowed never to tat with cheap thread again.

I remember coming home from my very part-time job every day, to the badly-lit apartment I couldn't have afforded without my parents' help, and poring over this book and the other two tatting books I owned, trying to learn whatever I could. I must have read Elgiva Nicholls' book Tatting Technique and History a dozen times that year. And I did learn a lot from these few books-- how to work with beads, how to work with two shuttles, the continuous thread method, and how to properly work the ends in and block the tatting.

It's been a long time since I've pulled this book out, but I'm glad I did. It has a lot of really pretty snowflakes in it, and I plan to start using it more.