"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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mom's Birthday Present

I actually made this about a month ago, but couldn't post it because it was for my mom's birthday. Well, she's opened it now, so here it is.

This is Marilee's Rotation Pendant again, this time in Lizbeth 703 Sky Blue Light and 704 Sky Blue Medium. I really like these beautiful clear blues, especially the medium one. So does my mom, so that works out well!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Final San Diego Post

One final photo from our trip to San Diego. This one's not from the zoo, but from an exhibit of Dr. Seuss's work at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park (Dr. Seuss lived much of his life in nearby La Jolla). Click the photo to enlarge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I promised you elephants, and here they are.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

More from the San Diego Zoo

Here are a few more photos from the San Diego Zoo.

Yes, this koala is sleeping.

I got a kick out of the warning sign.

 The rhino is slightly blurred here, but I think it captures how fast he was moving. This was taken in the late afternoon, when many of the animals were getting frisky.

Next post: elephants!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


My family went to San Diego over Thanksgiving. You can't go to San Diego without going to the zoo. I'm still working on editing my photos, but here are a few of the best so far.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Earrings Improved

In the last post, I said I liked Marilee Rockley's Kinetic Earrings, but I wasn't happy with the way I had tatted the pendulum section of either earring. The pendulum in this design is the little secondary part that dangles in front of the main motif. Last night I retatted just the pendula. Each one is tiny and takes only a short time to tat; and if you make the top ring as a SSSR with the second thread encapsulated, there are no ends to hide.

These came out much better. Most importantly, I paid more attention to my tension on the lock-stitch chain, so they both came out the same length. I was also more careful with where I started in the colorway; I was hoping to get at least two colors in each pendant, but I actually managed to get all three colors in both of them.

Here's a photo that shows the two separate pieces better.

Probably anybody else, especially a non-tatter, would have thought they looked just fine before; even I thought they were OK, they just weren't as good as I wanted. And if you're not happy with your own work, then you have to do it over, don't you? I'm glad I did.

I always tat sitting in my recliner with my feet up, and a fleece blanket over my lap. I use the blanket even in summer because Squijum likes it; this time of year, of course, it's very cozy.

Funny thing. He won't sit on my lap without the blanket, but he won't sit on the blanket without me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More of Marilee's

Yesterday I whipped up a couple more of Marilee's designs. I had a nice relaxing day with no obligations, so I was able to do nothing but tat.

This is the Rotation Pendant. All the examples in the pattern are made in solid colors, so I wasn't sure how it would look in a variegated thread. I wish the colors hadn't pooled quite so much, but I don't really mind. I think, in fact, that it came out pretty well.

This one was fairly easy for me because the first two rounds are constructed similarly to those on the large medallion of the Nouveau necklace that I just made. Nonetheless, I had to scrap the first one and do it over because I didn't have enough thread on the second shuttle. Marilee does tell you how many yards of thread to wind on; but instead of measuring it accurately I just estimate it with my arms, and I have short arms. I prefer not to join on a new thread in something this small-- too many ends in too small a space sometimes come out looking lumpy-- so once it became clear that I wouldn't be able to finish the final repeat of round 2 even by finger tatting, I cut it apart to retrieve the beads and started over with an extra arm-length of thread on shuttle 2. If I had been using expensive hand-dyed thread, I might have gone ahead and joined a new thread, but since Lizbeth is like a million yards on a fairly inexpensive ball, I didn't feel too wasteful starting over.

For the top ring where the jump ring is attached, I made a loop-tatted ring so as not to have to wind a second shuttle for just that little bit.

Next, I did the Kinetic Earrings pattern.

No problems tatting these, but I might just re-do the pendulum parts of both of them. The one on the left came out all in one color, so I'd like to do it over starting elsewhere in the colorway; it's so small, and the colors are so long in this thread, that you have to be very careful if you want it to end up in two colors. I'm happy with the way the colors came out in the one on the right, but my tension must have been off on the lock-stitch chain because it came out a little longer than the other and thus hangs too low over the main motif.

I really like this design, with the two separate things hanging off one earring hook. It's the unique little touches like this that make Marilee's designs so special.

These two patterns are not intended as a set, but if you make them in the same thread with the same beads, they end up going very well together.

The navy satin cord that I put on the pendant looks fine, I think, but that was just something I threw on it this morning so I could wear it today (I got lots of compliments, too:)). I think I will change it to a chain with a clasp that will allow me to shorten or lengthen the necklace depending on the top I have on.

The thread is Lizbeth color 122 Caribbean. Just in case anybody has failed to notice, I really like purples and turquoises, so this colorway will go with nearly every article of clothing I own!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Complete Set

Well, it's not technically complete-- there's also a bracelet, but I'm not planning to make that. I find bracelets just get in the way.

I finally figured out that the best background is the turquoise t-shirt I was wearing when I tatted and photographed the first motif. It is just the right contrast to set off the purple so my camera will capture it accurately. Should have paid more attention to that first photo when I took the others. As you can finally see here, the thread is Lizbeth 633 Dark Purple.

The set looked great with my belly dance set, and the party was lots of fun. A few people from my class chickened out and didn't show up, but those of us who were there did our little dance pretty well. The teacher didn't announce we were the beginner class till afterwards, and a couple of people told me they never would have thought we were beginners.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quick Update

Here are the earrings from Marilee's "Nouveau" set, which I finished tatting last night; I blocked the earrings and necklace overnight. I'll add the findings tonight, but it will probably be a couple of days till I can post the finished set. For one thing, I apparently have about a 15-minute window of decent light per day when I can accurately photograph this shade of purple, which I once again missed when I took this one.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quicker Than Expected

Between the assembly of the dragonfly pond and having to do annoying things like go to work, I haven't had too much tatting time this week. Nonetheless, the necklace from Marilee's "Nouveau" set tatted up much quicker than I expected.

I learned a new technique with this pattern, too: the half-moon split ring, which you can see above each of the small motifs. I've done half-moon rings before, but it never occurred to me to use the technique on a split ring. That's because Marilee is a design genius.

Here's the first small motif connected to the larger one, with the second small motif waiting in the wings.

This thread is purple, not gray. I think it is the white background combined with perhaps overly harsh lighting that caused the camera to wash out the color, and no amount of tweaking on the computer would fix it.

And here it is with both sides completed. I used a different background this time, and the lighting is a little better, so you can actually see it's purple. Still not the exact shade, but much closer.

This afternoon I'll make the matching earrings and put everything on the blocking board (as you can see, the necklace does need a bit of that), and tomorrow I'll attach the chain and clasp.

There's nothing like a deadline for motivation. Remember I told you I recently took up belly dancing? Well this Saturday-- that's two days from now-- the studio is having their anniversary celebration, and my beginner class will be putting on a brief dance. At our level, of course no one expects us to have fancy expensive costumes, but I do want to have something a little special. This thread, if you could see the color in real life, is the same shade of purple as a certain top that I like to dance in, and by sheer luck my hip scarf happens to also be the same color as the top. I didn't buy the top and hip scarf together; it was purely by accident that they match. But since they do, I'll go with it and add some matching purple tatted jewelry.

As the newest person in the class who will be dancing, I expect to make a complete fool of myself, but at least I'll be well-accessorized!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Great Unveil

Finally, the finished dragonfly pond. Clearly, the proportions are not accurate, but since the dragonflies are the point, I'm happy for them to be a little bit larger than they "should" be.

The scene was inspired by the Dragonfly Sanctuary Pond at the Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden. Although I wasn't trying to represent any real species, I wanted to include a variety of different dragonflies, as well as appropriate plant life to complete the ecosystem.

In keeping with my goal of not letting the dragonflies look like something pinned to a card in an entomologist's lab, I lightly stiffened their wings so they would stand up off the surface. In a few places, the glue got a little bit smeared, so I just touched those spots up with a little extra varnish, and they look fine now. And where the glue showed through the lily pad a bit, I put a few drops of varnish to look like the water that pools on a lily pad. I think that's all the new details of construction; everything else can be seen in previous posts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Purple Pieces

The dragonfly pond is now officially done. I'm too tired to write about it properly this morning, though, so you'll just have to wait a day or two.

In the meantime, I have made more progress on the purple piece, Marilee Rockley's "Nouveau" set.

Someday I'll take a picture of it with a better background than my sweatpants.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Watching Paint Dry

I've just finished putting the final coat of varnish (I really mean it this time) on the pond. I finally got the surface I wanted. The varnish I first bought wasn't quite glossy enough; plus the label made it sound like sanding between coats was optional, so I didn't. But it never would get as smooth and shiny as I wanted. I bought a glossier varnish and also started using a very fine sandpaper between coats, and it finally came out just perfect. Probably if I had sanded from the beginning, it would have gone better-- one of those cases where trying to take the lazy way ended up making more work, as any of my Mennonite farmer ancestors would have been happy to tell me at great length. But the different varnish definitely helped too.

I varnished both sides of the piece of wood, and even over the bark, to make sure all surfaces were protected. The underside, of course, didn't matter as much so far as appearances were concerned, but I'm quite happy with the way the top came out. On that side, I used concentric circular brushstrokes and didn't smooth the varnish completely, and it came out looking like ripples on the pond's surface, just as I was hoping it would. Not bad for someone who can barely wield a paintbrush.

Unfortunately, of course, you won't be able to tell any of this in a photo; a new photo at this point would just look like the previous one, so I haven't bothered taking another.

I will commence gluing this evening.

In between coats of varnish, I have started another project, which Marilee should recognize:

More to come on this one...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating the Pond Surface

As I was poking around considering various possibilities for creating the pond surface, I found these nice wood slabs with the bark still attached at Jo-Ann's. They basically just cut diagonally across the log to make an oval, sanded the cut surfaces smooth, and left it at that.

I was looking at various other unfinished wood pieces, but when I saw this, I liked the natural look of having the bark on it. All it needed was a little paint. I may have to outsource the more complex painting projects, but even I can manage to cover a flat surface in a solid color.

I am in the process of finishing it with a clear protective varnish on both sides. It's taking more coats than I was expecting to get the nice smooth finish I want, but I think one more coat should do it. Then I'll be ready to start gluing down the tatting.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Dragonfly Trio, and All the Tatting Done

I've finished three more dragonflies for the scene. The first two are Jon Yusoff's dragonfly, which I decided is not too small after all.

The one on the left is tatted in Olympus thread color M14. Olympus really is delightful thread to work with; I honestly don't know why I don't use it more often. I know it can be hard to tell the color of beads in a scan; these are a dark iridescent purple.

The one on the right is in Lizbeth Twirlz color 403 Winter Ice. Once again, I had the problem with the Twirlz thread being too twisty, but it's really not too bad as long as you're making something small, and you remember to keep your tension a little looser. And this particular colorway is great for giving the illusion of iridescence without having to use a metallic thread, which is an even bigger pain for me. The beads on this one are gold.

The next dragonfly is one I just made up.

The body is pearl-tatted, thusly (sorry I didn't take any in-progress photos, but I don't have enough hands): I wound two shuttles CTM and put a paperclip in the middle. Holding onto the paperclip, I held the threads from both shuttles next to each other, pinched off the length that I wanted the body to be, and put another paperclip over both threads at that point to serve as an anchor. I hope that sentence made some kind of sense to somebody. I held the first paperclip between my index and middle fingers, and the second between my thumb and ring finger. The doubled thread between the two paperclips was the core thread; I pearl tatted, one stitch per shuttle, up the length of it using the unflipped double-stitch method. (See Jane's explanation for this method of pearl tatting. I formed the stitches in the same way; the only difference is that the core thread, being very short, is held differently.) When I had tatted enough to have something to hold onto at the bottom, I slipped the second paperclip out, snugged up the stitches on the core thread to eliminate the little loop that paperclip had created, and continued pearl tatting. When I got near the top, I made two rings on each side for the wings. I pearl tatted a couple more stitches and then started on the head. At this point, there was just a small loop of the doubled core thread left. I used split chain technique up one side of the loop with one shuttle and the same thing up the other side with the other shuttle, so that the two split chains met in the middle to look like a ring. I tied the two threads together (they didn't need securing, I just wanted a little bump there) and left the ends as antennae. The head ended up a little larger than I intended, but overall, I'm pretty happy with it.

The thread is "PTG Surprise" by Tat-ilicious, in size 40, with white beads.

I believe that I now have all the tatting for this project completed. Here it all is:

This is only an approximation. It will not be displayed on felt. At least, that's not Plan A. This does give you a rough idea, though. I'm very excited about how it's all coming together. Now for the real assembly.

Fun fact: dragonflies are the only creature known to be able to move all four wings in different directions simultaneously. That's what gives them the ability to hover and dart around the way they do.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final Foliage

Here are the final three edgings that will make up the plant life around the pond. I've checked it out, and I now have just the right amount to go all the way around.

At the top is Mary Konior's "Skipping Ropes" pattern, in Lizbeth color 138 Leafy Greens. I've used this book a lot on this project, haven't I? Given the right colorways, many of MK's patterns have a lovely plantlike appearance.

Next is simply a row of split rings with picots of random lengths. I've successfully used this type of thing for grass before, although it's a different stitch count this time. Here I used Lizbeth 167 Jungle Greens-- the same colorway I rejected for the lily pad, but it works well for this.

Finally, a little thing I made up, although I'm sure it's been done before; I'm positive I've seen similar edgings. It consists of small split rings (3/3) separated by regular rings (3-1-1-1-1-3) on alternating sides. The thread is "Swampflower" HDT by LadyShuttleMaker. (Yes, I know her shop is currently closed due to lack of regular internet access in her new home. But I am in the habit of always linking to the HDT artists whose threads I use.) I wanted a little more color, and there are plants with reddish pigmentation in their leaves, so this seemed like a good choice.

Now, there is still something missing to complete the tableau: more dragonflies. The whole thing is about dragonflies, remember? But I promise you will get to see it all put together soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Green Cottage Cheese

Sounds like something you'd throw out, doesn't it? Not if it's Mary Konior's "Curds and Whey" tatted in Yarnplayer's "Forest" HDT.

Marilee does the best shaded greens, doesn't she? I never could envision this pattern in anything but a solid color, until I started browsing the book looking for patterns to use as foliage around the dragonfly pond. Then I decided it could look like some kind of fluffy shrubby thing. I do still think the pattern would look weird if it were made in some highly-contrasted variegated thread, though.

I'm getting close to having all the tatting done for this project. However, there will still be more work to do.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

On Knowing When to Quit

For the next bit of greenery, I was going to use Mary Konior's "Lupins" pattern. I didn't get very far.

I had a really hard time closing the rings with the roll tatting. I decided when I got this far that I didn't have the patience for it. I've done roll stitch before, in Karey Solomon's maple leaf; but that uses much shorter lengths of it so it's easier to control, and more importantly, it's on chains, so closing isn't an issue. I don't actually see any reason why roll stitch should make the ring harder to close, but it does.

I should also note that Squijum is in much the same condition right now as he was in that maple leaf post, having had two more teeth pulled on Thursday. I wish he would let me brush them so maybe we wouldn't have to keep doing this.

Now you know I never let any tatting technique beat me for good, so I will come back to the Lupins someday. Right now, though, I have a project to finish, so I switched to a different pattern-- namely Chain Reaction, also from Tatting with Visual Patterns.

Starting this one posed an interesting challenge. Since I already had the shuttle wound from the Lupins attempt, I didn't want to waste that thread. Chain Reaction obviously requires a ball; but the shuttle was, of course, already cut from the ball at this point. Starting with non-continuous threads with a ring followed by a chain is no problem; we all do it all the time when tatting in two colors. However, starting with an open-ended chain with non-continuous threads always leads to the risk of the core thread getting pulled out.

I solved this problem in a different way with each of these two pieces. For the first one, on the right, I pulled a few inches off the ball and used it to finger tat the first chain. When I reached the second chain, where there's a shoelace trick to hold the core thread in place, I joined on the actual shuttle thread. This is a technique that would work well any time you have a pattern that starts with a chain and you have some reason for not beginning with a continuous thread.

For the second piece, on the left, I did something much easier. I realized that since I had originally wound the shuttle for a piece that was all rings, and I was now doing something that was all chains, I actually had enough on the shuttle that it could easily act as a ball for the short length I was planning to do. So I pulled a small amount off the shuttle and wound it onto another shuttle. This second one became my working shuttle, as it didn't need much thread on it; and the first shuttle, which still had most of the thread, became my ball. On this piece, I also joined the second chain to the beginning of the first one, even though that's not the pattern, just because I felt it looked tidier than having a little tendril hanging out. (Yes, I know foliage in nature does have tendrils hanging out and is not always tidy. That's not the point. Don't ask questions.) I also ended in the middle of a repeat; I kind of wish I had finished it, but it's too late now.

It's interesting to note that in the pattern, Mrs. Konior says it "will ease to a curve". In fact, it just naturally curves, as you can see. She must have blocked it quite a bit to get that nice straight edging she shows in the book. But for my purposes, curvy is better, so no blocking for me.

The thread is Lizbeth color 675 Fern Green Medium, size 40.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Only a Little Tatting

There obviously needs to be plant life around the edge of the dragonfly pond, so I've decided to tat short lengths of different edgings in various shades of green. The point is not to try to create any specific type of plant, but only to give the impression of clusters of plants.

The first one is Mary Konior's Leaf Braid from her book Tatting with Visual Patterns.

 The thread is Lizbeth Twirlz color 404 Mermaid Lagoon. I kept these ones very short, because the Twirlz is kind of a pain to work with. If you look very closely, you'll see that some of the rings are not quite perfectly closed; this is because the thread is so twisty that it kinks up as you close the rings. Naturally, I re-opened the ring when this happened and closed it again very carefully, but sometimes I just couldn't get it perfect. I also had to keep my tension a little looser than normal to help reduce these kinks, and this required extra concentration. The Twirlz does give a unique look, though; it's great when you want "sprinkles" of color.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I was going to be teaching someone to tat? Well, the first lesson had to be postponed, and we had it this afternoon. I brought her two Clover shuttles and some samples of size 20 Lizbeth wound onto floss bobbins. I brought three colors so she would have a choice, but stuck with lighter shades because it's easier to see the stitches. It turned out she already had a couple of Clovers, so now she has four; she had also brought some thread with her, but it was kind of loose and fluffy and would have been tricky to learn with, so I was glad I brought the Lizbeth.

Today she learned to make double stitches. She got the flip relatively easily, and as she practices this week I think it will start to feel natural to her. We started off doing a chain with two colors so she could easily see which thread was which; once she had chosen which two colors to work with, I used the same colors so that she could easily compare her work with mine. I think by next week she'll be ready to start rings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Me and Claude

Because if I make enough water lilies that puts me in the same category with Monet, right? Right? Anybody?

The same pattern by Jane, this time in purple. I used Lizbeth 646 Purple Iris Light with white beads; 684 Leaf Green Medium once again, this time with lighter green beads; and 612 Golden Yellow Light, once again adding yellow beads to the stamen rings.

Where would we all be without Jane's patterns?