"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, 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?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lotus Lily

I've now got a water lily to go with the lily pad.

The pattern is Jane Eborall's Lotus Flower. For the petals, I used DMC Cordonnet in white, with pink vintage beads; for the leaves, the same green Lizbeth as I used for the lily pad (684 Leaf Green Medium) with darker green beads; and for the stamens, Lizbeth 170 Pineapple Parfait. I also added some beads to the rings that form the base of the stamens, even though the pattern doesn't call for them.

So Jane calls this a lotus and I'm calling it a water lily. They are, in fact, two entirely different plants which happen to look somewhat alike due to convergent evolution. A few seconds on Google led me to this this handy site to tell the difference between the two. However, since the flowers do look so similar, and tatting conveys only an impression of the flower, I believe this could pass for either. In the finished piece, I'm going to place it sitting directly on the water, which according to the website makes it a lily. Also, I'm planning to make another in purple; lilies come in purple but lotuses don't. So there.

Squijum doesn't care what you call the flower, so long as you show him sufficient admiration.

I've scrawled out the basic directions for the lily pad, too. Once I finish the whole project, I'll refine it to a publishable pattern.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Whole Lily Pad

I've finished the lily pad.

This was the second attempt, as the first one didn't quite work out. I got this far on it before I had to start over:

I stopped here for a number of reasons. First, the colorway (Lizbeth 167 Jungle Greens) had too many different colors in it for one leaf; I had thought a shaded colorway would be nice, but it would have needed to be much more subtle. Second, I put rings too far into the leaf's "dimple" and needed to eliminate a couple of them. Finally, and most importantly, the outer round was ruffling because there were just too many rings.

I liked the inner part, though, so I started over with that, using the solid Lizbeth color 684 Leaf Green Medium. Here it is at the same point as the one above.

I started with the same center, which consisted of a five ring cluster with the last ring not joined to the first, and chains coming out from the center to surround the rings. This made the basic shape of a circle with an indentation in it and served as the template for all subsequent rounds. The surrounding chain also had thrown-off rings to increase the size and give me someplace to join the next round. Next came a round of plain chain, followed by another round of chain with thrown-off rings-- this was where I made the change. There needed to be fewer rings on this round, but they also needed to be larger to reach each other.

I originally thought I would end it here (with one more round of chain), but it still needed to be bigger. So I did the same thing again-- a round of plain chain followed by a round of chain with thrown-off rings-- but this time I made the rings smaller and changed their placement relative to the previous round. If you look at the completed lily pad, you'll notice that the last round has no rings over the lock joins as there are in the previous rounds; this was another way to prevent ruffling.

I finally felt it was large enough, so I ended with one more round of chain for an outline, using Catherine wheel joins (see Debbie Arnold's instructions) for a smoother line.

Of course, "large enough" is rather subjective. It takes up the right amount of space on the thing I plan to put it on (that was vague and mysterious, wasn't it?), but it is not in proportion with the dragonfly.

If this were a real lily pad, the dragonfly would be about 6-8 inches long. But the dragonfly is supposed to be the main focal point, so I'm taking a bit of artistic license.

There will be more flora, and probably another dragonfly or two, and then you'll see how it all fits together. And now I must stop and pay sufficient attention to my feline overlord before he breaks something.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Most of a Lily Pad

I've been working on a lily pad to go with the dragonfly.

As you can see, I'm working on the final outline now. However, I won't have time to finish it today, nor will I have time to do a proper post for several days, so I wanted to show you what I have so far. Next time I'll talk more about how I made it.

I also wanted to share a couple of pieces of good news. First, Squijum's fur is finally almost grown back.

You can see that patch is still a little thin, and also the darker color is coming in faster than the lighter color, so his stripes aren't quite as clear there. But at least strangers don't look at him anymore and assume I must be a horrible pet owner. The patches on his legs and belly are also looking better.

Finally, I got an e-mail yesterday from a local lady who would like to learn to tat. We're going to meet up at a coffee shop on Friday for her first lesson. Isn't that exciting?