"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, 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.