Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Splish, Splash

Drip, drip, drip. It's the sound of snow melting in the sunshine, but why is it coming from the computer desk? And why is there that splashing sound coming from the bedroom? I'll tell you why, it's another ice dam on the roof.

Third time this year we have water leaking in, as the water from the melting snow expands as it freezes and gets forced up, the roof and under the shingles, then melts again and seeps down through every crevice it can find. Dripping water in the closet with all my tatting supplies, fortunately they're in a large plastic tub. Seeping water coming off the garage roof is once again soaking into the bedroom carpet and our latest incursion is leaking around the windows in the computer room and down onto the desk/scanner/printer/power supply battery back up and in the spare room dripping down onto the bed soaking the mattress.
If you've been wondering why there's been no blog lately, it's because I've been busy trying to dry everything out.

Just to show you what I've been up to when I haven't been doing laundry and mopping floors. Here's one of the items in the next newsletter, a hyacinth, just in time for spring.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

Since it's Valentine's day I thought I'd post some earrings I designed ages ago. They're quick to do and make an easy little gift.
Edited to add:
Experienced tatters will find the diagram above sufficient to tat these earrings, but for newer tatters here are some more specific instructions. In size 20 thread you will need about a yard of thread for each earring. You need 2 shuttles. Load 21 beads and the earring hook* onto the thread. Wind each shuttle leaving all the beads in the middle between them. Divide off six beads to be used in the rings and leave all the others for the chains and the outward ring at the bottom.

Begin the first ring with all 6 beads in the ring. You could use only 5 beads, but the earring hook will sit better lying between 2 beads than it does on top of 1. Tat 6 stitches and slide all 6 beads and the hook into the picot. Leave a little extra thread in the picot for all the joins, tat the last 6 stitches and close. RW. Tat the chain sliding a bead into each picot as shown on the diagram. RW.

When you tat the next ring join into the beady picot leaving one bead between the first and second ring. Finish the ring. RW. Tat the next chain sliding beads into place. RW.

Tat the next ring joining into the beady picot, just like the last ring leaving one bead between rings. RW.

With the second shuttle, slide one bead into the ring and tat the outward ring at the bottom of the heart sliding the bead into place on the picot. Finish the ring and switch shuttles to tat the chain.

Continue around the heart leaving 2 beads and the hook in the join between the first and fifth rings.

* Some earring hooks have a closed hole at the end and it's necessary to start with the hook in place before you begin. Some have a little gap that you can slide the thread under after the earring is completed. With a closed hole you have the hook in the way as you tat, but the hook isn't going to fall off when the earring is finished. With an open gap, to slide the thread under, it's easier to tat the earring and add the hook later, but the thread that can slide under the gap can also slide out and the hook can fall off the earring.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Just One Pattern

The subject of copyright has come up on the tatting lists again. It's a tough problem because it can get boring for people who have heard it all before, but it's important for everyone to hear it at least once. I have only published one book and it was a major headache. The book had a lot of patterns in it, but the most interesting ones were the life size flowers. You can't really do a book of flowers and not use colour. Colour printing increases the cost of publishing.

At the risk of giving you a long ramble about my publishing efforts, here are some of the things I ran into. I began by thinking of the types of flowers that would be suitable for things like wedding bouquets and then I planned out how to tat them. The most complex flower I did was a cattleya orchid. I began by going through all of my gardening books and looking at the structure of the flower, then I searched the internet for a picture of the kind of flower I wanted to tat. This one here.

I did one of the base petals, but didn't like the shaping so I scrapped it and tried again. The second variation was closer to what I wanted. I tatted the base part and then scanned the lace. Then I drew on top of the scanned picture so that I would have a template of the rings and chains I used for proportions.

Next I took my drawing of the base and laid it over top of the flower picture I found on the internet and re-sized the picture so that the corresponding base petals of the picture were the same size as my drawing. Then I drew the outline of the side petals and sketched in some rings. The drawing was flat and the flower needed to be 3 dimensional so I did some adjusting of the ring sizes to shape the petal and tatted a rough version of the right petal. It wasn't quite right but it showed me where I needed to adjust my count. Then I needed to repeat everything for the left petal. I couldn't just tat 2 petals the same as the petal had definite top and bottom connecting points. When it came to drawing the second side petal I had to do it as a complete reverse of the first side.

Then I had to create the labellum, the middle bottom petal, which had a whole different shape. This was not only a mind boggling piece to tat, it was equally difficult to draw. Once I had the pattern drawn I went back and counted the stitches on the flower I had tatted and put the numbers on the pattern. The numbers didn't fit in. Some places there were 3 numbers in the same place where ring joined to ring with chains connecting both. Creating clear drawings for three dimensional objects is very challenging. You need to be able to show where each part connects to the next part on 3 different planes. Once I had everything in place I tatted the flower again working only from the diagram. Then I sent the drawings out to a couple of accomplished tatters so they could give it a try and give me their comments and I adjusted the pattern again to make it easier.

This was a very complex pattern, but you can see some of the necessary steps up to this point. I had invested about 4 months of time going from idea to drawn pattern. Think it was ready? Guess again. Now I had to bring the drawing into the publishing software and lay it out so that it would be easy to follow. My first obstacle was getting everything to fit on the pages. The base when it was large enough so that the stitch count could be read, didn't fit on the page. I could crop part of the pattern but that didn't look right and it left a lot of empty background space. So I re-drew one segment with enough information on where the other two fit.

Then I had the two side petals one had to be worked clockwise and the other had to be worked counterclockwise and the whole petal diagram was too big to fit on a single page. I ended up breaking it down into individual rows. I grayed out the previous row to make the working row stand out a little in the diagram. Of course breaking it into individual rows meant a certain amount of re-drawing.

The bottom petal curled around and joined to itself which was difficult to explain on a flat diagram and it also required several re-draws because the final version wouldn't fit on a single page without being shrunk and then the numbers were unreadable so a lot of things had to be shifted around. Then to make things clearer, taking into consideration the input from my test tatters I went back and added in some markers on the diagram. I included some text at key points to explain what needed to be done. Finally, so that the picture might more easily convey the different petals, I re-tatted it in 3 colours to show the base, side and bottom petals.
Occasionally a publication will show the steps of a pattern with each piece done by itself. That wasn't something I had to do, but if an author knows that will be required ahead of time she can take a picture of it as it develops. If not, then it means tatting each piece separately. Think of a cooking show where you watch the dish being prepared and popped into the oven and as the freshly made one goes in a finished one is pulled out. It means that the dish has been prepared 2 or 3 times so that you can see it at each step.
Think that's the end of it? Not yet. Once I had the drawings and the text to go with it... Did I mention text? Even when I use visual diagrams, they are often improved by text that gives additional explanation especially with a complex pattern. This is very true with three dimensional work like flowers. Thinking of what to say making sure what I am saying is clear and can't be misconstrued, avoiding repeating myself, these were just a few of the challenges.
Then what are drawings and text without pictures. The lace had to be photographed. Flat things fit on a scanner so it's easy to get a digital image, but flowers or pin cushions need a camera. Even if it is flat, I wanted a group picture of the laces in the publication for the front cover at least. Ideally, I wanted a group picture for the front cover and individual pictures to go with each pattern. Anyway, you get the idea.
Sometimes you want props to go with the lace. A doily on a table is nice but a little porcelain figure on it is more attractive. Depending on the colour of the lace, you may want to try several different tables to see which makes the most attractive background. A dark thread will look nicer on a light colour wood, and a multi colour doily needs a neutral background, all of these are considerations and you may have to take dozens of pictures to get what you really like. If you take a picture of a flower do you take the picture from the front or the side. Maybe the picture from the front looks prettier, but the one from the side gives the tatter a better idea of the flower's construction. One picture of front and side is better, but that means tatting a second flower.
Of course this is only one pattern. Since a publication has several patterns you also have to remember that they all need to fit in. If you have a picture, a drawing and text they all have to be fit in on adjacent pages. Sometimes the end of one pattern will leave half a page of space That means that you occasionally have to break a pattern into smaller pieces so that all of the pieces will fit together in the allowable space, and sometimes that means re-drawing a pattern.
Maybe a picture of the finished piece taken from several angles would be better, but what if you have already fit everything in nicely and there isn't any room for those extra pictures? Do you add the pictures and shift everything else around to fill up the extra space, or leave the picture out.
That brings us back to the cost of printing. You could run things off on your home printer. Before the advent of colour home laser printers this wasn't a viable option, but things have changed. Commercial printing involves a lot of money. Businesses don't like to set their equipment up for small jobs. Commercial equipment will pump out lots of copies with good quality output, but it takes a long time to set them up and you pay for that. So for a small volume you pay a large amount of money. If you do a lot more copies you still pay for the initial set up cost, but after that you're only paying for paper, ink and the amount of time the equipment is running.
As tatters we know that we aren't going to sell millions of copies, but we might sell a few thousand. So we fit into not quite personal printing and not quite commercial printing. We need to make enough copies to satisfy the demand, but we don't really want to store thousands of copies. We want to keep the price of our books low so that people will buy them and that means cutting some things out to reduce costs. Colour images are lovely, but they cost so colour is one of the first things to get cut. Extra pages over the bare essentials cost too, so they go. Then comes the editing to see if everything the author wants included really has to be there. Maybe a design has to be redrawn to pare down the number of pages needed or maybe several items can be photographed together to cut down on the number of colour pages used.
Finally the publication has been tweaked as much as it can be tweaked and it's ready for the printer. The money is spent for the required volume of books and the work is ready for sale. You hope that people will like your designs, you hope that you earn at least a little bit of money for all your blood, sweat and tears. You hope that you can recoup what it cost to produce all of those copies and you also hope that you don't browse through the internet one day and find your design being sold under somebody else's name.
Is copyright an issue? Probably not, for those who don't publish their patterns. Or for those who don't design their own laces. Or for those without a conscience.
By the way, the lovely purple orchid pictured here was tatted by Sue Hanson. In spite of her assertions that she doesn't "do big" she struggled through this pattern and sent me her flower so that I could photograph it for the book.
Authors, especially authors of tatting books don't make a lot of money from their publications, and most of us do it because we love tatting, and creating new designs. When we see things that were created out of our own imaginations stolen out from under us, we get a little cranky. A comment about copying patterns was made on one of the tatting lists.
"As long as we are not making a big profit and just sharing, then go ahead and SUE US !! "
When you see what an author has to go through to create a publication, is it any wonder that we see red when such comments are made? It's like saying to us that you have no regard for our effort, that you don't care about what it cost us to produce those designs for you. You know that we don't make enough money from our designs to be able to afford the cost of taking you to court so you can abuse us and it won't matter.
But it will matter. It will matter when all of the designers look at the abuse and decide that it isn't worth the effort. When the designers do with their books, what they did recently with their web sites and just close things down. No new patterns, no tatting innovations, just some century old designs. Think of all the new things being created and shared. Then imagine all of it gone because people were greedy. So it's just one pattern you copy out of a friend's book. That's one book less that the author was able to sell. Now multiply that by all of the other people who copy "just one pattern". Is a tatting author going to be able to reduce their printing costs? Not while people copy "just one pattern".

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tatting that didn't make it.

If you went by how often I post about what I'm tatting, you'd get the impression that I don't tat very much. Nothing could be further from the truth. I tat a lot, just nothing that I can post most of the time. Every quarter I work on the designs that will go into the next newsletter. Like this one on the left. It isn't quite right.

Neither is this one. It's too big and the shaping isn't what I need.

This one is getting closer to the right shape but it's still too big.

This one is getting there but it has empty spaces where I want it solid and the edges aren't pointy enough. When I get it right I'll have to tat a whole bunch of them. Just what I like -tatting a whole bunch of the same thing over and over again. NOT.

See - lots of little tatted bits but nothing really worth showing. These little mis-shapen bits will eventually work up into something worth while, they just don't look like it at this stage. It would be nice to post my progress on things more often, but since almost everything I create ends up in the newsletter I can't really show you what I've done until after the fact. I suppose I could start a whole bunch of drafts and publish them one at a time after the newsletter is sent out. Talk about anti-climax.