Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary

While there are a lot of things I could blog about, like the week from h--- where installing a garage door opener required repairing the ShopVac and rebuilding the storage loft and the 1 month old computer with all of hubby's programming, our business records and personal banking records suddenly quitting. Or the fact that I have tatted the same 3D flower in 7 different types of threads to show the thread comparison. BUT all I'm going to post is this:

The headpiece I made for our wedding. Happy Anniversary honey, I love you more and more every year. Thanks for being mine.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Needle Tatting or Shuttle Tatting

One of the most frequently asked questions is, 'What is the difference between needle tatting and shuttle tatting.' I suppose the best answer is 'Everything and nothing' .

When the needle tatted piece is tatted very tightly on a fine needle, the end results look the same as a shuttle tatted piece which is worked in a somewhat loose manner, so that there is no apparent difference. The process of how the pieces are made is totally different and therefore the finished pieces may look the same, but they aren't usually.

With needle tatting the stitches are formed on a needle, similar to the way you 'cast on' stitches in knitting, doing knit one, purl one and then the threaded needle is pulled through the stitches. The finished lace however is only as fine as the needle you are using to make it. The typical method for doing this creates a "mock" ring. You can make a true ring, but most instructions you will see create a mock ring.

Mock rings are just chains formed in a loop and joined at the base. They are not as stable as true rings so they can lose shape after they've been washed a few times. If the work gets cut or torn the whole thing can unravel, so to stabilize it (make it keep it's shape) and prevent it from unravelling you have to tie a knot after every ring.

Needle tatting can be done making true rings which produces a sturdier lace that won't unravel if it gets cut. Remember that the thread has to be drawn through the stitches that are formed on the needle, so one of the drawbacks is that the thread can become worn from the friction of pulling it through the stitches and there is just so much thread that you can manage on a needle. Shorter lengths of thread are easier to handle, but result in more ends to hide.

Needle tatting is easier to learn, but the finished product is typically looser, floppier and more padded looking than the same piece shuttle tatted. The needle you work with has to have a big enough hole in it to put the thread through, but a big hole also means a fatter needle. Since the stitches are formed on the needle a fat needle makes fat stitches. Fat stitches aren't as tight or crisp looking as stitches formed directly on the thread.

Some designs can only be done with a needle because the design requires being able to get the thread into places where a shuttle won't fit. Stringing beads on a needle is certainly faster, so for making jewellery, people often choose to use a needle.

In shuttle tatting the stitches are formed directly on the thread so the work is as fine as the thread you are using and the finished piece generally looks crisper than a piece done with a needle. As mentioned a project which has been shuttle tatted loosely and one which has been needle tatted very tightly, will look the same. Rings are true rings that don't need anything to hold them in place. If shuttle tatting gets cut or torn it will only unravel back to the last whole ring. The thread you use is held on the shuttle and wrapped around the left hand then the shuttle is manoeuvred around the thread on your hand to form the stitch and by switching the tension between the right hand holding the shuttle and the left hand, the stitch is flipped or transferred to the thread on the left hand.

Co-ordinating both hands simultaneously to get the stitch to flip takes a bit of practice. So shuttle tatting is harder to learn, but the results are worth the effort. Using the same thread the needle tatted article will generally look puffier and more padded. Both finished items will look quite similar and the untrained eye would not see any difference.

Which method you use depends on your preference. People who do both use the method most appropriate for the project. You couldn't shuttle tat with yarn very well, but you could needle tat with it. Then again, with the size of holes you'd have in the rings a project made with yarn wouldn't be very warm ;-) People with arthritis who have a hard time flexing their fingers, find needle tatting easier on their joints. The same is true for any kind of hand/wrist/arm injuries. There is a place for both types and it's mostly just a matter of preference.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Embroidered Butterfly

I've taken a bit of a break from tatting to do some embroidery and I'm not at all happy with the way this is going and I think what is giving me the most trouble is that I don't have a specific purpose for the finished piece, so I have no goal to work towards. I like butterflies and so I used the butterfly design from the Yahoo group
hand-embroidery challenge. This is a poor scan of it still in the hoop and the bright turquoise blue is really much brighter.

I began by selecting colours and I was all over the map. I have no goal. I finally decided that I was definitely going to use the turquoise blue. I love the colour. I came in a no name batch of embroidery thread and years ago I bought the whole batch for that one colour. I haven't used it yet because A- it needed to be something special and B- it doesn't blend with any of the other colours I have in the Anchor and DMC floss.

Once I decided to use the blue I had to match other colours to it. I selected a darker teal blue and a very pale silvery blue that is almost white. I can work with a monochromatic palette, but I thought I'd add in another colour for some interest. My chest of embroidery floss has several hundred blended colours of thread from years of doing petit point pictures, but the only colour that appealed to me when laid alongside the eye popping turquoise, was an equally vivid yellow.
I thought that I would do the butterfly going from dark blue nearest the body and the brighter blue on the outside. I wanted a stitch that would cover the area quickly and I worked a couple of rows of fly stitch starting from the tip of the wing and working toward the body. Then I did the outline of the outer edge of the wing in chain stitch in the bright blue. U-G-L-Y I liked the fly stitch effect but the colour was too dark. I ripped it out and tried again using the yellow for the central stitch to see if it brightened things up. U-G-L-I-E-R. I ripped it out again the dark blue just wasn't going to work. I outlined the second wing in bright blue as I thought about what to do with it.
The yellow and blue seem happy side by side so I tried again using just the yellow. Better, but I didn't like the stitch so I ripped again. By this time the fabric was beginning to show signs of wear so I started in on the second wing and started just filling the area with rows of straight stitches. It covered the area, but it had no real eye appeal. I outlined the area in split stitch as I considered what to do. Yellow is not my favourite colour, so to partly cover it up I began couching down the straight stitches with the pale blue. I'm not sure if I like the effect or not.
I began a second row of chain stitch in the bright blue and I've done this kind of thing before where I follow the outline in ever decreasing rounds until I end up in the middle and the lines of the stitching draw your eyes to no where. I stopped before I had gone to far to turn back because I have the feeling I'm not going to like how this shapes up.
I have an idea to turn these oval shapes on the outer edge into the "eye" that you see on some moth wings. They were outlined in black to stand out. With the pale blue I used a spider web filling stitch which gave me a raised round shape in the middle and I extended the weaving to fill in the oval shape. I am thinking I might use the dark blue on top of it as an iris with a yellow french knot in the centre. But I don't like how it looks and I'm thinking maybe I should rip now before I waste more time on it.

Then there's the body. I did it in black and added some pale blue highlights and I'm not sure if I love it or hate it. I used 3 strand of thread but I'm thinking that one strand would let me get in between the rows of split stitch easy so that the pale blue just peeks out in between the black.
When I started I chose an 8 inch square of fabric and then I started thinking I could do a bunch of squares, maybe all the same butterfly but done with different colours or maybe several different designs done with harmonious colours that could be pieced together as a quilt. (It's that goal thing again.) After re-doing the same part of the same wing a zillion times my thumb started hurting in a major way. There's not much to show for all of the stitching I've done, mostly because I've ripped it all out.

I tat excessively and the repetitive motion causes pain at the base of the thumb. I have discovered, that holding a needle to embroider aggravates that already tender digit. Now I find that the pressure of resting the base of the thumb on the desk to use the mouse hurts too. So it looks like embroidering enough squares to make a quilt is going to be out of the question.
I need to tat. I have an obligation to the subscribers who have purchased the Tatted Lace Pattern Collection Newsletter to create the designs for them. I can't afford to let any other activity, not matter how enjoyable, impair my ability to do that. It's frustrating me, because by nature I like to jump into an actively with both feet. I rarely have unfinished projects, they are either in the process of being done, or they are completely abandoned. I am being pulled to either, just get this done now or just give up on it entirely.