Thursday, January 24, 2013

Elephant Flake

While looking for some examples of things that use spaghetti chains I came across the Elephant Snowflake. Years ago I was designing snowflakes and one of the patterns I created started well enough, but grew to enormous proportions. You can see from the picture that it measures almost 10 inches across which is far too large to hang on a Christmas tree, unless of course the tree is also gargantuan. After it was done it seemed to me to suffer from spaghetti chains, but to be honest, it's been kicking around in my tatting cabinet since 2008 and it's still holding it's shape, so maybe it isn't a lost cause after all.

This other little piece was an attempt at creating a doily with daisy shapes around the perimeter, but it definitely has spaghetti chains. There is no support, no structure and while the concept might have merit, the finished piece is just crap.

I also have this gorgeous piece which measures 15 inches from point to point and I love everything about it. It was intended as a gift for my sister, but since I haven't written out the pattern for it, she hasn't got it. That's all right, she doesn't know I was doing it for her and truthfully, in the years since it was completed, it's kind of taken up residence here, so I don't think she'll ever get it. I think I may have to do another design for her.

Since I have several unrecorded designs, I have been kicking around the possibility of putting them in a book, but it doesn't seem that people really tat doilies much any more, which means that the doilies would have to go in a book of mixed "stuff". My current batch of tatting to put it in a book projects are all quasi 3D which doesn't seem like a good fit. So maybe I'll just hang on to these and ponder the possibilities for a while or maybe inspiration will hit me like a bolt out of the blue. You never know, it could happen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spaghetti Chains Part 2

You've heard the expression that "a picture is worth 1000 words" and I try to find examples of what I'm talking about to help with my explanations. Sometimes though, I know of perfect examples, but I don't use them because:
A. They belong to other people and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings
B. They are the creations of other designers and I won't knowingly infringe on anyone's copyright. (And I won't ask for permission see A.)

Consequently I'm stuck with using my own designs. That creates a problem, because once I have identified what NOT to do, I generally don't repeat my mistakes. That means that I don't have good clear examples to show people. It's part of the reason that my post about spaghetti chains has only one picture. I was trying to show you what I meant by re-tatting a design I did that had spaghetti chains, but having my website hacked created a lot of extra work and I ran out of tatting time. I did get as far as the spaghetti though :)

You can see that on the first row the chains go wherever they want and the clovers on the corner twist. The outside of this design has no structure to hold it in place. So I added another row.

This denser row added some structure, but it still twists in a hundred directions. Don't worry though, I did finally get that sucker pinned down. Here's what the original finished doily looks like.
See that nice negative space in the middle? That's those spaghetti chains that opened the design up and made it pretty. The denser row around it gave it definition. On their own spaghetti chains usually give you a crappy design. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use them. They have their place, you just need to be aware of them and know what they'll do to your design.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spaghetti Chains

When I first began designing, way back in what seems like the Dark Ages, I often wanted to create certain shapes and wasn't sure about how to do it. One of my early attempts was this bunny. It looks like a bunny. OK, if it doesn't look like a bunny cross your eyes and squint. The design, such as it is, was made up of mostly overly long unsupported chains. Since I wanted to use this design as a pin, I tatted it over nylon fishing line, which gave it the support it was so sadly lacking.

I have seen designs done by other people over the years, one that springs to mind is an utterly enchanting design of a teddy bear that I fell in love with when I first saw it. Then my inner designer screeched in horror. Absolutely adorable, but totally lacking in support.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for the simple outlines created by chains. They are perfectly fine if you plan to attach the finished piece to fabric or if you intend to seal it inside an acrylic coaster or key fob or in some other way, give it the support that it needs.

However, if the finished product is going to stand on it's own, those extra long unsupported sloppy, floppy chains are going to be a problem. They have no more backbone than a wet noodle and I call them spaghetti chains. In a doily, you will spend more time rearranging the chains and pushing then into shape, than you will enjoying your handiwork. In a snowflake, the arms will sag and droop without serious stiffening. In earrings and pendants the design will fold into a sad little blob. In all of these instances your effort and ingenuity will not elicit praise, but sad commiseration, which, if you are like most designers, is not the response you're looking for.

After numerous design attempts I have learned to test my designs for droopiness by holding things like motifs by one corner or edge and see if it will stand straight. If it will I know I have a nice tight design, if it won't, I take another look at it's construction. If I have spaghetti chains going on, I look for ways to add in a ring or two at key areas to give the added framework. Sometimes adding these rings detract from the design. At that point I have to step back, look at the design and do one of two things; scrap it, or decide that the overall design is just too pretty to scrap. In that case, spaghetti chains or not, it's a keeper.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Too, too, too.....I just don't believe it

I'm tatting, but I'm working on pieces for a new book, so I haven't shown anything for a while. I have an over all concept but it's creating the pieces to fit that is causing headaches. Designing is easy, but designing for a specific result is harder. Each time you add in a new parameter the designing gets more complicated. For example you start out to design a motif. That's easy to do. Make any old shape, any old combination of rings and chains. Make the motif a star shape and that adds a complication because now the design needs to have 5 distinct points. Make it fit inside a 2.5 inch bangle and that gives you another restriction because it can't be too big or too small. See what I mean?

Here's a picture of some of the rejects, bits that are TOO. Too big, too small, too fat, too plain, too open, too something.

I suppose, that it's the same problem with novels and screen plays. The author has a story idea and then has to fit all of the other bits and pieces in to make it work. It still drives me nuts. How many movies have you watched where there is an ax murderer, rapist bad guy running around and the heroine just accidentally forgets to lock the back door/window? Like that's ever going to happen. Most people in urban areas, step inside and automatically lock their doors. The only time the doors are unlocked is during full daylight when lots of people are moving back and forth between house and yard. Even then, most people check to make sure the doors and windows are locked before going to bed.

When preposterous things happen in a story line I end up yelling at the TV if it's a movie or throwing the book across the room if it's a novel. I keep seeing easier more practical ways of working things out. The other day I was reading an historical romance, as opposed to a sex in the suburbs, novel and the only thing that kept me reading, were the antics of where they kept trying to hide the dead body. Once I grasped that it was mostly a farce, I could suspend my criticism somewhat. Although the supposed "historical" novels get my goat when modern day attitudes are attributed to historical people. I think that bothers me more because anyone who reads historical novels tends to know a bit about how things worked in the good old days.

What really got me about this one was the convoluted idea that the body of the deceased husband had to be hidden for a few days so that the wife could sponsor her sister for the season, get her a husband and thereby have access to her dower to pay a family debt. Once it was known that the spouse was dead she would have to go into mourning and wouldn't be able to attend frivolous things like balls, concerts and parties so  I guess it could happen, maybe. What I wondered immediately though, was why bother? If the deceased spouse, a really nasty guy, is dead, then his surviving wife has full control of his wealth which was originally her dowry. Why doesn't the widow just announce to one and all that the wretched man is dead and have the lawyer pay off her family's debt? No, that would be too simple, too practical, too realistic, too straight forward.

Surely it's much more believable that 3 well bred ladies in all their finery would carry a rolled up rug through the house, past all of the servants to leave the body in his own bed. Especially when historically, ladies would not even touch a rug, let alone carry it, that's a job for servants. Keeping him for a couple of days requires ice, lots of ice which again is a job for servants. How do ladies get that much ice into the house and up to the bedroom? How do they dispose of the water from the melted ice? Another job for servants. How do they explain that the master of the house is too sick to leave his room, but there is no need to build a fire to keep him warm, or clean out the ashes? More servant work. If he's too sick to leave his bedroom, who brings him his meals or empties his chamber pot? All little things that don't add up and make the whole story line preposterous.

Then there are the inevitable "historical" scenarios where the hero and heroine are thrown together and into bed with one another within days if not hours of meeting one another. In historical times, with historical attitudes, it would never happen. Well bred ladies did not go places unattended. Their parent or guardian would not let them out of the house without a chaperone whose job was to see that the lady was not, ever, placed in a position where she would talk to a strange man and well bred young men would not attempt to talk to a young lady until after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

What about the police/detective/mystery stories where ordinary citizens tramp through crime scenes picking up clues? Reality is that once a crime scene has been identified by the police, no one is allowed in except the police. Picking up bits and pieces from the crime scene? Are you joking? That's an invitation to some quiet time apart at public expense.

Do writers think we're all idiots? Are we expected to just believe that these things are not only plausible but normal? Oh, I forgot..... it's fiction.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Year's resolutions

And why I don't make them. Making resolutions for the New Year, isn't something that we did at home. I remember a class in public school where the said resolutions were our written assignment and I hadn't a clue what the teacher was talking about. There's a lot of hype this time of year about making resolutions with suggestions for everything from quitting smoking and losing weight to spending more time with family and being more loving. All of these things are beneficial and worth while. but I have never been inclined to make any resolutions for the forthcoming year.

The principle reason I don't make resolutions is that I think they are a waste of time. If I have spent some time doing an internal review and made some decisions that changes need to be made, I don't wait for the new year, I do it right now. Now, when I'm thinking about it. Now, when whatever has prompted the decision is fresh in my mind. Now, when the desire to change is present.

For me, and I expect for a lot of other people, if anything is going to change, the desire to change has to be there. Making decisions on personal improvement of any kind can't come just because an arbitrary date has been reached. Real change comes because we want to change. No matter how beneficial the goal, you aren't going to reach it unless you want to. That's way most New Year resolutions aren't kept. People make the resolutions with the best of intentions, without real desire for change. So it's no wonder that by the time the first of February gets here, most of the resolutions have fallen by the way side.

If you want to make changes in your life, make them. Don't wait for Jan 1 to come around again, do it when your thinking about it.