Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Living in an imperfect world

I showed the lace edging I'm working on. This is my "go to" edging pattern for several reasons. It makes a nice wide edging all in one pass. You can make edgings wider by adding more rows, but I like to start, work on, and finish. If I have to add more rows to get the depth that of edging I want, I get bored and just quit. I don't mind working on a large project, as long as when it's done, it's DONE. It's like doing earrings, baby booties or mittens. One is OK, but having to start all over again to make the second one just irks me.

The other thing I really like about this edging is that it's easy to adjust it to go around corners. The flower shapes make an instant corner treatment, without any extra work. As long as you position one of the flower shapes straddling the corner you can stretch or shrink the edging to fit just about any length. Most of the hankies you buy are approximately 11 inches along the side. Very approximate. The one I'm currently working on is 11 inches wide and 11 3/4 long, more or less. It may not be perfectly rectangular. Hankies often aren't perfectly square or rectangular. So we have to be creative about how we attach ore perfect laces to imperfect edges.

This edging allows for connecting 2 picots on each chain which gives a secure attachment to the fabric, but the flower shape allows for a lot of flexibility in between. So I end up with 12 flower shapes from corner to corner on one side and 11 on the other side but my corners are always flowers and unless someone stops to count pattern repeats, you'd never know.

There are 3 different ways of attaching edgings to fabric. You can tat directly onto the fabric and this works, but I'm not crazy about how it looks. I've only ever done a few times. The first time I was working in white thread on a white hanky with prepunched holes along the edge and I tatted directly into the holes along the hanky edge, using the holes instead of a picot for joining into. The next time I tatted directly onto the fabric, the hanky didn't have prepunched holes. I used the tip of the attached hook on my shuttle to wiggle aside the weave of the threads in the fabric to make my joins.

In a pattern like this one you have to make sure that you line up the pattern so that you have the right number of holes to match joining points as you come to the corner. Depending on the corner treatment you use you may need a fixed number of spaces around the corner for it to even if you have preset holes, you might need to create some extras to make things fit.

The last time I did a direct join attachment, it was a hanky with a pink floral print in the centre, surrounded by a white border and a scalloped edge. I used pink thread to match the predominant colour in the design and joined directly to the fabric. I was happy with the results until I saw it on display along the edge of the shelf in my sister's hutch. She had taken several hankies and displayed them under various pieces of china so that the lace edges showed. It looked awful. It probably looked OK to everyone else, but all I could see was the twists and turns of the pink thread joins over the white fabric as they followed the scalloped edge. YUCK!

The second method for attaching lace to fabric, is to create a foundation row that you can either tat the lace onto or sew it onto. You can do a row of single crochet along the edge of the fabric like this one pictured. Or you can do a row of blanket stitch, either by hand or by machine. Whether you use a blanket stitch or a crocheted row, all you are doing is making something that you can use to attach the lace. Again, you can either join directly onto the foundation row or you can sew the lace on to it. This prepared hanky is one I received with some thread I bid on.

My preferred method is to sew the finished lace onto the fabric using a blind stitch. Select a thread colour that matches your lace and a fine needle. The needle needle to be slim enough to fit inside the hem of the fabric. I start by carefully sliding the needle between stitches under the hem and out through the edge of the fabric. Then I tie a knot in the doubled thread and cut close to the knot. When I pull the thread tight, the knot slips under the hem and holds secure. Then I run the needle through the picot and back down right next to where I came up. Like this:

Then I run the needle along under the edge of the hem and come back up where the next picot is to be attached. This is called blind stitching because you don't ever see the thread that's holding the lace on to the fabric. You see fabric, then you see lace, looking like it's floating along the edge.

When I'm attaching lace to a hanky, I figure out what's happening at the corner first. Typically pattern repeats fit in an orderly number of spaces, but if a corner needs a fixed number of joins before and after, the lace on either side of the corner may need to be adjusted. Once I've figured that out, I begin joining the lace BEFORE the corner. It may only be half a pattern repeat, but it's before the corner. You can see in the upper left corner  of the hanky in progress, that there's a short piece of unattached lace. That's the bit that the final section of lace has to join into. All of my adjusting position will happen along the edge, not right at the corner. It just gives me a lot more wiggle room if I have to nudge things and I don't end up with the corner looking buckled or the lace looking stretched.

We go to a lot of effort to make beautiful lace and it can be spoiled when our perfect lace is attached to less than perfect fabric edges. So it's nice to have a pattern that goes with the flow allowing me to enjoy the process instead of getting stressed out by it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Cleaning, tatting and playing with thread

I've been tatting. Sort of. Mostly I've been hauling junk. Some years ago we started cleaning up the basement with a view to finishing it and possible moving all the computer equipment downstairs where it's cool in the summer. Then we got notice that the condominium corporation was going to re-insulate the attic of our townhouse, which was where we had stored a lot of unused stuff like camping gear and Christmas decorations. Of course hubby is a packrat and there was a lot of other stuff up there that had to come down, like a big chest full of motors that ran the various parts of hubby's robots. He built his first robot in 1962 when he was 14. The robot, and it's successors, have been dismantled, but the parts were in the attic.

Lots of things were finally thrown out, but much of it just moved from attic to basement. A full size steel shed, a box full of Avon containers which my SIL insists are worth money. Well they are, full and new in box, but empty, they're just junk. A full set of old dishes that we don't use because they have gold rims that spark in the microwave. Boxes full of encyclopedias, lots of computer programming books, and a race set with real little motors that run on a track

After the first pile of stuff got moved to the basement, other things followed. A big steel table that he though would fit in his room so that he could work on repairing computers. It didn't fit, so it got moved to the basement. Monochrome monitors to go with the Commodore computers, got replaced by the colour monitors to go with the Intel computers. The small monitors got replaced by bigger ones that were easier to see, which, in turn got replaced by flat screen monitors that use less hydro and give off less heat. The old ones still worked so they were kept, just in case,  because you never know when the new one might break and you need the old one for a while, or you need the parts, or something. I told you he was a packrat. I am too, just not as bad.

When we finally cleaned up, we got rid of an extra washer and dryer, 5 working monitors, 2 computers, 2 old TV's, 2 desks, a rocking chair, a large chunk of carpeting, 6 old metal bookshelves, the waterbed frame and other miscellaneous pieces of MDF, a Hibachi, a box full of assorted coffee mugs, 2 sets of TV trays, boxes full of books and old papers, lots of broken things had been kept because Mr Fixit here might need the parts and lots and lots of empty boxes because you know you have to have the packaging if need to return it.  We still had the boxes for things that had long since bit the dust.

The last straw came when my sweetie started to smell something funky from down in the basement whose corners we couldn't even see, let alone clean. The metal scrap collector was by our house 3 times to pick up stuff and we fortunately had 2 weekends of unlimited garbage collection that let us get rid of most of it. A stop by the Salvation Army emptied out the more usable stuff. My darling sweetheart built shelves along the wall to get everything up off the floor and then we washed down walls and concrete floor with bleach.

Once that was all cleaned up he decided that he should sand down the stairs and re-paint them. Using the sanding disks to strip off the old oil paint kicked up a lot of dust which meant that everything we'd piled onto the shelves had to be vacuumed off again, but finally, finally the basement is clean.

The downside of all this cleaning activity is that for over a month now, I have been too tired, too achy, hands too swollen to tat. I have enough energy to vegetate and that's about it. I am working on a hanky edging that would normally take me about a week to do. It's been languishing on the couch for over a month, half done, half attached. The thread I won on eBay has come and been admired, but not touched other than to sort it by colour. Here's the hanky, just as proof I haven't forgotten how to tat.

I like to use the finer threads mostly for hanky edgings and bookmarks. A nice wide edging will take the greater part of a ball of size 80 thread, but a bookmark done in multiple colours will use less than a shuttle full. A couple of years ago I realized that I wanted a lot of colours of size 80 thread. Here is my original palette, red, white, blue, red/purple, yellow/mauve variegate and a variegated blue that was given to me.

The only local source was Michaels who carried white and during the Christmas season, red and green, with each tiny ball priced at about $3. On the other hand Ebay had small batches of it for $7- $10 and with $4 or $5 shipping it worked out to roughly $1 a ball. Granted it was "used" thread with a lot of partial balls, but it also meant that for the price I got a variety of colours.  So for me it was a great deal and I ended up with lots of colours to play with.

Using someone else's colour choice helped to get me out of my comfort zone. Then, after using some of the colours in little projects, I discovered that I didn't have a lot that mixed and matched in the ways I wanted for the projects I had in mind. So I started haunting Ebay again, which is where this newest batch comes from.

The first bunch had lots and lots of greens and pinks. Pink rings for flowers and green chains for stems makes for lots of nice edgings. The latest lot has a whole bunch of white and variegated threads in every colour of the rainbow. In looking at both batches in detail I can see that they are mostly pastel colours, which I like, but I can see I need a few deeper shades for contrast. Maybe I need to surf Ebay again. Or maybe I should just get cracking and use up some of the 110 balls of thread that I have, and not be so greedy.