Friday, November 28, 2008

Loose Ends

I used to think that people who designed patterns whether they were tatting, knitting, crocheting or sewing, had some mystical ability whereby they just sat down and made things that were right the first time. When I started designing tatting, it came out of necessity. I needed flowers for my head piece and only had one pattern. One pattern, no decent book, craft, or yarn store in the neighborhood, and no time to order online and wait for delivery of books that may or may not have had suitable flower patterns in them. On a one month deadline I tatted furiously doing an assortment of variations of the one pattern I did have, and several little fill in bits to make up the rest of it. You can see the results here.

One year when we were out of town visiting family for Christmas I had my shuttles with some beads but no patterns. I had been making a lot of simple ring and chain motifs for a vest so I had that pattern memorized. It wasn't quite the right stitch count or the right shape, but it was good enough for me to make a small beaded snowflake for my mother in law. Since we were snowed in I had lots of time on my hands so I kept making snowflakes changing the stitch count and bead arrangement slightly on each one. As different family members showed up they went away with beaded snowflakes, all of them similar to this one.

Then Georgia needed a beading patterns for the online class and I used a similar pattern minus the outward rings and added lots of different coloured beads to make the rainbow earrings. A bag of assorted coloured beads had been sitting on my desk for a while tempting me to use them in something and all that came to mind was a rainbow. The need to use lots of different coloured beads and the need for a beaded pattern just fit together well.

The patterns for both of these and several other designs are on my web site here.

However, these designs are small. If you make a mistake with a snowflake, it's no big deal because you really haven't invested much time in it. If you make an earring pattern and it doesn't work, you can just scrap it and start again. Now, I know if you are a beginner, every ring you complete is a hard won battle, and just the idea of throwing away all that work is just incomprehensible, but trust me, tatting gets easier as you do it more and a single ring that takes you 20 minutes to make today will take you only 2 minutes a year from now.

When you get bored with snowflakes and want to move on to something a little larger, making a doily is just adding a row of edging to a snowflake. If you want a larger doily, you add another row. At this point, it starts to become more challenging for two very different reasons. First of all, each new row that you add becomes larger and you can just add edging after edging, but as you do minute adjustments to the stitch count have to be made because edgings are straight and doilies are round so the inner edge has to be smaller than the outer edge. If the outer edge isn't wide enough it will cup, but if it's too wide it will ruffle.

The second reason it becomes more difficult is that if you want the finished piece to look like a whole design instead of a bunch of rows slapped together, you have to do some planning and thinking ahead. If you have a pattern segment, an area where 2 rows together look really good, or an emerging shape that you want to see continued, you have to plan on how to create the shape or repeat the motif.

Very often doing this is a matter of trial and error. You make the best guess at how things ought to proceed and you try it. Sometimes you get it right the first try. Of course some times the first try looks awful. What is even worse, is when you are working on a motif that has several rows to it. That may mean that you won't know if your idea will work until after you have completed all of the rows. And what do you do if your idea doesn't work? You cut if off and start again.

Want to know how I developed my method of adding in new thread shown in the tutorial? Lots and lots of cut off mistakes. As a designer, I don't worry about carefully starting with pre-wound CTM shuttles. I begin with whatever half wound shuttle is handy. I pull out enough thread to get started and I add in a second half wound shuttle and keep going. Adding in new thread and hiding ends doesn't have to be something you avoid. When I add in new thread I leave the loose ends hanging until I have finished the piece. That way, if my pulling and tugging on it pulls the thread ends I'm not going to have anything pull out and if I've had to add the thread in at an awkward place and I'm concerned that the thread end will be too short and might pull out, I just sew it in and out between a few more stitches of the finished piece before cutting the ends off close to the work.

Sometimes when you like how a design is shaping up, but you're not sure if it's going to lay flat or if you're not sure what direction to take the design or where your next section needs to connect into it, blocking helps. I'm now on row 13 of this one and I'm still not sure about it other than I know it will take at least 2 more rows. It's about 7 inches across shown here, and I'm now at 10 inches across. The design will require 2 more rows which should add 1.5 inches but I was looking for a finished size of about 12 inches. If it works out it will be a happy accident since it seems to be one of those designed to fall off the shuttles without much forethought. If it doesn't, it will be about a week's worth of tatting down the drain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adding in New Thread

One of the problems that every tatter must face is the inevitability of running out of thread on the shuttle and having to add new thread. As a beginner this may seem to be a daunting task, but it really isn't that hard. Here are some pictures showing how I do it. For the purposes of this tutorial I began with size 10 thread in green and at the point where I add in the new thread I switched to white so that you can clearly see the old and new threads.

Wherever possible I add in the new thread at a ring where I can easily hide one end in the ring and the other end in the following chain. That may mean that my old thread is quite long and hard to deal with so I cut it to about three inches.

Fill your shuttle and begin making a ring with the new thread.

Insert the old end under the first half stitch alongside the core thread like this.
Tighten up the stitch and snug the old tatting up to the ring just started.
Take the old end of the thread across the core thread away from you.
Tat the second half of the stitch and bring the old end across the core thread toward you.
Tat the first half of the next stitch.
Bring the old thread across the core thread away from you.
Tat the second half of the stitch.
Bring the old end across the core thread toward you.
After you have done this with 3 or 4 doublestitches, give the old thread end a hard pull to make sure that there is no slack in the old thread. Finish tatting the ring and close it.
You can see where the old end comes out between the stitches and you can see the spot of green where the join is, but you don't see any of the green in between where it is zigzagged through the half stitches.
Now reverse work and begin the chain in the same manner, bringing the white end of the new thread under the first half stitch.
Tighten up the first half stitch.
Take the end of the new thread across the core thread away from you.
Make the second half of the stitch.
Bring the new end across the core thread toward you and tat the first half of the next stitch.

Bring the end across the core thread away from you and tat the second half of the stitch.
Bring the thread across the core thread toward you and tat the next half stitch.
When you have zigzagged the thread end between 3 or 4 stitches, pull on the end to make sure there's no slack in it and finish tatting the chain. See how you can see the thread between the stitches when they are spread out?

Once the stitches are snugged up together you can't even see the thread ends even when you work with 2 different colours. I usually just leave the ends hanging until I have finished tatting the piece, then I pull the ends tight and cut them close to the lace being careful not to cut the stitches. Then wiggle the stitches a bit and the last shred of the end pulls in between, held firmly in place and virtually invisible. The thread end is shown here coming out between the stitches so that you can see for yourself how hard it is to see any tell tale sign of the hidden ends. This is size 10 thread and if you can't see it here you certainly won't in anything finer.

Sometimes, when both shuttles (or shuttle and ball thread) are about to run out at the same place, I cut both ends. Then I wind my shuttles again CTM. I hide the old core "ring" thread in the ring and the old "chain" thread in the chain. Since the thread is wound CTM I'm starting in the middle of the CTM and I only have the 2 old threads to hide rather than 1 old thread and 1 new thread. This is easier than adding in new ring thread and dealing with 2 ends, then a little while later adding in new chain thread and dealing with 2 more ends.
As a designer I often work with whatever thread is on my shuttle at the time. Sometimes my shuttle is full when I start and sometimes I've had 2 or 3 tries at something and there isn't a lot on the shuttle to work with. If I stopped to rewind the shuttles every time a project didn't work as planned, I'd end up wasting a lot of thread. Using this method for adding in new thread, it doesn't take very long to secure the thread ends and get on with my tatting. As you can see, adding in new thread isn't something to be afraid of. You can do it quickly and easily with relatively little difficulty.

Just so that you can see the end results, here is the finished piece.