Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sequined Bling

I was thinking about turning the very beady bracelet I did the other day into a bookmark, but I have too much respect for books to subject them to the spine killing treatment of beads. So the problem is how to get the bling without the hard fat lumps that beads present. Then I had an idea. How about using sequins? All of the shine with none of the fat.

Here it is, in all it's unblocked glory. The threads are size 20 Lizbeth Turquoise Lt #662 and Summer Fun #104 with pink sequins. The reflection from the sequins really inhibits acquiring a good scan and although I tried numerous background colours nothing really worked well. Can you spot the one upside down sequin?
Here's the little miscreant. I was trying so hard not to do that, and only noticed it as I was about to finish the bookmark.
I misjudged thread length - twice. I reloaded the shuttle the first time and measured out what I thought I'd need to finish and ran out again 2 measly rings from the end. Two. rings. However, as a designer these things happen frequently, so adding in more thread is no big deal. See the instructions on the sidebar for how I do it. The ends are hidden while I add the thread. So it's just a matter of cutting off the ends when I'm done and you can't even see where I added the thread.

I don't usually use something as thick as size 20 for bookmarks, but as this one is probably going to be used in paperback novels it's all right. Not only that, the thickness of the thread will help to cushion the pages from the edges of the sequins better than size 80 would. Over time the sequins may cut through the threads, but it's a bookmark, not an heirloom.

Most of the time I block my work, even though I tat tightly enough, and pull it into shape enough as I work that it doesn't really need it. I don't go the -pin every picot in place- route, but I do generally pin out the major points before I hit it with a shot of super heated water from the steam iron. I wouldn't want to put the iron on this one, though. I expect that the sequins are made out of plastic and would, A- melt and lose their shine and shape, and B- stick to my iron and make one horrible mess.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tatting 101 - Filling a shuttle

I get asked so many beginners questions so often, that in defense of my time, I've decided to do a Tatting 101 with the basics and I thought I'd start with the one that is the simplest, but the one that I still get asked: How do I get the thread on the shuttle?

First, there are different types of shuttles. The most basic shuttle is a flat shuttle. Here is a template for one that you can cut out of an old business card.
The shuttles pictured here are the 3 basic shuttle types. The little one on the left is one my hubby made for me out of walnut wood. Some flat shuttles can unwind if you drop them. This one doesn't. The middle shuttle is a post style shuttle, this one is a David Reed Smith shuttle. The one on the right is an Aero bobbin style shuttle.
No matter what kind of shuttle I use, the method of putting the thread on is the same. I use a simple, practical slip knot. Start by wrapping the thread around your hand like this. Then poke a loop of the thread coming from the ball through the wrap like this.
Then hold the thread end in one hand and the loop in the other hand and pull apart.
You end up with a loop and the knot can slide up and down. Which is where it gets it's name slip knot from.
With practice you can arrange the knot close to the thread end, but for now you can just cut off the end leaving just enough to hold onto.

On a flat shuttle, take the loop and position it around the shuttle going into the hole on one side, around the back and out through the hole on the other side. Then holding the thread end in one hand and the ball end in the other hand pull and the knot will slip making the loop smaller and smaller until it's snug against the shuttle.
Then wrap the ball end of the thread around the shuttle in the hole on one side and out the hole on the other until you have the shuttle as full as you want. Some flat shuttles have fanciful shapes and only one hole at one end. These shuttles are often just curved at the other end so the the thread is wound through the hole and around the flat end.
On a post style shuttle the top and bottom sections are called blades that are joined with a post in the middle. They clamshell together at the tips which often look like the pieces are attached, but they aren't. This closeup shows you that the thread actually slides through between the blades.
For this type of shuttle take the loop and slide one end through the blades at the front. Then take the loop around and slide it through the blades at the back so that the loop is around the post as shown here. Pull on the short and and ball end of the thread until the loop is pulled tight against the post.
Then wrap the thread between the blades at the front and the back around the post until you have as much thread on as you want. If the loop isn't quite tight enough you can hold onto the short end until you get it started. You will hear a soft click as the thread passes between the blades. Repeatedly using thick thread can cause the tips of the blades to open up a little as the thick thread is continually passed through them. That will make the shuttle useless for finer threads. Don't overfill (filling it top to bottom of the post and outside the edges of the blades) a post shuttle, especially the more expensive ones. Overfilling the shuttle can cause the blades to separate too much and become "sprung". A sprung shuttle is useless.
Bobbin shuttles have a removable bobbin. Except shuttles like the antique detach a spool shuttles which twist apart to expose the bobbin. All of the modern shuttles have bobbins which come right out.
Take the loop and position it around the bobbin. Pull on both ends of the thread to tighten the loop.
If you have an Aero shuttle, the bobbin will fit on the end of the shuttle making a handle for easy winding. Cheap Aero look alike shuttles that have a similar shape have an end that is too fat to sit inside the bobbin.

Wind the thread around the bobbin and insert the bobbin back into the shuttle.
If you use a shuttle with a hook, pay attention to the direction the hook is facing. I like to wind my shuttle so that the thread comes out at the back on the same side as the hook. I found when I first began to tat that sometimes the hook got caught in my work and sometimes it didn't. Then I discovered that if the hook was turned away from the work it didn't catch but if it was turned the opposite direction it did. Something as simple as which direction you load the shuttle can effect the way you tat. Different people tat different ways so watch how you are holding your shuttle and you will find which direction works best for you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nothing much going on

There's not much going on here, mostly because we've been up to our arm pits in doing the taxes. What has been done is a bracelet, with lots and lots of beads. I used Lizbeth size 20 Purple DK and Purple Splendor with mauve beads on the rings and lilac beads on the chains. The beads on the joins are gold beads. I'm please with the way it turned out and I thought that the same design would work as a bookmark without the beads until I realized that without the bling it was just facing rows of plain ol' ring and chain. Unimaginative and boring.

I must think of something else. I want to be tatting and the usual well of inspiration is decidedly dry at the moment. I know what will happen though, the second I launch into the next design class I'll have ideas come thick and fast, just when I have no time to tat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Comments please

I frequently get asked things that initially make me want to jump up and scream NO WAY! Frankly my first reaction to some things is tell people to go - - - - - -. Well, you can insert your own favourite expletive. But I have this other inner voice that always makes me step back and try to see things from the other person's point of view. Sometimes when I've seen both sides as well as anyone can, I don't always see a clear road to follow.

I spend a lot of time thinking things through. I'm never happy just doing, I want to know why. Over the years I have read people's comments about not being able to design and I started thinking about the first efforts I made in designing. I thought about what I did, why I did it, what problems I had, what was helpful, and what was not. Lots of thinking. As time went on I ruminated over this information and began to direct the thought process into how to impart my learning experience to other people. I considered how to break it down into something that could be worked at by someone with only basic tatting skills.

Then I took all of what I had been thinking and wrote it down creating diagram and pictures to go along with it. Then I though of using software for the purpose and did the same thing taking step by step screen shots and added this information to it. Then I took it a step farther to show how the drawing software could be used to create.

It took weeks of planning, writing, creating images and editing to create a course that I only charge a modest $20 for.

Now that I've shown how it can be done, what do you think my reaction would be when someone asks if they could take my lessons and translate them so that they could teach them?

Comments? I'd like to know what you think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rant about tatting....

...for no particular reason. Fox mentioned the other day that she wasn't doing the Catherine Wheel join correctly and it got me to thinking. I am mostly self taught and until I went to a tatting workshop, I had never seen another tatter, or another tatter's work. I learned tatting, like I learned to knit crochet and embroider. I was shown the first steps and then just ran with it. If a pattern said to do something I didn't know, I did whatever worked for me. So I don't get bent out of shape by people talking about doing what is "right" or "proper". In short, I don't worry about tatting police. I see so few tatters, it isn't likely to matter and when I do they mostly are impressed by what I have done.

I am personally not impressed by bazaar junk done by a half blind granny using rope like thread and beads designed for use by a 5 year old. My apologies to elderly, visually challenged femmes assisting in raising funds for worthy causes, it's just a personal preference. I like to think that when something leaves my hands it can stand up to the close scrutiny of the average person. Good enough, is not good enough for me, I expect excellence from myself.

That said, over the years I have heard numerous things about the "right" way to tat and I have to admit that I mostly ignore it. Things like front side back side tatting. I personally don't think that it looks better, it just looks a little different. I don't do it and I make no apology. I do a lot of 3D tatting. When you look at a tulip, which is the front? The inside, or the outside? I like knowing that when I pull a doily out of the wash and slap it down on the table, which ever way it lands is right side up. In designing this necklace I wanted a sort of netting effect where the motifs join the necklace band so I used just chains over that section. Which meant when I got to the end of the row I just finished it with a split chain and turned around to do the next row. The recipient will never know or care that I didn't do front/back tatting.

I like balance. When I do a join, a join is a join, not a stitch. It seems to me, that in a design where a ring has a lot of joins, that counting the join as the first half of the stitch means that I'm losing a half stitch for every join which will make the ring smaller than a ring of the same stitch count that doesn't have joins. I don't count the join as a stitch, I've been doing it that way for over 30 years and so far it's worked.

Tiny invisible joining picots. Baloney! Imagine a mat full of lacy motifs all connected together. Envision delicate picots evenly spaced around the edges of each motif so that the lace is suspended in a diaphanous spiderweb of picots. Now picture the same thing where each motif is jammed up against the next one because of tiny joining picots. In my opinion it's UGLY. I don't do it.

Years ago when I was tatting the flowers for my wedding I needed to tat a lot of carnations in a short amount of time. I was literally -tatting in my sleep. The pattern had a very short split chain at the end of each row. Due to tatting late at night I often skipped the split chain, just finishing the row and then doing a slip stitch back to the last picot. In the ruffles of the carnations it wasn't visible and I was waaay too tired to be picky. I wouldn't have done it in a place where it would show and I wouldn't have done it if I'd had more time and hadn't been tired. Can you see them?

There are a lot of little things the tatting police probably wouldn't like about my tatting. That's OK. I don't tat for them, I tat for me. I tat because I enjoy tatting and I enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Just because the general consensus is that you ought to do things a certain way, doesn't mean that there might not be another equally effective way to do things. You can't always assume that because you do things differently, that you are doing it incorrectly. Who says you have to do things one way and one way only? You might be the person who finds a whole new BETTER way of doing things.

In case anyone is interested, here's a closeup of the assembled motifs and the little inset that I used to finish it off. I would have taken better pictures but it was late and it's already been packaged up and mailed off.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fringe Element Tatters Tat and Chat - are you coming?

One of the Fringe Element Tatters has arranged a Tat and Chat at the Eatonville Library in Etobicoke on April 17th. That's Toronto for anyone not in the GTA. I'm just north of Toronto, in Brampton and I don't usally travel too far from home. Firstly because I don't drive, and secondly because our car is 23 years old and I'm reluctant to be further than towing distance from home and thirdly, because hubby, who is my chauffeur, isn't always well enough to drive, or well enough to leave on his own. Meniere's can make him suddenly and without warning, too dizzy to stand, can make him see double, go deaf, and lots of other not nice things. But, if he's well enough, Etobicoke is close enough to make the attempt and it's only for a few hours, not a whole day or a whole weekend. So I think this is something we can attempt.

It's nice to meet local tatters, but it's even nicer to finally meet tatters that I "know" from the internet. Anyone else in the Toronto area planning on going? I've already called Fox and we've agreed to tentatively give it a try but it would be nice to see some other folks too. If we have a bunch there are lots of things we could try.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The picture in my head is nothing like the tatting in my hand.

I had this idea to take a 3D flower, just use part of it and add a bead in the centre. The purpose of this exercise is to create a necklace instead of a bookmark or hanky for my sister whose birthday is coming up. I have FIVE sisters, but this one shares my birthday and while none of the family bothers much with sending birthday cards and the like, this one sister does. And we share the same birthday so it's really hard for me to forget hers.  No, we aren't twins. Mom just happened to hit the same day 15 years apart. If you think that is novel, one brother was born on New Year's day and one brother was born on Christmas day. I think Mom was trying for Easter with Sis and I. For anyone who's keeping count, we used to have 11of us around the table. Mom, Dad, 3 boys, 6 girls.

Anyway I had this idea, but when I use just part of the design, I lose the central part that used to hold it all together. I started off with the large bead in the centre of a ring, which was wonderful, except that I needed to throw rings off the ring which was more problematic. So I switched to a SCMR with a large half inch bead in the centre, which worked but was very awkward to add the bead and close the ring. Once that part was done the big bead got in the way while tatting and to further complicate matters I did the rings including the SCMR in a solid colour with a variegated thread around the outside.

I have maintained some of the 3D effect even though changing the stitch count on the centre section flattened it out some. I opted for a larger flower shape in the middle and was going to end up with an upward facing point along the top edge or  with the side flowers pulled in toward the middle, which is what I finally decided on. I was envisioning a narrow tatted band with the flowers hanging off the middle of it with something nice and decorative bringing it all together.

What I have is 3 flower shapes that sit on top of one another if I stretch it out straight, or the side rings on the ends of a U shaped curve. I was thinking of hanging the flowers from a row of split rings, but I didn't like how chunky that looked. I switched to a plain chain, but that didn't look like anything. So I've decided I need to tat across the top of the U shape, add a bit that hangs down in the U and maybe a short chain into some graduated split rings. Or something. I need to get this done and mailed in the next day or so. It might be faster to tat a hanky edging. Or not.

This is SO NOT what I was picturing.

Pardon the crappy picture, may camera battery is dying.