Sunday, August 28, 2011


At our last Twin Cities Tatters gathering, Michelle and I were looking at the different chain stitches, which prompted my Study of Chains a couple of posts back.  While looking at the Node Stitch, we saw further explanation of up and down picots.  I've been looking further at those picots in my Elgiva Nichols books on technique and history.

 In the Elgiva Nichols books, the Node Stitch is described as sets of half stitches, i.e. three first half stitches and then three second half stitches. Naming the stitches is suggested as first halves "plain" and second halves "purl".  Like a reverse stitch in knitting.  The nodes end up on upper and lower edges, or where the direction of the stitch changes.  Picots will end up as "up" or "down" by making them between the sets of half stitches. 

Picots are formed by whichever stitch follows them - a picot just prior to a set of first half stitches (under) will be "up", and a picot just prior to a set of second half stitches (over) will be "down".  (The books suggests memorizing this:  Plain drops down; Purl stands skyward - however, that will depend on what you consider first half and second half.  The 'Purl' will just be the reverse of the 'Plain'.)  I practiced.  It's hard to remember which half you're on :)

I was all excited about the "purl" part and thought to myself, "Oh - this is what purl tatting is."  WRONG.  This is a purl STITCH.  Purl/Pearl tatting involves (gasp!) 3 shuttles.  So, just for fun, I looked up purl and found Wikipedia says:  In older tatting and crocheting patterns, picots were sometimes specified as purls, purl stitches, or pearl stitches. These specifications are not to be confused with the reverse stitch known as a purl in
knitting.  WHAT?  I thought I just learned that the purl stitch was exactly the reverse of the plain.  Like in knitting.

No wonder tatting is so blasted confusing!  Or is it ME that makes it so much harder to understand?  I always need to understand things backward and forward.  I do tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. 

In all that trying to study and understand, I didn't get any actual tatting completed.  But I did spend some time sewing more armchair caddies:

and devoured this wonderful book in two days:

And to finish my weekend, I will spend this afternoon celebrating the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my dear Godparents.  This will be the sixth 50th Anniversary celebration of 7 brothers/sisters in my mom's family.  How wonderful is that? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crafting at the Pet Store?

While working on this:

I found myself in the reptile section at the pet store.  Yes, the reptile section.  For pincushion filling.  Yep.  It was suggested that I use crushed walnut shells for filling, to be found as bird or reptile bedding.  I ttried Wal-Mart's pet section first, but ended up at two pet stores.  Who would've thought I'd be spending my craft money at the pet store?  My only concern is making something for anyone with severe nut allergies. If I didn't use pins from this pincushion for any reason on my tatting, do you think it would be an issue using items from the pockets for someone with nut allergies?  I could substitute with brillo pads or wool roving, but the weightiness of the crushed walnut (similar to sand) is really nice to keep this caddy in place.

In any case, I wanted something to fit on my chairs to keep my tatting or sewing supplies in.  AND, it had to work on a regular stuffed chair arm too.  Luckily, I can use it for both!  I just added some ties on the back side to be able to tie to wooden armchairs.  Those pockets will be handy for all my tools and supplies :)

Now I just need to use it awhile and see if there's anything I need to change for my own use.  The original pattern has crazy quilted pockets that would be fun to try decorated with tatting.  But for now, I went for quick and easy.


And now, a peek at my office wall at work.  I will miss this wall - my motivational wall that coworkers stop in to read.  Our building is being renovated, and I don't think special accomodations will be made to save my wall.

Kids that visit help decorate:

For this week's creative inspiration, I'll leave you with this one.  I think it applies to work AND personal life:

Use the talents you possess -
the woods would be silent
if no birds sang there
except those that sang best.
-Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bluebird Babies

What kind of a Happy Bluebird would I be if I didn't show you pictures of our bluebird babies?

These are not the best pictures, but pretty good through the kitchen window.  The babies have been hanging out on our deck eating the mealworms we leave out for them.

It's kind of hard to tell they are bluebirds because they are just "wanna-be's" at the moment, with just a little blue starting to appear.  Their landings are somewhat unstable as of yet, but they are so cute to watch!

They are sweet little birds with big eyes.

And they've already taken after the adults by finding good spots to perch.  They seem to perch on anything to take in the view.

We have lived in this particular house for 6 years, and only since then have had bluebirds in our yard.  We are happy to see that their numbers increase each year - we are up to 3 houses with bluebird pairs, so hopefully they will continue to return each spring. 

I really love these little birds - and I consider them my own personal little bluebirds of happiness. 

There.  I've shared the baby pictures like a good bluebird would :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chain Study Continued

I wanted to explore tatted chains a little bit further, and re-look at that lock-stitch chain after Gina's comment on my last post.  I found the biggest threads I could so I could really see the stitches - unfortunately they weren't the same size . . .  Oh well.  I could still see what I needed to :)

Lock Stitch and Lock Stitch Chain

Since the lock stitch is composed of one unflipped half of a ds, and the second half of the stitch flipped, it only makes sense that the lock stitch chain continues in this way.  First half ds unflipped and second half ds flipped.  Here's my testing:

I think it looks sort of braid-like.

What I was doing in my last post is really considered an "S" chain, according to THESE INSTRUCTIONS.

"S" Chain

Another practice with the larger threads produced this, using both halves of a ds unflipped, followed by both halves of a ds flipped.  This is the "S" chain:

The "S" chain shows a bit wider color band as Gina mentioned, with a bit more texture and forming a sort of "S" shape, yet remaining in a straight line.  Here's the difference:

"Z" Chain

Taking that flipped/unflipped ds a step further with more stitches, you get the "Z" chain.  I tried 3 complete ds flipped, then 3 complete ds unflipped to get a small "Z".

(Remember, the threads aren't the same size - but you get the idea.)

Then I tried 6 ds flipped, and 6 ds unflipped to produce a wider "Z". 

If I am understanding these chains/stitches correctly, this one is also called a "Zig-Zag" chain.  Which makes more sense since the Z is so visible - unlike the chain made up of a "Node" stitch being called a zig-zag chain.  No wonder I get confused.  (Am I missing a larger piece of that zig-zag chain description?)  Here are both sizes:

Which brings me to another new discovery.  Duh.  I never really knew what a "Lark's Head Knot" was.  So, a Lark's Head Knot is just a complete, both halves unflipped ds.  Why didn't that ever click before?  Maybe I just didn't memorize it. 

So my tatting accomplishments this weekend consist of practicing and testing and studying.  Hopefully I will remember my findings!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Studying Chains

Have you ever noticed how MANY different decorative chains there are to tat?  I didn't really notice much before I saw Yarnplayer's Trendy Teardrop jewelry pattern.  The pattern has a beautiful look to it, but I didn't know how to make the stitch to make that 'bumpy' look.  This spurred me on to a little study of stitches.

The stitch on Marilee's pattern is referred to as "Victorian Sets" or "Zig-Zag" tatting.  The further I looked into it, I found it's also called the "Node" or "Ric-Rac" stitch. Sheesh!  A very simple stitch, but when I was looking for instructions I found varying descriptions that only confused me.  I have a couple of books that I decided to actually read (imagine that!) and really got into the descriptions.  Rebecca Jones "Complete Book of Tatting" and Elgiva Nichols "Tatting Techniques" have great technique instructions - I should probably set aside some time to read more, because some of the reasoning behind the stitches is what made it "click" for me.  This is probably basic for accomplished tatters, but I'm excited to have learned a few simple, new to me tatting techniques when making chains.

Node / Victorian Sets / Zigzag / Ric-Rac

OK.  I tried to get some pictures of this stitch once I accomplished the 'look'.  This is what I was practicing:

See the little "nodes"?  A bit of a ripple effect, if you will.  Very attractive stitch!  The NODE STITCH name makes sense now.  The "nodes" are created by making "sets" of stitches - two first halves, then two second halves.  That is considered one "set".  Aha!  That's where the name VICTORIAN SETS comes in.  A set can be any number of first halves followed by the same number of second halves.  Two and two seems to look the most attractive to me.  This bumpy, node look is on both of what I would call "sides" of the tatting.  (I'm thinking frontside/backside.)  I couldn't figure out where the ZIG ZAG (or RIC RAC) look came from.  Until I looked at what I would call the TOP. 

NOW the ZIG ZAG (RIC RAC) name makes sense!  Simple but oh, so confusing for some reason.  But now I get it.  And this discovery made me curious about other chains.  (Well, OK, the books went into descriptions of different types of stitches, and it just intriqued me.)  So, I decided to continue my study of chains, since I'm working on a few bookmarks to have on hand. 

Spiral Chain

This one I've done before, but I really tried to concentrate on it this time.  I like the look, and it's SO easy.  I use the second half of a ds only, keeping the stitches snugged up and allowing the twist to emerge naturally with just a little coaxing.  I ended my spiral with a lock stitch. 

Lock Stitch

OK, so now I had to look into the 'lock stitch' a little more.  Sounds dumb, but all these terms are assumed - and I sometimes forget to actually "think" about what I'm doing and why it does what it does.  The lock stitch is handy to be able to really lock stitches from moving and losing the shape you are trying to create.  And all it is - is a ds with an unflipped first half and a flipped second half, no longer allowing stitches to slide - thus "locked" in place.

And so, this brought me to another type of chain . . .

Lock Stitch Chain

This one was perfect for my next bookmark with two colors.  The lock stitch chain gives a checkerboard look in my mind - and you can see both colors nicely.

This chain is made by making double stitches alternately flipped, then not flipped. (I lose my place easily and often!)  A full ds (both halves) flipped, and then a full ds (both halves) unflipped - over and over again. 

More studying and practicing needed! For now, here are Motif #s 23 and 24 of my 2nd 25-Motif Challenge:

These two are a couple of my favorite bookmarks to tat up quickly.  On the left is the SPIRAL BOOKMARK, with a lock chain tail and a charm.  Size 12 pearl cotton in brown and pink.

On the right is the BOOKMARK PATTERN from Jane in South Africa, done in a dusty pink size 8 pearl cotton with a spiral tail and a charm.

On with my studies. Up picots. Down picots. Purls?  Nothing like standardization!   There are so many great technique instruction pages online - but my recent searches went here first:  Jane's Pattern and Technique Pages, and a reference guide to various lacemaking youtube videos here:  LaceNews

And a final note - my little froggies have stuck around all summer.  One last shot before the lilies were done blooming:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dr. VonThreadmore Sighting

I was stunned to see Dr. VonThreadmore in Minnesota early this morning - out in my garden, no less!  She was nibbling cilantro and inspecting the tomatoes when I found her.  She denied the nibbling, but was impressed with the healthy looking tomatoes and zucchini. After a somewhat snarky comment about my weeding abilities, I convinced her to join me for some tatting chatter and tea in my air-conditioned kitchen.

While I brewed us some Ginger Pear tea, the Dr. told me of her recent globetrotting in search of laboratory inspiration.  She had been feeling down and uninspired, but I could tell she was gaining renewed enthusiasm for creating some beautiful colorways.  She didn’t want to elaborate on all the places she’s been so far or where she was headed next; she just wants to enjoy Minnesota while she’s here.  I had to explain that we are having an incredibly hot, humid, rainy, stormy summer here, but we have many beautiful lakes and rivers to cool off in.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have time for a trip to the lake -  she wanted to continue her travels for all the inspiration she could soak up before returning home. 
Over our early morning tea, she shared with me some of her colorway ideas from my neighborhood, and I showed her my fair ribbons and my start on a handkerchief edging.  We had a wonderful chat, and I assured her that I would forward her notes to Krystle so that she could confidently be on her way to her next stop. 

I can’t wait to hear where she is next!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seeing Size 70 . . .

. . . is a real feat for me. I haven't tatted with such small thread before, but I really wanted to use this beautiful turquoise thread on this hanky because it matches so well.  I was thinking I really wanted to find a pretty edging that wasn't just a simple ring and chain.  Then I re-thought about that, and after considering my lack of experience with such small thread, I decided to go with a fairly simple edging from one of my favorite books - Mary Konior's Tatting with Visual Patterns.  This is the Clover edging on page 36. 

Size 70 thread is so dainty looking when tatted - but I don't know how I would ever pick out a mistake.  I can barely see the stitches, but I think I can tell that the more I tat with this size, the more comfortable it will be.  And it's even MORE portable than usual.

This edging is going to take me awhile . . .