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:


  1. Excellent!!! This will be very helpful as I learn more!

  2. Your examples look great. Isn't it a great feeling when the light comes on and you 'get it'? And now you will find all kinds of places to use what you've learned - can't wait to see!

  3. I was going to comment on chains... I was going to comment about frontside/backside tatting... and then I saw the frog picture and everything just went away! That is not only a beautiful shot --very calming and peaceful to me, but just adorable!!! I love it!!!!! It'd be perfect on a wall, in a simple frame that would really let it 'pop'! :-)

    Wonderful bookmarks!

    Oh! While you're researching, what's your take on joins? I've only been tatting since March 2010 (needle... the shuttle doesn't like me...) and I've changed my 'method' quite a few times...

    -Stephanie Grace

  4. Cindy! That photograph is an award-winner! Perfectly charming! I do hope you have a flickr account. If not - go and get one. You are a wonderful photographer.

    Now, this is an amazing post. I have read it all before, but reading your explanations made several pennies thud! Thank you so much!

    Your bookmarks are inspiring. Really gorgeous tatting!
    Fox : )

  5. I always think I'm going to read those 2 books more thoroughly but I never do. I'm curious about the lockstitch chain. I've only ever done it with a half stitch flipped and the next half stitch unflipped. Doesn't matter if it's 1st half or 2nd half as long as you're consistent. But I see you making a full stitch flipped and then a full stitch unflipped. I'll have to try it! I suspect it makes the bands of color wider.

    Sweet frog!

  6. Just tried it - but in a single color. I can see that it makes the texture a little different. The other way makes a thinner and somewhat flatter chain. I'll try it tomorrow with 2 colors. I'm off to bed now!

  7. Gina - I took a look at that lock stitch chain again and written instructions. It looks like alternating flipped half stitches is the lock chain, and alternating full stitches is an "S" chain. I am finding larger thread to see this better . . .

  8. Great post, Cindy! I've often thought that I need to spend more time reading about tatting. Everything becomes so much clearer. When the light bulb goes on for me, I tend to think that I've been incredibly thick and that everyone else already gets it. After reading your post and the comments, I realize that we all can learn something from someone else's "light bulb" moment. Thanks!

  9. I found your study of chains to be very interesting -- the photos and the explanations were clear and I believe they will be quite helpful to me.

    Awww, that little frog is adorable! What a great pic!

  10. Thank you for the different explanations of chains and their comparisons. It certainly opens up more options in tatting.

  11. This has been really insightful. I especially appreciate how you so nicely explained the names of the zig zag (etc) chain, and the clear instructions. Thanks!

  12. Beautiful! I tried to go to the pink bookmark on the right and the link is to the blue one on the left, I want this pattern so bad!

    1. Terri, the pattern for the bookmark on the right is linked to in the 2nd paragraph after the picture. I hope you find it - it's a great pattern!

  13. I tried it again and it still comes up at the one on the left and the one on the left is not available?

  14. Terri - will you email me? I deleted your comment by mistake.

  15. Hello Cindy I am new to tatting and this post has been so helpful. I loved the bookmarks but the link is not working. Is there another way to get it? Would it be possible for you to email it? Thanks for sharing your talents :)

    1. Hi! I've updated the links so they should work now. Please email me if they don't, and I will email them to you! These are still my favorite "go-to" bookmarks!


Thanks for your thoughts - I read and appreciate every one!