"But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a... a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one."

-- Bruce Coville,
The Last Hunt

Friday, May 30, 2014

Six Down...

Six out of the nine large motifs are now made. Only three left, plus the edging.

Of course, with a pattern like this, there's not really a whole lot new to say with each new motif added. I really like the negative spaces that are emerging between motifs, though. I think these secondary patterns are going to be even more interesting in this 3x3 doily than in the 2x2 version shown in the book.

Once I start the third row of motifs, it won't fit on the scanner bed anymore, so from now on it will be photos. Hopefully I'll get some good light when I need it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Still Working on the Pillow

I've gone back to the pillow I was working on before my tatting hiatus/ computer problems. I've now done 5 out of the nine large motifs. At this point, I have also joined all four of the small motifs, which I made first-- now I don't have to worry about losing them anymore!

I am basing this on the pattern on pages 95-97 of Tatted Treasures by Jan Stawasz. It's the same motifs, and I will use the same edging, only I am configuring it in a larger square than the ones he made. That's the neat thing about doilies that are made from smaller motifs instead of in the round; you can alter the size and shape however you need to.

In fact, Mr. Stawasz has another pattern on page 65 of the same book that is made up of the same motifs. The only difference is a variation in the placement of the decorative picots. The individual stitch counts are slightly different to put the picots in different places, but the total stitch count of each ring and chain is the same, and so the overall shapes of the motifs are the same. But in that pattern, he has arranged the motifs into a very large table runner in the shape of an elongated octagon. (Also the edging is slightly different.) Frivole is currently experimenting with that version, making the motifs in different threads and different colors. I'll be interested to see what she ends up with.

By the way, I do not, and have never attempted, to use Mr. Stawasz's way of frontside/backside tatting. I simply use the normal FS/BS method, which is quite comfortable for me, and which I have been doing for years. If I understand his method correctly, this means I am losing a half stitch here and there compared to his tatting, but I don't feel it adversely affects the overall piece.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Just in Time

I managed to get the horse picture done just in time. I knew the recipient was planning to leave for good at around 3:00 today. I got there at 2:55, having stayed up all day finishing it. In fact, I've been up late every day this week working on it. Luckily, I am off for the rest of the week and can catch up on sleep. I finished the last of the tatting yesterday morning; today I just had to sew it down.

I've already talked about how I modified Martha Ess's "Rearing Pegasus" pattern to make the horse. It is tatted in Lizbeth colors 611 Gold and 692 Mocha Brown Dark.

The fence is also taken from Martha's Flights of Fantasy book, from the "Tapestry Unicorn" tableau. The great thing about this pattern is that it is what you might call a modular design. Each fence post and railing is tatted separately; while this does make for a lot of ends to hide, it also allows you to alter the fence to whatever shape and size you need it to be. Martha's fence is circular, being based on the famous "Unicorn in Captivity" tapestry. I made only the front sections of it for a straight fence.

I made the fence using one of the new Lizbeth Twirlz threads. This is color 407 Midnight Mist, which consists of three shades of gray twisted together. This was just perfect for a weathered wooden fence. This was the first time I've tatted with a Twirlz thread, and I found it to be far twistier than other Lizbeth threads; I had to let my shuttles dangle a lot more often to take out the extra twist. I also found that the multiple colors made it harder to visually judge the evenness of my stitches. As a result, some of my rings are slightly larger than others even though the stitch counts are the same; however, for an old split-rail fence it is actually appropriate for the tatting to be a little rough. My overall impression of the Twirlz is that it is great for creating certain very specific visual effects, but it would not be the best thread to use when you want your tatting to look very smooth and even.

The bird is the "Wren" pattern from Lindsay Rogers' book Tatting Collage. I did decrease the stitch count a little, because as written, the bird was way too big, even though I tatted it in size 40 and all the other elements are in size 20. I used color 671 Christmas Red. It's not intended to be any specific type of bird; the color just happened to be what went well with all the other colors.

Finally, the grass is simply rows of split rings with long picots on one side. I used SR 1-1-1-1/4 for each ring. In the same Lindsay Rogers book, she recommends making grass as a long chain with a long picot every stitch. This does work and I have done it in the past. However, a chain gets difficult to control beyond a certain length, so I opted for split rings instead. I find that by making it in short sections that are thoughtfully distributed, I can give a clear impression of grass without having to make (and sew down) a row of grass the full length of the picture. When each section was done, I stretched it out with my fingers to make the rings longer and narrower. You can, of course, make the picots any length; I chose to deliberately and randomly vary the lengths to resemble a horse-cropped field instead of a nicely mown lawn. I used color 138 Leafy Greens. I chose this sage-y shaded colorway partly because a brighter green would have been too distracting with the other colors; and partly because I wanted the scene to look like it could be in New Mexico, and these are the shades of green that plants tend to be around here.

The whole thing is sewn down with invisible thread on a light blue cotton fabric, and framed with an oval Flexi-Hoop.

This is why I will (probably) never be one of those tatters who are constantly trying to whittle down their stash. When I have a sudden need to tat something very particular, and I have a deadline to finish it, I never have to worry about not being able to find the right colors because I have about half a million to choose from! I didn't have to buy a single new thing for this project.

The recipient was very pleased with it, and others who saw it were also impressed. I'm mainly just proud I got it done, with so little time to work on it!

Now that I am fully back in tatting mode, I will return to the pillow I started a few posts ago. I will get down to serious work on it tomorrow, after I've had a good night's sleep.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pin the Tail on the Horsey

If I may pause for a moment to brag, both of my students who competed in yesterday's harp competition won first prize in their respective categories. It should be noted that in this competition, the harpers are competing against the "standard" more than with each other; the judge does not have to award a prize at all if no one meets the standard. This time, though, a prize was given in every category that had any entrants, so the overall level of playing was quite good-- and my students were the best at their levels. And next year, a friend who's not interested in competing has said she'll act as Steward so I'll be able to compete too (at a different level, obviously; I wouldn't compete against my own students).

On to the tatting. I've finished the horse. Here are a couple of in-progress photos.

I initially left the tail off, since I wanted to tat it in a different color. This was perfectly easy to do; just tat up to the point where the tail begins, skip the tail, and continue the ring and chain outline, leaving a small gap between chains to join the tail to later.

The horse was distorted by the fact that I missed a join where the green oval is. That little ring should be joined to the chain above it instead of having a free picot at the top. This was very near the beginning, and I didn't notice it until the end, so there was no going back. I simply went back to our early tatting roots and used a thread scrap to tie the picot to where it should be joined.

There, that fixed it. Amazing how such a tiny little thing can make such a huge difference.

Finally, here's the horse complete with tail, after being dampened and ironed.

My tail chains are not quite as perfect as Martha's, but when I sew it down I will make sure they line up nicely. The tension flaws are probably due to the fact that I made the tail longer by a few stitches per chain.

As for the mane, which in the pattern would also be the same color as the rest of the horse, I simply cut off the second shuttle and replaced it with a ball thread in the darker brown. I made the ear by using the unflipped DS technique for those two short chains, then went back to regular flipped DS for the forelock. Then I obviously switched back to the main color for the second thread for the rest of the horse.

I made the mane picots 3/8 of an inch long, and I think that's a good length. I was planning to snip them open, but after ironing I decided I like the way they look as they are.

Now I just need to make a short length of fence and sew the whole thing down.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Here I Am!

My computer has spent the last several weeks at a friend's house while her husband, an IT professional, did drastic repairs on it. Apparently, there was some conflict between my anti-virus software and the computer's built-in data protection program which resulted in major badness. My user profile became damaged beyond repair, and since my computer didn't recognize me as me, it wouldn't let me access any of my files. He ended up having to build me a whole new profile and move all the data he could find to the new profile. He got most of it, and luckily everything important was backed up on Dropbox anyway. Since I was asking him to do for free what he normally does for a living, I was perfectly content to let him take his own good time about it. I did, of course, have internet access via my phone and tablet; however, Blogger being what it is, posting from a mobile device is usually more trouble than it's worth. And I've had that anti-virus software on this computer for years, so why did it suddenly go bad now?

Besides, you know I go through these phases where I just don't feel like tatting. One of those no-tatting phases happened to coincide with my no-computer phase, so I didn't really have anything to post anyway. I am now getting back into tatting. In fact, I have a project that has to be done in the next few days, and I sincerely hope I'll have time to finish it.

Our office supervisor at work is leaving for another job. She is a person who, frankly, drives everybody nuts with her neuroses and stickler-ishness, but I have to admit that those same qualities have really fixed a lot of problems on our unit. When she's not working, she is usually on a horse, so what can I do but tat her a horse?

I am using the body of Martha Ess's Rearing Pegasus or Rearing Unicorn pattern from her book Flights of Fantasy. I plan to make a couple of very slight modifications to be able to make the mane and tail in a different color, and obviously no wings or horn. The body is in Lizbeth color 611 Gold. I'm hoping to have time to also make the fence from Martha's Tapestry Unicorn pattern.

Why am I so pressed for time? Well, her last day is Wednesday, so that's the deadline. Tomorrow I will spend all day at the local Celtic Games, where I am acting as Steward for the Scottish harp competition. (As Steward, I don't get to compete, but a couple of my students will be.) Then I have to work Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. So that basically gives me today, tomorrow evening, and maybe a little time Sunday morning before I have to go to bed to get it done. There is no tatting (certainly no quality tatting) after I have gotten off work in the morning. But I am optimistic that I can do it, especially if I stop typing and start tatting.

Oh, and I did do one other little bit of tatting. My Mother's Day gift was a pair of non-tatted earrings, too small to be able to wrap nicely:

So I did this:

The edging is a classic one, R 5-5 RW, Ch 10, J to picot, SLT RW and repeat for desired length. Once it was long enough to fit around the package, I joined the end to the beginning and finished it off with a butterfly from the book Butterflies Migrating, published by the Palmetto Tatters Guild. The thread is Yarnplayer's "Night Wind" HDT, one of my favorite colorways.