craft, fiber arts, tatting

Progress re: shuttle lace technique

Earlier today I had to spend significant time in a waiting room, and…during that time, I learned how to manage over-tatting thread tails. Particularly when beginning a piece of tatting (a.k.a. shuttle lace), this means that I can start without having to tie a knot between two pieces of thread. Knowing this also is the first step to knowing how to join a new piece of thread when I run out. (I still haven’t tried that, yet. One step at a time.)

As mentioned before, I’m using the book Learn to Tat by Janette Baker, though I haven’t looked at the DVD it comes with, yet. (Who has a DVD player?) Because of this — and because of the fact that the relevant illustrations number exactly two (and are not helped by the thread shown being dark green), I’ve been working a bit by trial-and-error when following the instructions.

From working with beads and self-needles (thread hardened with glue), after my first couple of rough attempts at this (one or two weeks ago, I think), I took it upon myself to find and use a needle for the end of the thread I needed to bury. (This is not a step covered in the book.) Earlier I was using a needle with a sharp tip, but today I was able to get one with a rounded end, which shouldn’t split the cotton (I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton) as easily. It also, for some reason, fits into (and comes out of) a pincushion fine, which is unexpected.

So the secret of successfully over-tatting a thread tail is apparently to run the thread tail through the loop one is closing, in the exact same orientation as the shuttle thread. I don’t know if anyone will know what I’m saying by that, but basically you just run the thread tail exactly in parallel to the thread that’s already going through the flipped half-hitch. Although it seems like it might be more secure to run it through that loop so that the threads scissor closed around both sides of the loop, this is going to make a bumpy tight knot that doesn’t look, or feel, all that great.

When I first started, I was putting the thread through any which way, which meant that some of my knots were bumpy, and some were smooth. It took me a little while to reason out what was going on, which I theorized while trying to sleep one night. Today I tested it in full. I was right.

I did get a pincushion which ties to the wrist a few days ago, but with this method, it’s easy to just lay the thread with the needle on it to the side, over the back of the non-dominant hand. When the half-hitch has been tied and flipped, then just pull the needle forward over the hand, align it through the knot exactly in parallel with the shuttle thread, pull it gently through, and close the loop over both threads. Then replace the needle over the back of the non-dominant hand. Easy.

It should still allow the ring (if one is making a ring) to slide properly. It should also show that characteristic Lark’s Head Knot look…though I think a Lark’s Head Knot is actually a different thing than a Double Stitch, in tatting.

I had skipped over most of this lesson (Number 5, I think), in favor of getting to the Josephine Knot edging. Impatient. But today I was okay with going back and re-trying the join. And it worked!

I’m still having some issues with remembering all the steps — like snugging up the Chain stitches before starting a new Ring; or which shuttle to use when, when using a two-shuttle technique; or the difference between holding the thread for a Ring (all the way around the hand) as versus for a Chain (only over the top of the fingers), but I’m getting there!

And yes, this is something not taught in New Tatting. In New Tatting, they tell you to tie a knot to join a new thread, and then glue down the thread tails.

(no glue, please) It’s probably the reason why my local lace supply store does not sell that book.

Anyhow, I should get going. I just felt the urge to record this before I forgot it. It seems relatively advanced, but then, everything new in tatting seems relatively advanced. :)

creativity, design, fiber arts, jewelry design, self care

Difficulties in creative process (expected and not)

Last night, I had the opportunity to think out loud about what’s stopping me from moving forward with creating. I was aware that I am very good at divergent thinking — that is, developing and imagining many options that I could do, and preparing to do them. When it comes to narrowing down those many options to focus on an end product, I’m not as great.

This is probably the biggest main challenge I have to deal with where it comes to making, and it has to do with process. It’s easy for me to envision an initial end point (or multiple possible end points); where it comes to favoring one and then also being willing to relinquish it by actually starting and moving through the different stages of construction (which rarely ever reach that same end point), I have some issues.

I know that if I start, that is, I’ll have to give up the “perfect” idea that I had at the beginning, in favor of something I haven’t yet imagined. I find it likely not different from a young bird launching itself into flight; on a branch, there’s something to grasp, or hold onto — this being the dream, or the original idea. When you’re in the air, you have to keep beating your wings to keep flying, you’re not anchored, and you’re constantly having to respond to new challenges arising. You may reach the place you originally intended to go, or you may decide that there’s a better place to stop, on the way.

Part of trying to deal with anxiety around this is lowering the stakes, such as by opting first to try mounting a stone with fiber instead of with precious metal. Today I started trying to work a macrame mounting for my Amazonite cabochon (I will try and get some images in before long). There are a number of things that I learned while doing that.

First off, I’ll want to use my heavier weight C-Lon (0.5 mm diameter) in order to avoid tons of tiny and barely visible knots with the C-Lon Micro. Also, again, I find that I need to work on my tension. The people working the knots in the videos I saw were actually keeping their tension much looser than I was. They were also spacing the knots out, more…and, I find, I’m not putting the cross-bar of the lark’s head hitch into the same spot all the time. That means that some knots are way looser than others, and also that the knots are misaligned.

That may be helped by trying to soften the C-Lon up a bit before trying to knot with it. I’m thinking of running it along the side of an awl to try and break up the stiffness. I’m not sure it will work; I just don’t want to do it with the back of a scissors because I’m concerned about curling or damaging the fibers rather than just breaking up any bonding between the fibers. I know this stuff can get softer, because it’s really soft after I’ve picked a knot out of it. So it can be soft. If I can get it there, maybe it will flow better.

I also found that I’ll need to make the bezel wider than previously expected, though that may not be an issue. Too loose, and the stone may slip out (maybe), but too narrow and it’s an unusable ribbon. As well, as the knotting progresses, it’s extremely easy to unintentionally narrow the bezel, by using tension that’s just too tight. Once that’s done, it’s easy to unintentionally continue to use tension that’s just too tight.

To an extent, minor unevenness in tension (like among a couple of strands) may work itself out when tying on and tightening the bezel at the endpoint…but I haven’t gotten that far, yet. I can also tweak the tension and recover my width by pulling on my anchor cords, but that snugs all the knots together (which is not what I want, as it hides the stone).

The other major thing that I have to deal with which puts me back from starting, is my tendency to perfectionism (which you can see in the fact that I actually noticed the detail of the cross-bar of my lark’s head hitches not all being in line). I know that perfectionism can stop someone from beginning. I heard yesterday that the quickest path to perfection is not to aim for perfection. Because working is the only way of getting better: if you never begin to work, you never get better. Your skill level never increases, which is intangible; but matters as a benefit, in this case. It’s growth and production, versus stagnation and lack of production.

My issue, I think, is that perfection is not possible, so aiming for perfection is to aim for the impossible, and instead of attempting to attain the impossible and be met with inevitable failure, sometimes we just tend not to try. The latter is what I’m combating, though maybe I just need to lower my standards to something attainable.

There’s also the fact that I could just be unsure as to whether my flight feathers have grown in yet.

Perhaps, I could recognize that these will be my first two macrame bezels ever, so it’s unlikely that they’ll come out as though machined. On that point, it’s not even desirable to aim to have a final product that seems machined, so I’m questioning right now what exactly it is that I’m desiring.

On that point, I’m not even sure of the exact design of what is going to flow out of the pendant — and I won’t be able to tell until I can figure out what connection options I have. I can’t tell those, until I’ve constructed a preliminary bezel. Which is why I started trying to do so, tonight.

What’s happening right now, is research. I probably should be gentle with myself and not expect perfection. But at the same time, I should push myself to at least try to do something.