craft, fiber arts, tatting

Tatting practice.

Hello again! I got to meet a lot of new family over the holiday weekend, and took some time off without the computer. I also forced myself to stay away from study, which meant that I had time to practice tatting — which, for those who haven’t read my backposts, is a form of knotted lacework. :)

a series of tatted rings in peacock DMC #5 thread
Figure 1: A series of tatted rings.

Before I came here tonight, I was catching up on my coursework. I’m roughly where I should be, now. Although at the time of this writing it’s 11:15 PM locally (I’ve just finished last week’s work), I started this post last night and still haven’t worked on it. I also went to bed late last night, which I’m not proud of. It seems I’m on track again tonight to stay up late; that’s largely because I’ve been working all day, and it would kind of not be ideal to do all this work and not have a chance to do something for myself.

A tatted border sample in ecr
Figure 2: Trim samples.

Anyhow, as you can see, I decided to finally log something with photos. :) Accordingly, I also had to get used to a different method of upload, practice my image-editing skills, and figure out how to strip unwanted metadata.

The image to the left is what I was toying with, last week. (I haven’t been able to get any tatting done today.) The samples are basically my attempt at linking rings together using picots. I am getting better, as I can see what happens when I begin in a certain fashion.

I think my biggest hangup at this time (illustrated in Figure 2) is remembering how many picots there are on each ring. In the upper left corner of Figure 2, you can see that I only was thinking of three picots plus a join…I totally left out the fifth loop thing and the three double stitches that came after it, so the ring is too small and everything basically lopped over.

I’m also not too good at loosening and undoing my work right now, either, which means that an error like this could mean that it’s time to restart. :P (I am using DMC perle cotton #5, though, which is basically generally used for cross-stitch.)

The work is based on a learning aid in the book Learn to Tat, by Janette Baker. I am appreciating this book, because Baker seems to have a good handle on instructional design: skills build on each other, and she anticipates the problems beginners have. The book is thin, but it’s divided into nine lessons: I’m about to start Lesson 4, if I can ever get off of this butterfly.

A tatted butterfly in ecru DMC #5 thread
Figure 3: Butterfly.

The tatted butterfly to the right (Figure 3) was what I came up with on my second completed try of Lesson Three. Ideally, I’m thinking that the center space I can see here, actually isn’t supposed to be there. In the book, the butterfly wings are closer together, though I squished these together as best I could, and there’s still space. Maybe I’m drawing the rings up too tightly?

I’m thinking that the use of a beading awl may help, in snugging the rings together (apparently, the first half of the first stitch made after completing the previous ring is really important to get super close to that last ring).

Or, maybe I should make the consecutive rings in such a manner that I don’t bend each new ring into position before beginning to stitch it. I mean, maybe they are supposed to be basically crushed together until the last moment. :)

I can try again (the pattern is easy to remember), though I think I’m getting a little obsessive…

craft, fiber arts, tatting

Needing to work on my tension

(Note: this entry assumes some knowledge of tatting, because I don’t know it well enough to be able to communicate what exactly I’m doing.)

Tonight, I got back to my book on tatting (a.k.a. shuttle lace). What I found, in short, is that materials matter — just not in the way I expected. I have some Size 3 cotton “crochet thread” which I bought because I thought it would be better for tatting than the Size 5 perle cotton I already had.

Yeah, that was a mistake.

What I didn’t realize is that the thread I use has to have some slickness to it, so that I can easily invert the half-hitches that make up each double stitch. I was using “Aunt Lydia’s Crochet Thread” from Michael’s — not only is it unattractive, but it’s too rough for me. At this point, I’m not sure it’s even ideal for practice. I would count it as another hit against Michael’s, but the thing is, they also carry the DMC perle cotton (normally used for cross-stitch) that worked.

I also found, on attempting to make a tatted ring tonight, that my stitches were way too tight. They’re supposed to easily slide along the anchor thread; if the tension is too high, or one half of one of the stitches reverses (like at the very end of the ring — which is easy to accidentally “pop” out of position), it isn’t possible to draw the anchor thread up into a loop.

The perle cotton (DMC brand, size 5) is…much slicker than the thread I first tried to use, though it’s also prone to fuzz. I think my mistake when starting was just working with way too high of a tension (and ironically, blaming my materials rather than my experience — but then, I expected to find something more suitable, not less).

I’m thinking that my initial half-hitch is too tight when I try to reverse it by pulling on the anchor thread…because sometimes I have to pull really hard to reverse the half-hitch.

Got to work on that. But hey, at least I can work some kind of double stitch, now!

fiber arts, garments, needlework, sewing, tatting

Crochet lace?

Today I realized that if I wanted to add lace accents to clothing, I can make the lace using a crochet technique.  It’s been a fairly long time since I did any crochet, but I find it much easier than knitting.  If I wanted to try my hand at it, I do have some laceweight yarn, which I think is alpaca.  I also have fine cotton crochet thread, which would likely be what I’d use if I put lace cuffs on a shirt, for example.

I found one book specializing in crochet lace patterns today, but it focused on bedspreads and tablecloths, which is not really what I want to make.  New Tatting focuses on doilies, which again, is not really what I want to make.  There’s always the option of going back to Ravelry, if they’re still up, and actually that may be a very good option.

I have in mind a shawl pattern with a lot of openwork between denser areas of stitching.  It would probably take me a while, though, given that the yarns are so tiny and the hooks are so tiny.  But! I know I can crochet, and I can read crochet diagrams; whereas tatting is almost totally foreign to me right now.  And I have all the stuff I need to crochet, including some backup manuals.  ;)

Sounds good?  :)  I’ll add it to my “things I can do” list.

embroidery, fiber arts, garments, needlework, tatting

Beginnings of playing with _Embroidered & Embellished_; plus, tatting?!

I finally broke through the wall and started playing around with muslin and threads, today.  What I found, which was surprising, is that my own handwork differs from the handwork I’ve seen in my main text, for now — Embroidered & Embellished, by Christen Brown.

I picked up this book, as it was advertised to me before the date of its publication, and I’d been waiting on seeing it before I bought it.  It’s a very pretty/inspiring book, and I ended up checking it out of the library and reading it all the way through.  I found out that it seems to be geared towards beginning embroiderers, given the (limited) spectrum of “traditional” stitches which it features, which seem based on linework.  There are also some stitches for more advanced needleworkers, which fall under the chapter on “raised & textured embroidery” — though I wouldn’t have known about the difficulty level, except for reading in other embroidery texts.

Despite the linework bit, which really reminded me of drawing with fineliners as versus markers (ribbonwork?) or painting — I went out and bought a copy of this book today, because it does say (out of the great plethora of options) what needles to use with what thread or floss, and things are easy enough to understand, and limited enough, that it’s relatively non-intimidating.  It also seems that the later stitches often build upon simpler stitches learned early-on.  So while this isn’t a thorough reference by any means, it is a good teaching tool and introduction to embroidery, as it shows different results given with the same basic skill set, based on using differing materials.

I’m really glad I finally got up the nerve to try and practice.  I don’t know what it is, but starting is always the hardest part, for me.  I think there is a fear there that I’ll try it but not like it, or that I’ll try it and fail.  What happened today is that I tried it, and I liked some of my errors more than I liked what I was supposed to be making!

For example, there is something called a lazy daisy flower — while trying to do this, I accidentally started making a lazy daisy maple leaf.  I actually like the maple leaf better than the flower!  It all has to do with variations in proportion and spacing.  Color doesn’t hurt, either — I’ve been intentionally avoiding pink, and so came out with a bunch of red maple leaves.  (And one flower, after thinking to myself that I really should try to make one.)  ;)  Note:  when using a French Knot as the center of a flower, make the knot first and then stitch the petals.  The needle has been punching holes all through the center of the flower, and so your knot may pull all the way through the (now-weakened) fabric, otherwise.  So unless you want an eyelet with a knot hanging off the back, don’t do that!

There are a few other things to mention.  One:  how one holds the thread on the right side of the work while stitching, really does matter.  I’ve had more luck with making a stitch and then looping the floss over the needle, rather than stitching with my floss leading in some general direction, however.  Two:  it’s difficult to make a finishing knot when working with a small embroidery hoop.  I think mine is about 4-5″ across, and that’s not enough when you want to finish a thread (requiring one to make a French Knot and pull the [thick] needle straight through taut fabric) and the needle is facing a wall.

The third bit is related to #2; and that is, when stitching an outline using a backstitch, it really does matter whether the floss falls above or below the needle.  Randomly, one gets an offset, broken pattern, though this can also be done intentionally; always holding the thread above the needle, however, gives an overlapping pattern.

The last thing I wanted to mention:  proportions.  I genuinely like my own proportions better than the ones shown in this book.  I am not sure how much of this has to do with having practiced writing kanji, but my staggered blanket stitch (called the “short-long-short blanket stitch” in the book) really looks like I was writing yama, yama, yama over and over again.  (The Japanese character [or kanji] for “mountain” reads, yama; it shows three peaks next to each other, not unlike the staggered blanket stitch.)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten, for now.  I did, however, find a book on tatting, which is a method of lacemaking.  I’ve gotten the idea in my head to make garments with 3/4 sleeves, and lace edging the sleeve openings.  However, I’ve really got to find a good, simple book on tatting which will teach me the fundamentals.  I’d never been exposed to it before, and so while a lot of what I saw, looked basically like a lark’s head sinnet which was looped around and upon itself — I had never even seen a tatting shuttle before, and I don’t know how to use one.

There is a place I know of which I can go to in order to look at laces, and they probably have a library there.  And it’s probably much greater than the one book I found on the shelf, today.  ;)  I didn’t pick that one up; it’s called New Tatting.  It focused mostly on doilies, which is not really my end goal.  My end goal would be something more like making trims for garments.  But again, you know, maybe it’s just meant as a course for learning the basics.  I’ll just have to research it more.

fiber arts, occupational hazards

Butterfly 10 + 4mm circulars

So I went to a LYS and found that the pattern I’d been practicing — the Cloverleaf Cable one — is really advanced for the amount of time I’ve been knitting. The pattern includes an SSK, and undoing an SSK was messing me up. I found out that when undertaking a project with a new stitch, you have to know both how to knit it, and how to unknit it. Since I barely know how to do an SSK anyway…well, you can see my problem.

I did find a thread on Ravelry that can be searched under “tinking SSK” which gives a lot of different methods for undoing an SSK without damaging the work more than necessary. But I think that for now I’m probably not going to do the Cloverleaf Cable.

I did find a Diagonal Lace stitch pattern (no SSKs) which I want to use with the Misti Alpaca laceweight, held double. This note still needs to be marked on my pattern sheet, though. This last time of attempting something with that yarn, though — I learned that with the Diagonal Stitch pattern, I need to put in a lifeline every pattern repeat (every 6 rows). Undoing a pattern which includes YOs and SKPs is…well, I can say that I messed up the pattern more by trying to undo my work than it was messed up to begin with. If I’d had a lifeline, I would have been able to just rip back one and a half rows, given that the yarn didn’t tangle itself into a knot instead of ripping back. And this yarn really does like to knot instead of coming undone, unlike the Butterfly.

Right now I have some new yarn — Butterfly 10; mercerized cotton, DK weight. Plus a set of flexible plastic 4mm circulars which I used a hair dryer to straighten (much easier than using tap water, even though I warped one section of the cable). I was told by the LYS person that they would be easier on my wrists than metal or bamboo circulars, which she said could cause RSI (though this might not be an issue unless you’re knitting a *lot*).

The only thing I can say about them so far is that I need to keep my tension looser than I did in order for the loops to move over the join between needle and cable smoothly; plus the feel in one’s hands (and the scraping between the points in the method of knitting I’m using, which polishes bamboo points but may wear on these) takes some getting used to. I do, however, like the concave taper on the points. I can look up the brand if anyone’s interested.

I also picked up a pattern for a cable scarf and charted out the pattern last night so I could see how it worked. I think if I add on one more cable and one more in-between panel, it should be workable in the smaller yarn. It’s easy to see now why so many of the scarves in LYSs are narrow and long — it’s easier to undo because there are less stitches to drop or tink.

I really have no idea why the Butterfly is so much easier to unravel than the Misti Alpaca, except it’s larger and so it’s more difficult for a tiny strand to get caught and cause the unraveling to stop. Plus it’s mercerized, so it’s kind of shiny and smooth.

The Misti Alpaca which I broke off — I’d been using it for samples, which is how I know it works well held double for the Diagonal Lace pattern. But it really does wear when it’s ripped back, plus it knots; so now I have a bunch of fuzzy, tiny waste yarn. I’m going to use it for lifelines, as I did when trying to see if the Butterfly 10 looked good in the Diagonal Lace pattern (it doesn’t).

But the Butterfly 10 — it cost me $4 a hank. I’d hate to use it for dishcloths — it’s soft and shiny enough to be garment material. Of course there is that issue with cotton absorbing pesticides while growing which I heard about in my Fibers class, so the poison can’t be washed away…but really, most of my clothes are cotton, so I’m not entirely certain I should be overly concerned about the yarn in specific.

There is one LYS store within driving distance which sources locally-grown, organic cotton. I’ll have to check that out.

fiber arts

frogged F&F; practicing cloverleaf cable

As I noted over on Ravelry, I’ve frogged what I began of the Feather & Fan pattern.  It was just too repetitive and I was getting bored, not to mention that the scallops ended up looking like the bottom of the ghosts from Pac-Man.  This is probably because I was clustering the YOs and K2togs into groups of eight instead of six…

Anyway.  It’s undone.  I wasn’t able to save all of the yarn, though — for some reason when I was undoing it, a couple of times the yarn wanted to thread through a knot or accumulated matted fluff, and at one point I just broke it off out of frustration instead of cutting the knot.  So I have most of two hanks of Misti Alpaca and one doubled strand of the beginnings of each of those hanks.  That doubled strand, though — I wound it around my feet to get it organized somehow, and I could twist it into a mini-hank, which let me know about how much I had used.

I’ve started to work on a pattern with that yarn, which name I can’t remember — it had something to do with cloverleafs and cables.  Right now I’m just practicing, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be using the Misti Alpaca Laceweight for this.  Holding two strands together just complicates things when I’m trying to tink back through an SSK and rework it.

I can see now that if I slipped the stitch knitwise to begin with and then have to undo this, I should also slip knitwise when working backwards…I think.  My major problem is trying to tink back through these areas and then rework the decrease…because I’m using a solid-colored yarn, it’s very difficult to see which stitches are from which row, and for some reason I keep ending up with an extra stitch on my needle while messing around with the SSK.

I believe this is either because:  1) I’m being doofy and when tinking, I’m picking up the stitch below the stitch I wish to work out of habit, when I should just be slipping the stitch on the needle; or 2) I’m somehow otherwise picking up a stitch below the row being worked when I’m attempting to tink back through an SSK.  Basically the mess looks like an out-of-place YO on top of the left needle.

I’m hoping to go out tomorrow and get about 400m of a fingering-weight yarn that changes color, to make a stole with the cloverleaf cable pattern.  It isn’t ideal, the colorchange portion of this — it’ll likely take attention away from the stitch pattern.  But it will be easier to see where I’m messing up.  Last time I was out, I found a blue-gray color scheme that was actually very beautiful, but that was a laceweight as well.  It is easier to work with the thicker yarns…

fiber arts

garter stitch and feather & fan

I started working on the garter-stitch scarf again because I thought it looked lonely, sitting there on the table in my bedroom, getting dusty. ;) I guess it’s good for when you want something that you aren’t going to mess up on. Plus it’s nice to feel the larger bamboo needles in my hands again, as versus the brass US size 3s.

Drawback: as mentioned before, I realized when starting work on the feather & fan lace, that I was working the garter-stitch scarf at way too high a tension. So I relaxed it — because if nothing else, this project is good for grounding me in some basics — particularly the knit stitch and yarn tension. I might as well learn how not to knit wrong, after all. So right now the scarf is an inch wider than when I began. (>_<) It's also less dense, and softer.

I'm not sure how much longer this skein of Bernat Sox is going to hold out. (The scarf ends when the skein ends — even though with the heathering going on, I might be able to get away with a different dye lot of the same yarn.) Right now I have enough length on the scarf to wrap it around my neck once, but I'd have to pin it if I wanted it to stay on. I do have a skirt pin left over from when I had to get a pin for my first-ever project, where I ran out of yarn. (It was gifted — supposed to be made into a poncho, but even with two skeins, there wasn't enough yarn. It's likely that this is because the yarn was bulky, so it was easy to underestimate how much would be needed.)

I wonder who pins skirts…

Anyway…I wasn't working the feather & fan because I kind of needed to de-stress, and lacework isn't all the time conducive to that, when you're a beginner. I kind of feel like the laceweight yarn is wasted, being held double. I wanted something that would be long and wide and lacy, and I'm getting something that isn't much wider than a scarf (feather & fan seems to shrink widthwise as the waves form) and for which I've only got 400m of length to work with. Plus, the cast-on edge is "elastic", meaning that it wants to shrink, meaning that the scalloped edge of the lace is basically curling upward.

But what is there, is pretty. And it's possible that the edge will be OK, if it's blocked. I just wonder if I should rip out and restart with one strand. It would be more difficult that way though, certainly.

The reason I'm using a double stranded technique is that I am really not aware of how much extra yarn I'll have to put into each loop with the laceweight stuff, just to be able to get the needle into the stitch in the next pass. (With two strands, the thickness of the yarns held together pushes outwards and creates more space in and between each stitch.) And this pattern has multiple K2togs right next to each other. The K2togs…require a certain amount of play in the tension, because you need to get the needle into two stitches at once.

I suppose when I put it like that, it's easier to see why I'm doing what I'm doing, and to forgive myself for not being more skilled than I am.

Of course, I could also just be having bad memories of bees invading the house and getting trapped and killed (*snif*) that I associate with the feather & fan project…

Poor bees. I didn't want to kill you, bees! *snif*