Have you done your samples? You should. One of the questions that new designers ask most often is, "How do I know how many stitches to use?" If you tat these samples you will have a collection of little bits all in the same thread size with different stitch counts. You can take these little bits of known stitch counts and arrange them in different configurations to actually see what they might look like worked into your design. Voilá! No guessing. You KNOW what you need. Now isn't that simple?
An experienced designer will have done a lot of tatting so they have a pretty good idea of what they need just because they will have tatted a lot of projects and they know what the projects looked like when they were finished. As a novice designer you may not have as many finished projects to refer to, but with these small samples you'll have your own repertoire. See why it's important to tat your samples?
I've structured the lesson so that each one builds on what you've already done so let's look at the last lesson where you were instructed to tat another series of edgings with different numbers of picots.
Here's a sample with 1 decorative picot and it looks like you would expect it to look. In fact it looks more or less like the samples from the first lesson. The side picots of the rings are used for joining and all that shows is the picot at the top of the ring and the one at the bottom of the chain. It has nice clean lines that have clear definition without anything to distract from the shape of the lace.
Now here's one with 3 decorative picots on the rings and chains. It's not a whole lot different from the the first edging but the extra picots give the design more interest and the sharp clean lines are a little softened by the presence of the picots.
This next edging also has 3 decorative picots on the rings and chains but the decorative picots are grouped together on the rings instead of spread out evenly, and the middle picot is taller. In all 3 examples the total stitch count is the same, 20 on the rings and 10 on the chains, so structurally they are the same, but the appearance is different.
Let's look at what you get with 5 decorative picots. The first sample has 5 decorative picots on the rings and 1 on the chain so the chain has clean lines but the rings are surrounded with a froth of picots that make the rings look fuller and bigger.
When there are 5 decorative picots on the rings and the chains, both are visually thicker lines of lace and the picots give the lace more depth and more weight.
In a larger project with several rows of lace, using fewer picots on the chains that separate the rows can give you an interesting contrast. Or you could use fewer picots on the rings and more on the chains depending on what you want the viewer's eye drawn to.
There are 9 decorative picots on the rings and chains of this sample. Compare it to the first sample and look how much fuller it looks. Imagine a piece of lace with rows of minimal picots and then add a row like this. It will draw the eye and make you sit up and take notice.
All of these samples use the same stitch count of 20 stitches on the rings and 10 on the chains, but they are all different. Notice that they're all the same size. Adding or removing decorative picots doesn't change the structural size of the lace, it just changes it's appearance.
Did you notice that our examples called for 1, 3 and 5 decorative picots which are all odd numbers? That wasn't an accident. You'll notice in most designs things are almost always grouped in odd numbers because odd numbers are more visually appealing. Just imagine the edging with 2 decorative picots. The 2 picots on the rings would look like horns on a bull without the face in between, incomplete and lacking.
To recap, take a look at this strip of tatting which uses an assortment of picots and clearly illustrates the different appearance to the lace based solely on the number of picots used. It begins with minimal picots and increasing until both rings and chains are filled with picots, and ends with alternate size picots for decoration. I used a single decorative picot on the ring and on the following chain between the variations.
Notice that at the beginning, on the left, the rings and chains have clean sleek out lines so that the tatting really stands out. The next section has 3 equally spaced decorative picots, in addition to the joining picots on the rings and on the following chains. The lines of the rings and chains are still evident, but they are softened by the picots which tends to blur the lines somewhat. The next section with 5 decorative picots on the rings and 3 on the chains has softened the outline even more. The following section has a picot after every stitch. You can barely see the tatting for the picots and the outline has become much thicker looking. The rings are the same size as those at the beginning of the edging but they have much more visual impact. The final section has 3 decorative picots on the rings just like the second section, but these are altogether and graduated in size which makes the ring appear to have a pointed tip.
Minimal picots give you clean lines of lace that make a bold statement. Lots of picots give you a light airy effect. Staggered length of picots can help define a shape, or make whiskers on a critter. In a design comprised of several rows of lace like this doily, alternating rows of tatting with minimal picots and rows with maximum picots creates variety in the design. Lots of picots can also make the row of tatting seem thicker and stand out more.
So while you are thinking about what size ring you want to use, you also have to keep in mind how many picots you will use and where you want to place them. Will you spread them out or group them together? Will you make your picots all the same size or graduate them. You can use graduated picots to fill out a design like the wings on an angel or hummingbird.
See this little 5 stitch butterfly? The one on the left has same size picots while the one on the right has 2 large picots and 2 small picots. The variation in the picot size gives more of a suggestion of a butterfly. It's a tiny variation, but it makes a huge difference.
Even if you don't care for doilies, they can give you a lot of things to think about as far as designing is concerned, so they're good research material. Look at the tatting designs that you like and look at the use of decorative picots. Do you like designs with lots of picots? Do you prefer the tailored look of minimal picots? Or maybe you like something in between. What makes a design appeal to you?
Do you like something for it's -DESIGN- or are you just attracted to the colour it's done in? I like using white for designs because if it works in plain old white, any colour added to it, is just going to make it that much better. You might find that the design that you simply loved in the picture didn't look that great done in different colours. As a designer you have to start looking at things with a critical eye. Do I love this piece I'm creating because I love the colours I'm using, or do I love it because my DESIGN is beautiful. As a designer you have to mentally strip away things like colour and focus on structure.
Now that we have looked at what picots do to your tatting, the next exercise looks at where you join in a ring and how it affects the overall shape of the lace. In the drawing I have only shown one ring with 7 picots and 2 of the picots are red. Tat 3 more edgings with joins where the red picots are marked. For the first one, the join is at the waist (in the middle) exactly like your first sample. Note: You don’t need to keep re-tatting the first sample and you don’t need to tat all 7 picots, they are just on the drawing for reference points. In the second one, the join is above the waist and on the last one, the join is below the waist. You can make the chains however you want with as many or as few picots as you want.
As always, if you have questions you can ask them in the comments and I will answer them.