Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lesson 4

We’ve already looked at the effect picots have on your lace, now let’s look at the effect the placement of the joins have on it. Typically the joins are made at the waist or middle of the rings and it results in a more or less straight piece of lace. Like the first sample shown here.

On the second sample, the joins are made above the waist and instead of a straight line of lace, the rings are pulled upward so that the edging curves and the chains are pulled straighter. Tat a long enough edging and it will result in a circular medallion rather than a straight edging. The rings are the same size and the chains are the same length, but the look is different.

On the last sample, the joins are below the waist and the rings are pulled downward so that the chains fold and begin to overlap. So you can see that a shorter chain would be more effective.

When you are designing, sometimes you need to change the size of a ring or the length of a chain in order for everything to fit together. Other times, all you need to do is change where you make the join.

I have heard tatters say that they routinely make their joining picots just barely large enough to make the join, as if joining picots should be invisible. Years ago, before the invention of joins, the tatting was made and the sections were held together by tying knots through the picots with very fine thread. The smaller the picot, the less evident those knots would be, so it made sense to make them small.

Now, when we make animals, butterflies, leaves and other things than doilies, those picot spaces form part of the design and making them really small can actually detract from the over all appearance of the lace. In my opinion, joining picots should just be the normal size of your average picots. You may feel differently, and that’s your choice, because you are the designer. However, as a beginner, if you use more picots than necessary, and make them all the same size, you give yourself more joining options. Of course, if you need to make a join and there isn’t a picot, you can always just wiggle a hook under the stitch and make the join anyway.

Like many of us, I didn't have the benefit of learning tatting surrounded by other tatters and consequently I am mostly self taught. I had already learned how to knit and crochet before I learned to tat and I just did whatever seemed logical. With the advent of the internet I discovered that not all tatters do things the same way and most of the time it doesn't really matter. For example some people like to do front side / back side tatting and some don't, but when you look at a finished project that's not going to be what matters to you. It's just a detail. Similarly some people pull a loop of thread up to do a join and some people push a loop down to do it. In the finished lace nobody is going to care which way you did it as long as you are consistent.

Here's something to be aware of. When making a join some people count the join as the first half of a stitch and some people consider it as just a join and do a full double stitch after the join. Most of the time it won't make any difference because it's just one half stitch. BUT if you create a design where a ring has multiple joins, and you count the join as the first half of the stitch, with each join you lose a half stitch. Two joins and you lose two half stitches, or a whole stitch. Four joins and you lose two full stitches. You're going to notice 2 missing stitches. If you're following a pattern, you have to follow the instructions, but as a designer you have to think in terms of other people tatting differently than you do.

As the designer, if you count the join as the first half stitch, you might just add in 2 more stitches to make the ring the same size as other rings which don't have multiple joins. But then the tatter who doesn't count the join as the first half stitch will end up with 2 extra stitches and a ring that's a little too large. So what do you do if just the way a tatter tats might give them different results? If counting the join or not counting the join as a half stitch is going to make a difference, just point it out at the beginning of the pattern.

Similarly, if a design requires picots of a specific length because they form the shape of a wing, the fluff on a thistle, the whiskers on a cat or the points on a snowflake, make sure you identify those details at the beginning. Sometimes the length of the picots or the bare thread on a single shuttle design is an integral part of the design. Identifying this information at the beginning of the pattern means the tatter has a much better chance of achieving the same results as the designer.

Now that we have looked at some simple ring and chain edgings lets  play around with some more basics. We started out with a simple ring and chain edging and we discovered what we already knew, namely that rings and chains work in almost any configuration you try although we tend to typically use ring sizes like 4-4-4-4, 5-5-5-5 or 6-6-6-6. Rings can be as small as 2-2 or as big as, well, really as big as you need them to be, but they get sloppy looking without a lot of coaxing if you use anything much bigger that 12-12-12-12.

Let’s look at another common design element in tatting, namely the cloverleaf. Some tatters reference the 3 ring arrangement as a cloverleaf, and some as a trefoil. Technically some people will refer to a 3 ring shape where all 3 rings are the same size as a cloverleaf and a 3 ring shape that uses rings of different sizes as a trefoil. In normal conversation though most tatters will refer to any 3 ring grouping regardless of size as a cloverleaf. Just like the ring and chain edging, you will find that generally, the length of your chain will need to be the same number of stitches as there are from the base of the middle ring to the base of the next middle ring as you can see in this diagram. From the base of the middle ring on the left to the join is 10 stitches and from the join to the base of the middle ring on the right is 10 stitches, or a total of 20 stitches.

For the next exercise tat the design shown using that same ring size as you used in your first example so that if you used rings of 5-5-5-5 then make the rings of your cloverleaves 5-5-5-5. Where tatting chains of 5-5 worked with rings, it won’t work with cloverleaves. The reason we are using the same ring size as our first example is so that we have something to compare to. That’s what is important about this lesson, we want to compare a section of cloverleaf edging to a section of ring and chain edging so that we can see the differences and so that we have some samples to work with.

The second part of this exercise is to do a cloverleaf edging where the side rings are smaller than the central ring, and compare the chains of the 2 samples to see how the change in the size of the side rings affects the length of the chain required.

In the diagrams I have used minimal picots, but you can use any amount of decorative picots that you want.

Since this is a course to get you started in designing, we’re taking baby steps. We aren’t going to look at the effect of more or different picots on cloverleaves, because it’s the same as with rings, just more of them. Nor are we going to look at alternate joining points on cloverleaves mostly because you will usually want to join to the outermost point of the side rings and the top point of the middle ring. Now that we’ve done the exercises with rings you can explore variations with cloverleaves on your own.

As always, if you have questions or comments put them in the Comments and I will address them either in the Comments or in a subsequent lesson.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Here is another challenge not with tatting, but with thinking about designs and what makes a good one. You may not care for doilies, but they're good for demonstration purposes. Below are pictures of 2 doilies, one from an older publication and one from a newer magazine and the reason I'm showing them to you, is they look much like the first doily I tried to design. Actually, I've had several people show me their first attempts and they look like these ones too.

What do you think of them?
Are they interesting designs?
What kind of details do they have?
What would you do differently?

Both of these doilies are simple rows of ring and chain which is what a lot of beginning designers start with and while it makes a decent doily, it's really boring.

What about this design?

Take a closer look at the construction of it. In the centre it has a centre single shuttle medallion, followed by a row of clover and chain. Then there is a single shuttle row that repeats the motif of the centre medallion. Repeating a design element is a good idea because it makes for a more cohesive design. The next row has both inward and outward facing rings and the outer row is ring and chain.

The first two doilies were very repetitive, but also uninteresting. In this doily there are variations in the rows which makes it more visually appealing. It's more interesting, but it's still just concentric rows of lace and it's hard to separate out one row from the next to focus on the details.

You don't have to use a lot of different techniques in your creations, but the more techniques you know, the more things you can incorporate into your designs to make them more interesting. That doesn't mean that simple ring and chain can't be interesting. There are hundreds of lovely designs available in the antique pattern library that show just how appealing ring and chain can be. Simply mixing up ring and chain with clover and chain can add a little zip to your design.

More techniques also means you have more ways of achieving the results you want. Maybe a split chain or split ring will put your threads in a better position or maybe cluny tatting will add density where you want it in your design. Or Josephine knots will leave a trail of pearls in your lace. Each technique you know gives you more options.

Now take a look at this design from a Burda magazine. It kind of looks like a flower with a central circle and petals radiating around it.

It has a single shuttle centre medallion, some rows of chain, a row of single shuttle work and some more rows of chain, which sounds like it should be boring, but it's not. What is it that makes it interesting?

It isn't what's there that gives it interest, but what's not there. You see the centre part with the concentric rings that are kind of boring, but then you get to the wavy row of single shuttle shuttle lace where each section joins back to itself forming an empty loop. and your eye is drawn to the outside. The next row forms large empty arches that again draws your eye outward. The outer rows of chain just bring the whole thing together again in one cohesive unit. It's the empty areas know as negative space that really make the difference.

Negative space in a design gives your eye a chance to rest. It spaces out the lace so that you can see the individual rows of lace, along with the whole design. The negative space actually creates designs within designs making the lace more intricate and more appealing.

When you see a completed design, those empty spaces make sense. When you're a designer tatting it can you imagine just making a huge length of chain that doesn't seem to go anywhere or be connected to anything? Making those empty spaces can be challenging for a designer to create but they make superior designs.

Look at the row that joins the single shuttle loops to the centre of the doily. See which way the picots face? This doily isn't constructed in the usual manner with each row being attached to the one before, it's done in sections. The central part and the single shuttle row are completed separately and then the connecting row is done joining both parts together.

Why do you think the designer did it this way? Is it possible that the designer made the outer section intending to join it to a centre circle of fabric and then decided to make it all lace? Or maybe they were parts of other designs that were just joined together to make a whole. That's the fun part about designing. You don't have to colour inside the lines. If your imagination takes you somewhere different, don't be afraid to give it a try, you might be surprised.

Take a look at other doily designs, especially those that appeal to you and see if you can figure out how the designer came up with that design. What design elements did they repeat throughout the whole? Where did they have to take a tatting leap to create negative space? Do you think you would have been able to envision making that empty space at that point and in that way? Designing often means training yourself to look at things differently. Thinking outside the box is a designer's greatest asset.