"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

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Use for the Peacock


This is how I've been storing my earrings. You see the problem.

They need to be hanging up so I can see the pairs and remember what I have without having to root through the jumble in the box. So I started looking around for an earring organizer, but the most important thing was it needed to be Squijum-proof. This is a whole different standard than ordinary cat-proof. Squijum is agile, inventive, and determined; all cats have these qualities, of course, but he has them in greater abundance than most. I have been owned by cats all my life, and I know what I'm talking about.

When he was not even fully grown yet, about 8 or 9 months old, Squijum broke a cat tower. Literally knocked a whole tier off of it. One time I woke up at 4:00 a.m. feeling something wet and cold on my face. It turned out he had gotten into the covered kitchen trash can, pulled out some potato peelings, carried them into the bedroom, and was dropping them on me. Another time I woke up to find eggshells strewn all over the bed; I don't know how I slept through that one. One summer there was a particular abundance of moths, and several of them would get in every time I opened the door; no problem-- Squijum caught every single one.


Here's a picture I posted once before. Both those balls of thread became his.

So it is clear that my earring organizer must be a cabinet type of thing, with a latching door. He can open unlatched cupboard doors quite easily, but the one thing he lacks is opposable thumbs; a simple latch is about the only thing that can defeat him. Most of the earring racks I found were just open, with no door at all. There were a few jewelry cabinets with doors, but most of them only held a few earrings, and the ones that held what I needed were hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Apparently I'm the only non-wealthy person on earth who both wears earrings and has a cat.

Nothing for it but to make my own. I started with the reasoning that a cabinet is nothing but a box turned on its side, so I went to Jo-Ann's and got a couple of these boxes, some paint, and a package of aida cloth. From Walgreen's, I got thumbtacks and adhesive picture hangers.

I sanded and painted the boxes (doing some tatting between coats of paint)...


... cut the aida cloth into strips and hemmed it (on aida cloth, even I can manage to sew a straight line!)...


... thumbtacked the strips in place...


... and applied the picture hangers.


This is more hangers than required for such a light box, but I like to be sure.

It works just like I intended.


Having the aida cloth in two strips rather than a solid sheet makes it easier to reach behind for the earring backs. I put those little silicone backs on all my earring hooks so I don't have to worry about losing them; tatted earrings are so lightweight I might not notice if one fell out.

And what does all this have to do with tatting, aside from the fact that many of the earrings are tatted? Oh yes, I left out the part about how I decorated the front of the box after painting it.


The end result is really just perfect for my needs. It doesn't hold all the earrings. There were two boxes, remember? I'm working on the tatting for the other one now.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Assorted Miscellany


I wanted some Swarovski pearls. There was a sale.

Some of them I have plans for. Some I even used right away.


This is the "Celtic Hexad" pendant from Marilee's Beaded Tatting Finery. Lizbeth colors 644 Boysenberry Dark and 663 Bright Turquoise Dark, with Swarovski pearls in lavender. It's my new favorite, but then everything I make out of that book is my new favorite. I swear Marilee doesn't pay me for this.

My favorite material to use as a blocking board is foam core board, the stuff that is sometimes used in picture framing, and sometimes as those pre-made science fair backboards. I usually buy a big sheet of it at Jo-Ann's, but the last time I needed it all they had was a backboard, so I bought one of those. This turned out to be even better. I cut along where it was already scored to make the folding sections of the backboard, and removed those two sides altogether; now I have two smaller pieces that are not so unwieldy for blocking small pieces of tatting, and the larger part from the center is still available for blocking bigger things.

And it turns out if I put one of those smaller sides across my lap, it makes a really handy work surface.


Since tatting supplies are generally small, it holds everything I need and still leaves room for His Lordship in his favorite spot.

I also threw together a couple of tatted corners.


These have to do with the peacock project. They're not quite perfect right angles since I was improvising them, but they're going to be glued down so I can make them lie how I want. All the parts are now ready; it's just a matter of assembly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

That Peacock

You know, the one from that book. The book we all bought for that peacock.


Yes, it's a challenge. The diagrams are confusing, and the written directions are minimal and in German. I assume the diagrams would be easier to understand if I could actually read the written directions.

However, I am nothing if not determined. I scrutinized the diagrams and compared them to the cover photo and the few words I could understand from the directions. I studied German in middle school, but for some reason, tatting terms weren't covered. Nonetheless, I could figure out what meant ring and what meant chain, so then I could determine what order to do certain things in.

The head, neck, body, and legs are easy and straightforward (although in practice it turned out I had to change a few stitch counts in the body, but no big deal). It's the tail feathers that have so many people flummoxed. So here you go:


Each tail feather is tatted separately, starting with the leftmost one, and each starts closest to the body. Each feather is made without any cutting and tying. They all start with simple split rings.

When you get to the part that looks like onion rings, circled in red above, it is actually what might be called onion split rings. Or split onion rings, if you prefer. The inner ring is a normal, ordinary, one-shuttle ring. The outer ring is a split ring; at the top, it joins to the picot at the apex of the inner ring. Not as hard as it looks at first glance.

The rosette, in the yellow square, is a little more complicated. It's actually worked from the outside in, and then you climb back out at the very end. The first element made is what, in the final product, looks like a floating ring, but is actually a split ring, because it leads from the previous onion split ring. Next, you make the chain carrying actual floating rings, but omit the floating ring at the apex; make a very small picot there instead. The chain becomes a mock-ring by joining back to its starting point; make sure both shuttles are on the back side of the work. Now make the inner ring, which is a split ring. After closing the split ring, bring both threads behind the chain and join to that very small picot. Make one final split ring to match the other floating rings. The rosette is now complete.

Read that paragraph a couple more times. I promise it makes sense.

The rosettes at the ends of feathers 2 and 4 are easier because they don't lead to anything else. Just lead into them with the split ring as above, then make a normal ring for the center, then make the chain carrying floating rings around it, remembering to join the chain at the top of the inner ring.

The bits at the ends of feathers 1, 3, and 5 are just onion rings with a slightly convoluted outer chain.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that the stitch counts on the diagram are sometimes missing; and when they are there, they don't always tally with the photo. No matter. This is a somewhat free sort of pattern anyway. Sometimes I went with the diagram, sometimes with the photo, sometimes neither. Just make the number of stitches you need to with your particular tension to achieve the graceful curve you want.

Oh yeah, and as I was finishing the very last feather, I noticed that the rosettes at the ends of feathers 2 and 4 should have had an extra two floating rings. Oh, well.

So, this is definitely not a beginner pattern, nor one for the faint of heart. But if you can make rings, chains, Josephine rings (on the head), and split rings, you can make this bird. If you're up for the challenge, I hope my explanations help a little.

And BTW, when you make a picot on a Josephine ring, it is helpful to make just one ordinary double stitch to hold the picot in place. So when I make a Josephine ring of 6-6, it goes 6 2nd half stitches, picot, 1 1st half stitch, 6 2nd half stitches; the first half stitch in this last group is also the second half of the double stitch. The extra half stitch doesn't affect the size, but it keeps the picot from slipping out or turning wonky.

I tatted my peacock in size 80. The head, neck, and body are Lizbeth color 656 Wedgewood Dark. The legs are DMC color 579, a very pale yellow that doesn't show well against the white background. Tail feathers 1, 3, and 5 are Aqua Bay HDT by Yarnplayer (somehow Marilee ends up in my posts one way or another, doesn't she?). Tail feathers 2 and 4 are Blue Lagoon HDT by Tatskool. And of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone, but had to add beads. That's Fox's influence.

I've got big plans for this bird (that's the part I'm still hoping will work as intended). More on that later.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Earrings

I promised you earrings, and here they are.



Both of these patterns are from Marilee's latest, Beaded Tatting Finery. The top pair is "Cocoon", tatted in Lizbeth color 185 Arctic Waters. The bottom is "Time and Again", tatted in Lizbeth 607 Charcoal Medium and 662 Turquoise Light.

There are so many other things from Marilee's books that I have plans to make, but right now I'm actually in the middle of something else. I'm hoping that by tomorrow I'll be at a point where I can start showing pictures of that project. (I'm also hoping it will actually work out as planned...)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Necklaces

As promised, today I'm showing more of the jewelry I made over the summer, not necessarily in the order made.

The first necklace is one I made for a friend at the belly dance studio. She was the first person to welcome me to the studio when I went for my first class, because she was really the studio's one-woman welcome wagon. She is retired, so belly dancing has become her life, and she came to class six days a week-- the studio owner said, "She's there more than I am!", and it was true. She recently had to move away, and it's going to feel for a while like there's a hole where she should be. I just hope she's able to find a good belly dance studio in her new town, and that they welcome her as she welcomed all of us.

She always admired the tatted pieces that I sometimes wear to class, so I knew I had to make her something as a going-away present. I chose the thread color first (Lizbeth 137 Berry Burst) because I knew she liked those colors, then went through Marilee's books to find a pattern that would look good in that colorway.


This is the "Carnival" pendant from Boutique Tatting. I have to admit, it's a little bit of an odd assortment of beads, because I was using whatever was in my stash, and it turns out this colorway is kind of tricky to match beads to. But in the end, I'm happy with it, and I'm calling the bead mix eclectic. And she was delighted when she opened it, and that's all that really matters.

I also made a few necklaces for myself. Yesterday I mentioned that I didn't have any size 10 thread. Well, after I finished making the Duchess necklace, I went ahead and ordered some Lizbeth size 10 in a few different colors because several of Marilee's patterns do call for it. Doubling the size 20 worked perfectly well in a pinch, but it's so much easier to just have the right thread size to begin with, isn't it?

The first thing I made with my new size 10 thread was the "Celeste" set from Marilee's book Tatted Jewelry. The name of this set caught my eye because it also happens to be my sister's middle name.


This was done in color 619 Baby Pink. I've never been a fan of working with larger threads-- I find them harder on my hands-- but for small pieces like this, it was all right.

I did the center part of the necklace differently from what the directions said. Instead of starting in the middle, I started at one end so I could tat the whole center in one pass. Perhaps if I had done it Marilee's way, the two ends of that middle chain would be a little more symmetrical. Or maybe not. I don't know, but I've decided not to let it bother me (which is hard, but a good exercise, I think).

The next two necklaces were not designed by Marilee, but by Victoria Clarke from her PDF book Tatting the Stone. There are several very interesting pendant designs in there.

The first one I made is called "Eyes Inward".


This is Olympus size 40 thread in color M14, with some large purple beads that are so dark they almost look black, but not quite. This one was super quick and easy to tat up, and didn't require any blocking.

The final piece for today, from the same book, is called "Double Drop".


This one was a little trickier for me, and I think my tension must be different from Victoria's. All the patterns in this book call for size 40 thread, but when I tried it with this pattern, it just didn't work, even though I had measured the beads very carefully to make sure they were the right size. Luckily, when I like a thread color I buy it in different sizes, so I simply switched to size 20, and the problem was solved. This is Lizbeth 637 Country Grape Medium.

It was actually a good thing I had to start over, because at first I hadn't noticed that the beads had moons on them, and I accidentally had one of them upside-down. I'm glad I got that fixed before I got too far along.

The seed beads are my own addition, because I like the sparkle. If I tat this pattern again, and add seed beads again, I will try to find some different way of placing that one right above the top large bead, though, because I'm not entirely happy with the way the chains go around it. Of course, if I had just stuck with the directions, that wouldn't have happened, but when was the last time I did that? Again, I've decided not to let it bother me. At least, not too much.

I really like the lines in this design. The way the chains layer and join each other (except for that one spot that was all me) is very pleasing to my eye. I will definitely be tatting more patterns from this book.

The next post will be earrings. :)

P.S.-- I wore the Duchess and Princess set today, because I couldn't just relegate it to costume wear, could I? I wore it with an ordinary t-shirt, which was fuchsia so the teal thread really stood out, and got lots of nice comments.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Noble Gypsy Jewelry

Three. 3. THREE!!! That's how many times I had to restart this bloody computer before it would allow me to do anything. I normally try to avoid restarting it at all, because it takes f...o...r...e...v...e...r to get going again, but today I had no choice. Good thing I had no other plans.

So what else have I been doing in all the time I didn't post, besides putting flowers on a hat? Well, I've tatted a fair amount of jewelry. It was all my belly dance teacher's fault. She hosts a performance salon once or twice a month at a local Indian restaurant (yes, that would be Middle Eastern dancing at an Indian restaurant; I don't question it, I just watch, dance, and eat) for her students, fellow teachers, and friends from other studios to get used to performing in a friendly space. She recently taught us beginners a choreography to perform there and suggested gypsy-style costumes.

Note: I am aware that the real culture of the Romany people has nothing to do with the romanticized image of a "gypsy". It was that romanticized image that we were going for with our costumes, and no disrespect was intended to actual Romanies. End of discussion.

It so happened that I had a purple broomstick skirt in my closet that was perfect for a gypsy look. So I scoured the belly dance websites till I found a gypsy-looking top that would go with it; what I found was purple and teal, my favorite combination, with some gold embroidery. Add a teal hip scarf and some jewelry, and I was ready to go.

I had had a hankering for a while to tat Marilee's "Duchess" necklace, from her first book, Boutique Tatting, but hadn't been able to think of where I could wear it. It occurred to me that it could look kind of gypsy-ish if I wanted it to. I also remembered seeing earrings to match the necklace, but I couldn't remember where, so I e-mailed Marilee to ask. It turned out it was the "Princess" pattern from her latest book, Beaded Tatting Finery. I didn't have that one yet, or her third book Tatted Jewelry, but they had both been on my "want to get" list for a while, so I went ahead and ordered them both. Getting two new books naturally inspired me to tat lots of other pieces, from the new books and from the two of Marilee's books that I already had. Some of those pieces are completed, others are still on the to-do list.

Anyway, here's the Duchess and Princess set.


The thread is Lizbeth 661 Country Turquoise Medium. When I first started tatting the necklace, I thought it was turning out rather small. I rechecked the supply list (read twice, tat once) and realized that I needed size 10 thread, not size 20. I didn't have any size 10 and didn't want to wait, so I decided to start over and double the size 20. That worked very nicely; in fact, I think it helped give the necklace more "body" than simply tatting it in size 10 would have. The earrings actually call for size 20, so that was no problem.

For the costume, I added a second necklace of belly dancer-style gold coins-- just a single row, the simplest style they make-- and some gold bracelets and rings. For normal wear the tatted set works very well by itself.

And after all that, that's the only tatting picture I'm going to show you today. Teaser: I'll show more of what I've made this summer tomorrow.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

I'm Back, and It's Finished

Well, when I say I'm back, I never actually went anywhere, I just didn't blog for a while.

I sort of left you hanging with that last post, didn't I? Some of you may have guessed from the timing and the secretiveness that those pink things had something to do with Mother's Day, and many realized that they were the petals for Linda Davies' Stargazer Lilies.

After finishing the tatting, the petals (and the leaves, which I added) needed to be glued to short lengths of floral wire. I used Aleene's Flexible Stretchable glue.


While the glue was drying, I used floral tape to attach the stamens (which were "boughten", as my great-grandmother would have said) to a slightly heavier gauge floral wire.


Once the glue was dry, I used more tape to attach the petals around the stamens.



So there are the finished flowers, but what were they for? My mom is very sensitive to the sun, so she wears a lot of wide-brimmed hats, and she has a very particular style. I found this crocheted hat on Amazon, of all places.


It's a very nice hat, providing good sun protection yet breathable, and with a wire around the edge for shaping; and one of my mom's favorite colors, too. It's just a little plain, though, isn't it?

So I took some plain pin backs...


...attached the flowers to them...


...and pinned them to the hat.


This looked pretty good as it was, but a little empty (this was at least partly because I used size 40 thread instead of the size 20 the pattern calls for; but size 20, I felt, would have made the flowers too big). Plus, although you can't really see it in this photo, the pins really showed too much. I realized I would need a few more "boughten" items to fill in the gaps and cover the pins, so I went to Jo-Ann's, walked up and down every aisle twice, and chose these:


The flowers have little twist-ties on the back for attaching, and the butterflies have alligator clips. I poked the twist-ties through the holes in the hat so that these flowers would be between the tatted ones and covering the pins, and clipped one of the butterflies to one of the tatted lilies, and here is the final result.


Last week, I saw my parents and was able to deliver the hat in person-- only three months late, which is pretty good in our family!

I may not have been blogging lately, but I have been tatting, so I will show some other items soon.