Monday, January 28, 2008

Tatting, or the lack of it

This is a Suncatcher I designed for Nell. I was working from a picture of a snowflake trying to re-create it in lace. It doesn't really look like the picture, but it came out looking pretty. When I get a minute (HA!) I'll re-do it in colour with beads.

At the moment I have the piece I showed earlier, which is still incomplete. I have a bookmark with woven picots that I did the drawing for, and then realized that in thread, what I had drawn was going to require very long split chains with joins on the split chains. It's do-able, but it's a stinker, so I cut it off for a design that is less like the picture in my head and more like something the average tatter can do without becoming stark raving mad.

I had the idea that the bookmark would be a gift for a guy, but the dimpled hearts just scream feminine, so I need to create yet another design tout de suite.

Another of the designs I'm working on is looking more like an amoeba that what it's supposed to be and I'm glad I used the ever plentiful white thread for the test run rather than the colours I was going to use. I have 3 variations of appendages and none of them is quite right yet. Facial features may be a total write off.

I'm itching to start on the petit point to tatting design and I have it all charted out and ready to start but there are other things getting in the way. (see above)

I'm thinking of applying as an instructor at the Creative Festival, but I might be too late for the Spring show. If I miss it I may try for the Fall show.

In the mean time today is my day to sort out all of the round robin entries and contact people about THAT, and here I sit writing in a blog. Can you say Procrastinate?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thread Shopping

I had the opportunity to visit a lovely little shop in Woodbridge called The Enchanted Needle looking for some tatting threads. The shop

has supplies for all kinds of needlework including Cross Stitch, Tapestry and Knitting as well as Finishing and they have a room for classes. I had a chance to talk with the store's proprietors Christiane and Julia whose work in all manner of needle arts, adorn the walls of the shop.

Their spring class schedule is filled up, but Christiane has my card and may need me to come back and teach tatting in the fall.

I went looking for Valdani thread and a brief search of the internet indicated that they were the closest store that carried these threads. Apparently someone else had the same idea and had come in last week and wiped out their stock. That's OK, I managed to pick up a couple of balls in colours I like, so I'll have a play with them later.

The other things I went looking for were balls of perle cotton thread for a project I have been dying to try out for a while. I want to do a petit point design in tatting and it requires specific shades of colour. I didn't find the shades I needed, so I bought the embroidery floss instead. I hope one skein of each colour is enough. I hate having to rely on stores like WalMart and Michaels because they never seem to have what I need. They carry a lot of materials for general purpose crafting, but if you need something like a specific shade of thread, you have to go to a specialty shop.

O yeah, the other balls of thread? They were just sitting there in the thread drawer next to the Valdani thread and they were just such pretty shades of DMC perle cotton size 8 in the same pink/plum colour I felt I had to bring them home and of course I needed a contrast colour, didn't I? Besides the blue went nice with the variegated Valdani. And the red? It's DMC Perle 12. I seem to use up red faster than I bring it home and I'm down to half a ball of red perle which isn't enough to make much of anything with. I mean really, how can you NOT tat red hearts when Valentine's day is fast approaching.

I don't stash thread, I use it, a lot of it. I showed DH another empty core from a ball of size 20 Royale I don't see a weight on it, but I'm guessing about 50 grams and it's 400 yards of thread. I'm blessed with a sweetheart for a husband. His only words were, where do we get more. Gotta love him.

Now that I have my thread I'd better get tatting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Many years ago I tatted an edging from Janet Carroll's book Elegant Tatting patterns and attached to to a hanky. I used sewing thread put out by Mettler that was quite fine and it seemed to me to tat up much finer that size 80, so I'm guessing that it would be around size 100. The design is almost all rings.
Put a fine thread together with a pattern that has a lot of rings and you get a disaster looking for a place to happen. The thread broke. About every 6 inches or so, it broke. Usually it broke at the base of the ring I had just completed leaving me with a core thread about a quarter of an inch long. I learned many creative ways of hiding old ends and new ends.
One of the things that I learned is that when you have 2 old threads and 2 new threads to hide,
sometimes it is better to unwind enough thread from the shuttle so that it can be used as a "ball" thread (wound CTM) so that you only have the 2 old threads to hide at the break and you can work a little bit further using the tail of the shuttle thread so that when it runs out you can introduce a new thread and hide the 2 new threads at another location.
I was being "clever" when I started this hanky and I started at the corner and designed the corner "on the fly" when I got to the second corner I decided that I didn't like my first corner treatment. I figured no problem, I'd just change the design to something I liked better and fix the first corner when I got to the end. So I made a change to the corner design and kept on working around the hanky tatting the edging directly on to the hanky as I went, breaking threads every few inches.
Then I got to the last corner and on the last pattern repeat of the 4th side, the thread broke. No matter how I worked it I was going to have 6 ends to hide. 2 old ends, 2 new ends plus matching it up to the starting end which I had cleverly decided that I would CUT off and replace the first corner treatment which adds 2 starting ends. That was six ends to hide inside one cloverleaf, in addition to making joins not into picots, but into the teeny little bump of thread on the opposite side of the join.
Those of you who have done this kind of repair know what I am talking about, but for those of you new to tatting. Think of how you make a join. You pull a loop of thread through the picot and put the shuttle through the loop. Then you pull the loop back down. Now imagine that the picot is cut. All that is left on the other side is the strand of thread that went through the loop. So now imagine that you are working with really fine thread. That means that there isn't enough room to get a hook under that loop, there is barely enough room for a strand of thread.
When I cut off the starting corner I worked it so that I had the minimal amount of crazy backward joins to do. I cut the starting corner and hid the old thread finger tatting toward the corner. Then I undid part of the last pattern repeat on the fourth side added in new thread and hid 2 of the ends. I worked the first ring of the corner clover leaf and then the second ring. I managed to hide all of the ends even the itty bitty quarter inch ends, heaved a sigh of relief and closed the last ring. Whereupon the the thread broke.
See this pretty hanky? It's sewn onto the tatting board I use to show people what tatting is. Notice how you can't see the 4th corner? I know when to quit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lovely surprise

I received a truly unbelievable surprise last week. Nell sent me a beautifully made tatted cross done in a vintage ecru thread either size 70 or 80. Isn't it exquisite?

In addition to this marvellous lace she sent me ....are you ready for this.... An ENGLISH Aero. It just blows me away that someone who loves Aeros as much as I do would be so generous as to share one of these irreplaceable treasures. I have 3 English Aeros and I love them and use them all the time. Two of mine were broken in the same way in the same week. After years of using them exclusively, I went to load a shuttle by putting the bobbin on the back and the shuttle snapped up close to the hook end when I was winding thread. I guess they had just been flexed once too often. Both were probably bought at the same time and got used the same amount. I bought 2 more Aeros to replace them, but they were German made Aeros and not the same at all.

Having a clever hubby though, he did a quick repair filling in the inside of the shuttle with hot glue right under the break and I've been using the repaired shuttles for years. You can tell a product is exceptionally good when you'd rather use it broken than another, different one. Thanks so much Nell, it's just wonderful.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Round Robin Tatting

The tatting community used to participate in numerous round robins. Many of them were hosted by Etha Schuette "Maus" so that we all got to see what wonderful laces were being made. Often the things created were one of a kind and the designers graciously shared their patterns with us. Pirating of the treasures from that site led to it being shut down, which was too bad because it was a source of endless inspiration.

Recently I was asked if there were any round robins currently going on and there aren't that I can find, but several people have expressed interest in doing a round robin. Others don't know what a round robin is. Just so that I don't keep repeating myself, this is how a round robin works.

A round robin is kind of like an exchange except that it has 3 or more participants. They may be making individual motives or they may be working on larger items like a doily. Before they start everyone is given a list of the likes and dislikes of the participants. For example one person might want fine thread and another only size 20. One might want beads included and another might want everything done in purple to match their decor. The names (real names) addresses both email and street addresses are shared among the participants. All of the participants agree on a project type like snowflakes, hearts, butterflies, bookmarks, doilies etc. All of the participants work within a specified time table.

These hearts were from a round robin I participated in some years ago and they have been appliqued onto a shirt so that I can see them and use them regularly. I wanted everything in pink or red and no beads because I expected to wear the shirt often.

Let's say for example that the round robin is for 3 inch snowflakes done in size 20 thread (or 40 Olympus, or 8 DMC perle, see my earlier post on thread sizes) and each snowflake is to be completed in one month. So if we have 5 participants, let's label them A, B, C, D, and E it works like this:

Each participant tats a 3 inch snowflake, it may be their original design or it might be a published design and before the one month deadline they mail it to the next person on the list.

A sends to B, B sends to C, C sends to D, D sends to E, E sends to A


When each participant receives their first package, they take a look at the snowflake and tat a second different snowflake and within a month send both snowflakes on to the next person on the list.

Each month the participants receive a package containing the snowflakes done by other participants, they look at what has already been done and tat another snowflake different from the ones in the package. They have the opportunity to see other people's handiwork and admire their skills and in turn they have the opportunity to have their own skills admired by others. After 6 months the participants will each get back their original package with the snowflake they tatted and 4 new ones, one each from the other participants. So they will tat and give 5 snowflakes and receive 5 different snowflakes (the starting snowflake they give to themselves).

A variation on this is a round robin for designing doilies where each participant starts a doily centre and then passes it on. Each participant designs and tats a round for the doily and passes it on so that A does the first row, B does the second row, C does the third row, D does the fourth row and E does the final row before returning it to A. This type of round robin gives each tatter the opportunity to practice designing and they only have to create one row at a time. Since doilies get larger with each row they often use a staggered schedule where the first row is forwarded in 2 weeks and the last row is given 2 or 3 months. Schedules also have to be adjusted when international robins are done to allow for increased shipping times. At the end, each participant has a new, one of a kind doily.

Others can enjoy the fun of these challenges vicariously when the pictures of the tatting are posted regularly. Each person takes a scan or digital picture and posts it on the internet for everyone to see. So as the snowflakes, hearts, bookmarks or rounds of the doilies are completed pictures are posted where everyone can enjoy them. Sometimes, where the patterns are original the designers may choose to provide the pattern as well.

If you would like to participate in a round robin email me at the address shown. If there is enough interest I will see about setting one up. Let me know at what skill level you consider yourself and whether or not you would be interested in an international round robin. Bear in mind that a round robin is a commitment of some time.

Note: The reason for the email address in the picture at the right, is so that people can email me. Contacting people through blogs is time consuming and when I match folks up with partners I'll need home addresses so that the round robin packages can be sent. So if you want to join the round robin, please contact me by email so that I can get back to you with your group of happy tatters and their addys. Please and thanks folks.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The perception of Art

I have just asked the following questions on several tatting lists.

If you went into an art gallery to see a tatting exhibit what would you expect to see? What would you like to see? What kind of tatting exhibit would make the world at large sit up and say WOW! ?

When I was thinking about how to talk about tatting to an audience that has no pre-conceived notions about the subject, I was at a loss to think of a way of describing it to give it greater appeal to a non tatting audience. Whether you are a tatter or not, when you think of tatting you invariably think of doilies and edgings as making a size able portion of tatted objects, but those of us who are tatters know that there are other things, non traditional things you can do with tatting. I've designed a lot of 3D objects like flowers, snowflakes, and snowmen but then I thought about what I might create to showcase tatting. What would I tat if I were putting on an art show for tatting. Doilies and edgings didn't even make the list.

To be considered by the average person as "Art" it has to be out of the ordinary. That might mean something so large that it is awesome because of it's size, or something so exquisitely tiny that it boggles the mind. We don't always think of tatting as something to be framed, but entire scenes could be created in tatted lace. Unusual objects like Jane's tattysaurus or the tatted fairies done by (I think it was) Celtic, or Carol's gingerbread house or Mark's geisha are all possibilities. It's the non traditional items that make people sit up and take notice.

What kinds of tatted objects have you seen that would belong in a tatting art show? Maybe you're not a designer but you'd like to see someone make a ________ ? What would say Art to you?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tatting on Living in Toronto

Anyone going into a craft store is going to be bombarded with all kinds of crafts that can be done in an hour. Projects that take mere minutes and give instant gratification and things that fall apart as quickly as they are made. Tatting isn't such a craft.

Anyone tuning in to Living in Toronto today saw Mary Ito make her first little tatted butterfly.

A tiny bit of nothing to learn a skill that will create all manner of lace and unlikely lace objects. How about a turtle? This one doubles as a pin cushion.Or what about a pair of skates?

These aren't the kind of projects you think of when you talk about fibre arts, yet they are tatted objects. If you'd like to take lessons in tatting please visit my web site and click on the link for Lessons. (
If you need to reach me, my primary email address is sharon at gagechek dot com or my lace address is sharon at tattedlace dot com. I've just discovered that the email redirect from the Tattedlace domain isn't working right. So if anyone has been trying to contact me, it has be changed now to my primary address and will come through. Sorry for the problem guys.
For those of you who would like to view the show on line click on this link to visit the Living in Toronto web site.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Look ma, I'm going to be on TV.

Well it looks like the CBC - Living in Toronto episode about tatting will air Wednesday January 9th at 1:00 PM. If you aren't able to get CBC you can view it on the web site. This is the part where I cross my fingers and hope I don't look like a total idiot on national TV. You know those times in your life when in retrospect you do a lot of thinking about woulda, coulda, shoulda? That's how I've been feeling about this show lately. I keep hoping that their editing department makes me look smarter than I am.
The flower pictured here is from my book Transitions in Tatting from Flat to Floral. It measures about 2.5 inches across and it was tatted in Opera size 20. The construction is such that it doesn't flatten out like the carnations I did for my wedding veil.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


I started replying to comments and then figured it would be just as easy to reply here. Our first digital camera was given to us, but lately we've been getting the 'out of range' message more and more often. It seems like after over 20 years of use, it's finally giving out so getting a new one was becoming more and more of a necessity. Since 3D subjects like the snowmen here, just don't fit in the scanner. Bad angle, bad lighting, shaky hands and still it takes a decent picture. Going from 1 to 12 megapixels makes a huge difference.
We got a Kodak Z1275 and it's a nice little 12 megapixel camera, add in the 5x zoom and it's pretty sweet. At the time Rob took the picture of Dusty she had her feathers all fluffed up. The sort of pixellated look of the feathers on the top of Dusty's head is just the look of the individual feathers.
The focal point for the macro is about 8 inches and each time I've tried to get hubby to test it, the batteries have been dead. He's been running it nearly non-stop since we got it home and each time I've reminded him to test out the macro the batteries have been shot. So, we've tried it to know that it works, but the camera shuts off because the batteries are shot.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Toy

The camera, not the bird. This may mean a pod cast is in the future. Going from 1.5 megapixels to 12 is like going from night to day. This little stinker is good for a couple of hours of filming and does terrific macro shots. I haven't had a chance to play yet, hubby is still tinkering with it. Once we got it home he was all set to return it until he discovered that it would do video too, so that was a nice bonus.