Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hedgehog Chocolates

My mom is allergic to fur and feathers, and that is how, when I was young, I came to have a hedgehog for a pet. She was a cute little African Pygmy Hedgehog, and we named her Miss Tiggywinkle after Beatrix Potter's hedgehog washerwoman. So when I was browsing Mary Konior's Tatting Patterns and came across the pattern she calls Hedgehogs, I knew I had to make it soon. But it wasn't till I was brainstorming how to decorate my chocolate box for Isdihara's awesome contest that I knew where. In the book the pattern is an edging, and apparently designed not by Mary Konior, but by Lady Hoare. I took just one repeat though, to make a little hedgehog for my box. You have to use your imagination to see him, as he is more a suggestion of a hedgehog than a clearly defined one, but I think he's rather cute. The two rows of Chain Reaction (a pattern that is designed by Mary Konior) are his hedges, of course! At the moment he is wandering in the open field snuffling for insects and grubs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In Which I Actually Drink Tea

Because I really must make a Tatting Tea Tuesday post at least once, even if (pause to gasp) I actually do not like tea. Which I don't. At all. However, it is the perfect day for tea, as this peek out my window proves. So I decided to try some Vanilla Chai.
Every time I tell my tea-drinking friends that I do not like tea, they assure me that if I try chai I will love it. I've tried it before and I don't love it. But it is ok.
The main reason I am drinking it today though is that this teabag came slipped into a card from my friend Jessica. Yes, the Jessica I tatted a wedding doily for in July. So this tea is most suitable for a tatting day.
It also seems fitting, since my tea comes from a newlywed, that my piece of tatting for today is a heart. This is Betsy Evans' Small Tatted Heart. I've seen this pattern before, but only in a diagram, never a picture of it actually tatted up. This is probably why I've not been struck by its beauty before. Just yesterday, though, I ran across it on a blog, and knew I needed to try it. So I picked up a shuttle that was already wound with size 10 thread, and started it immediately. (That's how it came out yellow -- I think the last thing I tatted with this shuttle was Jeff's Sine Wave Star.) I am quite pleased with the results. This is an elegant little heart, and it fits my stringent requirements for heart patterns. For me to like a heart pattern, it must look like a heart. There are a lot of patterns out there that only suggest hearts and just aren't shaped enough like a heart to please me. This one does please me. But I would never have guessed it would from the diagram, so I guess my lesson for today (after "Chai is ok") is that one should always give a poor little pattern a chance before dismissing it!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Halloween was over a week ago, yes. But here is a delayed reflection on the tatting that my Halloween involved. I didn't wind up tatting any ghosts or pumpkins or other themed patterns (although I have been eying Jane's spider -- wonderfully simple and effective pattern, the kind that motivates me to learn the involved technique it uses, not so that I know the technique, but so that I can make the pattern!). The tatting that did make into my Halloween was just a simple edging.
You see, the part of Halloween that I have always loved the most is dressing up. I don't go in for any of the store-bought princess or witch costumes -- the ones made of the thinnest shiny cloth you've ever seen, all in a one-piece dress. Nor the headed and footed dinosaur costumes, although the right one of those can look great. The only store-bought costumes that have ever entered my family's house were a puppy dog suit and a tiger suit for my two little brothers when they were about 6 and 8. They were so cute that that was definitely worth it. But normally when my family dresses up we prefer to make our own outfits out of clothes we own already or buy at the thrift store. I've been a cat before, by dressing entirely in black and making myself cat ears out of a headband and construction paper. Or my brother dressed up as a 19th century insane asylum escapee -- he began the party in a "straightjacket" made out of a long-sleeved dress shirt, and gradually disguised himself to assimilate into society with a top hat and tailcoat. Naturally I and my sister and brother (he of the tiger suit, now grown up into a teenager) were delighted to be invited by some friends to go Creepy Caroling on Halloween this year. This involved dressing up in Victorian clothes and going door-to-door singing carols with suitably spooky subjects. There were a couple parodies of Christmas carols, such as "Hark the Streptococcus brings / Strep sore throat to all who sing", a song from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas, and an H.P. Lovecraft song about a man surrounded by Fish-Men. My sister and I, however, were sold at the point where we dressed up in Victorian clothes. We scoured the thrift stores and found long skirts and vaguely Victorian jackets. I made myself a wide-brimmed bonnet out of cloth and cardboard, and was very proud of finding a blazer with lapels that could be pinned up so that it looked like a high collared blouse. It was white, and I realized that a jabot would be exactly the thing.
So, rummaging around in my drawers of tatting-related items, I found a handkerchief that I had edged in white many years ago when I was first learning to tat. I pinned it at my throat with a cameo-type pin, and voila -- a repurposed jabot which did not cost me any money at all.
Of course, it would have been nice to have a jabot completely of lace, and I already considering the idea for next year. I have such plans for caroling next year. The late Victorian era is of course when tatting first hit the scene, and the Victorian style lends itself so beautifully to abundances of lace. In addition to a full-lace jabot, I would love to make a little reticule to carry around my wrist. My friends and I are much too old to trick-or-treat, and we looked on this simply as a fun outing to bless other people with singing, not to obtain candy from them. But since it was Halloween night, everyone opened their door intending to give candy, and while we continually repeated "No, thank you," there were several elderly couples who refused to take no for an answer. There's a point at which you bless people far more by letting them give you something than by refusing it, so we wound up with about 8-10 pieces of candy each, and the poor gentlemen in our party had bulging coat pockets from trying to accommodate the carrying needs of all the ladies whose skirts were pocketless. Hence a reticule would have a practical purpose. But far beyond practical purposes, I have designs boiling around in my head now which I am itching to execute. I would like to make it of black cloth, largely circular and with a drawstring, and cover the cloth with black lace. I love tone-on-tone looks, and it would be fairly easy to find a doily pattern which I could use to make lace of the same circumference as the bag. Or perhaps I should try to design or alter a pattern into a cylinder shape, to eliminate excess folds in the bag. I could also try to make this bag functional year-round, by doing something similar to the bag Frivolina recently showed, which has pockets for shuttles and space for thread, and opens out flat into a nice work surface when spread on a table. Perhaps it is a little pathetic to be so excited about something 11 months away, but I cannot wait to tat more Victorian costume elements. There are so many possibilities!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Ebay Funny

In browsing tatting shuttles on eBay I came across this description


This may in fact be true. People may use shuttles to hold thread while embroidering. I wouldn't know. But it amuses me, this being the main thing used to explain a shuttle. Perhaps we could explain a tatting shuttle better by saying that it is used for, oh, I don't know, .... tatting?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wedding Present

When I was 9 years old, I was the oldest of five kids, and like all good homeschooling families, we went on educational camping trips. Ok, I am sure that there are good homeschooling families out there that hate camping. And there are probably even some that take vacations that have nothing to do with learning. Maybe. At any rate, we were at Fort Clatsop, happily learning about Lewis and Clark who made candles out of tallow, when we noticed another family. Not just any old family. Another family with five kids! Just our ages. Conversation led to conversation and the discovery that we were camping at the same campgrounds led to a joint s'more night and grown-ups discussing homeschooling and churches while all of the ten kids except the ones who couldn't walk yet darted around trees and bushes playing hide-n-seek in the dark. Afterwards our moms pushed Jessica and me, the firstborns, together and strongly suggested that we be penpals. I was ambivalent about this idea, but soon we were exchanging letters like this one, and I discovered that having a penpal was awesome. We kept each other's mailboxes full of long letters, valentines, Easter cards, and birthday cards, and candles, photo collages, bookmarks, and doilies for gifts. I became a connoisseur of stationary and collected an entire boxful ready for more letters. In high school and college our output dwindled to less than a letter a year, but come June this year I found one last envelope in my mailbox: a beautiful wedding invitation! Touching story, you say, but what does this have to do with tatting?Well, I knew immediately what Jessica and her fiance needed for a wedding present. For my high school graduation present, Jessica had given me a crocheted doily, and every time I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she would ask for something for her hope chest and hint, "Your tatting is always so pretty..." I never did make her anything bigger than a motif or a bookmark, so here was the opportunity to mend that error. For a wedding present, she needed the largest tatted doily I could find a pattern for. My tatting book collection is small yet, and I turned to the Tatter's Treasure Chest as the only source of large doilies I owned. It had to be large and elaborate, befitting a once-in-a-lifetime gift occasion, but it also had to be absolutely beautiful. I wanted to look at it and not be able to stop looking and I wanted something I thought Jessica would feel the same way about. Along the lines of picking something Jessica would like, I wanted it to look old-fashioned, although with a little modern sleekness to it, not completely Victorian, but just a bit updated. That left a lot of stools to fall between, and while I do love the doily I chose, I'm not sure it met all these criteria to the fullest. But I do think it is beautiful and I hope Jessica thinks so too. I chose the Wild Rose doily. Here it is started:

As you can see, I have a big honkin' ball of ecru thread there. I picked this up at a garage sale, already wound into this ball, so I don't know the brand or the size or even the age. But it tats up pretty nicely and looks to be about a 30 or 40. There were about two months from when I received the invitation at the beginning of June until the wedding at the end of July, so I worked on this doily nearly every night and the week before the wedding all nine motifs were finished and a Wild Rose doily was born.
This is the first piece of tatting I ever blocked. Yes, I have been tatting for ten years.
No, I kid you not. My tension is pretty tight normally and I have so far remained lazy and just avoided floppy patterns altogether. But now I finally had motivation, and this doily had to be perfect. So I found a big towel, laid it over cardboard, washed my doily and pinned the fight out of every picot. Or at least every picot I had pins and time for. It.took.for.ever. I am not going to be a fan of blocking anytime soon. But I blocked Jessica's wedding present.
Then the next day I pulled out every single pin and wrapped it up in red tisssue paper. Here is a close-up on one of the motifs.
And a look at the pattern made in the center.
I feel a love-hate relationship with the negative space in this doily. The original pattern prescribes some long chains to fill the space, the
idea I suppose being to look like stems that the "roses" of the motifs are growing from. I think the chains are stunningly ugly. So I left them out. I wanted to figure out a small design to fill in the resultant space. But by the time I arrived there, it felt like that moment my high school watercolor teacher always lectured us on: the point where it doesn't quite feel done and the temptation is to mess with it and put on this color or that color (this motif or that motif) and by the time you've played around for another hour, the picture is just overdone. And you wish you
could go back to that moment when it didn't feel quite done, because it was better then. It really was done. My teacher impressed very firmly on us that you just have to know when to stop. So I decided this was when to stop. Here is the finished Wild Rose doily in all its glory.
It and the red tissue paper and my family and I went off to Jessica's town and we watched her marry her man and Jessica and I had a joyful reunion in the bathroom after the ceremony, and we ate pasta salad and cake and came home happy. I give you a deliberately blurry picture of the happy event in order to foil anyone who may want to stalk Jessica or her family.

This is the 13th summer I've known Jessica, and we'll probably correspond for many more. Maybe sometime soon I'll have an excuse to tat her some baby booties.

Monday, July 26, 2010


In general I just tat what I want to tat. This results in a long backlog of patterns that I am doing because I fell in love with them visually, not because I have anything constructive to do with them. I think this is pretty normal for lace makers. But I've recently started trying to do something that is also pretty normal for lace makers, at least for all the tatters I've found blogging: tat things to be given as gifts. So I'm starting with these simple little bracelets.

It's just a row of split rings with a square of block tatting to be drawn through the last ring to fasten the bracelet. I came up with this pattern years ago while learning split rings and reading Judith Connor's Tatting with Beads, but it's so simple that it doesn't really count as my own design. Anyway, these are just the right size to be included in a card, so I plan to send a lot of them to my girl friends as birthday presents or just because presents. I've been having fun picking just the right color for each girl. These also work well with variations, like adding picots, or alternating a ring with a square throughout the bracelet. I prefer the non-picot version, though -- most of the time what I look for in jewelry is a streamlined, simple, and classy design. I've seen a lot of tatted jewelry in books that I hate, so it took me a long time to believe that good tatted jewelry was possible. But nowadays I see more and more beautiful pieces every day, and I have quite reformed my position.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Imperfect Post

This blog has been turning over in my head like an insomniac at night for weeks now, but I keep putting off starting it because I cannot think of a perfect idea for a first post. I have decided this is ridiculous. If I don't start I will never start. So here is an imperfect post for you all.

This upside down picture is of a little doodle to use up the thread on this shuttle which I bought on ebay. I am quite pleased with this shuttle and the two others from the same lot. They are all plastic post shuttles, old enough that I have no idea of the brand, and they are actually the first shuttles I have used in ten years of tatting that are not bobbins. I started out quite spoiled, with metal bobbin shuttles with a built-in hook. I know that some people would hate that type of shuttle, but I love them. I love them so much, in fact, that I was afraid that I would hate post shuttles for the lack of a hook. Fortunately I have adjusted pretty well to using a needle to make joins, and in fact this method is much better for tiny threads which the large hook on my bobbin shuttles necessarily distorts. From now on I shall use the post shuttles for smaller threads, and save my bobbin shuttles for 20s and 10s.