Sunday, May 22, 2011

I think I may have come up with something. Which is always so much better than coming DOWN with something, right? But I haven’t seen this anywhere before and I find it intriguing.

Finalizing bookmark designs for my IOLI classes in early August, I was finishing a bookmark in pearl tatting and that “what if” intuition kicked in. What if… I used two threads in the pearl tatting method to tat a Josephine chain? I started with one color… hmmm… I could already see it looked intriguing. So I tried two.

Pearl tatting is also sometimes called Maltese tatting. Maltese in cats means gray, so I’m not sure how this form of tatting got dubbed Maltese. Maybe someone will tell me. Particularly because the Maltese ring, while similar to a Maltese (pearl tatted) chain is also quite different. Here is a started bookmark in three colors. I’ll be playing with this design a while longer, but in three colors, you can really see what this chain looks like.

Or almost. What you can’t quite see is the texture head-on. I can’t quite see it either unless I take off my glasses and regard it cross-eyed. (Easy for me, probably more difficult for you. But you can FEEL it.) Using two threads to tat the Josephine, you end up with something that looks more like rick-rack – it’s flatter than the usual Josephine or spiral chain. Which definitely makes it nicer for a bookmark.
Here’s how I tatted it –
Using one thread, I made five of the second half of the stitch, and then a sort of roll(not a stitch but a passing the shuttle over the thread to set the spiral; drop that first thread, pick up the second and repeat.

Try it and let me know what you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April was a totally wonderful month – but looking back, it seems to have gone by in a total blur. After a brief recovery from our Finger Lakes Tatting Seminars I was off to Spokane for the Shuttlebirds.

As always, it was totally wonderful! I’m always impressed when a large group of people work together like a beautifully choreographed dance, everyone moving quickly without bumping into anyone else and getting a lot done in a brief amount of time. Because I had the good fortune to be staying with Lillian D., who was this year’s food captain, I know how much pre-Tat Days work went into making the food look effortless, but there was also lots more to do in the kitchen once people started to arrive and it all happened smoothly. Patti Duff is the presiding genius behind this conference, and she manages to do it all, including answering a zillion different questions, without once losing her cool. Here's a photo of one of the projects I taught - tatted mittens. (They'll be in the November Tatting Times.)

Then I had a couple of weeks before the next big thing... and one of the things that happened was having the chance to get one of my favorite knitters started on spinning. Like vampires, spinners (and tatters) always want to get others bit by the same fiber obsessions. Most of the identifying features have been cropped out to protect the innocent... but look! She's very definitely spinning! This picture was taken weeks ago, by now she's probably got everything spun.

I’d been asked to teach at the end of April for the Blue Ridge Mountain lacemakers and tatters from the Keystone Lace Guild. I already knew a few of these ladies – world class tatters. I was also intrigued by the location – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

So, combining two interests, I spent a lot of time researching tatting at the time of America’s Civil War and it was fascinating. Most of us know that at the beginning of the 1860s, tatting had not progressed beyond the ring and the false chain (a bare thread over which button-hole stitches looking like double stitches were made with a sewing needle). By the end of the War, Madame Riego had introduced the true chain; the proliferation of home sewing machines had encouraged the manufacture of smoother threads - and tatting was off and running.
For this event I created a tatter’s adaptation of the “housewives” soldiers took off with them to war. A real one looks like this

It gave me food for thought.

The great day arrived and Bill and I, fortified with months of historical reading, packed the car and left for Gettysburg. Because my time was short, once we arrived we went to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where we took an interpreted walk with a park ranger, listened to a gaggle of embarrassed teenagers recite the Gettysburg Address under a bust of Lincoln. There was a lot of side-poking, giggling, toe-scraping and other recognizable fidgets of teens under duress – but the speech was incredibly moving anyway.

We also went to the top of Little Round Top, a Union stronghold, and drove around to various memorials, including the “Bloody Angle” where charging Confederate troops were slaughtered as they tried unsuccessfully to breach Union lines. We met a lot of people in costume or uniform, well-prepared for at least five years of high-intensity re-enactment.

The following day, I went to Needle and Thread who hosted the group. This is a beautiful fabric store near Gettysburg, specializing in Civil War era reproduction fabrics. Actually, I’d gone the day before to shop a bit, because I knew I’d be tempted. And I was! And knowing that fiber stuff makes the best souvenirs, I gave into temptation. Darlene and Carl, the owners, were wonderfully welcoming, and their selection of goodies made me think about making one of those Civil War reproduction quilts. Just thinking…. Only thinking! Carl told Bill the wool they stock for re-enactors' uniforms is made by the same mill in England that wove the wool worn by the soldiers 150 years ago. Bill went back to the battlefields and walked around looking at things from the Confederate viewpoint while we had our class.

But I'm not sewing quilts for fun yet, because there’s a lot more tatting to do. I’ve got patterns to proof tat for the next set/s of classes, and a bit of everyday sewing to work on – for example, I’ve got a lot of fabric and a kind of hybrid quilt-batting/foam rubber stuff to turn into chair-pads. And knitting – I did finish two pairs of socks-in-progress, and a good thing too, it’s been cold enough to need them. In the photo, they're being inspected by our "invisible" cat.

Of course, I started another pair, I had a bout of dental work and I was expecting a lot of time in the waiting room. This incidentally didn’t happen, so the new socks are still on my needles. As is – on a different set of needles – a summer sweater I’ve begun for whatever summer festivities arise requiring an interesting shell. I’m not very far along with it, but then again, neither is the season. (Is it ever going to be summer this year? I have my doubts.)

So… back to the tatted housewives. I made bunches (and still have a few left) wide enough to hold tatting needles. This is mine – I’ve been learning needle tatting which is a challenge after the speed of shuttle-tatting. (The motif on the cover will be in the August Tatting Times.)

I take my hat off to those who shuttle tat, particularly those who shuttle tat beautifully and swiftly. Like Carolyn, who was in the class and already finished the project. Here’s Carolyn’s beautiful work. The thread was my HDT in the “Sunset” colorway. Way to go, Carolyn!

I had a wonderful time with the Blue Mountain lace group, multi-talented people who are terrific tatters as well.