Last week, a friend of mine asked me to show her how to tat. But what pattern to use? Paging through my usual internet resources, I ended up drawing up my own version of a basic clover leaf for the first try:
It’s just three rings, with four double knots between the picots:
- ring: 4-4-4-4
- ring: 4+4-4-4
- ring: 4+4-4-4
A minus between the numbers means a picot, a plus shows where a connection to the previous ring needs to be made instead of a picot.
My friend got this one down pretty fast, but where to go from there? Looking at my blog archives, the previous posts on tatted flowers and tatted jewellery don’t look exactly beginner-friendly. So, back to the marvel that is Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf we go. There’s just two dedicated tatting books in there. The flowers in the previous post came from the Bath Tatting Book, which doesn’t have any easy patterns. The second, Étoile dorée in Tatting, has only text descriptions and a few drawings where you can’t see any detail. So, those are dead ends.
However, if you know where to look, a few of the general needlework books have tatting instructions and patterns. Whenever I have forgotten how to tat, I go back to the Encyclopedia of Needlework, since I find the basic instruction in there to be pretty clear to me. For easyish patterns, I like to look in Beeton’s Book of Needlework, which starts with an extensive tatting section. There are some straightforward lace edgings in there that would be good practice for a beginner. Here’s one I’ve made before:
The description for this one in the book is quite clear:
This insertion consists of 2 rows of three-branched patterns which lie opposite each other, and are joined by slanting rows of knots. A coloured silk ribbon is drawn through these rows which join the patterns. Each of the 3 branches of 1 pattern consists of 9 double, 1 purl, 9 double, and must be worked close to another. When the 3rd branch is completed, fasten another piece of cotton on to the middle branch. Work 12 double over this 2nd piece of cotton, and then work without the 2nd piece of cotton a 2nd three-branched pattern like the 1st.* Fasten the 2nd piece of cotton on to the middle branch of the just-finished pattern, work 12 double over it, then again a three-branched pattern; in this pattern as well as in the following ones, instead of working the purl of the 1st branch, fasten it on to the purl of the 3rd branch of the preceding three-branched pattern of the same row, as can be seen in illustration. Repeat till the strip of insertion is sufficiently long.
Instead of fastening another piece of thread to the work after finishing the first set of rings, I usually leave the ball of thread attached after filling the shuttle. The thread going towards the ball can then be used as the second thread.
Here are a few more edgings from the same book that I think would be beginner-friendly:
So, that’s what I found just by looking in the most obvious place for me. I’m sure there’s much more to be found around the internet. I’d be happy to hear about any beginner’s resources you particularly like.
Wandering around Greenwich on my trip to London a few weeks ago, I also ventured into Queen’s House, lured in by a poster that had of all things something fibery on it! And my eyes weren’t deceiving me. There’s currently an exhibit by Alice Kettle at Queen’s House, named The Garden of England. It’s still running till August 18, 2013, so if you’re in the area go ahead and have a look, it’s free! It’s a small exhibit, just four or five pieces, but it seems to have left an impression on me, since my mind has been wandering around making flowers lately.
Flowers have long been a favourite motif for all kinds of needlework, so I started to rummage in historical needlework books. First, my favourite source, Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf. Since I want to create free-standing flowers, to be applied to a larger piece later, I skipped the embroidery books and landed on the Bath Tatting Book. On closer inpection it turns out that the first three doilys presented there have a small flower as their basic unit. Just what I was looking for!
I then realized that my last tatting projects were long enough ago that I had forgotten how to make the knots. Another favourite to the rescue: the Encyclopedia of Needlework has the clearest tatting instructions I’ve ever come across. Half an hour later I was up and running. Here’s what I made:
What I did not expect just from looking at the pictures and a cursory readthrough of the instructions, was that the flowers are actually three-dimensional. I started with the rose shown in the middle. Here’s the doily it comes from:
On the left there’s the cornflower from this doily:
On the right is the sorry attempt at the chrysanthemum from this doily:
I’ve currently given up on that one. There’s a lot of picots and not many double knots holding them in place, so they tend to turn round or vanish when you’re not looking. Even after looking closely, in the current round I’m never quite sure if I’m tying to the correct loop, since those are loops I already tied to in the previous round. And there’s lots more of that kind of stuff coming when creating the spirals on the outer edge of the flower. I think the result would be stunning, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull it off. I may try to pick it up again in a few days or so.
In response to my Needlework for Today post, CateranLlama commented with an interesting idea:
Tatting! No, seriously, find a pair of biggish (plainish) beads you really like and tat a few lacy loops around ‘em and finish ‘em off with earring hooks.
This is really in the spirit of what I was getting at in that post: a small, wearable piece of needlework, worked in a technique you don’t see that often. So I asked her to demonstrate, and that’s what she came up with:
If you want to play as well, CateranLlama wrote up what she did to create these. If you don’t know how to tat, the Encyclopedia of Needlework has a description in chapter 10, and the terms used there are the same as in the instructions:
Select a pair of beads. The holes need to be on the large side, but make sure the beads aren’t too heavy to wear comfortably. Note that you’ll end up with two strands of thread with knots on it inside the hole. Wind your shuttle with comfortably-sized thread. I used a medium-to-fine crochet thread instead of something really tiny because my sample beads have sharp edges and I didn’t want them cutting the thread mid-way through. If you use a smaller thread, use either smaller beads or increase the numbers of stitches.
Create a decorative structure to hang below the bead. I used a clover-leaf-like structure, but in theory anything that could support two small picots along the top edge would work. Mine is three double, small picot, five double, slightly larger picot, four double, small picot, three double, tighten up the loop. Three double, attach to second small picot of previous loop, five double, slightly largish picot, five double, small picot, three double, tighten up the loop. Three double, attach to second picot of previous loop, four double, slightly largish picot, five double, small picot, three double, tighten up the last loop. Cut this off the shuttle (and don’t loose it!)
Figure out which end the decorations should be on, and feed the string back through the bead from this end. Tat a few double stitches, make a small picot, tat one bead-length’s doubles plus three or four, hook it on to one of the small picots on the side of your decorative structure then add enough double stitches to go back up the other side. Tighten it up, cut it off. (Note that tightening it up is the hardest part of the whole process. Don’t be afraid to pull the decorative part partially back into the bead to work with the stitches inside.) Here’s an illustration of how working with the bead in the loop should look like:
Feed the string back through the same end, do the same kind of loop-making as above.
So at this point, you should have a bead with two loops of double stitches around it. Each loop should have one small picot somewhere within a stitch or two of the top end of the hole, and there should be a decorative structure of some sort stitched to the bottom.
Feed your string through the eye at the bottom of one of your earring hoops. Three double, hook on to one of the picots at the top of the bead-wrapping-loops, double far enough to reach the other picot and add it, three double (or a few more, for very large beads), tighten, cut off. And you’re done!
Of course I wanted to play as well, so I got myself some supplies out and gave it a go:
It turned out my beads are way too small to have a tatted loop inside, so I adopted another method. I made two clover leaves as described, inserted the thread ends (two from each side) through the bead and knotted them together around the ornament on the other side.
The small beads are added while tatting in the following way: before starting the ornament put as many beads as you need onto the thread and try to keep tham inside or near the shuttle. When starting a ring where you’ll need a bead (could be more than one as well), move the bead into the ring and keep it at the bottom for the moment (similar to the big bead shown above). When you reach the picot the bead should sit on, just slide it onto the picot before continuing to work.
I think there’s lots of potential in this kind of jewellery, I’m going to explore it some more. One technique that easily lends itself to working with beads of all sizes is macramee, so maybe my next pair of earrings will use this.