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Monday, May 12, 2014

Chain Tension and Pattern Revision

The short version: I've updated Late Winter Snowflake to include extra information about chain tension, with the hope that it will help the pattern lay flat. The revised pattern can be found under the old link on my patterns page.

The long version: Let's talk about chain tension

Since I began tatting, I've changed my tension a few times. When I refer to chain tension, I am talking about how tightly I pull my core thread after finishing a chain. For the sake of simplicity, I've separated tension into three options: low, medium, and high. All three samples are tatted with the same stitch count:

Low tension: In the example below, I've tatted my chain in the usual fashion, but have not tightened it at all after finishing. I do make sure to snug my stitches together while I am tatting, so there is a small amount of curvature here:

Chains tatted with low tension are slightly longer, but also have the most flexibility. I can manipulate them much more freely than chains with high tension. One must be careful, however, because chains with too low of a tension have a tendency to become pointy at picots and thrown rings, or floppy and unstable if there is no tension at all.

Medium tension: In the following example, I've tatted a chain and finished it by pulling the core thread to form a slight curve. I'm careful to stop just after the curve is formed so that my stitches don't get overcrowded and my chain maintains good mobility:

Chains tatted with medium tension have a balance of flexibility and curvature. This is my preferred method of tatting chains.

High tension: Here, I've tatted a chain and pulled the core thread tightly upon finishing. My stitches have just begun to crowd and there is a very steep curve:

Chains tatted with high tension have the least amount of mobility. They create a nice curvature, but can also limit the flexibility of a motif so that it will need to be dampened and blocked to lay flat. I've had a lot of problems when tatting with high tension, so this is my least favorite method.

As you can see, chain tension is highly variable. This poses a unique challenge when trying to design patterns for a diverse group of tatters. We each have our own habits, styles, and visual preferences, so what works for some will not work for others. I hope this has given a glimpse into my style of tatting, and what you can do with chains, for those who may be interested in such technicalities :)


muskaan said...

Such clear & lucid explanation, Robin ! This is of use to All tatters. My chain tension is also usually high (if I keep it low, it does not remain neat & even especially when the next element is made), but I am now trying Consciously to make it medium. In fact just this evening I made a bookmark, keeping the tension medium & even & am extremely happy with the outcome :-)
The pictures & comparisons make the whole issue almost self-explanatory. Congrats :-)

Tally Tatty said...

You made me think, Robin, now I have a problem! I think my tension is a little too high. I will pay more attention to tension for a while and see what happens.

Madtatter80 said...

Great job and we all do this with rings too :)

Frivole said...

Definitely interested in such technicalities! I have also found this to be a problem when designing patterns because everybody has such different tension. So something that works out great for me (stitch count wise) may not for somebody else. I found this to be particularly a problem with old patterns where they seemed to have used a very loose tension on chains which means that I often need to adjust the stitch count to make those old patterns work for me.
(See this post if you're interested: and the post just before that one about vintage patterns.

I like to think I also use a "medium" tension… I would be curious to compare our tatting side by side! :-)

Robin Perfetti said...

Ah yes, the vintage patterns...

I had abandoned my chain tension altogether in an attempt to make these vintage patterns work, and in the end I decided to give up on them as nothing I did would make them come out right. It's a shame because I have so many vintage books in my collection, but I suppose I can still use them for design inspiration.

I remember reading your posts when you first published them and feeling a bit better that I was not the only one with this problem. But still frustrated that the old patterns are virtually un-tattable!

Frivole said...

Well, they're not un-tattable, and some of them still work well but others just require some adjustments! There are too many lovely old patterns not to want to tat them. :-)

Robin Perfetti said...

Perhaps I have been unlucky in the few that I have tried and should not give up on them so easily. There are some really nice ones that I would love to make!

GraceT said...

This is a very clear and valuable post! Thank you, Robin.