Now that we have a rough estimate of stitch count, it's time to begin tatting. This is the most rewarding, yet most challenging part of the design process. In fact, it's even difficult to write about. Designing is a very subjective thing, and everyone will have their own styles and methods of creating their piece. As such, I will be straying from talking about design objectively, and instead show you how I tat my designs. As you follow along, perhaps you will find some tips and tricks that will be useful in your endeavors.
Let's begin by talking about thread. I've tried designing using variegated thread and have found that it makes my tatting unnecessarily hard to see. Therefore, I stick to solid colors. I've also tried using leftover bits of thread and found myself running out before getting very far. I would rather be designing than tatting four ring butterflies, so I had to part with the idea of saving every last scrap from the bin. The following bits were unwound and thrown away because I was running out of empty shuttles to use.
This brings me to my next topic: wasting thread. When you design, you have to get used to the idea of wasting thread. There will be a lot of prototypes that don't fit the bill, and a lot of reloading of shuttles. If you'd rather not waste your good thread you can buy a ball of cheap thread just for design drafts. If you are near a Jo-Ann Fabrics or a Michaels you can buy a ball of size 10 Aunt Lydia's crochet cotton, usually with a 40% discount. I always have my smart phone with me so I can quickly load up a coupon before entering the store.
Keep in mind that crochet cotton will not tat as nicely as tatting thread, and you will need to use a larger shuttle when working with size 10. I prefer using Lizbeth size 20 for my drafts because it tats rather nicely and I have a large stash that I would like to reduce.
When you have chosen a thread, it's time to begin tatting by using the diagram you created in Part 3. Remember that the more complex your design, the more adjustments you will need to make to find the right stitch count. Don't feel badly about erasing and rewriting stitch counts. Design is all about trial and error!
As you begin tatting your piece, you can hold it up to your drawing to make sure that everything looks right:
Sometimes, my first estimation can turn a six-sided snowflake into a square. If I hold my tatting up to my drawing, I can tell right away when the angles are incorrect. This allows me to stop early to make adjustments, rather than tatting the entire motif and realizing that I'm left with a snow-square.
This time, I lucked out and ended up with a draft that came together correctly the first time:
Mind you, this doesn't usually happen. I often have to make adjustments right from the beginning. In this case, the simplicity of the inner round saved me from miscalculation.
Sometimes you will find that things don't translate well from a drawing to an actual design. When I originally drew my snowflake, I didn't connect any of the clovers in Round 1. However, upon tatting them, I realized that they needed more stability. When working with a draft, you can do a lot of things that you wouldn't normally do with a final version of the piece. Notice how I tied the picots together to simulate the missing joins:
After completing Round 1, I went back to my drawing and took measurements for Round 2. If you are designing a piece that climbs continuously from round to round, I suggest cutting and tying for your draft. This way, if you need to make adjustments in a later round, you won't have to start over from the beginning. Instead, you can cut off the latest round and begin where your previous round ended.
As you make more designs, you may find yourself reusing old ideas. For this snowflake, I repeated a few stitch counts from Solstice, another one of my patterns. Sometimes, this can save me a bit of time and calculation.
I usually only tat two or three repeats before taking out a mirror. After placing a mirror, I always take a photo so I can study the design later on. Mirrors help me to visualize what the pattern will look like when it's completed. If I don't like what I'm seeing, I can stop early.
As I looked at my photo, I noticed a few things that I was unhappy with. The outer clovers looked too large, and the middle of the piece looked too crowded. I had plans to include a jewelry finding in the center, but the space I had created was too small to hold the finding. Additionally, the outer chains didn't behave properly, so getting them to lay flat was a bit awkward.
I decided to stop for the night. I was tired and needed a good night's rest before going any further. Sometimes, I find that I have fresh ideas when looking at my tatting the following day. I must be thinking about tatting in my sleep :)
That's it for today. Tomorrow I will talk about making adjustments and finalizing your piece.