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Friday, May 27, 2016

Looks can be deceiving

Take a look at this design. It looks simple, right? A flower in the middle, a round of rings and chains, and a series of flowers along the outer edge:

That's what I thought too, until I got stuck in a loop trying to make it work. Would you believe me if I told you that this is the most challenging pattern I have designed so far? Now, don't get me wrong, it's very straightforward to tat. But to design the thing, that's an entirely different ball game...

I began by referencing my binder of tatted samples to find a six ringed flower that would work. In general, a six ringed flower can be made by using the same stitch count four times, separated by three picots:

Some are more cumbersome to make than others because the rings are too small or too large to be tatted comfortably. That leaves three usable options: 4-4-4-4, 5-5-5-5, or 6-6-6-6.

Since I wanted to tat a coaster, I didn't have complete freedom in my choice. I needed to pick something that would work out to be the same size as a coaster, so I went with the middle option of 5-5-5-5.

I quickly learned that designing in the traditional way (from the center on out) would be incredibly time consuming. In my first attempt, the outer round was cupping badly. I was forced to increase the flowers to 6-6-6-6, and to stretch them to make everything lay flat.

I had an idea: If I designed everything backwards, I would save myself from having to cut off the outer round when things didn't work out. Instead, I could cut and rework the inner rounds, which took far less time to tat.

This got me closer to my goal, but I was still unhappy with the fact that such a small coaster had so many rounds (four to be exact).

I decided to try another version with smaller flowers, this time using the 4-4-4-4 stitch count. This is when another limitation of the design became evident. Since the first round started with six sides, I needed to continue using multiples of six throughout the coaster. This left me with the choice of 12, 18, or 24 flowers for the outer round (anything else would have been far too large). So, I tatted a version with 12 small flowers and a version with 18 small flowers:

Using a coaster that I purchased at a local craft fair for comparison, I noticed that my first attempt was too small and my second attempt was too large! What I did like about the small coaster was that it could be completed in three rounds instead of four. I would use this idea in the next phase of my design.

About a month went by before I decided to pick up the pattern again. This time, I used my original stitch count of 5-5-5-5 for the flowers, and reduced the coaster to three rounds. I started doing something a little differently though, which introduced a new problem. Instead of counting the join as the first half of the next stitch, I began to create full double stitches after each join. I noticed that my flowers wanted to close after five petals instead of six, and that I had to squeeze in a sixth petal each time.

The lack of room for a sixth petal occurred because I was using split rings to travel from one flower to the next. Split rings can distort the shape of the tatting, and in this case, they caused the center of each flower to become crowded.

Notice the difference in the photo below. The flower on the bottom has a split ring which acts like a balloon, pushing out the center and distorting the shape. The flower on the top is made with regular rings.

To remedy this, I had to use a stitch count that would normally create a flower with seven petals. Using a count of 5-4-4-5 works as a six ringed flower, just as long as you make a full double stitch after every join (or use a split ring to climb from one flower to the next):

While designing this coaster, another thought continually resurfaced: "What if someone wants to tat the coaster without split rings?" I needed to give it a try to make sure that it would work. Sometimes a concept that is completely feasible becomes far less possible when put into action. This was one of those times.

What I discovered is that flowers with regular rings are ever so slightly larger than those with split rings. (I'm not sure why other than to tell you that I measured it myself!) In addition, flowers with regular rings are joined to each other more loosely (through joining picots) while flowers with split rings are joined to each other more tightly (unless you create mock picots to counter this).

The larger size and looser join between non-split ring flowers creates an increase in circumference. This increase will ruffle the outer round if no other changes are made. And because I'm obsessive about things laying flat, I just had to change Round 2 to make everything work.

In the end, I came up with two versions of the same coaster. The yellow and green version has split rings to travel from one flower to the next. The pink and green version has 12 separate flowers in Round 3, each made with regular rings. The difference is a little hard to see in the photo, but the pink version has longer chains in Round 2, making it slightly larger than the yellow version.

After all was said and done I was left with a pile of completed coasters, each a little bit different from the last:

Here is another view, 14 attempts in all (not counting the incomplete scraps that never made it to full coasters):

So, can you see? Looks can be deceiving.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Still finishing up

After looking at all of the coasters laid out on the table, I realized that there was a variation that had not been represented in my pattern pack. So I tatted a sample, wrote down the pattern, and tested it.

Now, instead of six coasters there will be seven. I'm still putting everything together and have a few things to finish up. Just wanted to make a blog post this week so that there wouldn't be several weeks of silence!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A table full of coasters

I guess it's bound to happen when preparing a pattern pack.

Two more designs to write out and test, and I will be glad when I'm done!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Small Floral Cross: Written Instructions

Last night I received a comment asking for written instructions for my Small Floral Cross pattern. I've created a PDF file which can be accessed by clicking here or by going to my Free Patterns page. The written instructions appear on pages 2 and 3 of the document.

Small Floral Cross

Let me know if there's any issues accessing the file or if you find any mistakes. I did a quick test tat with size 40 thread (pictured on the right) using the alternate stitch count of all 5's in between picots. Hope the written instructions help to clear up the pattern for those who found it confusing!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Final 6

If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed that I've been spending a lot of time designing coasters. I've finally narrowed it down to six patterns, and am in the process of putting everything together in iBooks Author. Here are the final six (the mug in the back is on an extra coaster for scale):

I tried to vary the shapes and styles of the coasters in an effort to create a more diverse pattern pack. I've found that I like to take a concept and work many versions of it so that I can explore the different possibilities. This lends itself to creating pattern packs and I can see a lot of potential ideas for the future (beaded snowflakes, bookmarks, crosses, repeatable squares, etc.)

One thing that I discovered while working on these coasters is that backwards designing can be really beneficial. Both of the floral coasters were designed by forming the outer round first, and then fitting the inner rounds later on. This saves so much time when needing to cut and re-tat, because you don't have to cut up the laborious final round. (Click here to read more about backwards designing)

I also learned that it's difficult to design things to fit a certain size. The coasters in the image above are all tatted in size 20 thread (except the one that the mug is sitting on, which is in size 40). As you can see, the coasters came out to be different sizes. If you nitpick like I do, you can tat the larger ones in size 40 thread to make them smaller, or you can just use a larger mug. You could also use them as mini doilies instead of coasters.

It will be a while before I have all of the patterns written up. By the way, if you have a Mac and design patterns I highly recommend trying out iBooks Author. I'm still making my diagrams in Inkscape, but I'm saving them as images and loading them into iBooks Author so that I can add detailed written instructions as well.