Friday, October 19, 2018


I've almost finished the third shirt:
It's pretty much the same as the first shirt, so here's a picture of Jack's climbing roses for variation:
I also took a photo of a weaver's nest in the tree outside the diningroom window. The weaver builds an intricate nest. It's fascinating to watch the male fly back and forth with grass fronds to weave with.
Mine is not a great photo, you can see some better photos here or look up weaver bird on youtube, to see the bird in action.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I Give Up

On the Post Office, that is. My daughter kindly posted me thread to redo the crochet top that is too small,  That was in June, and I still haven't received it. I suspect it is languishing in a parcel mountain, formed when post office personnel went on strike. I need an 'evening project' to work on, so I've started redoing the top using a thread I bought locally.

 It is labelled as 'microfibre'.  I assume that means it's completely synthetic, which is not ideal for competition, where natural fibres are 'recommended'. On the plus side, it is shiny, which I hope means makes it suitable for 'evening wear'. When, or if, the other thread turns up, I'll make another top using a different pattern.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


I took some time off shirt-making to sew myself a Summer nightie. I wanted to bind the neckline with wide ribbon, instead of using facings, but couldn't for the life of me work how to do that neatly. So I had a look on the internet and found this tutorial  on So-sew-easy. I followed the directions and voila, perfect binding. Isn't the internet marvelous?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


At our meeting on Thursday, Corlie showed us how to use an ordinary paper sugar or flour packet to make a gift bag. The secret it to iron it before adding the handles! Then it looks like new, not a raggedy old packet that you've finished using. It helps if you have an unusual packet, like Corlie's stone ground flour one, but even a very ordinary sugar packet looks good after the treatment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Work Shirts

Jack needs a new batch of work shirts for Summer. When I made the last lot, three years ago, I had the brilliant idea of making the pockets and collars different on each one, for variety. Problem was, the pockets and collars wore out long before the main part of the shirts did. So this time I've bought a very sturdy contrast fabric for the pockets and collars, but all the shirts will be the same. At least they won't be as boring as the monochrome ones Jack complained about. My plan is to make four shirts, this is the first one.

PS Maureen asked whether S twist or Z twist yarn is better for tatting. I did some tiny samples and I think the answer is Z twist, where the thread is twisted anticlockwise. With an S twist, the thread gradually unravels as you work, whereas with Z twist, the twist increases. Either way you probably have to drop the shuttle periodically to let the thread revert to original.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Twist and Balance

Yesterday afternoon I gave a talk about yarn structure to a small group. Maureen asked if I'd write here what I said there, so here goes.

All fibre crafts, such as knitting, crochet, embroidery et c need a continuous thread. Otherwise you're restricted to the length you can cut from a hide or strip from a plant. A long time ago (before ancient Egyptian and Greek times) mankind worked out how to form a continuous thread by twisting fibres together.

It doesn't matter what the fibres are, animal, plant or synthetic, the thread is created through twisting. The method doesn't matter either - fingers, spindle, spinning wheel or machine all twist fibres together.

An interesting thing about twist is that the more you twist the fibres, the stronger the thread. BUT: there's a downside because the more you twist, the less soft the yarn will be. So you sometimes have to weigh these factors against each other. On the plus side, it means you can vary the twist according to the purpose of the yarn. So if you want strong sock wool, you put in a lot of twist, but if you want a soft, snuggly yarn for a scarf, you put in less twist:
So that seems simple - put in enough twist for your purpose and off you go. Not so fast....

If you twist your fibres clockwise and then knit the resulting thread, the individual stitches and the whole piece will slant badly:
Yesterday we had a go at straightening it out, but it quickly sprang back to this shape. You can twist your fibres anticlockwise and then it will slant in the other direction:
Overcoming this bias and creating a 'balanced yarn' involves plying, or combining threads. So for the example below, I spun two threads clockwise, and then combined them anticlockwise:
The skein hangs straight and the knitted stitches are straight. Plying doesn't necessarily have to combine the same or even similar threads. When I hand spin cotton, I often ply it with a fine commercial thread. And of course more than one thread can be combined. There are infinite possibilities, but the aim is to create a usable thread or yarn.

There are other factors that affect how much twist is needed, eg short fibres like cotton need more twist than long fibres like mohair; thin thread needs more twist than thick. But the principle remains the same - it's all about the twist.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I've finished the tumbling blocks scarf, just working on it in the evenings. Blocking it helps show up the pattern:
Or maybe not. It doesn't have a home yet, I just wanted to try the pattern and had left over yarn that would work well for it. But I'm sure I'll soon find someone to give it to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


I'm going to give a talk tomorrow about yarn structure. I don't want it to be too abstract (read boring), so I've been making little samples to illustrate my points. It's all about twist and balance! I also did some spinning with my spindle to make sure I still could; it's a while since I used anything but my spinningwheel to spin with. It was fine. I'm not sure I'll use the spindle tomorrow, but I needed to make sure I could. I plan to give everyone a bit of wool roving to finger spin with, to make it a hands-on experience.

Filling In The Gaps

After reading the feedback on my previous embroidery post (thanks very much!) I decided against using a completely different stitch for a frame around the flower vines. I hope these added bits are more in harmony with the main part. I'm aiming for that 'sumptuous nature' look. In my usual fashion I may well have overdone it, but there you go.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Are you looking for labels to put on your handcrafts? Abby from The Dutch Label Shop contacted me to ask if I'd like her to send me labels to try. Not really. I used to use labels when I had a spinning and knitting business and sold yarn and garments, but now I make such a variety of things that are mostly given away that I can't see the need.  But Wendy from the umintsuro blog did take up Abby's offer, you can read about her experience here. If you're looking for labels, this seems a good place to start.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Tumbling Blocks

I like the tumbling blocks pattern. I like the optical illusion of three-dimensional shapes when it's really only two-dimensional. I've tatted a version, using Jane Eborall's diamond pattern, and worked it in beaded knitting. So when I saw a scarf that creates tumbling blocks using knit and purl stitches on Pinterest, I saved it. I had a couple of balls of cotton/silk left over from my gilet, so I followed a series of links and downloaded the pattern. You can follow the trail from here. The Papyrus yarn is good for the task because it shows up stitches well. Oh, and I really like that the fabric is the same on both sides - I think a scarf should be reversible.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Palestrina Stitch

After a few failed experiments, I decided I like palestrina stitch. I used this video tutorial to learn how to do it. I like the idea of using the flower colours in the border, to link the border with the design, so I added them using French knots. Mmm, no, I feel that they overwhelm the green palestrina part. How about running stitch? Add blue too? I have some time to contemplate before I work the border. Any suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Thread Test

Now that I've got the thread recommended for the embroidery competition, I had to see if it would work with my chosen design. It does, I like the textured effect. The thread is DMC cotton perle number 5:
The design is from 

I was advised to put a frame around the flower vine. I thought perhaps fly stitch, so I tried it out:
I think it's too spiky next to the sinuous vines. I'll try something else.


It's always good to have options. Recently I've learnt several ways to make split self-closing mock rings. Tim Kaylor tats a split chain for the second part of the ring. There's a link to his video on this post.  Randy Houtz's method is described on muskaan's post here.  This method requires three threads rather than Tim's two. Muskaan's method also needs three threads, the loop is used to finger tat the second half of the ring. Muskaan used it to tat a spectacular bracelet.

I think it might depend on the circumstances which method would work best. If you were tatting a doily in two colours, Tim's method might be best. I used Randy's method for the leaf braid with flowers , where I wanted the third thread for the flowers. For muskaan's wave braid, with three colours showing, her method is best.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Gilet Is Done

I finished knitting the gilet early last week, but then froze at the thought of sewing the pieces together. After a diversion to tat Ninetta's butterflies, I got on with the job, trying to ignore the feeling that a competition judge was peering over my shoulder. The gilet is not easy to photograph, the crumpled bits should drape when it's worn. It's done, I'm going to put it away until March and get on with something else.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Butterflies Tethered

Practising in an arbitrary way is a bit aimless, so I decided to tat Ninetta's Swirling Butterflies, even though I'm not really proficient in treble tatting. This is a practice piece.  Ninetta's pattern is in two parts, the first part is here and the second part is here. I followed muskaan's suggestion and tatted the butterflies separately, tethering them with the chain. It means the green round is worked with one shuttle and ball. I found it wasn't necessary to put safety pins to hold the inward picots on the butterfly bodies, the trebles are flexible enough to be moved apart for joining. I used size 20 thread. handdyed DMC Cebelia and Milford and the motif measures 11 cm across.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Playing With Butterflies

I've been using scraps of thread to tat Ninetta's butterfly. For the white one, I took a technique from Jane Eborall's SCMR butterfly and used a split ring to make the head, so that the ends could be snipped for the antennae and don't have to be hidden. They look rather scruffy, I probably need more practice before I attempt Ninetta's pattern, but it's a start.

By the way, I wind thread left over on shuttles onto bread bag ties to use for such experiments:
I also followed Ninetta's links on this post to learn how to make a wide picot:
Clever! I managed to grasp it more quickly than I grasped treble tatting, hooray.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I like to try out new tatting techniques, so I was happy to try out Ninetta Caruso's treble tatting when I saw I didn't make much progress, just a tangled mess, which is no fault of Ninetta's, just my poor grasp. When I read muskaan's description  of an alternative way of creating the stitch, I gave it a go and got along much better. It just seems more straight forward to me. So I could go on to tat Ninetta's spiral ring. Aha. I think.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Spring Flowers

Our flower garden is tiny, but very colourful at the moment, with marigolds and violas, pansies and dianthus. Even a sweetpea. At last the weather is warming up and Spring is definitely sprung.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Knitting Thimble

A friend sent me a knitting thimble, used for multicolour knitting, so I've been trying it out. The two colours are threaded through the spirals so that they're kept separate. It only works for continental style knitting:
Of course it would take practice to work up speed using the method. The problem for me is that I think my normal method works better, not so much for the front of the work as for the back. I usually hold one colour in each hand:
With this method, it's very easy to weave the second colour behind the work: knit one stitch with the left hand yarn held away from the work and the next with the yarn held against the needle, so that the working thread catches it. In this way, long floats can be avoided:
The floats in this sample were only 3 stitches long, so not too bad, but I wouldn't want to have floats longer than that. The differences in the front relate more to practice than technique:
I've been knitting with the two handed method for a long time, but still remember my excitement when I read about it in Fairlady, a South African women's magazine. It can also be used to weave in ends:
Perhaps the thimble would be good for knitting with three colours? Two colours on the thimble and the third in the other hand? I haven't done much knitting with three colours in a row, I must admit.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Working Downwards

I'm working downwards on the back of my gilet, the patterns matching the patterns on the front. There are a lot of stitches, 215 at the moment, which is why the pattern recommends using a circular needle, even though it is worked back and forth. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Structuring The Back

The back of my gilet starts just below the armholes. You cast on 67 stitches and then increase on each side on the early rows to create a curve. Stitches are then cast off to shape the armholes and then worked straight to the shoulders. End of part one. 108 stitches are picked up along the bottom curved edge and then the same pattern as the fronts knitted. Here's a reminder of what the fronts look like:
Now to get on with part two of the back.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


I'm definitely not going to model this for you - a bee stung me on my forehead a couple of days ago and my face is still horribly swollen. Which is why tatting and attaching this leaf braid to my dress has taken longer than I intended. Scroll down to the previous post for the braid pattern.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Leaf Braid With Flowers

I'm tatting a leaf braid with flowers to go around the neck of my polka dot dress, so I took some photos to show the process.

Leaf Braid With Flowers ©Jane McLellan 2018
Using a split self-closing mock ring, which I learnt from muskaan's post where she explores Randy Houtz's technique.

3 shuttles, 2 wound CTM with green thread, size 20 and shuttle 3 with white thread. Note, I used size 70 for this, but size 20 can be used, as shown below.

ds double stitch, CTM continuous thread method, jk josephine knot, SCMR self closing mock ring
Using any method for starting with a chain, work 3 ds using the shuttles wound with green thread. Then wrap the white thread around a green thread and work a josephine knot, of 12 second half stitches, hiding the end inside the jk.

First split SCMR
Using shuttle with white thread as working shuttle, wrap thread around pinky and work 2 ds, picot, 6 ds chain with green thread:

Then remove the loop of white thread from pinky and put it on forefinger. Using the other green thread, work 4 ds in direct tatting, as per the second half of a split ring:

Now pass the white thread shuttle through the loop and pull to close the ring:

Work another jk with white thread.
Second split SCMR
Work in the same way, but work 4 ds on first half and 2 ds picot 6 ds on second half.

Work these 2 split rings alternately, with jk in between.

Note, instead of working a jk for 'flowers' you can make a ring with picots:

The original leaf braid, without flowers, is shown here. The stitch count for this one is the same, just adding the third shuttle and split SCMR technique. I've made a PDF, there's a link on the right hand side of the page.