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Monday, April 27, 2015

Tatting Scraps

Over the past three years, I have accumulated a lot of tatting scraps. What are tatting scraps? Most are pieces of discarded tatting from design trials. Some are the result of learning new techniques. Each time I create a new scrap, I tuck it into a plastic bag for future reference.

As I was working on a fifth trial of a new design, I became curious to find out how big my scrap pile has become. After digging through my craft bins I came out with this:

Perhaps it's not that impressive, but I wonder what it will look like in another three years. I sorted through the tatting and separated it into sections, trying my best to remember where each one originated.

The largest pile is a group of design trials that ended up as completed patterns. It's not unusual for me to go through 4 or more versions of the same design to achieve the look that I want and to get the pattern to lay flat. I'm not sure if this encompasses all of my designs, as there could be more that I don't remember throwing away.

A much smaller pile is design ideas that never took bloom. These were abandoned rather quickly, when I decided that it just wasn't going to work out. For some reason, I have a particular problem with creating butterflies, and have yet to make a successful one.

Another small pile involves learning new techniques. These include woven picots, self closing mock rings, split rings, folded joins, and interlocking elements. I find that leftover thread on the shuttles comes in handy when trying out something new. There are a few that I can spot in this pile that might be worth looking into for future designs.

The last pile contains experimentations with book patterns, and a few of the Stawasz rosettes that I had to cut from my Monster Doily. Those rosettes took so long, I suppose I didn't want to part with them!

So that's it for my scrap pile. What do you do when you have bits of tatting or other crafts that don't quite make it as completed items? I'm going to keep adding to my scrap pile to see how big it gets in another few years.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Design mode, activated

While I've been writing Inkscape posts, I've also been tatting. Over time, I've accumulated a lot of drawings that are waiting to be turned into patterns. It typically takes me a long time to go through each design, but this time, I'm trying something different.

Instead of stopping to diagram each one on the computer, I'm filing them away in my binder for later use. I have sketched each diagram, which only takes about 5 minutes (as opposed to many hours on the computer). This stops me from losing the flow, and keeps me in design mode for a longer period of time.

Here is what I have churned out over the past few weeks:

The bottom two still need a bit of work. They are a variation of the same theme. Here are the top two next to their original concept drawings:

All of these, in addition to the snowflake I posted about before, still need proper diagrams. I'm holding off on that for now because, let's be honest, diagramming is no fun!

What I am having fun with is practicing turning drawings into tatting. I wonder if I will get quicker over time? The experiment continues...

Monday, April 13, 2015

10) Using Layers and Drawing on Photos

Today I will be talking about using Layers in Inkscape. For tatting diagrams, we won't be doing anything too complex with layers (assuming you are working with two dimensional tatting). I imagine that layering would get very complex if you want to diagram a three dimensional pattern. I do not have experience in this area, but I have provided a very basic example of diagramming layered rings at the bottom of this post.

I like to use layers for two reasons:
1) To keep my numbers and diagram separate, so that I don't inadvertently pick up my diagram when trying to move numbers, and
2) To place a photo of my finished tatting on the bottom layer, so that I have something to draw on top of

Everything you need can be found on the Layers menu at the top of the screen:

Of particular importance:
1) Add Layer: Use this any time you want to add a new layer to your project
2) Lock/Unlock Current Layer: Also available on the toolbar and layers side menu. Locking a layer will prevent parts of your diagram from moving when you are not working on them.
3) Move Selection to...: Use this any time you want to move items from one layer to another. Select the item that you want to move before clicking on this menu function.
4) Raise Layer/Lower Layer/Layer to Top/Layer to Bottom: Topmost layers will overlap items on bottom layers. Use this part of the menu to re-organize your layers as necessary.
5) Layers...: Use this to open up a side menu for layers.

Note that almost all of these functions can be accessed by opening up the layers side menu. Go to Layer-->Layers... on the main menu to open the side menu:

The eyeball icon toggles between making the layer visible and invisible (I never use this). The lock icon toggles between locking and unlocking your layer (I use this all the time). Hover your mouse over the other icons to see what they do.

Separating Numbers and Diagram

Before I knew about layers, I had some very frustrating experiences with trying to move numbers around, only to pick up pieces of my diagram instead. You can avoid this frustration by placing your numbers on a separate layer from your diagram. You will also need to lock your diagram in place to prevent it from moving.

First, draw your diagram. When you are finished, click on the lock icon at the bottom of the screen to lock this layer into place:

Now, on the main menu, go to Layer-->Add Layer

Title this whatever you want. I've called mine "Numbers"

I'm keeping the position "Above current" because I'd rather have my numbers overlap my diagram than the other way around. On my "Numbers" layer, I can add numbers and move them around freely, without worrying about picking up the diagram below:

I can use the icons at the bottom of the screen to lock and unlock layers, as well as switching between them:

Drawing on top of a Photo

I first encountered this idea at InTatters. I believe it was Jane Eborall who mentioned that she drew on top of photos to make diagramming easier.

To draw on top of a photo, you first need to have a photo or scan of your finished tatting saved to your computer. Try to use a photo that is from a bird's eye view, as flat as possible.

To open up this photo in Inkscape, go to File-->Import on the main menu:

Find your file on the computer and click "Open". You will then get a pop up window with the following boxes checked. Press "OK" to continue:

Your photo will probably be huge, so you will need to resize it. To resize, hold the CTRL button on your keyboard as you move the rectangular box inward to make the image smaller. (Click here to read more about resizing)

Your photo should be on a layer of its own, placed below all other layers. You will probably want to change the opacity so that your photo is slightly transparent. This will enable you to see more clearly as you draw your diagram, instead of having the photo obstruct your view.

Opacity can be changed on the Layers side menu, or on the Fill and Stroke menu under "Stroke Style". (Tip: Use the Layers side menu if you want to change the opacity of everything on that layer. Use the Fill and Stroke menu if you only want to change the opacity of a few items on the layer).

Below is a screenshot of opacity on the Layers side menu. I've turned mine down to 75%.

When you are finished importing your photo and turning down the opacity, remember to lock this layer into place. This will prevent you from moving the photo as you are drawing your diagram.

Now, add a new layer on top of the photo layer. This will be you diagram layer.

Begin drawing your diagram as usual. Here are a couple of screenshots of in process drawing (I use Guides to keep everything straight):

After you are finished drawing your diagram, you can unlock the photo layer and delete the photo. You can also remove the photo layer entirely if you'd like.

Basic Layered Patterns

I haven't designed any layered tatting patterns, but I know there are quite a few out there. To diagram such a pattern involves creativity. You might combine various methods from this tutorial series, along with methods of your own to achieve the desired result.

Here is a very basic example involving layered rings. I won't provide too much detail, but hopefully it's enough to act as a jumping off point for your own explorations.

On the top layer, I have created a simple six ring flower. On the bottom layer, I have created a larger six ring flower, which has been rotated by 30 degrees.

Each ring in the bottom layer has been cut into two pieces, using the method from a previous post (Click Here). This enabled me to use dashed lines with 75% opacity on the inner segments, and solid lines with 100% opacity on the outer segments. (Opacity was set on the Fill and Stroke menu).

When I place the top layer on the bottom layer, I get this:

I actually worked these two layers on top of each other as seen directly above. (They were only separated after everything was finished, to show you what each component looks like). I used the Lock Layer function to prevent the bottom layer from moving as I worked on the top layer, and vice versa.

The finished diagram is meant to represent a six ring flower with another six rings layered on top. Since I've never actually tatted layered rings, I don't have a photo to go along with it. Yet, I hope it will provide ideas for those of you attempting to diagram such patterns.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

9) Black and White Split Rings

In my previous posts, I talked about how to draw split rings in two colors. Here are a few options if you are working with a black and white diagram. This is not an exhaustive list, so feel free to use this as a jumping off point to play around with Inkscape and come up with methods of your own. You can also use these techniques on split rings with color, as shown at the bottom of the post.

Drawing Lines

If you are working with a black and white diagram, you may simply wish to include a line to symbolize the split. This line can be drawn with the Pencil tool or with the Bezier tool. If you use the Bezier tool, remember to press Enter on your keyboard (or double click on your mouse) when you are finished drawing your line.

Guides come in handy when trying to draw straight lines. (Though if you prefer to hold the CTRL key down while drawing, that works too!) Click here to read more about using Guides.

In the example below, I've placed a vertical guide on top of my ring. I used the pencil tool to draw a line directly on top of my guide, allowing it to snap into place.

To create a ring with an uneven split, you might use a combination of vertical and horizontal guides:

If you want to be sure that your guides are aligned with the center of your ring, click on the icon to "Snap centers of objects" found on the right side of the screen.

You can also double click on your guide to change the angle of rotation. Below, I've changed the angle of one of my guides to 60 degrees:

If you prefer curved lines, use the Bezier tool to create an arc (in the same way we did on Post #2 Another Way to Draw Chains)

Once you have finished, you can remove your guides by dragging them off of the screen, or by hovering over them and pressing delete on your keyboard. Also, don't forget to press CTRL+G to group your ring and line together when you are done.

Dashed Lines

If you don't want to use a solid line in the middle of the split ring, you can experiment with Dashes. These can be found on the Fill and Stroke menu, under the tab called "Stroke Style"

Make sure you have your line selected first. Then click on the drop down menu for Dashes and choose from a variety of styles. Please note that you will have to access the Dashes menu again when you want to go back to drawing solid lines. Here are some examples of rings with dashes:

Again, these need to be grouped so that everything moves together.


As I was looking at a post on Ninetta's blog, I noticed that she used arrows to designate directions on her split rings. Clever!

Arrowheads are called "Markers" in Inkscape, and can be found just underneath dashes on the Fill and Stroke menu, on the tab for Stroke Style:

Just as we did with Dashes, we will be drawing a line first, then adding the marker to the selected line. Arrowheads work best on straight lines. They don't rotate correctly when moving around curves.

There are three drop down menus for Markers. You can choose between Start, Mid, and End Markers. (For Mid Markers to work you must have a middle node). Make sure that you have updated to the current version of Inkscape, where they have fixed an issue with arrowheads not conforming to fill and stroke colors.

Here are a few rings with arrows.


If you split your ring into two equal parts (click here for the tutorial), you can set the Fill to a light gray color as I have done below. (Set Fill through the Fill and Stroke menu, or by clicking on a color from the palette at the bottom of the screen). I added a dashed line to one of my examples, but this is optional.

This method only works if you have a ring split down the middle. It doesn't fill properly with an uneven split ring:

To fill uneven splits, you should use the Paint Bucket tool.

Paint Bucket Fill

Any areas that are bound by solid lines can be filled with the Paint Bucket tool. This will not work if you are separating your split ring with dashed lines.

To use this tool, click on the Paint Bucket icon on the left side of your screen. Now choose a color from the palette on the bottom of the screen, and click on an area of your ring that you would like to fill. (Paint bucket fills have a Stroke color, which can appear as an unwanted outline. If you see that outline, go in and change the Stroke to the same color as your Fill.)

Sometimes, the paint bucket tool can be a little overzealous and fill your entire shape before you are ready. If this happens just press CTRL+Z on your keyboard to Undo.

A note about using the paint bucket tool: the closer you are zoomed in, the more accurate the fill. For some reason, this tool does not fill correctly when zoomed out. (Click Here to go to an external site that talks more about this limitation and how to fix it)

Here are a few uneven splits filled with the paint bucket tool:

When you are done, remember to CTRL+G to group all of the elements of the ring together. Otherwise, Inkscape will treat the paint bucket fill as a separate part, and move it independently of the rest of the ring.

Rings with Color

If you are working with color, you can still use the above techniques to dress up your split rings.

Here are a few examples:

Monday, April 6, 2015

8) Using Guides

Today's post will be about using Guides in Inkscape. I like to use guides to create page margins, align text, draw straight lines, or to pinpoint a new center of rotation. If you use the Guide icons on the right side of your screen, you can also set snapping points for paths, nodes, centers, rectangle corners and the like. Guide lines are invisible on your printed or PDF document, so don't worry about them interfering with your final diagram.

To create a new guide, simply drag your cursor from the ruler areas on the left, top, or corner of the screen. This creates vertical, horizontal, or diagonal guide lines, respectively.

Guides have a snapping property, which means that when you drag certain elements (such as text or lines) close to them, the objects will snap to your guide. This can come in handy if you want to align text to a certain part of your document. You will see the words "Text baseline to guide" appear as your text is snapped into place (a bit difficult to see below):

Guides can also be helpful if you want to draw horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines. Drag a guide out first, then select the Pencil tool, and draw your line directly on top of the guide. You will see the words "Handle to guide" appear as your line is snapped into place.

Double click on your guide to open up a new window where you can change the angle of rotation. This will enable you to draw a straight line at any angle you want. (The current version of Inkscape also allows you to change the color and label of guides, as seen in the image below)

You can also manipulate the angle of rotation by holding the Shift key while moving your guide.

When you are finished with a guide, you can remove it by dragging it off of the screen, or by hovering over it until it turns Red and then pressing the delete button on your keyboard.

Removing Guide Snapping

Sometimes, guide snapping can be annoying. There are situations where you may not want things to snap to a guide. (I encounter this when I use my guides as page margins, or when placing parts of my diagram really close to a guide). In this case, we can temporarily disable guide snapping by using the icons on the right side of the screen:

In particular, the topmost icon will turn snapping on and off. I find myself clicking this button a lot when building diagrams:

Creating Page Margins:

One of my favorite things to do with Guides is to use them to create page margins. To do this, you will first need to set up your desired page properties. Go to File --> Document Properties on the main menu:

Now, go to the Page tab, and set up your page size and default units. I set my page size to US Letter and default units to inches:

After your page properties have been set, drag out four guides (two horizontal and two vertical) to be used as page margins. Double click on each guide to bring up a new window where you can input numbers for your X and Y axes:

My default units are in inches, and I like to create 1 inch page margins. I set the vertical guides to X:1 and X:7.5, and the horizontal guides to Y:1 and Y:10.

In a future post, I will talk about using guides as a way to pinpoint a new center of rotation. This trick is very useful when you want to create pattern repeats without having to manually place them by hand.