Tatting with variegated threads

by Carolyn Groves


Tatters seem to fall into 2 categories, traditional (using fine white thread) and contemporary (using different thread sizes and colors). This is a very broad statement and I know there are lots of tatters who do both. I know I find myself gravitating to the colored threads and I love using beads. I have found that my preferences dovetail very nicely with a traditional tatter that I do shows with. Becky has the most exquisite work. Mostly in white and full of lots of picots. Then my work is colors, beads and such. Together they present a well rounded look at tatting and all the possibilities.

A recent discussion on the Tat-Chat list made me do some contemplation of how and why I use particular threads with different patterns. In looking through all the things I have worked on over the last year I was surprised to see how much color I have actually used.

I thought it would be a good idea to try and explain my preferences and give new tatters, and everyone else who's interested, a look at the possibilities with variegated threads and beads.

First, a piece that actually has a comparison! The miniature quilt was done for my guild's silent auction last year. I knew that the only way I would complete a quilt project was to incorporate tatting so I did a simple patch and attached mini-tat hearts across it. This is probably the only piece that shows an all white heart with variegated hearts. Using variegated thread does change the look of a tatting pattern. I have found that with white I tend to look at the tatting design. With the variegated I see the thread then the design. Not a bad thing, just something different. For me the overall effect is a flowing of color and my eyes are drawn to the individual pieces and their color variations.

Last year in the online class, Nina Libin presented a necklace done in chain work with lots of beads. This piece caught my attention and seemed to be calling to me. I worked one according to her instructions then had the incredible urge to add to it. I rummaged through my thread stash and a skein of Caron's Wildflower caught my attention. Then a look in my bead box turned up a complimentary bead that seemed to scream to be added to the thread.

These are just 2 of the necklaces I have been obsessing on lately. For some reason the colors are fantastic to work with and I love matching up beads with them. The one on the left is done in Caron's wildflower - cranberry with iridescent red beads. The one on the right is Wildflower - Peacock with iridescent blue beads. The beads seem to change color with the thread. I know these 2 pictures don't really show much so the next 2 are blow-ups of a small section of the necklace.

Here you can see how the thread color seems to catch the beads and echo back the thread color. It's also quite fun to be working on it and see the development of the work as the color changes. These threads really don't look like much on the skein but when worked up they are truly spectacular.

The above bookmark was done in Wild Flower Sunset. The closeup on the right shows the metallic filament added along with the thread.

There are lots of variegated threads available. DMC provides a nice range of variegated in everything from size 10 to 80. My favorites seem to be the perle 8. It's a soft thread and works well by itself or blended with beads or metallic filaments.

The bookmark to the left was done in DMC perle 8 with a Kreinik blending filament added along as it was worked. The grey cat on the right is also DMC perle. It now adorns a light grey sweatshirt.

When I've been desperate for colored thread I've even used Knit-cro-sheen. Yes it's a size 10 and it's a heavy thread but some of the colors are great and I've found uses for it.

The butterfly on the left is a soft pastel knit-cro-sheen. The parrot, on the right was done as a bookmark several years ago. The pattern was from an early 1990's Ring of Tatters Newsletter.

Colored threads are not new. I have a whole stash of antique thread in some really interesting color combinations. I think the most unusual was the yellow and pink variegated from Clarks in size 30. I suppose it would make a nice hanky edging but I can't see doing a doily in it.

These booties were made for my niece's first baby (turned out to be a boy!). They are done in an antique Silateen thread.

Manuela also makes some lovely variegated threads. One of my favorites was discontinued and I've hoarded several ball for my own personal use.

This small doily was done in a round robin with Tammy Rogers and Kathy Lowe. I did the center in the manuela variegated then sent along the off white thread. I knew I didn't want the whole doily to be colored and the end results are gorgeous. Tammy did a really cool outer edge with white chains and blue flowers.

I like this thread so much I actually did a whole doily in it. The pattern is called "Lucky Clover" and is in the book Tatting Patterns and Designs by Blomqvist & Persson.

My most recent use of manuela variegated has been on a batch of choker necklaces. I had a request for one from a lacer at a recent show and started working on them around Thanksgiving. I like the way the light pastels turn out. These chokers are very light and I think the girls will like them.

Now, having gone through all this about working with variegated threads it should also be noted that all my pieces were needle tatted. I can see that shuttle tatting them would present a challenge. With the needle the thread is continually coming from the ball and I don't have to worry about sudden changes in the colors. This might be another case where the needle has an advantage over shuttle.

As a final note I have 2 pieces that are the identical pattern, use the same beads and are mounted in the same bangle bracelet. One is done with white the other with my favorite Manuela variegated.

The iridescent beads pick up the color of the thread and can give an entirely different look to the piece. To me, the right one looks more "open" and the left one has a tight look. It is truly amazing how the eyes see something different with just a change in color!

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