Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Dead end start to Split Chains

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All Coiled Up, Curled & Cozy !
No intention of boring my dear dear readers by revisiting same stuff …. 
Just thought it might still be helpful to anybody who is interested & wants to apply them to their tatting . 
And I Love curls, coils, curlicues – the shape is just so elegant and free flowing !

A brief background
It all started with this thread in Craftree and Lynn directing us to this video tutorial by Karen Cabrera, as a possible technique to apply. Well, it Was !!! And hugs & thanks to Lynn for opening up a wonderful world of Karen’s videos as well as the possibilities these curlicues have for free form/free style tatting.  

Dead end start to normal Chains
One can start a dead end chain by inserting a paper clip (Frivole) , a very small picot (Martha Ess), a lock stitch (Sue Hanson), or nothing at all (Frivole) like I did with this I Love Tatting Doodle (where no picot space was required). It is fairly easy to do it when working normal chains, where stitches are flipped, because one has the chain thread to grip, hold, & anchor. {Click on each of these for direct link to tutorials/tips. Also listed in the Resources Page.}

Neither of these techniques is, however, possible in case of a dead end start to Single Shuttle Split or Floating Chains

While browsing for more tutorials to add to the Resources page, 
here's a Gem I found ! 
Superb description & explanation by Elgiva Nicholls . 

WHY ? .... Because ....
  1. the stitches are not flipped. When all stitches are Unflipped, how does one make a Lock Stitch ?!
  2. there is no chain thread to grip & wrap around the fingers while tatting, to hold taut.
  3. there is no place (thread or element) to hold in a pinch while beginning the SSSCh. Nothing to anchor one’s tatting.
But what if one wants a “pure coil”; a simple curvilinear chain ?!

To overcome these problems, one needs , first, an anchor & grip of some sort.  Following are my solutions mainly in notated picture form with some general/overall tips summarized at the end of the post. 

Possible Dead End Starts to 
Single Shuttle Split Chains / Floating Chains
Please Note : For the main movements on how to work the chain, please refer to Karen’s video tutorial. 
I am only illustrating a few options to begin a dead end split chain , which have worked for me. 

Size 20 , 10 or thick threads ….
Clockwise Curlicue
For Size 20 or thicker thread , use a pin , a safety pin, paper clip, needle…..   
Measure the length of chain (curlicue) you desire, & make a very simple SLT-type Single knot on the pin at that point. (This kind of acts as a Lock Stitch later)
Note that since it is a SSSCh, we are working with a pulled-out length of Shuttle thread only !  

Counter-Clockwise Curlicue
These curlicues can be made in either direction ; clockwise as well as counterclockwise.
The above 2 chains were made starting from left to right, resulting in a clockwise coil.
The following chain will be made starting from right to left, resulting in a counterclockwise coil.
In both cases, Reverse Stitch is being used (also called 2nd half of Split ring method, lark’s head knot,  unflipped stitches/hitches, encapsulation, etc. )
In Jane’s pearl tatting, if one uses Sh2 movement in SSSCH, then one gets a clockwise curlicue ; if one adopts Sh1 movement, one gets an anticlockwise curlicue.
In my photo-tut, pics 3B to 3H illustrate the loop & shuttle movements in order to work the RS with caps facing on top of core thread.

One must remember, though, that in case of these counterclockwise floating curlicues, one is working from right to left. Order of hitches/unflipped stitches remains the same – 2nd half then 1st half, & repeat…

Theoretically, one could RW & tat the counterclockwise curlicue as the clockwise one. 
But I could not handle it - there are too many things going on : no place for a proper pinch ; 
short length of core thread ; And the tatted part comes in the way of shuttle movement, if Reversed ! 

For Finer threads : Size 40, 80, etc. or rayon, silk, …
A pin worked fine when working with size 20 thread. There is no space/gap at the beginning of the chain. However, this same pin proved too big when working with fine threads such as rayon & silk as I did in this Tatting for Holi composition.

My solution for fine threads – use a length of sewing thread in place of a pin ! For medium-sized threads, dental floss, fishing thread, etc. can be used. Rummage through your sewing kits for the right size of thread to start the curlicue !

Following images demonstrate some key steps in starting a dead-end Curlicue

Some Useful Tips :
·       When you pull tight, after removing the pin / auxiliary thread, a Lock Stitch effect takes place & the end ‘hitch’ gets locked in. You can push the hitches all you want, but they will stay as a curve ! No gap / space is seen at the start, once the pin/thread is pulled out & hitches snugged against the starting point.
·       For greater coiling effect, pull the hitches snug ; the tighter or closer they are, the greater the curve.
·        However, the hitches themselves should not be made too tight. Otherwise they will not move neatly, smoothly, easily over the core thread to form a coil.
·        I prefer using a pin/needle for counterclockwise SSSCh, because it can be pierced through fabric/mattress, thus keeping the work steady & anchored, & also keeps the core thread taut to make hitches.
·        Choice of pin, thread, yarn, wool, or floss would depend on the size of tatting thread one is working with. For 20 & above, pin is fine. For 30 & 40, floss would work. For 80 & less, any appropriate sewing thread can be used.

I  concede that reading or simply viewing the pics might be a bit confusing. 
But once the shuttles are picked up, it all "clicks" together.
happy tatting :-)


  1. Neat. I've just been tatting a curlicue on the kiss curl heart. I was working with size 10 thread so grip not so difficult. I just made a knot in the thread to prevent the core thread disappearing. I learnt that from the Julia Sanders book, very long ago. That book uses curlicues a lot.

    1. You are absolutely right, Jane. But those are curlicues or dead end starts on "normal" chains and one has the ball/shuttle2 thread for grip & pinch. And stitches are flipped.
      For the SSSCh / floating chains above, stitches are unflipped, one is working with single thread from single shuttle Hence the need for aids. I tried, but couldn't do without an aid in these type of curlicues. Thanks for sharing your technique :-)

  2. Clear, as your usual. If you like, if you mind reading the tut for "the butterfly in the trefoil", there's something like this for its body. Thank you for your tips, this post is very inspiring.

    1. I would love to read the tutorial. But where can I find it ? It is not in your Tutorials tab/page. Google throws up Grace Tan's trefoil butterfly.
      Could you please give some link or designer details ?
      Also, thank you so much for your kind words :-)
      I have just ordered Elgiva's book , so looking forward to some history and advanced techniques ....

    2. Thank you to spend your time to look for the tut. Sorry, it's my fault! Yesterday I reorganized the layout of my blog but I still listed that tutorial under "sets in flickr". It is this link:

    3. Thanks, again, Ninetta :-)
      I'm quite curious to try this out !

  3. Absolutely brilliant, thanks for bringing all this information together.

  4. Your are so wonderful with all these tips and you are such a great reference or resource, keep them coming! Now I must have too many blogs I belong to, because I completely missed this one and a few of yours has slipped by when every posts shows up. I did this with my cat tales when I made my cats but I tied two shuttles together and then did not worry about curling the ends till I was done. I love the Idea of adding one more extra curls and this post will inspire many new things I am sure of it.

    1. Drop by whenever you can, Carollyn, it's always a pleasure to hear from you :-))
      I checked your cats tails & Love them !!! The individual cats are really cute.
      Thank you for your lovely comment :-D

  5. I love you for this tutorial! :-) Thank you! I must try it!

    1. I know you will do wonders with it, Dorothea :-))
      Thanks for your sweet words :-)

  6. Ah, are mastering so many techniques, I don't think I will ever be able to keep up on this front!

    1. But Robin, if you learn a few of these, you will be able to apply them to your patterns so much more effectively and elegantly than I ever can :-D