Monday, February 25, 2008

A Few Observations on Block Tatting

There are interesting questions to consider when learning any new technique. Our instructor, Georgia Seitz, asked:
"Does block tatting replace a ring or a chain?";
and, "Is a block always square or rectangular?"
This led to a good question from Ruth Perry, "What constitutes the meaning of the word block as used in tatting?"

Today I will ponder these questions.
While the class decided a block in block tatting was both a ring and a chain, the class seemed split on the replacement factor. Mark Meyers sent the following,"I think block tatting is more texture added to the piece, just like a cluny leaf adds texture. It is just another decorative element to add what would normally be a "boring" ring and chain pattern. Block tatting can also fill in a space that a ring and chain combo can't. When you add elements like block tatting and cluny (or any other decorative stitches) it gives the piece character all its own."

When I considered the question, I approached it from a similar perspective since my background is art, graphic and 3-deminsional design.

A simple explanation of negative space.
More than one person has asked me about negative space. It is not overly important - above other elements of tatting - but it is interesting and plays a part in the design.
I'm asking you to visualize the following. If you take a pencil and draw a square on a sheet of white paper and then you fill in the square so that it is solid - the penciled lines are positive. Everything that surrounds the square - the white space in this case, is negative space.
Draw a circle and you have both a positive and negative. The line that forms the circle is positive while the white space inside and outside of the circle would be the negative space.
When you look at a piece of lace, its beauty derives not only from the solid structure of the thread in chain and ring, cluny, block; but also, negative spaces which create fractal shapes within the piece. That is a part of good design. It is what makes a thing pleasing to the eye.

Therefore, when I make a block - I tend to think of it as a solid (dense) element made by closely connected chains. Which is why my immediate answer was "chains." The flaw in my thinking? The chains may be in an oval or round shape - which is very like a ring that has been filled in and is solid. And that is why the class could say, that a block is composed of rings AND chains. This was particularly true in the "Princess and Pea" pattern set before us as designed by Wally Sosa. And that is why Mark's statement is also true, a "decroative element." Conclusion? A block is neither a chain nor a ring.

Along the way we briefly discussed the word "block". We all know that if we say the word 'blue' we will all think of something different. Blue can be a mood, Blues can be music, blue can be a color et cetera. Which is how the very bad pun, 'block and blue' came about! Block - do you think of a city block, a wooden block, a square shape, a period of time, being hindered, or a solid as in a block of cement? Perhaps a better term could be found; a solid element?
A block in tatting is meant to be a shape that is dense - that is, you can not see through it - there are not supposed to be any leaks of light between chains. It requires diligent practice in the technique to achieve success.
There are a number of ways to form these dense shapes. It is, simply put, chains that lie close together to form a shape. In most cases square or rectangular, but not always.
On Jane Eborall's site, there are instructions for forming a block which do not require turning the work. This method and Wally's method utilize unflipped (reverse) stitches. Wally does not make a picot, she leaves a very small bare piece of thread - very small, hardly noticable!
On Georgia Seitz's site, one makes a tiny, tiny picot and turns the work as in the leaves of a book; as do Pam Palmer's instructions.

The Key to Success with Blocks
The smaller the space to which you connect at the end of the chain - the closer together the chains will be - leaving no 'gaps' between the chains. So, whether you choose to use vsp (very small picots) or leave a very small spot of bare thread - you can achieve success with your block practice.
You remember that old saw, "those who can not do - teach?" At this point my tatting blocks is conquered in my brain - I can set it down as "How To" - now to set about achieving the elusive block in my work - so that I can "do". If you would like to see some well-done blocks (the kind I'm striving towards) check out Linda Davies blog (See Toptattyhead on links). But, have pity, no comparisons. LOL


Linda S Davies said...

Hi Bev,
I found your article on block tatting very interesting. Very well put, dear!
Love Lin

dani, the geek said...

hi BJ!

i'm wondering if we could draw parallels between block tatting and Entrelac knitting. both seem complicated, but are made using plain stitches. both are easier if worked backwards on alternate rows. hmmm... i wonder if entrelac sections could be inserted into knitted lace in the same way that the blocks are used in a tatted pattern...?

dani, whose brain's clutch is clearly slipping gears...

BJ said...

Hey Dani - Love the way your brain's clutch slips gears! LOL
By George, I think you are on to something with the Entrelac knitting creating a dense element and it seems as though it could be inserted into knitted lace - My knitting is at a level below beginning - I can make knitted squares and attach them together.
In another life, it seems like, when I was 14 I actually knitted argyle socks.

BJ whose clutch has clearly 'gone out' completely.