Friday, January 15, 2010

back on the lockstitch chain gang

I've been thinking about chains lately. The fiber made kind, that is, of course. I guess it really started waaaay back when... well...not all THAT waaay back when.... hmmm, oh well... as a child of about eight or so my mother starting me out on crochet and I can still remember the G hook and the light blue yarn I used for that chain. I wound what must have been at least twenty feet of crocheted chain into a ball... I was very proud! Although I've created many other things through the years and incorporated various fancy stitches, I marvel most at what can be done with the simplest of elements and the most basic of stitches. This is probably why I've always loved tapestry crochet too... one simple stitch... and the design and color used bring it to life. But I digress.. or do I? A few years back I even crocheted up a bunch of brightly colored chains and sold quite a few at local craft sale as a kind of versatile jewelry you could wind into a bracelet or necklace.

Lately, I've been feeling not too inspired and have mainly focused on getting out those WIPs (works in progress) that I've had laying about and getting them finished up - and I've been pretty successful with that - yay!. Then a series of things got me back to thinking of the wonders of the chain again... this time, the tatted chain. I created a series of tatted necklaces around the holiday time and what people commented on most was the way I had tatted the chain ... with a lockstitch (first part flipped, second part not flipped). It gives the chain a very woven, macrame kind of look (another example).

Where the heck am I going with all this? I'm not even sure! But thanks to the assistance of a fellow twitterite (@judijo) there are two links here for anyone interested in trying their hand at a lockstitch chain:

Lockstitch instructions for needle tatters
Lockstitch instructions for shuttle tatters

I've also done lockstitch chains just by finger tatting... it's kinda macrame-ish.. or is it tattcrame? They are easy to make, popular, and a fun project to use to introduce anyone to tatting. (I think starting people off by finger tatting is the way to go, btw. They understand the stitch (and the elusive flip) better.... and I mean, really... indispensable as it may be in most situations, the shuttle just holds the thread! At any rate here's a couple examples:

friendship bracelets using lockstitch chain in two colors (the blue ones are size 10 cotton)

bracelets in lockstitch, made with 1mm cotton cord (the center one using a double strand)

a close up of the stitch

People sometimes ask for instructions.... and I have to say, I rarely write down what I do, but here's an attempt at this simple little bracelet. If you don't know lockstitch at all, you might want to start with the instructions in the links up above there. Although I did needle tatting years ago, I left it by the wayside once I learned to shuttle tat, so I admit my ignorance of needle tatting mechanics and my bias for the shuttle.

The basic lockstitch friendship bracelet

What you'll need: 
  • about 3-4 feet of braiding cord (or cotton cord 1mm or 1.5 mm) - this should make a bracelet between 6-8 inches or so, depending on the wrist it's meant to go around, use a bit more for a longer bracelet or anklet ... or necklace!)
  • one bead of some kind with a hole big enough for the cord to go through (wooden beads usually have nice big holes for braiding cord, but sometimes you can find ceramic, glass, or bone too)
The steps:
  1. find the center of length of cord and make a tight overhand knot leaving a loop big enough for your bead to through - this also gives you something to hang on to as you start knotting/tatting
  2. now do the lockstitch to the required length of your bracelet- ok, you all hate me here, but the mechanics of the stitch are explained in the links up above
  3. when you've reached the desired length, finish with another overhand knot, slip on the bead, do another overhand knot (or two) to secure the bead .... woohoo... you got your bracelet!