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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Number 10. Gecko!!!

My very favorite animal the gecko,(you didn't know that did you!!!).
After gentle hints, lots of inspiring photos Jane finally got bitten by the gecko bug and designed the most fabulous pattern for me. If you haven't seen all her geckos on her blog then you have missed a treat, and her gecko trimmed jacket is a real wow.
Tatting and geckos rule!!
I couldn't wait to give the pattern a test run and here is my first attempt.

He's OK apart from his eyes which ended up on the wrong shuttle!

Jane's geckos come in the most outrageous colour mixes that are beyond the wildest dreams of even the most fashion conscious gecko!! I guess my conservative choices will blossom into similar geckos.

BUT the remit of this challenge is to try to make realistic animals and so this was the aim in my second gecko.

My very own gecko expert said that Jane's gecko reminded him in it's shape of one of his New Caledonian geckos Rhacodactylus auriculatus commonly known as the Gargoyle gecko. Look particularly the shape of the tail,in the first photo, the base of the tail is bulbous and they continues as a short narrow tail. Also the relatively large head.

This was one of my favorite geckos, he had her for 16 years and she was not a youngster when he got her. Sadly she died about six months ago. You can't really see her true shape from these pictures, she did put on a bit of weight in her old age!

A nocturnal tree living gecko you can see how she would blend in with the bark.
She was always a favorite with visitors as she was slow to run away. Her skin was soft as velvet and so were her little paw pads. See how she can bend her toes upwards, the only vertebrate to be able to do that. This protects the 'sticky' micro hairs from getting dust and dirt in them.

So this is my tribute to her. Restrained by the colours of my threads she is a new variety R.auriculatus var.'Jane's Gargoyle'!

The thread is Coats Anchor perle 8 (from Coats India)and it really shines, the beads orange and silver lined brown, sparkle. She measures five and a half inches and if there is anybody out there like me who likes to know how much thread to use, she took 6.25m on sh1 and 4.5m on sh2 (I tat very tightly so you may need more). They have white eyes with a vertical slit like pupil which they can close as they have no eyelids. I used brown wooden ones about 5mm. may try some pale ones next.

I did tweak Jane's pattern just a little to give her a longer stride and a front left elbow. She is a very young and agile gecko!
She has a very tatty tail (looks like she may have been attacked by a bird!!) due to my inability to master Tonya's method of adding beads to a split ring, got it in the end tho but slightly differently. Lots more mistakes in there too.
The pattern is very easy to follow, done in one pass and when finished doesn't need blocking just a little flattening. When you do the feet (long picots) make sure the thread isn't twisted and they will lie perfectly round. I used 20mm picots.

Lots more geckos to come! Did you see my gecko memorabilia on my other blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Number 9. Scorpions!


So why would I want to include one in the progression of my tatted challenge zoo!

Well, after I'd tatted the Meerkats I watched a programme on Meerkats (fleas and all!) in the Kalahari Desert. What wonderful social groups they live in, taking it in turns to be the 'look out', always ready for the unexpected.
Saw them grooming each other like the primates do, guess this is their way of dealing with those darn fleas!
There is not a lot to eat in the desert and one of their favourite snacks is a nice crunchy scorpion. Makes me shudder! Apparently they are more or less immune to the stings.

Still not a good enough reason to tat a scorpion?

So on to my story.
In 1967 when we were just married (yup celebrating 40 years next week) we took our belated honeymoon on an expedition to a Greek island with our University. Mmmm not much of a honeymoon sleeping in a tent for a month in a sun scorched field in the August heat. But we did have such great adventures travelling there and back thanks to the sponsors, riding on The Orient Express route from Paris to Venice, time in Venice, cruising thro' the Corinth Canal and down the Aegean sea on a small cruise liner to Pyraeus, time to spend in Athens, oooh what memories.

OK I'll cut to the point ...the scorpion!

My job on the expedition was to collect and identify the insects on the island so I'm not unduly squimish about anything with 6 legs. But when it comes to creepy crawlies with 8 legs that's a whole new ball game. One morning as I crawled out of my sleeping bag I felt that something had landed on my hair I instinctively brushed it away, bad move... it was you guessed, it a scorpion and it stung me on the side of my head...OUCH!
Now the only thing I knew about scorpions was that their sting was fatal! So it was lucky that I was on a zoological expedition and had people around (especially new hubby who knows these things!) to assure me that they were in fact not all lethal. I work on the basis that if someone tells me NOW YOU CAN PANIC then that's the time to panic! that's the theory anyway.
Well it wasn't fatal and it paid for that sting and was preserved for posterity!! I blurred it's details on our expedition label to save it's face but I was so amused to read the little addendum on the end of it 'after stinging the latter of us' !!!!!

Here he is with a little mate who didn't get the chance to sting me!

Being stung by one scorpion is an unfortunate accident but be stung by two scorpions is darn right bad luck!

A little more than a year later we went to live in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and work at the University. The first apartment we were given was on the ground floor and it didn't take long to realise that such freedom of access to all things that creep, crawl and slither! was not good. In less than a week I had trodden on a scorpion hiding in the dark in my shoe, can't blame the poor little beggar for lashing out. Fortunately he wasn't lethal either but boy it hurt like hell, ever had dozens of red hot needles stuck into the sole of your foot so that every time your foot touched the floor they shot up your leg. Don't remember much about the pain from the Greek scorpion, it must have hurt but I well remember hopping about on a make shift crutch for days after this one.
Needless to say we applied for a new apartment on got one on the first floor where we lived happily and safely for two years.

So lets say that tatting a scorpion is like laying a ghost for me and for once I can look at a friendly very cute scorpion courtesy of Jane's pattern.

Just a little tweaking honest to make him look more like my scorpion.

This is Jane's original pattern, very cute and instantly recognisable as a scorpion to me, but just not quite right.

Perhaps I better explain a bit about Scorpion anatomy,(those who are bored cut to the end!!).
You all know that insects have 6 legs and spiders have 8, this little fellows legs have been missed out as not necessary for the scorpion effect. But they would have been seen coming from the segments of the cephalothorax. Too big a word, nah...insect body is divided into 3 parts,head,thorax and abdomen but in arachinds the head and thorax are fused into one (hence cephalothorax) so they only have that and the abdomen. So far so good but I can hear you saying if the 8 legs are not on this specimen what on earth are those leg like things with the big claws.
Well unlike us insects and arachnids don't have teeth or hands to manipulate food instead they have mouthparts..extra little 'arms' to help them pick up, hold and stuff food into their mouths!! and serrated 'teeth like bits' to help them 'chew'.
So those long 'arms' are modifield mouth parts. While used to pick up food their are also very useful in attack and defense and are called pedipalps.

Now you know that my aim was to tat realistic animals so with `Jane's permission I tweaked.

The pedipalps on Jane's scorpion are too curved and have too many segments. Scorpions hold their claws out to the side of their body ready for action, so Jane's curve had to be reversed and an elbow made.
I loved the eyes and the way she had shown the segments of the cephalothorax with the loops of chains but I couldn't get them to lie flat so had to tweak a bit.
the abdomen I felt was too short for my scorpion and is immediately narrow as it emerges from the cepho' so that was tweaked too.
here are some shots of my trials and errors.

Finally I found that if I tatted the rings of the abdomen as for wrong side..2nd half, 1st half then it would curl up holding the sting in the tail above the body, and this I am happy with. Thanks Jane I could never have made this on my own.

He wouldn't hurt a fly, honest!
He's made in Oren Bayen thread in gorgeous varig oranges, looks so desserty, and measures about and inch and a half.

What happened to the African scorpion did someone ask.....well he paid the ultimate price too, I just can't find him at the moment, just remember him as being very black and sinister!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Taking a doily break!

I have been taking a break from tatting animals and have been tatting doilies. I haven't tatted a doily since the 80's when they were always done in white and had become boring!! and big!! I rarely do big!

But I had challenged my friends to make something bigger than they had ever made before, and I was going to be working all day for a month invigilating University exams so needed something to auto tat between exams.

I was so pleased to make a new young tatter during that time and to finish not one but three doilies.

The pattern is Emily from Janet Carroll's book 'Elegant Tatting Patterns'.
Tatted in Size 20 Coates Anchor and Flora threads the doilies measure about 8 inches.
First one was the trial one in white, I still love white doilies they have a crispness hard to get any other way.

I was not very happy with the outer round with josephine knots, need to pull the chain much tighter for it to lie well.

Second doily came out really well and was the favorite of many people I showed them to.

The third one is I think my favorite as it so different from anything I have done before, and I am happy with the tension.