Guest Author - Beverly Elrod
How to Read Tatting Instructions
Reading patterns for any craft can be difficult, at best, to be able to understand enough to complete an item and be proud that the outcome is the same as the picture on your instructions. I’ve read some patterns that, had I followed the instructions to the ‘T’, I’d end up with a completely different project. And, I’ve come across some that, had I followed the directions the way they seemed to read, I would’ve ended up with a complete mess. We’ve all had this happen to us; whether it was following directions to tat, instructions for sewing a garment or whether it’s a recipe handed down from generation to generation. If we can’t understand the directions, we won’t be happy with the end result.
If I were to set out across a long, unknown stretch of roadway and head for a destination, to a place where I’d only seen a picture, I’d very likely end up lost along the way and in a situation where I’d be very frustrated; having wasted a lot of gas and holiday time to get nowhere. I might have brought a travel map along with me, on my journey but, if I don’t know how to read that map or am not aware of what the different symbols on that map mean, then I’ll be just as lost as I’d be had I not brought a map at all. The same can be said if I were to attempt to tat a bookmark, doily or any other project, without understanding how to connect the different steps (rings and chains). And, if I have a pattern (map) but, am unable to read it or understand what the different symbols mean, then I will still be lost and nowhere nearer to reaching my end destination of having a completed project that I could be proud of. I’d be no better off than had I not had a pattern at all.
So, today I want to share with you the different ways in which a pattern can be written and how to interpret those various methods, to be clear and precise, when you transpose them into words, phrases and complete sentences; which in turn will allow you to combine rings and chains so that you will understand what it is that your pattern is expecting you to do.
First, let’s learn the main abbreviations. You will not see each of these abbreviations in every pattern but, there's several that you will. The others are no less important and you'll do well to learn them-or to at least keep an index card or some type of flash card-near your tatting craft box so they'll be handy till you do have them learned.
• Beg - beginning
• Ch(s) – chain(s)
• Cl – close (or close ring)
• CTM – continuous thread method
• Ds – double stitch
• J – join
• Jk – Josephine Knot
• Lp – loop
• P(s) – picot(s)—sm p – small picot, lg p – large picot [picot is also symbolized by a dash (-)]
• Prev – previous
• R(s) – ring(s)
• Rw – reverse work
• Sep – separated
• Sp – space (or leave a space at designated area)
• Sr – split ring
A number preceding a ds will tell you how many double stitches to make.
When using multiple shuttles, shuttle one is represented by s1: shuttle two is represented by s2, etc. The same rule applies for multiple needles substituting 'n' for 'needle'.
Pattern designers usually identify the individual rings or chains by labeling them with the letters; A, B, C and so on.
Here, I’ve listed a few symbols and rules in how they are to be applied.
• *- repeat instructions after an asterisk for a specified number of times
• ( ) - repeat instructions between parentheses for a specified number of times
• . (a period) - close the ring/chain
Now that you know some basics about abbreviations and some ‘rules’ to read by, let’s go over a few examples. Each row below represents pattern instructions which will create the same ring:
1. R: 6 sets of 3ds separated by p, cl
2. R: 3ds-3ds-3ds-3ds-3ds-3ds.
3. R: 3ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3ds, p, 3ds, p, 3ds, p, 3ds.
4. R: 3ds, p* four times, 3ds.
5. R: 3ds, (picot, 3ds) five times, cl
First, notice that in line #1 there’s a ‘cl’ (close ring) at the end, but in lines #2 and #3, the ‘cl’ is represented by a (.) period. Also notice that in line #2 the picots are symbolized by a dash (-) while in line #3 a letter ‘p’ represents the picot.
Now, to read our ring pattern in clear long-handed English, it will read like this:
Do three double stitches, a picot, three double stitches, a picot, three double stitches, a picot, three double stitches, a picot, three double stitches, a picot, three double stitches, then close.
Keep in mind that although the basic abbreviations and symbols don’t change much, each designer may somewhat change the way he/she writes his/her directions. But, you’ll find that most designers will not stray far from the examples shown above.
Now that you’ve had an introduction, to pattern reading, you’re well on your way to a wonderful journey into the world of tatting.