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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

1) Diagramming Rings, Chains, and Picots

Today marks the start of an upcoming series of posts about how to use Inkscape to draw tatting diagrams. I don't have any schedule set in place, and will post them as I write them.

Inkscape is a free program that I have been using to create the diagrammatic patterns that you see on my Free Patterns page. You can download Inkscape by visiting their website and clicking on the "Download" tab:

Click Here to go to the website for Inkscape

This program can be very tricky to use, which is why I am going to break everything into smaller posts. Today I will talk about how to draw rings, chains, and picots to create the image below.

So, for those interested in learning more about diagramming, let's get started.

Upon opening Inkscape, one of the first things you may notice is that the page is zoomed out. The rectangle in the middle of the screen represents the actual page that you will be working with, although you can draw and move objects anywhere on the screen.

I like to begin by zooming in, so that I can get a better idea of the relative size of my drawing. Look for the zoom icon on your screen (mine is in the lower right corner) and use the up and down arrows to adjust to your desired size.

Once I have everything zoomed in, my page looks more like this:


Now it's time to begin drawing. When creating a tatting diagram, most of our drawing can be done with the circle tool. The circle tool allows you to draw circles, ellipses, and arcs. To select the circle tool, click on the circle icon on your screen:

Once selected, you can drag your mouse across the screen to create a variety of oval shapes. Below, I've created a shape that can be used to represent a ring:
If you want to adjust your oval, click and drag on either of the two small squares that rest along its circumference. The top square will adjust your oval vertically while the square on the left will adjust it horizontally. For a perfect circle, hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard while moving these squares.

If you click elsewhere on the page, the resizing squares will disappear and you can see what your image will look like when it is printed or accessed as a digital file:

Now that we have our ring drawn, it's time to make a chain. 

To draw a chain, we will be using the same circle tool that we used for the ring. Select the circle tool and drag your mouse across the screen to create a new shape.
Notice the small circle that I'm pointing to with the red arrow. This is used to turn your drawing into an arc. By clicking on the small circle and dragging your mouse around, you will notice the change in shape.

Dragging the mouse inside of the circle creates an open arc:
While dragging the mouse outside of the circle creates a closed arc:
For chains, we want to use the open arc image, so try to keep your mouse inside of the circle as you reshape. Alternatively, you can use the following icons to change your arc from closed to open and vice versa. These icons appear at the top of the screen when the circle tool is selected. You must be using the reshaping circles for this menu to become active.

Please note: If you want to go back to creating whole circles, you will have to change the shape again by clicking on the icon below:

When we have finished shaping our chain, we can select it and move it next to our ring to simulate interconnectedness. To move the chain, we need to switch to a new tool, which looks like the cursor of your mouse:

You will use this tool anytime you want to move an object. After you have selected the "cursor" tool, you can click and drag the chain toward your ring:
Place it where you would like it to be.
If you find that the shapes don't fit together in the way you'd like, you may have to re-adjust your chain, or change other aspects such as fill and rotation. I will talk more about these types of changes in a future post.

For now, lets move onto talking about picots. I like to use the pencil tool to draw my picots.

Select the pencil tool and click anywhere on your screen. Now (without holding the mouse button down) move your mouse around. You will notice a red line forming:
If you click again, this red line will become a solid black line, ready to incorporate into your drawing.
To represent a picot, you probably want to make your line a lot shorter. I like to zoom into my previously drawn ring or chain, and try to draw my two points directly on these elements

When you have finished drawing your picot, it should look something like this:
The red arrow that you see above is also drawn with the pencil tool, using color change, increased width, grouping, and rotating; all of which will be discussed in future posts.


  1. Thank You, Robin, for starting this series !!! As always, Very clear instructions & pics.
    I was using the pencil or one of the other icon/tools for drawing the chain & it was a bit of a struggle. Didn't know about the open arc one you've used - very effective !
    Will start a worksheet right away, so that I can keep practicing as you upload ..
    Thanks again :-))) Truly appreciate it !

    1. Drawing anything other than a straight line with the pencil tool is incredibly difficult. That being said, I somehow drew a ring with a freehand drawing tool when I first started to use Inkscape. I have no memory of how I did it, but it is the ring I have been using in all of my diagrams ever since. I will be providing it in a free downloadable template in an upcoming post.

  2. Very interesting, I will be coming back to read this again, thank you for doing this turtorial.

    1. Hi Margaret. I'll be creating a separate tab at the top of the page after I get a few posts done, so that these tips can be easily accessed at any time in the future.

  3. I can't get it to do a chain because I can't get a circle. It gives me a gray )or red or blue) circle that is filled in not an outline. How do I get just the outline of a circle.

    1. You will have to click the circle, then click on the "X" on the color palette to remove the fill. You can read more about setting Fill and Stroke in Part 5 of the tutorial. For chains, I have been using the method detailed in Part 2 of the tutorial. I have found it to be easier and more versatile than using circles.

  4. Thank you so much to help me to learn how to use Inkscape !

  5. merci, vos tutoriels sont super, grâce à vous j'arrive enfin à faire anneaux et chaînes avec Inskape