Tatting Using Electron Configurations

Tatters are a creative bunch. Over the last couple of years there have been quite a few brilliant tatters designing and sharing patterns or developing interesting ways to use tatting elements and techniques. More recently there have been a number of tat alongs and new patterns shared through Facebook. It seems that when tatters around the world have some ‘free time’ they begin to ‘tat’ down those ideas that have been rattling around in their heads and share them.

I have recently begun the ‘Threads that bind’ doily, which dear Jon Youseff has shared a week at a time though facebook. I was impressed and excited when she opened up the last round of the pattern to others to design and share. There are now several versions of this last round (in some cases rounds) for tatters to drool over and then re-create themselves.

This morning I woke up to a post from Natalie Rogers on facebook where she has begun sharing her ‘tat you own adventure‘ poker cards again. If you join the Facebook page, she will draw some cards for you too. This poker card format gives you elements to play with, to design your own motifs and patterns. Last time she ran it, I managed to keep track of the elements and began drawing some possibilities. They didn’t make it to my shuttle, but it was a fun process.

My notebook with the first tat your own adventure poker draw

My notebook with the first tat your own adventure poker draw

The most recent tat your own adventure poker draw from today.

The most recent tat your own adventure poker draw from today. Cards drawn are sketched along the top of the page, with one possible pattern drawn out underneath.

Now, this poker game and designing phase has reminded me of an idea I had last year in November. So I thought it would be a great time to share with you all now too.

As you may be aware, I am a science teacher. Walking past a colleagues desk I saw a pile of worksheets for her Chemistry class. On top of this pile was a page listing the valence electron configurations of some elements. The notation reminded me of tatting patterns, and so the idea was born. (*Thanks to my colleague Fi1 for sharing her lesson and not thinking I was too crazy while I muttered about double stitches and picots.)

Part of the Electron configuration worksheet I noticed on a colleagues desk. It reminded me of tatting patterns.

Part of the Electron configuration worksheet I noticed on a colleagues desk. It reminded me of tatting patterns.


My notebook from November 2019 with the electron configuration sheet that started my idea.

I decided to try and make a motif of Krypton. The first step was to make a decision about the translation of the valence notation into tatting elements. I used the numbers in each orbital, along with the letter, prefix and superscript to make a pattern in tatting.

The outer orbitals I used for Krypton (Kr) were:   5s2 4d10 5p3

I defined the letters in the orbitals as:

  • s= ½ Double Stitch (Josephine knot)
  • d= Double Stitch
  • p = Long picot
  • f= faux picot to climb out of a round
  • If the orbital has a prefix, this may be used as the number of stitches of that type.
  • If the orbital has a superscript, this could indicate the number of repeats, for a section or a round.

Perhaps once you choose an element, the final round is always chains showing the long picot repeat?

Of course, you could change any of these elements to suit your ideas and style of tatting.

To make my Krypton motif I found the final sequence to work:

  • 1st round: Rings of 5 Josephine knots, and 2 small picots, chains of 4 p 4 p 4.                5 repeats for the round.
  • 2nd round: Chain of 5 picots, join to previous round’s chain at picot. Repeat.

A close up of tatting with electron configurations: Krypton motif

Of course, this is just the valence electrons (electrons in the outer shell) of Krypton. If you wanted to include all of electrons and orbitals for this, the 36th element, you would make a doily instead of a motif.

This lead to me thinking about a “First 20 elements Doily”, where the rounds would be built up of each element’s electron configuration.

More notes and thinking for tatting with electron configurations

More notes and thinking for tatting with electron configurations

The only problem I can see is in the execution of this idea.  When an “s= Josephine knot” Hydrogen and Helium are very tiny and fiddly to make. So maybe, for this experiment, we would need to redefine “s” as a double stitch, and “d” as 2 double stitches, or even a padded double stitch.

The first two rounds of this doily could then be represented as:

  • 1st round: (H) 1s [ Ring 1ds p 1ds p 1ds], Chain (He) 1s2 [1ds p 1ds]
  • 2nd round: (Li) 2s [Ring 2ds p 2ds p 2 ds],  Chain (Be) 2s2 [2ds p 2ds]

I haven’t tested this yet. I would be interested to know what you all think.

I have been having fun looking up other elements and their valence electron configurations. Here is a link to a table with the electron configuration of every element: https://biochemhelp.com/chemistry/electron-configuration-of-every-element-2/

If you wanted to make a Krypton doily you could base it off this:

36 Kr Krypton 1s2 2s2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6

Well, I hope that has given you some ideas to work with, and maybe you’ll try and define your own tatting elements from the electron configurations. I would love to see and hear about your own tatting adventure with the periodic table and valence electrons 🙂

As always,

Happy tatting!

Fiona T



Filed under Eye Candy, Patterns, Tatting

3 responses to “Tatting Using Electron Configurations

  1. Thank you for the mention and for joining another poker run! I love that you are turning chemistry into art!

  2. This is incredible! Thanks for sharing the recipe too – I love your very colourful take on Krypton.

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