First up, thanks so much to everyone for your comments! I have been making this stuff for so long with little to no input (other than, the usual "You're so weird Regina" comment). Needless to say, the comments from you all are welcome and refreshing. Thank you so much!
Onto the subject of filet crochet. It is very, very easy. If you know how to make a chain and double crochet, then that's half the battle. The other half of the battle is reading a chart. A chart is basically graph paper where squares are alternately filled in and left open creating an image.
Depending upon what size thread you use determines the stitch content for each square and the amount of rows completed (the gauge). I like to use DMC Traditions (size 10) for large pieces like the skeleton. I could go smaller, but I like having less rows and stitch content per filled in square. With size 10 thread I get 4x4 squares per inch.
Blocked squares using my gauge above consist of one dc to begin the square, one dc to fill in (center stitch) and one dc to end the square. An open square consists of one dc at the beginning of square, ch 1 for opening (center stitch) and end with one dc. When working across a row, the end dc of a square is the beginning dc for the next square (don't increase stitches). I know this sounds confusing, but it's really not. Hint, if you look at a piece of graph paper, each vertical line is one double crochet and each space in between the lines are filled in with another dc (thereby blocking out a square) or have a chain one connecting it to the next dc (thereby creating an open space). Stick to that visual and you will be fine. Whew!
You have the basic building blocks. Now, how do you chart an image, you say? Well, I go to the art store near me and by 18"x24"pads of 4x4 squares per inch graph paper. Then I either draw a basic sketch for the image I want to translate or use a found image.
Let's take the skeleton for example. I knew I wanted each bone to be its own doily. So, I used found drawings of each bone (why recreate the wheel when you can google the image you want and print those), took those to my copy machine at work and enlarged each one to life size (after business hours...LOL). Then I cut each bone out and traced each one onto it's own sheet of graph paper. Here's the part of the process I do in front of the tube watching the Scifi channel: I filled in each bone by coloring in those squares making up the bone while leaving the space around the bone open. Now, because I am working with a series of squares, my outline of the image tends to look like an staircase on LCD. No bother. When the image is crocheted the outline looks amazingly smooth. I like borders around my filet crochet doilies so I fill in my desired amount squares around the image (usually two squares thick by however long) thereby creating a clean outline.
When charting I use a good ole number 2 or 4 pencil with a gum eraser. Mistakes are easily rectified using these tools. Please note that I use my initial tracing guideline as just that, a guideline. After I have charted an image, sometimes it looks weird so I have to add more filled in blocks or reduce said blocks to make the image "read" better. Afterall people, it's art not math!
I cannot emphasize this enough. ANYTHING can be charted. You can chart letters and numbers, intricate lacy patterns, your cat, whatever! It just takes time and patience. Experiment! For instance, I have been charting and filet crocheting all the lyrics to supercalafragilisticexpialidocious (this is my filet crochet opus). The sky's the limit with this process!
Whew! Well, that should get you started. Next lesson (if I haven't bored you to tears already): how to read a chart and go from paper to doily!