I learned to knit as a child, at about seven or eight years of age. From there I gained the confidence to learn how to crochet. I had my grandmother to sit beside me and show me how to manipulate the yarns while she entertained me with her stories about her sons going off to war and her beloved home in Canada. It was not until I was an adult, after my grandmother was sadly gone, that I decided to learn tatting. I found a little booklet in the five-and-dime store for fifty-cents and was fascinated by the doily on the cover. I bought a metal tatting shuttle and hurried home, pushing my children in the stroller. I was loaded with ambition and visions of a home filled with elaborate lace. Armed with only the tatting booklet and too much overconfidence, I was soon frustrated and disappointed.
Tatting is one of only two crafting ventures I have ever taken on that I have found truly daunting. The second was trying to build a ship in a bottle. That was a total failure and I still keep the empty bottle as a reminder that I cannot do everything I imagine. I gave up on ships but I tried again with tatting. And then I tried again. It was not until my third attempt that the little light went on and I understood how it worked. I now apply that lesson to all of my needle crafts. From tatting I learned that, without understanding the rationality of what you are trying to make, you will be lost and frustrated. It takes more than just using your hands.
My empty ship-in-a-bottle bottle:
When you tat you form a loop around your fingers and the stitches must slide along that loop. Once I understood that, it was not long before I finally managed to get my fingers, and the thread, to cooperate and I was making simple tatting lace. Then, past the confines of frustration, I found I loved tatting and I have made dozens of tatted items over the years including tatting tools and toys that make the work even more enjoyable.
Tatting is beautiful, inexpensive to make and wonderfully portable. It can fit into your pocket and with nothing more than a tiny ball of thread and a shuttle you can have it at your fingertips to enjoy anywhere. It is magical to see it being done. The movements of tatting are graceful and ladylike. The French call it frivolite, or frivolous. I think it is the perfect description since I always feel a bit frivolous whenever I tat.
I loved it so much I began taking on more elaborate patterns and projects. I bought old tatting booklets from flea markets and graduated from heavier bedspread weight cotton, like is used in finer crochet, to threads more like those you use in your sewing machine. I got bold and entered an international tatting contest. I read the rules and submitted my entrance forms and a handkerchief I had made with a very fine, wide tatted edging. To my shock and dismay, I was disqualified. They told me that the work I submitted was not something that was produced recently and was a piece that was likely made in the 1800's. By the time I submitted thread samples and the remnants of the fabric I had used to make the handkerchief to prove I had made the piece, the contest was over. The judges sent me a letter of apology and a pair of hand forged scissors from an artist in England that fit into a reticule, which is a little hanger to put around my neck. I didn't get the thousand dollar grand prize but I did get the satisfaction that I must be a damn good tatter.
My "disqualified" handkerchief:
Over the years I have made edgings and doilies and earrings. I have collected shuttles from the simplest two-dollar plastic, to intricate brass and silver collectible antiques. I have used every one of them in at least one project. No two shuttles feel exactly the same. Some glide easily through the loop of thread but are not heavy enough. Others have nice weight but get caught as I work and that can be frustrating. Tatting, like many kinds of work, is always best with good tools.
So today I will share some pictures of some of my tatting projects and a few links to projects and other wonderful tatters who make lace and tools. There are plenty of videos online that teach tatting, both the method done with a small, leaf-shaped shuttle and a style of tatting done with a long thin needle. I have done both. I prefer a shuttle for the firm pieces and the fact that I can use longer runs of thread. But needle tatting is fast and fun. At the end of this posting are several places where you might find inspiration.
Thank you for visiting!
My first tatted doily from the five-and-dime booklet with my first shuttle and the hand forged scissors:
Some tatted projects:
The lower blanket has tatting. The upper one is a crochet edging:
Some of my shuttles:
Where I keep my tatting supplies:
This is a wallet from the dollar store I gutted and turned into a tatting wallet:
Here is a tatting press. It's a great tool for keeping your lace flat while being stored. There's a link at the end of this posting to the designer's page:
With a drawstring tatting bag. The link to the pattern is below:
Some great places for tatting goodies!
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