• 07Jul

    I have long been fascinated by the history of fiber arts.  Old Greek manuscripts, like The Odyssey, tell stories of women spinning and weaving.  Ancient pottery shards depict images of women manipulating spindles and weaving at large looms. These crafts were passed down through history, changing and evolving with technology.  Some artforms were abandoned when new ones were popularized. Tatting, a form of lacemaking, was popular during the Victorian period and into the early 20th century.

    My great-grandmother was a tatter, probably due to her frugality.  She survived the Great Depression and two world wars, and maintained her thriftiness for the rest of her life.  Tatting allowed her the opportunity to create beautiful lace accessories, like collars and cuffs, as well as table-topping doilies and even a tablecloth, but to do so inexpensively.  The craft requires only a sturdy non-pilling cotton thread and a metal, plastic, or wooden shuttle – a boat-shaped bobbin – and either a pattern or a little imagination.  The expense was in the labor and expertise involved in manipulating the shuttle and thread, and the diligence required when creating a large or intricate project.

    I learned to tat about a decade ago, and find it a very satisfying endeavor.  Something about the rhythm of tying hundreds, or even thousands, of tiny lark’s head knots to create an intricate interconnected network of loops and scallops intrigues me.  Maybe it is the beautiful lace that I create with my own hands and some simple materials, or maybe its the act of tying myself to all the women of the past, of incorporating myself in the historic network of women who have used their hands to create clever or practical or beautiful things.

    For the past several months I have been working on a rather large (for me, anyway) project that I plan to submit to the Illinois State Fair competition.  Composed of thousands of tiny knots, this dinner-plate sized doily is made from #80 thread – thinner than standard quilting or sewing thread.  Tatting’s challenge is much like that of an old typewriter: mistakes are at the least very difficult and in the worst case impossible to correct.  Once a knot is made, it may be undone if it was done recently.  Like crochet, all intervening stitches must be undone in order to correct an early mistake.  If this involves a recently executed stitch in one of the straight or scalloping chains of knots, then it is feasible to correct an error.  But if the error lies within one of the closed loops of knots or beyond one of the aforementioned loops, then one must be a very skilled, patient, detail oriented, and have very keen sight.  Did I mention patient?

    So, here I sit, rhythmically tying tiny cotton knots, checking and double checking my work for accuracy, and hoping that it looks as good when it’s finished as it does in my imagination.

  • 05Mar

    tatted bookmarkAnother tatted bookmark…this one was for my husband’s grandmother on the occasion of her birthday.

    Shawl update:  I still have not completely decided what to do about the shawl dilemna.  I will probably rip back to the original body of the shawl in order to keep uniformity of color, and then do a wider edging to increase the size somewhat.  Meanwhile, I have been working on another shawl and I will post pictures of that at a later time.

  • 22Feb

    tatted bookmarkWell, I am feeling better after my bout with the flu and trying to get back on schedule.  It has been a long week, and I have been so bored lying around but have not felt well enough to do much else. 

    I do have a finished object.  Before I became ill I started tatting a bookmark for a friend, and I am happy to say that I finished it today and will send it off to its destination tomorrow. 

    And, after I finish a bit of seaming and blocking, I should also have pictures of the finished shawl I knitted in those wonderful moody shades that remind me of the camping in the mountains on a foggy morning. 

  • 20Jun

    tatting collage     

    When I think about my great-grandmother, I think of these three things:  tatting, quilting, and canning.  She lived in a rural Illinois town and lived through the depression.  She had a make-do-with-what-you-have attitude, and did not buy something unless absolutely necessary.  She kept a large garden into her 90’s and canned vegetables and homemade jellies.  Elderberry jelly was her specialty.  I still cannot find one that tastes as good as hers.  Sadly, we were separated by a distance that made it hard for me to see her often enough.  Even though she died when I was in my 20’s, I did not learn these skills from her. 

    I do not remember seeing my great-grandmother being idle.  when she sat, she was seated at her quilting frame or tatting.  When I grew up, I had a quilt she had made on my bed.  I had another that was a gift when I was born.  Sadly, the one from my bed was old and did not survive.  My baby quilt was made from fabric that is at least 70 years old and is very delicate; the edges are frayed and the print is very faded, but I still love it.  Before she died, she spent several years tatting a very large table cloth that was absolutely beautiful.  She had cataracts then, and her eyes were not very good, so there were some flaws.  This beautiful tablecloth is MIA.

    I very much wanted to learn these skills that neither my grandmother nor mother had learned.  My great-grandmother had passed away before I learned.  My husband knew of my desire to learn to tat, so he even purchased my first tatting shuttle on Ebay as an encouragement for me to learn.  Several years ago I found a stitching shop that offered tatting classes, and I was so excited to learn.  My sister Pink also took the class with me, and we have been “mad tatters” ever since.  The above picture is a sampling of some of the doilies, bookmarks, and Christmas ornaments I have made.

    I really enjoy tatting, it is quite relaxing.  I enjoy being able to create something beautiful out of something as simple as thread.  I enjoy being part of the history of lacemaking which stretches back centuries.  I enjoy mastering a domestic art that reminds me of my great-grandmother. 

    I also learned to hand piece and hand quilt, although I have not done a lot of it.  I do not have a sewing machine, but I do want one.  Then I would like to do the piecing by machine, but still quilt the top by hand.

    Today, I read in Tammy’s post about how to make strawberry jam, and it inspired me.  Canning may be in my future yet…