Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lonely Tatter

Warning to any males (and un-crafty females) who might read this: It's needlework and going to be boring.

When I first started keeping this journal, it was going to be (among other things)a record of the needlework I did during the year and in the past. It turns out I made very little in 2009, but I did follow the one little quilt, the Log Cabin Latte, from beginning to end, agonizing over much of it but totally enjoying it.

I made a few baby gifts with my embroidery machine but didn't take pictures of all of them and have pretty much nothing to show for my year. I was looking at my picture file under "Quilts" and "Sewing" and realized that I didn't document a lot of the things I've made in the past 10 years. Most are given away, but I'll get the others on here this month

In the late 80s and early 90s, I really don't think I did any crafty things, but when we moved to Meridian, I saw a newspaper ad for classes offered at a community college. One of them was tatting, and that thrilled me because I had been wanting to learn for a long time. My grandmother tatted and made lace for her granddaughters' sock and dresses. Here is a portion of a collar she did.

Not so clear (and needs trimming), but I think it shows that tatting is made of only tiny rings and chains, and you have to figure out where to put them to make something.

I wanted her to teach me, but when she tried, her hands had gotten shaky, and she couldn't remember, so we gave up. I also came to realize that it's a very hard thing to learn, and I can't imagine teaching anyone.

So, anyway, I showed up for the class along with about 6 others and met the teacher, Fritz. She was in her 80s and not very patient. She later became a good friend, but I didn't get off to a good start with her. I had taken along Grandma's bone shuttle, which she was very impressed with, but I think she expected me to be a quicker study. The others gradually figured out enough to please her, but it seemed she was always mad with me. I just did not get the concept. But I practiced at home and the next week the light came on. It still was hard, but I learned how to push and pull the shuttle around the thread to make the 24 little stitches that make up 1 ring

These are the tools - the shuttles of various sizes and the thread.
I never got to complete the classes because that was when I got the call that Daddy was sick and not expected to live much longer. I packed up and went to Andalusia and stayed until he died, and I sat beside his bed day and night and worked away on my tatting. When I opened my notebook of patterns and instructions that I used then, those memories made my heart hurt.

I pretty much thought that was as much as I would learn, but somehow I found out Fritz was teaching various things at a senior center, and she let me come and sit in on her other classes and taught me enough to let me say I know how to tat.

My friend Kay had a framed cross that her mother-in-law had done. It was matted on brown velvet, and I thought it was so pretty. Fritz told me that if I would bring a picture of it, she would make a pattern and teach me how to make one. We did even better; Kay took it off the wall, and we took the whole thing to her. She just sat there and made up a pattern and walked me through it.

Here it is:
Not so pretty all wet and on a piece of plastic. Don't look too closely. I'm not perfect! In fact, I have no idea how I did this and could never do it again. But I can make rows of little circles. I'll try to prove it later on.

So now I've gotten tatting off my chest.

While I was in Fritz's class, I would sometimes wander next door where people were quilting and doing heirloom sewing. I deserted Fritz and joined Diane, the heirloom teacher, and a really fun time in my life started.

I'm boring myself, so I'll stop and go read.


  1. I've never known anyone who does that kind of needlework. It's really beautiful!!

  2. I believe it is becoming a "lost art." I guess machines have taken over. It's not easy, and it takes so long before you can see any progress that it's not very rewarding. You can buy needle tatting books and kits in craft stores, and I've tried that. It's similar.

  3. Did you tat a couple of ornaments for Eleanor? There were some snowflakes and other things I had laid out on the secretary around her glass manger scene and angels. I was going to see if you, Emily or Elise wanted to take any of those from Eleanor's collection. I think I put them in one of the drawers of the secretary. You might want to look them over next time you are at Roy's.

  4. Christmas ornament? No, I don't think I got that advanced. But then I've forgotten a lot of things, so I'll check on them.

  5. Great blog, kiddo. I have a quilt blog on
    I've always wanted to learn to tat, and even bought a shuttle, but figured you had to have a seperate one for each color thread. I don't know.LOL I know I've done a lot of macrame when taking courses in college. Sorry about your daddy, hon. Keep those fingers busy and the mind, and you'll do fine. I've been quilting since I was a little girl, and haven't stopped since. It has helped me thru some hard times in my life. That's one thing about arts, hobbies, etc. Ones' Great Gift.