The Lost Art Of Tatting
Most of us remember grandmother's doilies on the arm of a chair. The lace tablecloths and bureau scarves and handkerchiefs were as comforting to us as the smell of apple pie cooling in the kitchen. Lace is now old-fashioned, those old doilies now sought after by collectors. Rarely do we see a young woman today adept at needle skills, quietly crafting a thing of beauty. Yet lace is still exquisite and brings to mind brides and femininity. I lied. The art of tatting is not lost at all.
The History - Tracing down the history of tatting is challenging as many countries lay claim to the craft. Most credible is the reference to a woman named Mlle. Elenore Riego de la Branchardiere who was appointed Artiste in Needlework to the Princess of Wales in the mid to late 1800's. She went on to develop the "continuous thread" technique as well as many others. She wrote eleven books on the subject between 1850 and 1868. Yet there are references to the ancient Egyptian use of a shuttle (called a makouk) to create rings and circles with thread. Some forms of tatting were depicted in paintings and mentioned in literature a far back as the 17th century. The belief was, through the years, that a woman's hands must not be idle.
What Is Tatting? - Dictionary definitions of tatting usually say "a kind of lace or knotted work used for trimming". But it really is so much more than that. Unlike other forms of needlework that require pins, needle, thread, and bobbins, tatting is a simpler technique using the hand and a shuttle to carry the thread. It produces such delicate lace and is the most demur expression of textile art. Lace contains compact texture with open spaces and both transparent and heavy parts. It is dainty and elegant and complex and has its place both in history and the modern world.
The Shuttle - Vintage tatting shuttles are a hot collector's item. Shuttles come in different sizes, shapes and materials. Shuttles have been made out of wood, ivory, sterling, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell (some inlaid with gold), porcelain, steel and, in modern days, plastic. Collectors are passionate about their hobby and are able to discern the reproduction from the original. Not only is there artistry in the finished product of tatting but in the tools themselves. Here is a photo site to some beautiful shuttles.
Tatting Today - Everyday new tatting techniques are created. Modern day tatters are innovative and creative always keeping in mind the history of the work they do. There are international organizations that support the craft and are very active in both promoting its growth and widening its appreciation. At International Old Lacers, Inc., you can study how to recreate historic laces or design contemporary ones. These folks find lace intriguing and it is. Beads and shimmering thread are now being introduced into patterns. There are numerous sites that sell tools, patterns, and learning materials for tatting. Here's one.
What You Can Make - Besides doilies and dresser scarves, there are many items to tat. Chair covers, slip covers, trim for clothing, even jewelry. Homemade Christmas ornaments can be beautiful and unique. Each piece can be like a snowflake - no two are alike. Please check out the following link to a slideshow of modern tatting projects. You will see why tatting is not a lost art after all.