Sunday, March 4, 2012

What exactly is tatting with a shuttle?  I emphasize the use of a shuttle to quickly avert people who may have come to this blog looking for information about tattoos. Sorry, this is not about tattoos, lol. I am not a fan of them just for the record.

Tatting using a shuttle and thread is a very old form of lace making which was often referred to as "the poor mans lace" because it could be created efficiently with very few tools. Wikipedia gives a nice explanation of what tatting is and includes some photos of shuttles and lace made from tatting.  It is an interesting read.

I began to successfully tat with a shuttle in late October of 2011 however it was not the first time I tried tatting. Originally I purchased a shuttle in 1988 after reading a book by Colleen McCullough "The Ladies of Missalonghi" where the main character in the book was tatting some lovely lace. I became so curious about this since I had absolutely no clue what tatting was. For me to understand what the character was doing, I needed to research it further. So I purchased a small booklet and a shuttle and crochet thread from the local department store and I studied this booklet carefully and proceeded to tie my fingers up with the thread! I decided this was beyond me and set it aside. We moved a few months later and I threw the shuttle and booklet away thinking this was something I would never try ever again.

Well, I guess I just wasn't totally ready to give up on this. In early 2003 I decided to visit "The Yarn Shop," one of those specialty stores in my city, to purchase yarn for hat knitting and while I was there I noticed a section devoted to tatting books and supplies. I also learned for the first time that tatting could actually be accomplished using a long needle similar to a doll makers needle to create tatted lace. The shop owner introduced me to a book that included supplies with it and before I knew what I was doing I found myself walking out of the store with not only my yarn I went in for but 5 tatting books, including one teaching needle tatting and thread to play with. I found I could do the rings and the chains quite well with the tatting needle but as to understanding the instruction in the other books, not a chance. So my progress was very simplistic rings and chains which I did rarely. I made a few simple edgings but the needle tatting just did not excite me at all. The books pretty much stayed on the bookshelf and only came down about once a year as I would look though and sigh over all the lovely items I desired to make but just had no clue. Somewhere in that time frame I purchased a pair of Clover brand tatting shuttles but I had very little success understanding how to use them. The concept of tatting became a bit of a sore spot for me. I have tried so many crafts over the years and always with great success so what was wrong with me that I could not get this tatting!!!

And now to fast forward...  In October 2011 I found myself in a conversation in one of the yahoo groups I am a member of. The group owner posed the question, "Does anyone here Tat?" I felt those short hairs at the back of the neck start to rise. My long time nemesis coming back to haunt me. I replied that I could needle tat but only just slightly but that I have never been able to succeed with a shuttle. As I sat here and thought more about this something occurred to me. You Tube!! I have learned so much from other crafters over the past few years from the instructional videos they have posted freely on You Tube. Surely there must be some for tatting. I was right! Lots of wonderful videos out there to view and learn from. I watched many of them over and over but no matter how many times I tried to repeat their movements, I just could not get it to work. You see when your tatting, you are using your fingers and the shuttle to transfer a half knot from the thread in your right hand to the thread wrapped around your left hand. This procedure is called doing the "flip". For 6 hours I tried over and over again to get that *&^%$$ thread to flip and could not get it. My oldest son became tired of waiting for me to cook dinner so he cooked it for us and the younger one fixed a plate and stuck it in my face insisting I take a break and eat. Good for him, the break helped. I came back to my thread and shuttle an hour later and on the first attempt, that half knot flipped to the left hand thread! I then spent the next hour trying to figure out how I had achieved that flip, lol. I think I would flip one then not flip the next 15 or so then I would get another to flip. I spent the remainder of the evening practicing over and over until I finally managed to get them all flipping nearly every time. Now I do it without even thinking about what I am doing. It is just very natural to me. Ah but I am getting ahead of myself. My first real piece I finished after learning that flip was a bookmark I made using size 10 crochet thread.

My youngest son claimed this bookmark for himself. He seemed to really like it.
After I finished this one, I was so happy with it that I began to invest in more threads but in size 20 and began to purchase several different types of tatting shuttles. I wanted to try different ones to see which ones I like the best. I am still in the stage of trying different ones and I have very definite opinions on a few of them. I plan to write a review about those in another post. I did move on with my tatting attempts and my skill has improved with each new project. I made another bookmark which I kept for myself.

I really love this design! This one is "Flowers" Designed by Jill Hanna and the one maroon colored bookmark is "Beginner's Choice" By Barbara Foster. Both are from the book "Tatted Bookmarks  Needle and Shuttle" Published by Handy Hands, Inc. I have found this to be an excellent book. So as you can see, I did finally get the basics down but I really wanted to know more and learn more to advance in technique but also to be sure that what I have been doing so far has been correct. The question became, 'How do I do this?" I will answer this in my next posting so check back for as Paul Harvey would say... "The rest of the story."