Friday, February 4, 2011


Miranda, a distant NM neighbor has asked bloggers o tell how they learned to tat.  First I’m going to show you what I chose as a first project; just in case you are new to tatting ~ don’t do this!
This took me from 2003 to 2010 for a variety of reasons. 
New tatter?  Begin with something small and something that will give you a quicker pleasure.

A Valentine Bookmark for cousin Trudy, having a good recovery from her stroke. 
She is reading a lot of books, so thought a bookmark would be appropriate!
Last year, I sent her a picot-filled heart.
This is tatted with HDT from Yarnplayer..Garden Afternoon, and Olde Rose with a bit of ecru.

This tatting story is not as exciting as some will be, and I didn’t have the opportunity to learn tatting from a grandmother or aunt.  
Sometime back in the mid nineties, there was a trigger that made me want to learn to tat.  I mean REALLY learn to tat!  It was nearing obsession with what I hoped was not a dying craft.  I decided to learn because I found a shuttle that belonged to a grandmother ~ a metal one that had some rust on the inside.  Making a trip to a local antique store, I asked my friend who ran it, “What is this for?”  And she explained about tatting.  
I have never had ANY good fortune with learning to sew (I know you hear about me whining all the time with reference to sewing).  I HAD when I was 14 learned the basics of knitting, and my mother tried to teach me to crochet a chain when I was around 12.  But my chains were so tight they made only circles and no straight line!  So I gave up on that and begged my Mom to teach me how to sew doll clothes. No luck on that front.  “Sewing just hurts your eyes and gives you a backache”.  
Now, in front of me was a new thing that perhaps with a lot of work I could learn.  And, preserve the art in the process; and, hopefully pass it along to others.  I didn’t have a computer at the time, so knew nothing of the on line tatting.
I bought a pamphlet on learning to tat and oddly it had NO PHOTOS nor DRAWINGS of how to hold the thread or anything.  Just written instructions; no matter, I’ve always said if I had a book I can learn anything!
I had no prior knowledge that there was a thing called a ‘flip’ and that it was hard to do; consequently, it just happened for me.  It seemed logical to me that the thread would have to move over from one to the other; that is not to say that I had many ds that didn’t slide.  Undeterred, I saw that Grandma Dora’s shuttle wasn’t going to work because the thread was getting dirty and try as I may I could not get ALL the rust out of the little shuttle.  
So, off I went to the SEW SEW shop in Marysville, CA.  The owner was a lady in her mid eighties and she knew about tatting and said, “I think there’s an old woman who tat’s in Live Oak, but I’m not sure where she lives or her name.”   OK dead end for a teacher.  I bought a large red Tatsy shuttle and 2 colors of size 10 thread.  I practiced some chains and some rings from the little pamphlet.  
My daughter invited me to go to Roseville to the big Denio (sp) sale which covers a few acres.  I went to the book stalls because that is where I always went first.  I found a larger, DMC tatting pamphlet and within it’s pages was a set of table mats and glass mats.  Well, of course, being who I am my thought was, “If you can do a mat, you could do a table cloth”.  My DH did the math for my daughter’s table and it came out to around 1,600 little quarter-sized motifs.  Did I say I tended to be an over-achiever in those years?
Nothing fancy about the motif, just rings and chains.
However, It said to tat the center, cut and tie and then use a ball and shuttle.  I found I didn’t know how to attach the new tatting to the center.  By this time, I’d been making chains and rings for about a year.  I was ACHING  for another tatter, for lessons, for something that would help.

I’d been an avid counted-cross stitcher (yes, a glutton for punishment) and bought my threads at the Fuzzy Penguin on 14th street near 51st. (the owner has since retired so it isn’t there any longer)   My daughter lived nearby and when I babysat the grandsons, it was nice to have a thread shop near by. I was in there buying yet more embroidery threads when I saw an advertisement.  ( Tatting Lessons  2 nights  $20  shuttle and thread provided in kit.)  I signed up on the spot.  I went to the two lessons and learned not only how to work from the ball; but, also how to use two shuttles, make a few simple joins.  
Daughter’s table was measured and I began working on the table cloth in 1998, having lost all my tatting, threads and book in the big northern California flood of 1997.  (our Katrina)  Daughter, bought a new table; and, that is when my table cloth morphed into a table runner (completed project in right column).  Only, 1,100 quarter-sized motifs!

Alas,  in 2003 I they found the first of my three cancers.  Fast forward to 2007.  For some reason the experimental chemo had totally erased my memory bank of how to tat.  By then, I had a computer and found Sharon Briggs site and she pointed me towards Georgia’s on line classes.
Mimi Dillman led me to a Eureka moment in Beginning tatting...and I haven’t looked back.  
My mentors in tatting have been Zena Herbert (Solaan) and Jane Eborall; with extra help on block tatting from Martha Ess; split chain rescue Marie and Jon.  Zena helped me with tension, Jane with joins, ROC, beads in rings, SCRM and pattern help.  
Along the way I not only learned to tat but made some forever friends and my desire is to help others and keep tatting for a good long time!


Jane Eborall said...

Thanks for such an interesting post. SO glad you got through those bad years with the cancer. Your tatting has improved beyond measure in the short time I've known you

Michelle said...

Thank you for sharing your "start to tat" story! It's so very fun to read! I really admire your tenacity.

Miranda said...

Wow! I've been admiring your table runner for some time, but I didn't realize it was your first project ever! Now I admire it even more. Your story is a testament to your tenacity and determination-- especially since your first tatting book didn't even have pictures! Good on you!

tattrldy said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I can't believe you started that early on a table cloth! Wow! And with the little bit of instruction, too. I'm impressed. We won't talk about how long it took for me to do anything of any size bigger than small, other than a long time. I have to say the Internet community of tatters is absolutely wonderful. No longer are we the only ones we know that tat!

ms.pat said...

Really nice blog. Wish I had more time for my blog but I invite everyone to come over for some free patterns.

***Jon**** said...

That is a lovely story of perseverance. Thank you for sharing the history behind the table runner. I am glad that you finally completed it.

Ridgewoman said...

LOL Thanks for the perseverance compliment but it was more like being terribly stubborn and determined.

Some of the comments that came in didn’t get printed; and, that’s a shame. I did accept them and pushed publish.
Perhaps, they’ll show up later I hope so...
anyway, Pippa may be free entertainment but the ‘cover charge’ was a killer. LOL

Beginning with a table cloth was just dumb on my part. I’m always on the ‘overkill’ side of things. If one chocolate is good, a box full has to be better. Right?

Also tatted a lot of snow flakes from V. Suderman’s book (which I’ve since given away).

Humm, just had a thought. I don’t know what to do except keep on keeping on; I don’t know how to stop or give up. Never Give up is more than a philosophy with me, which is surprising because before I had the cancers, I didn’t know I had that much ‘bottom’. It surprised me.

Anyway, thank you! You are wonderful folks. And be sure to visit Patti’s blog and see what it’s about. I don’t have tutorials or patterns; mine is just about how an average person deals with learning to is a journey without an end.
Ridgewoman (Bev)

Martha said...

I learned to tat from a book too. It was decades before I met another tatter in person.

When learning a new craft, I tend to not want to start with the little beginner projects, but instead something more challenging, though never so big as a tablecloth. My first real tatting project after a few practice pieces to learn how was a centerpiece 24" diameter (OK, very open design and size 10 thread, but still pretty big).

Even though I learned the basics from a book, it was after I met other tatters online that I learned so many more techniques and made friendships too.

Val said...

It's interesting how tatting stuck with you even after an episode of memory loss. The art is meant to stay. But seriously, I really take my hat off to you for having finished the table runner, never mind it took you this no. of years. I should now go back to my WIPs. Heehee.

And a great account on how you came to know tatting and learned and relearned it.