I mentioned in my last post about seeing my Great Aunt and her tatting. I also told of how I asked her to teach me how to Tat. She thought that was very funny.
When I left the Senior’s Residence I asked my cousin to take me to a Craft shop that might sell Tatting Shuttles and the cotton that was needed. She knew exactly where to go.
In the shop I bought my first Susan Bates, chrome plated Tatting shuttle. I also bought a ball of #20 cotton at the suggestion of the owner of the small shop. She pointed out that she had a simple book on Tatting entitled “Learn to Tat”. We left the shop with my new treasures and headed to the Airport for a flight home.
From Des Moines, Iowa I flew to Chicago, then waited a while and finally boarded a flight for Toronto. There was lots of time to read and figure out what the little book was telling me to do.
Wrapping the thread around my left hand in a circle was easy enough. Next with the shuttle in my right hand it said to pass the shuttle under the thread that was between the first and second finger… then bring the shuttle back over thread. The next step was to pass the shuttle over that thread and then back under the thread.
The small drawings were simple enough. With a little effort the shuttle could be pushed under the thread between my fingers on the left hand. I let go of the shuttle and then picked it up to pull back over the thread and under the one that was wrapped around my right hand.
No kidding… it was hard to do this. It didn’t look a bit like what my Great Aunt was doing… but I was able to make it happen. Small knots were appearing between my thumb and finger of my left hand. But some turned over the wrong way! Nuts!
At this stage I was sitting in a Chicago airport waiting room with another hundred or so busy people waiting for a flight to Toronto.
I was concentrating so hard one what I was doing I had not noticed that I had an audience with puzzled looks on their faces.
One brave guy near me ventured a question, “What are you doing?”
“I am trying to do Tatting… but I am not sure what I am doing. Do you know what it is?” was my frustrated answer.
He asked me, “Why are you doing Tatting?” Leaving the question like that made me clearly understand that in his estimation that surely their must be more productive things for a MAN to do with his waiting time in an airport.
This was 1976 and there was no Internet yet. No lap top computers and no hand held devices to suck your brains out at that stage. The best most guys had at that time was “Sports Illustrated”, which if it was the right time of the year it could have been the “Swim Suit” edition.
As Man among other MEN, that were likely all executive types, traveling to very important meetings to and fro, across the world… Tatting was a wee bit weird in most guy’s eyes… and minds… and having a guy do this near them was way too weird.
When I arrived in Toronto I had mastered the wee knot… had made a ring or two and also had the chain idea down fairly well. There wasn’t much to show for the hours that I tried – but there was something. I also had a kind of Bird’s Nest made from the pieces that I had cut off and discarded.
Fast forward a few weeks…
I had found a Tatting book in one of the stores in Oakville, Ontario, were we lived. It had some doilies in the book that kind of caught my eye. It seemed simple enough… one small ring… then a small chain… then another ring… and so one – Ring Chain Ring Chain.. I could do this. As I made more Rings and Chains it told me to attach the rings that I was making to the Chain before… AHA! Got it! It is going to go around and around and around…
Three months later the doily was done! I was so sick of this %^$#*^ pattern I couldn’t explain to any one what I really felt. They complimented me on the piece I was working on and I smiled. I really wanted to throw it against the wall. Sheesh!
I can’t remember exactly… but I think that when I got to the outside the pattern said simply – Repeat 43 times! Or was that 84 times or maybe 128 times???? I should have looked before I started. But I had no idea what I was doing! Blahhhhhhh!
I continued to travel via air back and forth across Canada as I tatted that piece. Hundred of people saw this strange guy moving his hands as if he was trying to speak sign language and was in distress. Some came to ask me if I needed help… yikes!
About four months after I started Tatting and about one month after I had finished the ridiculous doily with what seemed a million Rings and Chains combination… my wife and I were in a local Mall.
I had found the washroom and when coming out, there was a bulletin board with all kind of stuff on it.
Go figure – there in front of my eyes was a small poster that asked, “Do you want to learn to Tat?” and followed that question with the needed info about the Class that was happening right there in the Mall with a Mrs. Tatton. No kidding that was her name! Tatton!
Surely Mr. Tatton could help me get a better handle on this Tatting thing!
On the evening advertised I showed up with my Tatting shuttle and my two books, my cotton and my one magnificent Tatted Doily. I opened the door and the class was already in progress… all 12 ladies listening closely to what was being said by the teacher, turned and looked at me.
Mrs. Tatton stopped what she was saying and looked at me asking, “Can I help you? This is the Tatting Class… the other class to do with home repairs is just down the hallway…?”
I told her that I was there to learn Tatting… and she slowly said… “Okay… let’s find you a chair…”
The ladies were just introducing themselves and then it was my turn to say something.
I stumbled a little with my story of Des Monies, Iowa, my Great Aunt being a Tatter and me teaching myself. There were giggles from the ladies in the class… oh boy…
Mrs. Tatton asked to see my piece of Tatting… and I reached into my bag for my ridiculous doily…
Mrs. Tatton said kindly, “Oh my… this is beautiful… but it is a little loose… it is a little limp…”
I had no idea what she was talking about. Loose… Limp… weren’t terms in the book? My ears were already reddened up and my face was growing pinker by the minute. There was way too much estrogen in that room and I was uncomfortable to the Max.
Mrs. Tatton asked me a very intuitive question, “Did you teach yourself from a book entitled “Learn to Tat”?
I nodded in the affirmative… slowly. At that point I was wishing that I had not come…. Oh boy oh boy!
“If I show you a little different way… would you try it?” she asked.
I nodded excitedly. I was ready to try anything at all.
She held the shuttle between her right thumb and finger… then fired it at the thread on her left hand… without taking her hand off the shuttle… first under and over and then over and under… zip, zip, zip, zip, zip… In a matter of second she had made a dozen double stitches before my very eyes. I am sure that my mouth must have been open wide.
For the past four months my speed and ability produced 12 double stitches in about 5 minutes! She did it in 30 seconds or less. This woman was a cotton pickin’ machine!
It was then that I saw that her knots were not Loose or Limp! Ahaaa! I got it! Wahooooo!
It was about then that I realized that the ridiculous doily might have been completed in one week – not one quarter of a year!
In the weeks to come on a whole bunch more airplanes and meeting dozens upon dozens of women and men – I tatted dozens of pieces… that were tight and even and amazing! I was now a Tatting Machine of sorts…..!
I thank Mrs. Tatton for her kind word… simple instruction… and ability to set me free! I had always hoped to find her some day and tell her what she did for me. Maybe some day…
~ Murray Lincoln ~
My First Tatted Piece – above and below – the “Ridiculous Doily”