My Roots in Tatting

The year was about 1977.  As I walked into my Great Aunt’s room that day in Des Moin, Iowa, she was sitting on the side of her bed. In her hands she held a small wooden thing with thread wrapped around it.  Her hands were working quickly back and forth. From below her left hand was a section of lace hanging down.

After the introductions and the catch up that was needed I asked her what she was doing.

She had continued this hand action all the time that we were speaking.

She laughed at my question. She stated that, “You of all people should know what this is. It is Tatting and your Grandma Lincoln was one of the best Tatters in the country!”

My Grandma Lincoln had lived with us from time to time when I was younger. I remember her teaching me how to play dominoes.  I also remembered her being a quilter. I kind of remember her doing something that I didn’t understand.  It was likely the Tatting that she was famous for.

My Grandma Lincoln had married my Grandpa in Springfield, Illinois and then left for her life with him in Southern Saskatchewan, in Canada in the early 1900s.

She would have four kids in that small shack that my Grandpa had built for them.  It was in the middle of the flat prairie surrounded with miles of wheat, more wheat and still more wheat. There were mostly no trees – anywhere where they lived… just scrub bushes.

The wind blew through the small shack endlessly.  And in my mind the fact that she had brought her Tatting shuttle in her apron pocket from Illinois, was about the only thing that kept her sane.

As my Great Aunt, my Grandma’s younger sister told the full story I was amazed.

My Grandma had passed away a few years before this time.

My Great Grandpa Phillips had done Tatting and then he had taught his three daughters how to Tat.  There may have been fancy stores to buy things, but Great Grandpa was more practical than that. He carved three Tatting Shuttles and gave one each to his daughters.

My Great Grandpa was also woodcarver – not just whittling with a pocket knife from what I was told. He was a quilter and a weaver as well.

After listening to the great stories that my aunt told me, I asked her if she would teach me how to Tat. She started to laugh and almost fell off her bed.  She declared that, “I haven’t got enough time left to teach you how to Tat!”

I guess she thought that I might have been a challenge, maybe even impossible to teach.

It was a fun visit hearing all about Great Grandpa and the things he did.

I left the senior’s home and went directly to a small craft shop. I bought a silver shuttle, a ball of white cotton and a book entitled, “Learn to Tat”.

On the Flight back to Toronto I taught myself how to tat from the little book.

My Aunt Annie heard that I was Tatting. She in her very kind way sent me my Grandma Lincoln’s wooden tatting shuttle.. the one that my Great Grandfather had carved from hickory for her as a young girl.

Along with the shuttle she also gave me Grandma Lincoln’s last handkerchief that she was working on when she finished lace making on Earth.

Above and below you can see my treasures.

I hope Great Grandpa Phillips and Grandma Lincoln are some how able to see what I have done with this gifts they gave me.

~ Murray Lincoln ~

My Grandma Lincoln’s last piece of Tatting… and another shot of Great Grandpa’s Hickory Tatting Shuttle.


About The Tatting Whisperer

Hi my name is Murray Lincoln. I am now retired and loving the free time to create with my Tatting and Wood Carving, sometimes bringing the two together. I began my journey with Tatting in 1975. While visiting my Great Aunt in a Senior's Home in Des Moines, Iowa, she told me the story of my Great Grandpa that was a Tatter. As well he was a Wood Carver and had carved three Hickory Shuttles for his three daughters. One of these daughters was my Grandma Lincoln. My Grandma Lincoln may have been the greatest Tatter ever - so my Great Aunt told me. Grandma Lincoln Tatted from age 8 years until she passed away in her 80s. Today I am a Tatter, so are my two daughters and also my Granddaughter Emma. six Generations now have carried on this beautiful craft. My Web Site featuring my creations is
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7 Responses to My Roots in Tatting

  1. Diane says:

    That is a wonderful family story! Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  2. I like reading how people got started in tatting. My mother tatted on hankies when we were kids. I didn’t pick up the interest in that then, but did with the knitting and sewing. Years passed and my husband told me of this open house at a hotel. I wasn’t going to go, but sure glad I did! (in the end I don’t know if my husband was happy or not!) I came home after purchasing some bobbins, books, tatting books and also joining a lace group. I am still with the group and was even president for four years. I still get spurts of wanting to change over and do something else. Right now it’s been tatting for quite a while. I have stuff on my bobbin lace pillow that I plan on finishing this year…resolution thing fro 2011…!

  3. I have so many hankies. I could border them while deciding what else I want to do. I’m stuck on something now, darn it…..!

  4. Lily says:

    That is so pretty, and what a touching story.

    Thanks for sharing! It’s always interesting to hear how people come to learn tatting.

    I am the only tatter left in our family. My great aunt (RIP) was the other tatter. But I didn’t learn to tat until 5 yrs back – she had already passed on, so I am self/book/internet taught.

    At least this art won’t ever die!

  5. Joy McKenzie says:

    What a lovely story about your family and tatting…love the hankie edging and the shuttle
    Joy in Australia

  6. Bonnie says:

    A beautiful story, thank you for sharing it.

  7. kaedid says:

    What a beautiful story. Guess I enjoyed it because I live in Des Moines, Iowa.

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