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Beginning Needle Tatting

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Along time ago (last year) on a trip to a far away place (near my folks' house in Ann Arbor) I was wandering through a crafty little store in search of doll making materials for my mother. Honest. She was looking to find some new patterns for Christmas and I was just along for the ride -- and hoping that I might inspire her to want to make one of her wonderful dolls for me. Of course, the problem with stores that fabric doll makers like is that they more or less contain a little bit of everything -- nice fabrics, bits of lace, interesting thread, beads, the occasional skein of yarn -- in addition to doll patterns and other doll supplies. In other words, taking someone with even vaguely crafty genes into one of these places is a bit like taking a heroin addict to an opium den. It might not be the drug of choice, but it's close enough to get you into trouble.

Of course, I didn't leave the store empty handed. One of the women in the store was working on a tatting project. I thought it was awfully lovely, and it occured to me that anything that could be applied to tiny cotton and silk threads, might also be applied to something of somewhat larger diameter -- i.e. yarn. So while mom was busing perusing the doll patterns for ideas, I talked to the woman with the tatting project and ended up with two balls of DMC thread (from the sale bin -- at least I was a little bit good) and an introductory book on needle tatting, that just happened to come complete with tatting needle. I was all set to sit down and figure out what lace making was all about -- or at least begin to understand the basic principles.

Alas, we got home that night and there were just too many family things to do and be entertained by, so the needle and the book and the thread never came out of the bag. They stayed there until I got back to Chicago. At which point I took them into my fiber room, looked at them a little bit, and then had my attention diverted to some other knitting-related project. The book got put on the shelf and the thread got stored in a box. And I basically just forgot about the whole thing.

So, when I started cleaning and organizing my fiber room again, coming across the book and needle and thread was a little like finding a $20 bill in a winter coat pocket -- a nice little windfall that I decided I wouldn't forget about again. Over the weekend I actually sat myself down and started going through the book. As it turns out, the basics of needle tatting are quite simple. There's really only one stitch (which I think is of the hitch knot variety) and it's pretty easy to master, especially if you're already a continental style knitter, since most of the thread motion is done with the left hand.

20051024_BasicNeedleTatting.jpg
Needle Tatting Experiments:
Bottom Left: Two simple rings with picots done with Ring and Thread Method
Top: Ring and Thread Method used to create the foundation for a bookmark
Bottom Right: Two simple rings with a chain, done with Ring and Chain Method

There are basically two different ways to do needle tatting -- one involves working with defined lengths of thread and adding more lengths as needed while the other involves working directly from the ball of thread. The former is a bit easier to deal with initially and that's where the book starts you off (and that's why the bigger piece in the photo above is worked in that method), the latter takes a bit more paying attention to make sure that you don't get things tangled and that you learn to tell what the right and wrong side of the lace is. I never really knew that lace had a right and a wrong side before.

Ring and thred method leaves those single threads to connect rings (if you so desire) while ring and chain method creates lace chains between ring units. It seems like you can create more elaborate lace medallions with the ring and chain method, and that may be my next project if I can find some thread that is a little grippier to itself. The stuff I bought from the sale bin is a bit slippery and probably not the best stuff for a beginner.

This turned out to be easier and a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and it's got me thinking about how it could be used to edge knitwear. If you're interested, I'd highly recommend the book I started with. The instructions are simple and clear, with good pictures to illustrate the instructions, and there are a few little projects in the book that you can cut your teeth on. It's neat to see a bunch of loops and little hitches turn into something elegant (I won't call my first attempts all that elegant, but I think with a little practice I'll be able to get my picot loops more even and have a much nicer finished product.

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