Lace of the Month – Tatting – August 2011

I am one month off on the Featured Lace writeups – I still have to do July’s important 18thc Belgian needlelace post. The delay is attributable to the Los Alamos fire, and also to time spent developing the LaceNews Channel on YouTube. In working on collecting YouTube videos, it is obvious that there is a large interest in tatting. Of the 1,056 videos so far on the site, 385 of them are on tatting.  I also confess to making a statement on another lacemaking blog that I don’t much like tatting… so as penance I’m putting up this piece as the August Lace of the Month. It is quite remarkable.

This little piece is 13″ long and 5-1/4 wide along the centerline. It represents very early techniques, before the method of joining one picot to another was presented in 1851 in the work “Tatting Made Easy” by an author listed only as “A Lady”. Before this time motifs were made separately, then tacked to a temporary base paper or fabric, similar to the finishing method for Irish Crochet. The joins are done by literally tying picots together with separate knots done with a needle. This is clearly shown in the photo below.  Another characteristic of early tatting is the inclusion of needlelace fillings in some open spaces. In this regard it also resembles various higher quality Irish Crochet pieces, the best of which include very similar fillings.

The picot tying method is attributed by some authors to France. One such was Mlle. Eleonore Riego de la Branchardière, who in her 11 tatting books advocated both fine netting needles and sewing needles to pass the working thread through picots. (All authors comment on how fine the netting needle must have been to accomplish this task.) The 1851 “Tatting Made Easy” work gives the first written explanation of how to pass a shuttle through a working thread drawn through a picot. But something was lost here, no longer did a single thread pass through the picot.

This method of tatting is unfortunately obsolete, and is not represented in any of the YouTube videos. Someone clearly has an opportunity to set this straight. There is a wonderful density and frillyness to this type of work that somehow has been lost in modern tatting. The use of separate motifs is freed from the geometrical restrictions of conforming to convenient shuttle tie-in points, and the variety that can be assembled is quite wonderful.

Note: if you are just looking at the home page of LaceNews, please be sure to read the important comments made on this post. They are normally not visible unless  you click on ‘comments’.

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10 Responses to Lace of the Month – Tatting – August 2011

  1. Whoever wrote this aritcle is definitely not a lover of tatting! How can anyone suggest that going backwards in the developement of techniques is a good thing? All the joins are simply picots tied together leaving hundreds of cut ends visible. Today’s tatting is beautiful and durable, standing years of use and washing, but still looking delicate and lacy.
    I have a few video demos on YouTube under the name Toptattyhead

  2. lacenews says:

    I love this comment! Yes, it is true I’m not overly fond of tatting (and I do know how to tat). But I do love this piece. I find it liberating and fresh – the freedom from rigid structure, the incorporation of needlelace stitches, the fine thread, and the very idea of the patience of doing all those knots. I don’t mind the loose ends. It also gives me an opportunity to get inside the minds of those who first developed the art. I challenge modern tatters to do as well.
    Another thing that takes a lot of patience is organizing all those tatting videos on the LaceNews Channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/lacenews), not to mention enduring all the tattoo videos on the way.
    Your demos are all there.

  3. aktatter says:

    Dear LaceNews,

    I am so delighted to see tatting featured in your column (especially as it is not your favorite.) I am a tatter of 32 years and I have been teaching tatting for 25 years in person and 12 years on the web with the Online Tatting Class. I, too, have investigated the videos on YouTube and welcome each and every new one, particularly those which teach techniques.

    Your vintage sample of tatting is indeed a marvel to study. It was made by a tatter who had not yet mastered the true join (which may been been developed by a certain Mrs. Mee, not by Mlle. Riego who did indeed take credit for it once or twice in her work.) However, the method of tying the picots together “in a pleasing pattern” continued into the late 1800’s. Needlelace fillings were also very common with tatting and continues to be used to this day. See: http://www.georgiaseitz.com/weave/needleweavetat.html

    Although the use of a needle for tatting instead of a tatting shuttle , i.e., of using a needle as if it were a shuttle, is not popular today it was much used during the late 19th and early 20th century. The needle is attached to the thread and then manipulated in the same manner as a shuttle. There are early patterns which are all one shuttle work, apparently, but the bare thread space between the rings has threads crossed around it (See: http://www.georgiaseitz.com/bella/floret7.jpg and http://www.georgiaseitz.com/bella/floret9.jpg ) or even “faux” double stitches applied over the bare thread in a blanket stitch fashion. These small spaces are too small to allow a shuttle to pass through, so a needle used as a shuttle is the most obvious method to create that effect. Some patterns show the working thread being wrapped or twisted or posted through a picot in a manner which would not allow the passage of a shuttle. Note in the doily that the needle/tread was posted through the picots: http://www.georgiaseitz.com/bella/beckybbdtldoily.jpg

    Mlle. Eleonore Riego de la Branchardiere, appointed as Artiste in Needlework to HRH Princess of Wales. Mlle. Riego published her first book, “Knitting, Crochet and Netting” at the age of 12 in 1846. She went on to publish 72 books on the needle arts of which 13 were tatting books. Mlle Riego began with borders and insertions in tatting and went on to create gold-medal award winning tatting featured at the world expositions 1851, 1855, 1862 and 1872. She is much remembered for her absolutely marvelous achievements in tatting, such as the use of picots to join the rings and the use of a central ring as the starting point for larger pieces, using both needle and shuttle to tat.

    Although tatters today no longer “sew” the picots together to create pleasing patterns, the old methods and patterns are preserved and studied by many tatters, especially the members of the Online Tatting Class. For vintage tatting patterns, please visit:
    http://www.georgiaseitz.com/public/publicindex.html
    http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org/
    http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/lace.html
    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

    Thank you for posting this article and I hope you will feature tatting again soon.
    Georgia Seitz
    AKTATTER@aol.com

  4. Judith Anderson says:

    Another tatter here! nose only slightly out of joint. Glad to hear that the videos are being organized into some structure so that we can direct students to them without divergence into tattoos. Georgia’s references to needle tatting as tatting with a needle is indeed the correct placement for older work mentioning a needle. The creation date is in some question but certainly mid and late 20th Century references to needle tatting are quite different and refer to a totally different method of constructing tatting stitches. They’ll need a substructure that accommodates vids. on various techniques of needle tatting.

  5. Jeanne Zukowski says:

    This is a beautiful piece of tatting. I have a piece that my Great Grandmother made and the picots are tied togather. Several have come untied but I have not repaired it.
    JeanneZ

  6. lacenews says:

    I’ve had some inquiries about how this piece was photographed. I actually put it in my conventional document scanner with the lid open. That gives a consistent colored background – the color depends on the type of light in the room when the scan is made. I downloaded the image as a jpeg, and did further processing in Photoshop. First I selected the colored background and turned it pure black. I then toned down the brightness a bit to take some of the shine that tends to develop on the parts of the threads touching the glass. The scanner light hitting the thread contours can be pretty intense, obscuring the thread structure. This method works quite well for heavier, more open laces that lie reasonably flat on the scanner glass. Reflections off very fine nets will interfere with the threads making it very difficult to pick out a consistent background color in Photoshop.

  7. Carrie says:

    Most of the reason this looks very frilly is a) the larger rings aren’t drawn very tightly b) there are picots between virtually every double stitch, and long ones at that c) the thread is fine and loosely twisted, giving it a more ephemeral look d) there is a lot of needle lace e) no chains, which give a more solid look. I would propose that the effect of the long picots tied together could be replicated by making an extra long picot wherever you planned to join rings. Still lots of tying off, and you could still skip the rings without having to tie all the picots.

  8. Pingback: Atelier de tatting la Braşov | Romania by heart

  9. DHale says:

    This tatted piece is a wonderful study. Some years back, a local expert pacemaker disdained a vtg tatted item I’ve owned lo many years…yet spared not to photocopy it for much personal gain. I am grateful to see your articles and openness to all comments – those personally sharing, as those illuminating the artisanship, history, and craft. Liberating and refreshing. Tat+lace are exciting and profound expressions by humanity, of humanity, for humanity.

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