Tatting

April First is International Tatting Day

The first of April is not only April Fool’s Day but also International Tatting Day. To celebrate it appropriately, I thought of learning the tatting technique. Especially since I’ve wanted to do this for years.

The History of Tatting

Tatting lace is also called shuttle lace in German. This name refers to the tool used, the shuttle. The name Occhi, on the other hand, is derived from the Italian word for eye and refers to the shape of the work created. In French, on the other hand, the name Frivolité is common and refers to the type of work that can be done with pleasure and ease.

Despite the many different names, the technique is known worldwide and in the past was a pastime for rich and poor alike. In the beginning, the technique does not seem to have been implemented as lace, but rather in a coarser form and with large shuttles. Unfortunately, there are few surviving examples from the 18th century, although the technique was widely used.

Over time, the shuttles became smaller and the work lace-like. In some cases, this was beaded and accessories such as bags were made in addition to lace for garments.

In the mid-19th century, instructional courses on how to make tatting lace were published in magazines such as “The Bazaar” and thus the technique continued to be used and lived. A relatively large number of examples of tatting lace can still be found from this period, and the instructions themselves make reconstructions easy.1

Portrait of Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony (1728-1797) with a tatting shuttle
Portrait of Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony (1728-1797) with a tatting shuttle.2

The Technique of Tatting

One advantage of tatting lace is its simplicity. The materials needed are usually limited to a shuttle and the yarn itself. The technique is also relatively easy to learn. The basic elements of tatting lace consist of knots, picots, rings, and loops. Most designs are put together from these elements. However, in my eyes, the technique only becomes truly understandable with implementation.

My Approach to Learning Tatting

As I mentioned before, I wanted to learn the technique for a long time and took International Tatting Day as an opportunity. My first idea was to learn the basic techniques with a book I own for a long time now. Unfortunately, this turned out to be not very successful and I quickly switched to Youtube tutorials. A big advantage of this is the visual approach. Similar to how techniques used to be passed down through generations by working together, only here it’s a digital collaboration. I found Bryce Adams’ tutorials very helpful.With the help of the tutorials and a little practice, I was able to create my first little shapes. Since I’m not a big fan of useless practice projects, I picked what I thought was a simple lace template from the book “Tatting” by Anne Orr. After just three days, I had tatted a small piece of lace that I can incorporate into a garment one day. I made sure that I can easily continue the lace ribbon and use it, for example, as an insertion lace in an undergarment at some point. For this reason, I have also used a relatively fine cotton crochet thread of thickness of 30.*
Thumbnail for Video International Tatting Day
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In this video, I briefly show how I learned to make my first tatting lace.

My First Conclusion About Tatting

I’m surprised I got this far in just a few days. Usually, I learn a new technique more slowly and with much more effort. For me, this also explains why tatting is a popular technique then and now. For one thing, it’s easy to learn and for another, you don’t need a lot of tools to get nice results.
I will keep practicing and try some more techniques, like incorporating beads. Besides, I already have a big project in mind: I would like to make a tatted collar for a corset cover. But until then, I’ll continue to enjoy myself with this ribbon lace.

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