A few years ago, from a desire to do something truly domestic, truly feminine, I learned to needle tat. I made a few hankerchiefs by hand, meaning that I cut and hemmed the cloth, tatted the lace border, and embroidered the initials of the intended recipient of the hankerchief. Having that one skill, however basic the level, was very rewarding.
Elusive, though, was the art of shuttle tatting, which I had heard about, read about, and had seen demonstrated. I collected a few books on tatting, some of them old, and studied various similar descriptions and drawings of making the basic double-stitch with a shuttle. I practiced during the past two weeks, as I watched the Olympics. Perfect double stitches, time after time, but somehow, they wouldn’t slide down the string–something knotted them into place. According to the instructions, that problem meant I hadn’t transferred the double stitch from the shuttle string to the ring string.
I practiced with lengths of string without a shuttle–after all, it’s a matter of tying knots that slip (slip knots!)–and again made perfect double stitches, even with picots (little loops for linking or for aesthetic purposes) but when I tried to slide the stitches down the string to form a ring, they locked up, wadded up, and I cut them free and started again. And again.
Last night, I loaded my favorite shuttle, and again made the basic pattern. But instead of tugging the shuttle thread or what I had considered the ring thread, I tugged the tag thread. Success! The double stitches and picots slid easily along the ring thread, formed a tight little ring and left the length of bare thread for as many more rings as I might fit there.
I felt very, very foolish (still do), but it was wonderful to wake this morning and remember that now I can shuttle tat as well as needle tat. I’m no artist, but I stayed with it. Maybe some other elusive skills can still be acquired.
My favorite book(let) for shuttle tatting is Tatting Book No. 141, Spool Cotton Company 1939. Price 10 Cents. Instructions and terms are on the last page, 23. The other pages are filled with illustrations and specific directions for myriad patterns. For example, here is one pattern, just for the flowers in an edging, not for the edging itself–that’s separate:
No. 8461 Tie shuttle and ball threads.** With shuttle make r of 4 ds 7 p’s sep. by 2 ds, cl. * R of 4 ds, join to last p of previous r, 2 ds, 6 p’s sep. by 2 ds, 4 ds, cl. Repeat from * 2 more times, joining the last r at both sides. Tie ends securely and cut ( a flower made). Repeat from ** for desired length, joining center p of one r to center p of one r of previous flower (5).