Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learning to Tat

I have been wanting to learn to tat for a long time now. I have a whole slew of old stapled booklets from around the mid 1900s with pictures and instructions, but it turns out, it is really hard to teach oneself to tat. The verb "tat" isn't even that well known. I recently found a continuing education class held at a local community college and signed myself (and my mother) up. When I told other people that we were taking a tatting class, that we were going to learn to tat, many people shared that they had visions of my mother and I wielding tattooing guns, learning to create permanent ink lines in human skin.

Tatting is a little more... delicate.

Tatting is a form of lace making that uses thread, a shuttle, knots and loops.

When I tried to teach myself, I was able to create one knotted ring, but I had no idea how to attach it to another knotted ring without ends of thread sticking everywhere. I didn't get far.

Last night I realized that there was an essential step in the process that I was missing: transferring the knot. You use the shuttle to make a knot with one thread around another, and before I was just pulling that knot snug. It turns out, you have to pull the knotted thread straight, forcing the other thread to loop / knot, and THEN pull that new knot snug. I'm pretty sure that was the main thing holding me back.

I'm not gonna lie, I found it immensely frustrating for the first hour and a half of the two hour class. A lot of the terminology was relative (under / over) and I found if I did things in the wrong order, I just ended up creating a twist, or a jacob's ladder (like when I made friendship bracelets or hair wrapping in the 90s). It actually reminds me a lot of macrame (though I mostly did it with hemp, and we called the process "hemping") and a little bit of crocheting.

I guess I get why this is more of a lost art than other handiwork -- it is super slow and entirely ornamental. However, I think it's gorgeous and now that I've got the beginning motions down, I look forward to building upon this skill in the next three classes.