I learned to tat as a young girl - at the age of 8 or 9 - sitting on the floor beside my grandmother's knee. She would sit in a rocker/recliner and rock back and forth. In my mind the lace just fell from her fingers - just as fast as she rocked! It was amazing to watch. She could talk, watch TV, and tat without missing a beat. I loved watching her fingers move over the thread and the beautiful doilies that would appear as if by magic!
I was the youngest of 15 grand children, none of whom could tat. My grandmother had 5 children, none of whom could tat. She tried to teach each of her children, in-laws, and grandbabies, but I'm the only one who took to it.
Ree, short for Lesteree, taught me using just a shuttle - no ball of thread. A Red Plastic Boye Shuttle and Size 10 thread, that's it! She never used anything but a shuttle - so I learned single tatting. I didn't even know it was possible to use anything else! I learned how to make a simple ring, attach it to another, reverse work and make a ring under a ring (for edging), and how to join rings to make a doily. She taught me how to work my way out of each round into another without cutting and tying my thread.
I won't say I tatted every day, or even every month from the time I learned until now. I did put it down, but I never forgot it. Several years ago, I decided I wanted to pick it back up. I started buying thread and searched for that Red Plastic Boye Shuttle. Much to my dismay, the thing that had been so easily found 20 years before was now next to impossible to find. I purchased metal ones, with bobbins, and extra bobbins. But nothing compared to the feel of that Boye in my hand. I lucked up and found it online and purchased a couple. I tried other shuttles, too, but still I go back to that Boye!
As I began practicing (I won't call it tatting, because my first efforts were really bad!) I found I had forgotten how to "flip"! I was frustrated. I worked and worked at it and finally, one day, it just happened! I was so excited! I could once again tat! I became somewhat crazed - tatting all the time, carrying it everywhere - even to church so I could tat during choir practice. I tatted while riding in the car, waiting in the doctor's office, standing in line, anywhere I was still for more than 5 minutes was an opportunity to tat. (And still is). I purchased thread, every color - because you just never know when the mood will strike to make a doily or row of lace edging in Pistachio, or Black/White Variegated. Thread became my addiction. I asked for it for birthdays and Christmas. Tatting accessories were a bonus! Mainly because I was picky about my shuttle! :-)
I joined online groups, googled to find tatters, bought pattern books, and learned about something called CHAINS! WOW! I was amazed. I learned to make jewelry, different edgings, snowflakes, and much more. By this time, my grandmother was in a nursing home and not doing good at all. I decided to show her just what I could do. I learned to use 2 shuttles, 4 shuttles. I learned to make chains, I learned anything and everything I could. I made items, made jewelry, and I carried it and showed her! She was so happy that just one of her descendants had learned the craft and would be carrying it on into the next generation.
I remembered when I was learning to tat that my grandmother would tell stories about her mother, my great-grandmother and her tatting. I remembered that at least one female in every generation prior to that had tatted - and it had skipped my dad's generation (at least on my grandmother's line). I've since asked my cousins from my grandmother's siblings if any of them tat, and none do. So I'm the only one of my great-grandmother's descendants to tat.
My grandmother told me how her mother told her they would sew tatted lace onto their clothing in mourning. I made a mourning bracelet for my grandmother's passing. My grandmother tatted up until she was 93. In January 2005 she set her tatting down, gave me her very last piece of lace she made (it's still a work in progress - I won't finish it), and died in March of 2005.
She lived as long as she tatted, but when she lost the will to tat, she gave up the will to live. Or so it seemed to me.
I am not the most proficient tatter, but there is no doubt that my love for tatting is genuine and true. I will tat as long as I am able, and hopefully I will have grand children in the years to come who will want to learn to tat.
I've been tatting 32+ years and see no end to my thread.