It’s two years since I started tatting. I absolutely can’t believe it – it has become so natural to tuck my little tatting bag into my handbag wherever I go.
Not that any of this was what I planned. What I wanted to do was learn how to knit. I could (very slowly) cast on and off, do plain and pearl and that was about it. Growing up, I had been handicapped by a wealth of knitting relatives. My mother, aunt and grand-mother, all clicking away.
I found it massively intimidating. In those days girls were taught knitting and sewing as part of the school curriculum and we were given regular projects to be completed at home.
Everything I did seemed to be wrong. My work would be taken out of my hands for someone to ‘show me’. I soon learnt to ask the nearest knitter to ‘show me’, and then pretend to watch attentively while my project was completed for me.
Fast forward a number of years. There’s no one left to ‘show me’, the shop’s notion of a jersey is a buttonless little wisp of nothing draped over the shoulders and I get cold. The library had a copy of Reader’s Digest ‘Complete Guide to Needlework’. I actually managed to get my knitting to an adequate level – two wearable jerseys! I’m not saying they’re beautiful, but they’re warm!
A little further on in the book is an article on lacemaking. Bobbin lace looks a little challenging, but that little shuttle thing doesn’t look too hard… Yes. Laugh away. It took me three days to get that first knot to slide. But I figured it out and kept going, making sliding knots, jammed knots, mistakes and tangles in just about equal portions.
The library also had Mary Konior’s ‘A Pattern Book of Tatting’ and Rhoda L Auld’s ‘Tatting – The Contemporary Art of Knotting With a Shuttle’. Two very different takes on tatting and I’m very grateful to both.
Then I actually found someone who used to tat. ‘Here, let me show you.’ Whoosh! Flash-back to all those disastrous knitting sessions. My brain just switches off when someone pushes my hands around, or takes my work away and ‘shows me’ so quickly that I can’t see what they’re doing. I think it’s why I can’t work with the online videos. I prefer to sit with a clear diagram and just keep trying until I get it. And I will. If nothing else, I’m too dumb to know when I’m beaten!
I don’t think anyone learns by just by watching someone else. They learn by doing. Making mistakes, fixing the mistakes, throwing away the tangles and starting again. And falling in love.
I’ve had three pieces I HAD to do from the minute I saw them. Anne Bruvold’s ‘Flying Minor Norwegian Dragon’, Ben Fikkert’s ‘Josephine Cross’ and Martha Ess’s ‘Shamrock Wreath’. I’ve done the first two, and am cursing my way through the third.
Not too bad for something I didn’t intend doing in the first place!