This post was inspired by one little Christmas present I got last year, but shows in fact much more than this.
Already some years ago I got fascinated in tatting. This crafting technique became popular in the 19th century and derived from a pastime of ladies in the 18th century: To show off their gracile hands and wrists women knotted cords in a special kind of way, using shuttles to do so. The results must have been long cords but only very few objects decorated with these have survived (I found this pair of baby shoes in the V&A-collection, though I am not entirely sure if this was really done with a shuttle. In any case it is not, as the description says, tatting, if you look closely you’ll see that the cords are only arranged in a loop pattern, the rings are not connected to each other as they would if they were tatted). The shuttles were comparably large (appr. 15cm long) and richly decorated (see this or this). Maybe you know the portrait of young Marie Antoinette holding such a shuttle.
In the 19th century this technique was developed further, the shuttles became smaller and a variety of knots was invented, now enabling to produce loops and rings connected to each other and in doing so, a new kind of lace-making was established. Depending on the complexity of the pattern and the forms used, one or two shuttles are needed as well as a small hook, for example a crochet hook.
I have never been good in learning one thing really well because I am too soon distracted by some other thing I want to learn. For that reason my only finished tatting project has up to now been my last finished one, that was in 2012:
But of course that doesn’t prevent me from still wanting to learn it properly and from buying tatting-related things.
Let’s start with the most basic and indispensable one, the shuttle. Still today tatting shuttles can be found in haberdashery shops, for example from Prym. These are made from plastic and comparably light. I started with them and they are ok. But as soon as I had found an old one I switched to this one. These are often made from horn, are heavier and therefore can be dropped more easily through the loops, additionally I have the feeling they are even smoother than the plastic ones. Others can be made from Ivory, tortoiseshell or bone.
I found the two shuttles below in the middle on a flea market (paying 1CHF) and an antique fair (paying 3CHF)- Both have a little chip but function perfectly. So if you plan to start tatting you should stop at the market stalls with the untidy and jampacked boxes of small things, maybe you are lucky, too. The light one is presumably horn, the dark one could also be some kind of early plastic, I am not sure about this.
On the left you see two more shuttles. The one with the plaid pattern is made from metal, the paint seems to be something like laquer or enamel. Unfortunately it is pretty damaged and the paint chips easily so I can’t use it anymore. The horn one on the far right I already showed once after my trip to London in 2013, I found it on Camden Market (post doesn’t exist anymore). It has inlays made from metal and mother of pearl. With something around 20-30£ it wasn’t cheap, but I found some online afterwards being sold for three-figure sums, so it seems to have been a good deal after all.
Already quite some time ago I found a small cardboard box on a flea market in Bern, filled with tatting material. Unfortunately the seller wasn’t present and I was asked to wait. Because I had promised my already very tired boyfriend to leave instantly I was forced to leave it behind but I was lucky and re-discovered it some months later and bought it.
As you see there is also a lot of other stuff inside.
I love this piece of black velvet with all the samples sewn onto it. Maybe I should frame it? What you can easily see is the distinct effect of tatting, loops and rings with tiny picots.
Two other shuttles, horn or tortoiseshell, and a tiny little glass dog that has absolutely nothing to do with tatting 🙂
In the back you see a pretty clever box made from fabric-covered cardboard. In front of it lies a tatting pin (that thing with the ring and the chain), some lace and well, I guess you know scissors and a crochet hook.
These fork-like things are meant for hairpin lace, a completely different technique, but not less interesting. In the lower right you see an old postcard from Wila, a small town of less than 2000 souls somewere in the canton of Zurich.
Well, and if anyone could tell me what that cylindrical thing in the middle is, I would be very grateful 🙂
The pale part can be moved freely around the middle axis.
Well, you might ask “Where is the bespoken present?”. It’s here:
An early 20th century box for a tatting pin as seen above. I was able to have a quick look inside to see that it actually came filled before my boyfriend snapped it away and refused to give it back to me, but paid the seller and had me wait one long month until Christmas to see it again. And when I was finally able to unpack it, I was quite surprised. Not one, but two pins, at least one of them never used. The other one is a bit rusty but I can’t say if this comes from having been used or from aging.
And the fun bit to finish: I have no idea how these are used. Yes, of course, they serve the same purpose as does a crochet needle, which is mentioned in a lot of tutorials you find. And I know one illustration that shows how it is held: the pin like a crochet hook and the ring slid on one of your fingers. And then? I assume the ring enables you to drop the pin when it isn’t needed without entirely losing it. But I imagine the pin would tangle with the thread and the dangling shuttle when it is hanging on the chain freely.
I searched Google, I searched Bing, I browsed the Antique Pattern Library, but I couldn’t find a single image of how to use it, the only image I found online shows the pin alone (here on page 5, the aforementioned illustration with the pin held is printed in a modern book on tatting, so I can’t show it).
Is anybody of you experienced in tatting and has ever worked with such a pin?
If not I will just try to use it someday, maybe it will work better than I can imagine now, who knows?
So much for today, love