De-decorating pause: A single piece of tatting

tatting on ornament

As is the case with decorating, when it’s time to ‘de-decorate’, a walk down Memory Lane ensues. As I took ornaments off our Christmas tree, I paused to admire a handmade ornament featuring a small piece of my grandmother’s tatting. I think tatting is almost a lost art.

Tatting produces handmade lace of sorts created with a shuttle and thin thread. The process is based on knotting, something numerous cultures were familiar with because of trade and commerce dependent on seafaring.

My grandmother tried to teach me to work the shuttle to produce lace, but tatting was something I could not (or would not) master. No one really knows where tatting originated, but it was popular among my older kin and you’d often see a pretty doily under a plate of sweets or a vase on a table. My grandmother had a good amount of lace she’d made, and it ended up in the hands of my aunt. My aunt made the ornament shown here and included a slim piece of my grandmother’s lace.

The ornament has no cash value, but its value to me is immeasurable. I remember long days when I was young, in search of something to do, and my grandmother would take out her shuttle and thin thread and try to get me to learn tatting. I usually ended up stitching quilt squares together—I was fairly good at that—or stringing beans, or doing some other busy work.

I wish I’d learned to master the art of tatting. I read about a woman in Florida who appears to be an expert at it, and some pieces she created are beautiful.

The Kansas Historical Society asserts tatting began in ancient Egypt or China, but I think it’s impossible to tell where it really began. Knots date to antiquity in many cultures, and tatting is based on knotting, although tatting is done with thin thread instead of ropes.

I don’t pack my grandmother’s ornament in with the others. I keep it in my china cabinet, in a place of honor for a remarkable woman whose skills were too many to count and whose love for her family was, like the special ornament, priceless.

(Kay B. Day/January 4, 2021)

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