Join me as I explore tatting history. I may trace the development of the craft, translate old patterns into modern notation, or play detective tracking down the earliest appearance of a technique, design, or term.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's in a Word? -- Tatting

--excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary

In 1882, Sophia Caulfeild and Blanche Saward (The Dictionary of Needlework) wrote that the word "tatting" was derived from "tatters;" and this was repeated by many later writers. Dan Rusch-Fischer distrusts this speculation and has done his own research into the origins of the word. He has submitted his findings to the Oxford English Dictionary for consideration. You can read about this in his article "The Historical & Etymological Roots of the Word Tatting"

According to Dan, "tatting" originally meant simply a narrow lace used for edging, which could be either machine or hand-made; and if hand-made, not necessarily made by what we call tatting today. (Yes, in the 1800's there were "tatting machines" for manufactured lace to further complicate our history.)

His earliest sighting of the work "tatting" is in a letter dated 1819, and the earliest usage to refer to tatting as a handicraft is the 1835 short story, The Masquerade, by Charles Robert Forrester.

My own earliest sighting definitely as a handicraft is the 1832 novel, Aims and ends: and Oonagh Lynch, by Caroline Sheridan, where the completion of a girl's education is described: "...but the honest mistress of the academy would not have thought she had justly fulfilled all that the word 'genteelly' taught an anxious parent to expect, if Jessy had not also painted very bright heartsease and very formal roses on hand-skreens, played nearly thirty sonatas tolerably perfect, and, above all, embroidered, netted, knitted, tatted, and done every thing that needles may do. At fifteen, she was reported as 'finished;'....but the knitting, netting, and tatting continued to flourish....." Earlier in the book, "Mrs. Danby stayed in the tent with Lady Portbury, where she made several yards of tatting."

In another 1832 publication, Dramatic Stories, in the short story, The Wish Unwished, two young men are given a shopping list including 10 yards of tatting, and they comically have no idea what it is. Whether this means real tatted lace, who knows?

In future, I may treat you to random early tatting quotations for your entertainment. (Or subject you to same,when I'm too busy/lazy to make up a proper blog post.)

All of these books are available in the Haithi Digital Trust.

Thank you to Erin, for supplying the OED citation.


Lace-lovin' Librarian ~ Diane said...

It's interesting that netting and tatting are mentioned in the quote. To me, that makes it obvious that tatting was considered a technique in its own right. Thanks for sharing!

Heather of Tatted Treasures said...

Thank you for sharing your research. I find this really interesting, and have heard several theories to the origins of the term tatting, each claiming to be authoritative though some are conflicting.

I also came across a quote in "Gone With the Wind" about tatting, though that is obviously a much later printing.

tattrldy said...

Thank you for sharing, this is very interesting. I appreciate you doing this research for the rest of us. I find it fun to read about but wouldn't have any idea on how to go about investigating such things myself.

Ninetta said...

Thank your​ very much for sharing these info. It happens that the link to tribbel doesn't work now, but can be found via the wayback machine. Some online sources (I wonder to know who and when started this) report that the italian word "chiacchierino" originated from the English term, that -I guess- could have been confused with the word tattling. The N.Tommaseo dictionary in 1860 already has the word "chiacchierino" as per a kind of lace, it was not in previous dictionaries as far as I know.