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, February 25, 2012

Oldest English Tatting Instructions, Part 2

Here we continue reading from The Lady's Assistant in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, 1842, by Mrs. Jane Gaugain. (Last time we got as far as winding the thread around the left hand.)

"As the thumb and forefinger are never moved during the forming of the scollop, bring the tatting needle and thread toward you, straight across from the forefinger and thumb, between the second and third fingers; insert the needle from the back of the finger loop up through the centre between the thread you have on the needle and that round the fingers; always observing to have the thread (on the needle) between you and the needle after it is drawn through."

(This is what today we call the Riego style of tatting; the shuttle is brought to the back of the left hand, and passes through the loop around the fingers to form our second half of the double stitch.)

"Hold the needle and thread tightly extended from the right hand to the left, and the loop round the fingers loose, as the stitch is made with the loop round the fingers, and not with the part of the thread nearest the needle; then withdraw the second finger, so as to allow the loop round the fingers,to form round the thread; insert the fingers again, and with the second finger form the stitch, by drawing it up to its place, which is close to the thumb;"

(Relax the left hand and pull with the shuttle to flip the stitch, then pull the stitch into place.)

"this finishes one stitch, and 20 more like this form the scollop. Draw the thread attached to the needle tight, so as to pull up the scollop when completed; now commence another scollop. If the Tatting has not been properly worked, this scollop will not draw.

(Work 20 more half stitches and (partially) close the ring, then begin another. If you have not flipped the stitches, the ring will not close.)

"All Tatting stitches must be formed with the loop round the fingers. 21 stitches form a pretty scollop with Taylor's Persian cotton No. 3.
I do not think any person who has not seen Tatting done can accomplish it by any description."

Here we have the earliest known pattern in English: an edging formed by making a series of half rings with 21 half stitches each.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oldest English Tatting Instructions, Part 1

The earliest tatting instructions I have found in English are in The Lady's Assistant in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, 1842, by Mrs. Jane Gaugain. Please note that tatting appears only in the three volume edition of this work, not the single volume book of the same title.

Click here for a link to the book in the collection of the University of Southampton. Many, many thanks to Erin for finding me the link.

There's quite a lot of information packed into three small pages plus 2 plates of illustrations, so I will be taking it bit by bit.

On page 411, she begins with instructions for "Common Tatting Edging":
"After threading your tatting needle with the size of cotton you intend to work with, tie a knot on the end; take the knot and put it on the forefinger of the left hand, and then so extend the second, third, and fourth fingers, as to form a loop round them, by passing the thread round the back of them and bringing it round to the forefinger again, over the knot; hold them tightly down with the thumb."

May I now draw your attention to the engravings from the front of the book. Though she speaks of a tatting needle, her illustration clearly shows a shuttle.

This terminology may be the source of much confusion. Not too long ago, members of Intatters were puzzling over an early literary reference to tatting with a needle, wondering if he didn't know what he was talking about or referring to sewing together motifs in the old style method. Now it seems clear, but I can't find the discussion anymore.

Should I have been surprised to see a shuttle labeled as a needle? Actually, no. In her book, Tatting: Technique and History, Elgiva also pointed out that another old book used the term needle but showed a picture of a shuttle. I had forgotten her words, but seeing the picture here has made a deeper impression.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quote for the Day

"I do not think any person who has not seen Tatting done can accomplish it by any description." -- Mrs. Gaugain, The Lady's Assistant in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, Vol 2, 1842.

Mrs. Gaugain on the difficulty of learning to tat though words alone, without seeing it done. Nonetheless, she was the earliest person I know of who published tatting instructions in English.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Pattern from 1837--Sort of

From The Female's Friend and General Domestic Advisor, by Robert Huish, 1837, we have, well, not a tatting pattern, but a sewing pattern with tatting on it.

Click here for a link to the whole book.

On Page 213, he says, "Pattern 3. This pattern will look well with tatting, or a narrow edging of lace round it, and a sprig worked in each of the front corners."

I think this does refer to tatting as we know it. As we heard in a previous post, sometimes the word "tatting" referred to any narrow lace, but here, the author makes a distinction between tatting and other edgings. Also, a popular tatted edging in the 1800's was made of half rings pulled into the shape of scallops just like those shown in the engraving. I'll be talking about that edging pattern again soon.

Meanwhile, in France... A few friends are working on a translation of the page shown in the previous post, but anyone is welcome to join in. I later realized that the word "frivolite" appeared earlier in the book (p 53), which may refer to another form of needlework also called by that name. What might be the relation between them? I've gone back and added a link to the book on that post.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Old Style Tatting--The French Connection?

excerpt from Manuel des Demoiselles (1830)

In Tatting (1850), Mlle. Riego wrote, " was also worked with a shuttle and pin, forming coarse trimmings, &c., consisting of small pieces worked separately, afterwards tacked on a paper pattern and sewn together with a very fine needle and thread,... In this state it has recently been revived in France under the title of 'Frivolitè.'"

In The Ladies Complete Guide to Crochet and Fancy Knitting (1854), Mrs. Stephens wrote: "The exercise of the art of Tatting as known to our grandmothers,...was never more elaborate that a neat, but rather substantial edging for a chld's dress or a lady's frill.... At the late French Exposition of Industry, however, some very beautiful and elaborate specimens having been exhibited, this kind of work became the rage, both in France and England..."

The French Exposition of Industry of 1844 was a grand spectacle, a sort of World's Fair. One conjectures that the tatting exhibited there was Old Style Tatting like that shown in the blog header above, since these comments imply that tatting had evolved from mere edgings to motifs and larger pieces. Did that change originate in France? Who knows? It would seem to have flourished there and spread to England anyway.

There was a book published, Exposition de l’industrie française année 1844, by Jules Burat, with 90 plates illustrating the exhibits. Unfortunately, I don't know if it pictured any of the tatting since I haven't found a copy online. Here is a list of libraries with copies. Field trip! If anyone manages a peek at this, let the rest of us know.

Meanwhile, I wonder, were there patterns for this style of tatting published in France? For that matter, what books were published in France in the 1800's with tatting of any sort? I know of these: Manuel des demoiselles, ou Arts et métiers qui leur conviennent et dont elles peuvent s'occuper avec agrément : tels que la couture, la broderie, le tricot (1830)and Leçons de couture, crochet, tricot, frivolité, guipure sur filet, passementerie et tapisserie (1873). Dillmont published several books beginning around the turn of the century. Can anyone tell me of any more?

-Update- Click HERE for a link to Manuel des Demoiselles (1830). The word "frivolite" appears on pages 53 and 109. And click HERE, HERE and HERE for the illustrations, but be aware the illustrations are from a different edition and numbered differently.

Here is what has to say about the page at the top of this post:

This embellishment kind, that holds at once festoon and net, appears me to have to be here. To make it, it is necessary to have a sort of big shuttle in ivory: the round party is the one where one enters cotton, that one unwinds around on the part full. When there is enough do cotton unwound, one takes the end between the index and the left thumb: at the same time one seizes the shuttle of the upright hand. The other fingers of the left held remote hands, his surround by cotton, and the tool is passed underneath the thread, so as to form a point of festoon. One squeezes this point, but not so as to prevent the cotton that holds the shuttle to flow freely. One determined in advance the number of necessary points to the larger of which one wants to do frivolité. It is on the held thread of the left hand that form themselves these points: this is the track. The thread be anxious the shuttle, and by consequent of the upright hand, squeezes itself to every point, of which the determined quantity produces a lace more or less big, but similar to a festoon lace to day and cut. That goes a lot more quickly than the frivolité to the needle.