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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Single Stitch According to Riego

Tatting by Mlle. Riego, 1850

In this first English book devoted entirely to tatting, the join as we know it has not yet been invented, so Mlle Riego overcomes this difficulty by using a netting needle or sewing needle instead of a shuttle. She made joins by passing the needle through picots. This method was soon supplanted by the regular join, but was a revolutionary step by allowing larger pieces to be made without laboriously tying the picots together with bits of thread.

In this book, the needle is manipulated the same way as a shuttle, so this is not needle tatting in the modern sense.

Mlle. Riego's description of the single stitch may seem baffling when you first read it, but take a shuttle in hand and follow along and it becomes clear. Once made, you can recognize this as our "second half" of the double stitch.

On page 6 she writes:
Raise the 2nd finger of the left hand, so as to loosen the loop ; pass the needle though the back part of the loop, bringing it in front between the two threads, as Fig 2 ; and holding the foundation thread quite tight, raise the right hand above the left : the foundation thread will now divide the loop into two parts, and still holding the foundation thread quite tight, remove the 2nd finger from the upper part of the loop, and placing it in the lower part, raise it up so as to draw the upper part of the loop tight, which places it between the finger and thumb, and finishes the stitch. The stitches being formed by the loop round the fingers, the foundation thread should be capable of contracting or expanding the loop.

Example. – Edging : First Oval – Commence a loop, and work 20 single stitches as directed above, withdraw the fingers from the loop, and draw the foundation thread tight. Commence the next oval close to the one already worked. Repeat.

Compare to Mrs. Gaugain's instructions here. Do you think Riego's is clearer? It is a nice touch that she points out that the core thread should be able to slide. And, like all the others before, she includes the ubiquitous 20 half stitch edging.


Ladytats said...

I don't think Mme Riego's written instructions are any clearer then Mrs. Gaugain's, but her illustration does help to understand what she is trying to convey.
Thanks for the video, that helped even more as I slip & slide and have never understood the reverse Riego method.

Kathy Niklewicz said...

The use of the netting needle in this early publication, although at the time seemingly the answer to joining picots, muddied the waters a bit for future understanding of what a netting needle actually looks like, and this drawing of the needle doesn't quite seem accurate.

(We are all indebted to the unknown person who DID figure out how to join picots - using a shuttle! It was ingenious!)

In 'Gone with the Wind' (1936) it is written by Margaret Mitchell that Melanie's 'shiny needle' was flying back and forth. So Ms. Mitchell also didn't help with the understanding that Melanie was using a 'netting needle'. We could have a whole discussion about why Margaret chose to write about this implement rather than a shuttle.

My theory about Mme Riego's use of the netting needle and manipulating it in this 'Riego' way is that I don't think you can use the slip and slide method efficiently with the needle, so she used this different method of forming the knot.

Of course, many shuttle tatters today still manipulate their shuttle this way, except reversing the order of the stitches. I prefer slip and slide, myself - and use a bobbin shuttle with a hook attached.

However, I am actually trying to find a netting needle so that I can do Celtic weaving of chains more easily! Karen Cabrera has a great video demonstrating this weaving technique and she uses a netting needle, manipulating it in reverse Riego fashion, which I am willing to do so that I can do the Celtic chains more easily!

Virginia Mescher said...

Lacis has steel netting needles but they are much larger than those used for tatting in the 19th century. I've also found small ivory or bone netting needles on ebay. I do have a photo of a "real" 19th century netting needle still in the tatting project.