Learning Lace on Hard Mode

Ah, Pinterest. It’s my drug of choice for finding new and different projects to try, not least because it reminds me of things I have wanted to try for some time. The other day, I saw a project on weaving, which led to many searches and pins of small looms, large looms, interesting patterns, etc. Finally, I had a day to go out and buy the pieces to build my own! So, I went to Michaels to get stretcher bars, dowels, and hooks, the pieces the tutorial recommended to build a frame for a small-but-sturdy lap loom. Unfortunately, my nearby store didn’t have any of these things, which is why this post is not actually about weaving.

In the course of wandering the aisles for the other items, I encountered the crochet section. They helpfully had a small ball of thread available, labeled “tatting thread”. Since I couldn’t find the weaving pieces I wanted, I decided to pick up the tatting thread and give that craft a try. Of course, the store didn’t have any tatting shuttles or needles (which are really helpful, if not exactly necessary), but I figured I could come up with something.

Home I went, excited to try tatting. After researching the difference to know which style I wanted to try first, I ordered a set of small tatting shuttles from Amazon. They were scheduled to arrive several days later. I was anxious to start, though, so I decided to make my own shuttle.

A tatting shuttle holds the thread on a bobbin and is usually pointed to let you pass it through loops more easily. It’s possible to tat (with thread, not with ink) with just a ball of thread, but it’s easier with the shuttle. I wasn’t interested in building a shuttle most like the professional versions; I just wanted to get it working as fast as possible. I followed this tutorial to cut a quick and easy shuttle: http://makelittlethings.blogspot.nl/2010/07/tutorial-cheap-easy-plastic-tatting.html I didn’t have any plastic around, so a thick, oversized, cardboard shuttle was the result.

Not fancy, but it will work for now

Next came watching several videos. So many guides online mentioned that learning from a person was most preferable, with learning from videos the next best thing. Books didn’t adequately illustrate the incredibly complicated moves involved, particularly “the flip.” So many people were baffled, confused, and frustrated by “the flip” that I thought it would be completely confusing, difficult, or tricky. So, I watched a video where the instructor demonstrated “the flip” several times, very slowly.

I won’t discount that other people have found the move a difficult concept. However, I was able to explain it to my husband in three sentences, at which point he grabbed some thread and demonstrated. I can only conclude that having a background in knots, as both of us do, makes the concept much easier to understand and perform. (For once, having multiple skills comes in handy! That doesn’t happen much in adult life.)

Cardboard shuttle in hand and basic concepts learned, it was time to attempt a pattern! According to the Ring of Tatters, it’s traditional to start with a butterfly pattern. It was at this point that I realized I had made a mistake in purchasing something specifically labeled “tatting thread”. The Ring of Tatters recommends that, For the first lesson, Number 10 is good as you can more easily see the stitches. But after that No 20 thread is a good all-rounder, or try No 40, 60 or 80 for a more lacy effect.” Guess what size my tatting thread is! If you guessed 80, you’d be exactly correct. I can see it, I can use it, but it’s not beginner-friendly at all. Add to that the fact that I have a large, rough-edged, and squishy shuttle and I liken it to starting an unfamiliar video game on hard mode.

Tools of the trade: shuttle, tiny thread, scissors, needle to undo mistakes
Teeny weeny butterfly! On a US quarter for scale

Despite my various missteps, I managed to create this tiny, lopsided butterfly. It is floppy, uneven, and adorable. I think I may enjoy this hobby, particularly for its portability — I can hold all the pieces for this project in my hand. Even the somewhat larger threads are not too large, so making cute things will be pretty easy. I plan to attempt this pattern again with a manufactured shuttle and somewhat larger thread soon and compare the results.


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