Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Tatting Ancestry

[Image: Margaret Singer DeSmet, 1925]
To say I was born into a crafting family would be to understate the obvious. As did her mother before her (see portrait photo), my grandmother quilted, knit, crocheted, and tatted.

Grandma learned to tat from her older sister Clara, who died of the flu in 1920 at the age of 28. Gram' speaks fondly of Clara's tatting and tells how Clara tatted the whole bodice of her wedding gown. Her last surviving tatted work is a delicate, pink baby bonnet.

"Clara must have been expecting before she caught the flu," Gram' explains, "because she tatted a delicate baby bonnet before she died." For years, Gram' kept the baby bonnet tucked away lovingly in a drawer.

I learned tatting from my grandmother in the early 1980's. Gram' was always working on one fiber arts project or another, but it was the steady clicking of her tatting shuttle and the yards of impossibly fine lace that led me to ask her to show me how.

To this day she insists that I taught myself.

[Image: Genevieve DeSmet Gesin, born 1908]
Gram' is right-handed, you see. Because I'm left-handed I started out thinking that I was uncommon since, according to the only authority on the subject I knew, it wasn't ordinarily possible for a left-handed person to tat. It wouldn't be until many years later, with the help of the Internet, that I would discover that "handedness" was no more of a deterrent in tatting than in any other fiber art.

The fact that no one else in my grandmother's line had yet picked up the art of tatting kept me practicing during those frustrating early days. I recall telling myself over and over, as "the flip" continued to elude my stiff, aching fingers, " this will teach you patience."

When it finally happened I remember being stunned, duplicating "the flip" a few times more to be sure it wasn't a fluke. The rest fell together pretty quickly.

I could wax on (ad nauseum) about each tiny triumph along the way, like learning how to count double stitches, maintain tension, evenly size picots or "shore up" gaps between my rings and chains. The truth is, each time I picked up my shuttle I triumphed over an obstacle. You will too.

Carrying on the tradition is an opportunity to honor the incredible woman that calls me granddaughter and to show my love and respect for her. I am proud to stand among the tatting women in my family and hope to pass the tatting torch on to my descendants, as well as anyone else who wishes to learn.

9 comments:

tattrldy said...

What a wonderful history you have of tatting in the family. I, too, learned from my grandmother. It makes me feel close to her even though she is no longer with us. Your work is lovely.

Fox said...

Hi there,Isdihara, I loved reading about your history. My great aunt Elizabeth died of that same influenza, though she never did tat, (as far as I know) nor did her older sister, my Grandmother (whose husband was named Isadore - I look for connections!).

Your Fleur-de-Lis Heart is beautiful!
I am looking forward to seeing more of your tatting. Fox : )

Fox said...

ps I love the name of your blog! Very clever. Fox : )

TattingChic said...

What a lovely history! Thank you for sharing.

Isdihara said...

Tattrldy, Fox, and Tatting Chic:

*giggles* You know what's so funny? Y'all are finding my new blog before I've even finished designing it. And leaving such lovely comments. Thank YOU!

Check back on Tuesday for my first Tatting Tea Tuesdays blog post. And I hope you can join in the fun!

Krystle said...

My Great Gram tatted years ago, as did my mom, but neither were around to teach me. Since I've learned now, my mom has picked up needle tatting, which she is going to teach to her mom, and great gram has made a tatted hanky bonnet for the new baby so my tatting geneology has almost reversed itself lol. :-)

Hope to see more from your blog soon!

yarnplayer said...

Wonderful family history!
Glad you didn't let "handedness" get in your way. My great aunt was left-handed, and I'm right-handed. Somehow she taught me to knit when I was a very young child, and I treasure the memories of time spent with her. (She didn't tat, though, so I had to teach myself tatting.)

Very nice start to your blog here!

Rayanna said...

I love the start of your blog. The history of your family very interesting. I wish mine was like that but it was not:(. I just focus on today and what I learn from Carol to hopefully carry the traditions onto my only child, April. Happy Tatting!

Tatskool said...

Lovely story.