Janice Learns About Tatting

Tatting is an old craft for making lace and other decorative ornamentation.
Tatting is portable and easy to learn creating
complex pieces with simple stitches.

When I came to California as a newlywed in 1950, I met cousin “Tom,” Glenn’s mother’s cousin. I think her real name was Bernice, but everyone called her Tom.

She did a very interesting thing using a shuttle with thread wound around her fingers. She made small knotted loops with even smaller loops at regular intervals around the first loops. It fascinated me and I learned to do it. It was an appropriate pastime to keep me occupied while I was waiting for my first little daughter to be born. I decided to make a simple double chain long enough to be inserted down the middle of a handmade baby dress made of white batiste.

Our home was in the Imperial Valley, a place of little rain and much dust. When I finished the chain the color was more dingy brown than white. As a new bride I didn’t have much laundry experience, but it seemed to me that the proper procedure would be to soak the chain in chlorine bleach. Accordingly, I poured some bleach in a little saucer that I placed on the back of the toilet, and dropped in the result of long hours of work. Then we went off to a church meeting in a neighboring town.

When we came home I was looking forward to seeing how sparkling white my little creation would be. But, alas! There was nothing in the saucer but a few little threads about the length of a fourth of an inch! I had known nothing about diluting the bleach with water!

But there was time, I was determined, and I enjoyed the handwork, so I made another chain, this time cleaner and more neatly formed because the process was becoming easier for me. I made the dress and when Ellen was born I took a picture of her wearing the dress. In fact, I think I put the little dress on every one of my six daughters at least one time, but I seem only to have pictures of the first three. I think I may have even put the dress on the two baby boys at least once, but that may be my imagination. Baby boys commonly wore dresses in my grandmother’s generation, but with the advent of gripper snaps, that practice went out of style.

I know I still had the little dress when we lived in Lima, because I remember giving it to a mother from one of the “pueblos jovenes” where the poorer people lived in bamboo mat houses.


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