Goodbye to another tatter

Its with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Leigh Jones who passed away June 12, 2020. Leigh was the oldest person I have ever known personally who was a tatter. I met her about 10 years ago when she came to our first Thread Bears group meeting. She was 85 then and had been needle tatting since she was a young adult. Her work was lovely, some of it created with baby weight yarn. She had never mastered the art of tatting with a shuttle and at her age, didn’t want to try to learn something new. She came faithfully because she had never known many others who engaged in tatting and was excited to meet us youngsters and participate with us in our activities.

Leigh Jones at age 86

Leigh suffered from Macular Degeneration and after her son died suddenly several years ago, she went to live at a local retirement community. I visited with her there, and she was quite open about her vision becoming so poor that she had been forced to give up so many of the activities that she had enjoyed previously. Soon after my last visit with her, I lost touch with her although she didn’t leave the area. Sometimes the restrictions laid upon us because of the health information privacy act known as HIPPA become a block to being able to “keep in touch.” I had inquired as to her whereabouts at the facility on several occasions and even though I was certain she was still there, everyone denied that she was. It was sad not to be able to be in touch with her in her later years.

The tatting community has lost a gifted artist, not only as a tatter, but by many of the other skills Leigh had. We Thread Bears were honored to accept her library of Work Basket magazines that spanned 15 years or more, all carefully bound in cardboard “books” that covered each year that Leigh had maintained a subscription. She and her husband had been important contributors to the spiritual and cultural life of the Swannanoa Valley. She will be missed. . .

Leigh shows off her tatted vest.

Tatters to the Rescue!

Tatting has always had it’s challenges. For many of us, the first challenge was accomplishing the FLIP. Once a new tatter “gets” that, things begin to improve greatly. But there are always little technicalities in any avocation that someone experienced in the field or craft does not have to be told. These “directions understood” can create complications for newbies to the field.

Some months ago, one of our newer tatters who is progressing quite well, wanted to create a bookmark for several members of her personal circle. After doing some searching, she had selected Julie Patterson’s Spring Flowers Bookmark which she found on the Ring of Tatters website. She seemed to understand that the pattern was to be worked using the Continuous Thread Method (CTM) even though that was not specifically noted in the pattern. When she began having problems, she brought the print-out of the pattern to me. After looking it over, I explained that at the point the work was to be reversed, she should change the shuttle used to make the first three rings and make the 4th ring using shuttle 2. Consequently, she would do that same shuttle switch when the work was again reversed before creating the chain. She took notes on her pattern print-out and set off to follow the pattern again. This shuttle switch is second nature to us “Oldie, but Goodie” tatters, but something that must be thought through more carefully by newer shuttle users.

As the holiday season grew closer, she had apparently set the work aside and by the time she picked it up again, had lost sight of the subtleties of switching shuttles at the points of reversing the lace. When she returned to ask for additional help, my time to devote to the situation was limited by the fact that I am a small business owner, had just returned from an extended trip and as a group we were getting ready for a craft demonstration and our annual Deck the Trees event. At that point, I felt it wise to make the suggestion that she turn to others in the group for additional guidance. Understanding that we all learn differently and teaching methods also vary from teacher to teacher, allowing a variety of eyes and approaches to tatting problems has worked well for our group through the years. So it was everyone to the rescue!

Individually, each of us tried a number of approaches to creating a piece that would lie flat enough to be a suitable bookmark. My own attempts looked like this:

Following the pattern as written by Julie Patterson
What happened when I took a suggestion to add a Shoelace trick (SLT) before the 4th ring – Oh how curled is that?
Better, but still not quite right. . .

As we sometimes do, one member of the group turned to highly skilled tatters around the world looking for assistance. Muskaan took up the challenge quickly. Her solution to the dilemma can be found on her blog. It’s a lovely explanation of not only how to work out the pattern as written by Ms. Patterson, but also includes additional ways to improve the end product by making it more firm as well as to create a “vine” effect by using 2 colors. NB: the double-double stitch referred to in Muskaan’s blog post is created by wrapping the shuttle a second time around the core thread before making the flip and securing each half of the stitch. See Jane Eborall’s description here.

With a little additional understanding of the “unspoken directions” that may exist in almost any tatting pattern, Thread Bear Anne was able to complete the single color bookmark and subsequently one that shows off the vine in a very satisfactory manner! Many thanks to Julie for creating the lovely bookmark and to all those in the group and around the world who put time and effort into helping her get there!


Justice Ginsburg Collar Follow-up

In the several months since we sent the tatted collar to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we have become assured that while we have heard nothing from the Justice, we have also not received the package back. So we are sure that the Justice has received it. Understanding that she is a very busy lady, we feel that when the time is right, we will hear about her having received it.

Meanwhile, one of the participants came to meeting a month or so ago and presented the group with a Ruth Bader Ginsburg doll. These are available in such outlets as Amazon and others. Please note that this particular example is wearing a crocheted collar. Naturally this would not do for tatting Thread Bears! So off came the robe so that the crocheted collar could be removed and on went a collar that while smaller, was a close replica of the one that we had made in 2019.

Thread Bears Replica of Justice Ginsburg’s collar

We felt like it made for a reasonable representation for the original that we had created for Justice Ginsburg and so our group is graced with a second “mascot” in Ruth, herself


Group Effort. . .

Over the past years, we as a group have undertaken a number of projects. The Deck the Trees annual event at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain has been the biggest one over all. There have been several articles about this event that can be found here from 2018, and here for 2019. But if you read the 2019 article, you will see a reference to our group and a project we began about 8 months ago. At that time, member Sherry voiced a dream that she had: that we as a group would tat a collar for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had to think about this for a bit, such an undertaking was going to be challenging, especially with so many different skill levels within the group. Not to be dissuaded by a challenge, we decided to forge ahead.

Step one was finding something that would work as a pattern. Not only would it have to work as a pattern, but would have to work with a size 10 thread, because some members were not able to work with smaller threads than that. So the search for a pattern began. The collar chosen was no more than a picture but a simple design consisting of 2 rows made in a single pass. converting the image and writing it out as a “pattern” with a stitch count and some form of directions was the next step. Fortunately, the image was of sufficient resolution that it could be enlarged to make the stitches show up well enough to develop a pattern that would be easy enough to follow for all participants.

There were other considerations that revolved around tatting techniques that had to be added to the instructions as well, such as: Would we adhere to the Front-Side / Back-Side tatting protocol? If so, how would the rows designated as being worked on the front side or the back side be noted on the pattern? How would joins be handled? How far would each member of the group go? How would we keep the project together? At first, the details were daunting!

The end result was both a written pattern and a diagram. So the subsequent step was to have the more skilled members of the group review what was written down, make any necessary adjustments so that a test pattern could be created. The simple pattern swatch looked like this: In the end, we chose a white Cebelia thread in size 10 and decided to add beads as well. Ten-aught (10/0) pearl seed beads were designed into the picots that were not joins and 3 mm pearls went over joined picots on the second row.

We also had to keep in mind that Justice Ginsburg is a small woman and so we were mindful of any adjustments that might have to be made to accommodate her stature. So we selected the thinnest of our group to use as the gauge for size. This was most important before we finished the first row and moved on to the second row, as seen here.

Each member worked for a week, and the colored threads you see along the edge mark the end of each person’s progress at this phase of the project. Some work faster than others, of course, but this part went smoothly. Several participants even tatted a practice swatch while waiting for their turn on the actual collar: Seeing it against black was the best way to actually visualize how it was going to appear in the end: and the overall effect was just what we had been hoping for! As the piece neared completion, we had welcomed a new member, Sharon, who was anxious to be a part of the project as well. By this time the collar was done, but we still felt like stabilizing the collar onto cloth of some description was necessary, because we felt like that would add body that the finished product didn’t have. Sharon was more than willing to take this part of the project on and after trying several supporting fabrics, settled on a black tulle or netting.

The tulle made it easy to trim any excess away on the edges after the tatting was stitched down. It also was lighter than other fabric options Sharon tried. Because it was black, it didn’t show against another piece of black fabric such as the Justice’s robes. Adding a single pearl in the center of the large motif that made up part of the second row stabilized the piece over all. And so the finished collar went off to Washington to Justice Ginsburg’s office. To date we have not heard from Justice Ginsburg herself, but member Anne has a contact in that office that says the package has indeed arrived.

It’s not easy to coordinate such an elaborate project among participants with widely divergent skills in a craft like tatting. Everyone who participated worked very hard to make sure what they did was of the same tension as the person who tatted before them. What a truly heart felt effort this was!


It’s That Time of Year. . .

As a group, we have been involved in 2 projects over the past several months. I’m only going to address one of them at this time because it’s time for the Monte Vista Hotel’s benefit to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries known as “Deck the Trees.”

The Thread Bears have been a part of this event for all of the now 9 years that the Hotel has been home for this fund-raiser. Our tree has grown from 2 feet to now fully 6 1/2 feet! In 2018, in spite of how we tried to be present at a time that would allow us to have a tree strategically placed to be noticed our tree was so far away from the traffic that visitors to the Monte Vista actually had to ask where our tree was. Not so in 2019! We were present for the opening “ceremony” held by Libba Fairleigh. The tree we chose is directly beside the front desk, a perfect location for us!

Our angel sits atop the tree again and the tatted garlands help accentuate the depth of the tree. Newcomer Sharon contributed enough glass balls covered with tatting that we were able to “retire” certain non-tatted items that had been accents to the tree in years past.

And the ice drops were quite an accent, although they do not show up in photographs as well as I’d like when on the tree. Many thanks to all the dedicated tatters who created the 19 Ice Drops for the tree this year, who tied ribbons onto the French Horns that helped us meet this year’s theme of “Go Tell It On The Mountain!” as well as the hearty souls who braved the snow flurries to get there in time – or just after time to decorate! Just being able to participate all these years is a testament to our dedication to the event and to what it stands for in the community. Indeed, we are “Knotting Together the Threads that Create Community” through our participation in this event.

Future posts will include the amount raised for the Christian Ministries food bank and fuel assistance program. If anyone is in the Black Mountain area, please visit the Monte Vista Hotel to see the trees, vote for a favorite, or maybe several of them (especially the Tatted Tree) and perhaps have a glass of wine, cup of coffee or evening meal there. If you are too far away, please consider sending a donation to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries with “Deck the Trees” in the memo line!


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