Tatting in Appalachia

The Mountains of Appalachia have always been inhabited by hearty stock.  Out in the woods today, members of the Swannanoa Valley Museum were locating and documenting old home sites around the valley area.  Many of these homes were quite remote, even by today;’s standards.  We were struck with the fact that the people who had lived in these places were, certainly had to be, as nearly self-sufficient as a person could be.  Food, fuel, building materials, clothing and even medicines were provided by the inhabitants for themselves.

Cotton was not given to these mountains.  It required more land and different soil conditions than existed in this area.  So clothing was made from linen (flax) or wool (sheep).  We think of wool as being coarse and scratchy, but that depended a great deal on what part of the fleece the fabric was made from.  Linen could be spun into very fine threads and would hold a dye or could be bleached to a fine whiteness.  Most likely it was linen thread that the Appalachian women folk used to create their lace by tatting.

There’s a wonderful article about this subject and about a woman named Anne C. Orr:   http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2011/10/reviving-ancient-art-of-tatting.html

We know Anne Orr as the author of several books containing tatting patterns, many of which are still in print.   While the article was written to encourage the reader to attend the Tennessee Fall Homecoming in Knoxville last October, it has some wonderful information about tatting, Ms Orr and the mountain people.  Life was hard enough in these mountains.  Women sometimes needed something to make them feel feminine and lace made by tatting could fulfill this desire, for they would have to create it themselves rather than buy it.


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