Long time, no post

Good intentions abound in the blogging world.  No exception here.  It’s been a race with the Time Lords (for the Dr. Who Fans) getting ready for the 2018 Tat Days Convention, then attending the Vance Birthplace Fall Folk Festival where 3 of the members of the Thread Bears Tatting group gave demonstrations of tatting, and then there was a special treat!  I was able to purchase a ticket to attend this year’s public event at Hart Square Village.  Follow the link to learn more about the Village, its founder Dr. Bob Hart as well as its mission and events. 

It’s difficult to find authentic Appalachian log cabins because so many of them have fallen into neglect and rotted or were bulldozed in the name of progress.  Not only am I a tatter, but I am a videographer and historian.  So re-enactments are special, especially when they might apply to other aspects of my life.  I have wanted to attend the event at Hart Square for several years.  A friend brought me a photo he had taken of a doily in one of the cabins that he thought was a tatted piece.  The image was of such poor quality that I could not tell.  So I determined to go to see for myself.  

It took much of the day, but I finally found it.  Located in the Hoyle cabin dated 1850, the framed doily is about 18 inches in diameter.  I have no more information about the piece at this time, but it is a lovely well-preserved piece.  When more information is available, I’ll pass it along, but for now the satisfaction is in knowing that someone in the Hoyle family created this lovely piece.  Don’t believe it’s tatting?  Take a look at this detail:

The all-ring motif is unmistakable!   The cabin was built in 1850, yes, but it’s doubtful that the doily dates that far back.  It’s also not clear if it is made from linen (flax) or from cotton.  Flax was grown in that part of the world and cotton was not a local crop having to come from lowlands closer to the piedmont – Hart Square Village is located in the foothills not far from Newton, NC the county seat of Catawba county.  Among the re-inactors present were folks scutching flax, and spinning the fibers into threads.  There was also a bobbin lacer and after a wandering the grounds a while longer, I found 2 ladies who were tatting. 

I’m not sure their clothing was consistent with the times when Appalachian women were tatting.  While I know tatting had reached the Southern women of Atlanta by the time of the American Civil War (it’s referred to in “Gone With the Wind”), Mountain Women were a bit behind the times, so I don’t think many women were tatting until into the 20th century.  This would be hard to prove if it were not for the fact that Anne C. Orr wasn’t writing down cross-stitch, quilt, knitting, crochet and tatting patterns for Southern Woman Magazine until well after 1900. It’s doubtful that given the hard life of Southern Appalachian farm women after 1865, much time would be devoted to endeavors such as tatting or lace-making until times improved – closer to the end of the 19th century.  Written patterns weren’t necessary, of course, but it’s too hard to know how wide-spread tatting was in the mountains and foothills between 1860 and 1890.  Be that as it may, it was great fun to see the historic aspects of fiber arts – spinning, weaving, bobbing lace and tatting – portrayed so prominently. 

There were also several examples of knotwork present at the Hoyle cabin the likes of which I had never before seen. . .  The threads were rather coarse, almost like the cotton twine of a similar weight to what one might find for binding the legs of a Thanksgiving roasting turkey.  There were at least 2 examples draped over a chair and another sewn to the hem of a bed coverlet.  This photo is only one of the 3 designs present in the cabin.  Knotwork is rather rare to find as a hand created item.  This was a find, indeed!  

Creativity. . .

Being creative is hard work!  This year I have entered into retirement from my primary employment and moved to being somewhat self-employed.  I tat to help keep myself sane.  It gives me a break from having to solve all the problems of my other creative self. . .   or does it?  In March of 2017, I undertook to make an edging for a blouse I had purchased and I promised myself I would not wear it until it was finished. 

Ok, a year went by.  You know I really wanted to wear that blouse.  But getting things ready for Christmas at the Monte Vista was really  REALLY important.  So was  a number of other things.  I looked back at what I had trialed in March of 2017.  It looked a lot like this:

I never intended to make the edging in pink.  Pink is far from a favorite color of mine, but it did show up well against the lovely green and I hoped it would help me see where I was wanting to go with the edging.  Having made it that far, I changed to the color of thread I really wanted (Lizbeth thread “Herbal Garden” is one of my favorites and I really wanted to use size 40) .  I tried with beads, without beads, with 2 passes, with a special point at the base.  The trials seemed endless.  I was getting weary of all the modifications, all the trials, all the stresses of just trying to complete the task at hand.  Then one day it all fell together.  Maybe it had just simmered in my brain long enough.  The finished project looks like this:   Well, it looked like this when the edging was pinned down and before the final stitching took place.  I cannot say enough how much I admire those of you who can sit down and just crank out a pattern or a motif or an earring.  It takes tremendous talent, patience and vision to do that.  Make no mistake, this one was worn to our regular Friday evening meeting, but is now set aside for Tat Days 2018!










And as for the rest of this year:  No new projects until the current ones are complete!  That was my New Year’s Resolution and I’m determined to stick to it!

These are a few of my Favorite Things. . . .

When I first learned to tat, about the only shuttles available were the metal bobbin-types made by Susan Bates or Boye.  That was my first shuttle  and when you don’t know any better, you run with what you have on hand.  Then in 2006, my daughter-in-law’s grandmother gave me 2 “modern” tatting shuttles: a Pony and an Aero – one of the old English Aero’s at that.  They were some of favorites.  As the years have gone one, I have tried all manner of shuttles, threads and other accessories to the tatting world.  I totally enjoy the way fine wood shuttles feel in my hand, but they are not my “go-to” shuttles for everyday lace-making.  For a long time the Airlits, Starlits, and  Clover medium and large shuttles  have been among my favorites.  

Last year at a conference I saw Clover’s new shuttles with bobbins and decided to try one.  They come in a package with a shuttle, 2 bobbins and winder that doubles as a bobbin stop or makes a bobbin like a ball thread.  In the event that a tatter has only one shuttle and may need to change out the bobbins from time to time,  the second bobbin can be exchanged with the first and the external shuttle housing can accommodate several bobbins wound with thread.  Leave it to the Japanese to be innovative!  Yes these are Japanese shuttles.  They come complete with instructions that need no English translation because the diagrams remind me of Japanese Anime, they are that complete.  The Clover bobbin shuttle is about the same size as the Airlit and the bobbins hold about the same amount of thread.  So having wound both CTM, I proceeded to tat a bit of edging for the Palmetto Tatters Guild’s next benefit quilt to be auctioned off at Tat Days:   The feel of the clover has a substantial feel to it and while it lacks the crochet hook tip, we all keep a small hook on hand and much of the time the clover tip will work for drawing threads through picots.   The accessory kit comes with additional bobbins and the primary kit comes with an additional pair of nylon rings that assist in the winding of bobbins in the event that the user chooses to use a winder to add thread to the bobbins.Overall, I’m very impressed with this new shuttle system.  In addition to the accessory kit, a case is available to hold bobbins and shuttle housings.  Each user will make up their own minds, but I’m happy with this shuttle system.





Happy New Year from Deck The Trees

The 2017 Deck the Trees event at the Monte Vista was a true success!

This image documents the amount raised by donations, “votes” and matching funds for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries’ food and fuel assistance program for needy valley residents during what appears to be a very cold winter.  Thanks to everyone who came to the Monte Vista this year, who gave of themselves and their talents, time and money for others.  I am told by volunteers to food bank programs in our area that the final total was more than $ 25,000 from this effort.  

Monte Vista Tatted Tree 2017

It’s time for the Monte Vista Hotel’s annual Deck the Trees event to benefit the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries’ winter supplement programs.  Thanks to all the contributions from Thread Bears Sherry, Anne, Shonn,  Jill, Jo, Tammy, Leigh and Fran, this years tree is 6 feet tall.  This year, our tree is in the Dining Room – a more prominent place that usual.  At first there was general disappointment that the tree chosen didn’t have lights on it.  When we considered that this year’s theme was “80 years of Christmas” in honor of the Monte Vista’s 80th anniversary, we realized that in 1937, much of Black Mountain was without electricity anyway.   So an old fashioned tree with traditional ornaments and garlands would be consistent with the lack of lights.  We decided to accept the idea.

Back in 2014, we were honored to be able to use Sherry’s mother’s tree-top angel. It was such a lovely addition to the tree, that  a replacement was in order.  The process was begun in January of this year as was finished over the Thanksgiving holiday.  While the all white example seen here is lovely, I thought adding a bit more color would be a welcome addition to the tree. 






I had found the pattern written by Tatsy in about 1983 or 1984, so that made the project a bit easier.  It had taken from January to October to complete the 4 tatted pieces that make up the angel itself, the largest of which is the skirt and is about 9 inches or so in diameter.  One additional touch was to add small gold beads to each of the joins between the rounds on the skirt.  Hopefully this would make it stand out a bit.  It also slowed the process down somewhat, so the skirt is the only piece that received this treatment. 


Once all the tatted pieces were finished and stiffened, I needed to select the color of felt for the under skirt and yoke.  In the end, red was the only real choice partly because felt comes in such a narrow range of colors and primary colors rule the day.  First the skirt was cut out and centered over the cardstock cone that would support the entire structure.  Then the tatted was placed on top of that.  Then the yoke was cut according to the pattern and the tatted yoke overlay was placed over it. 

 Next came the head and arms.  They could be made from unbleached muslin rather than the pink felt that was suggested by the pattern.  The muslin would be a bit easier to shape and reverse for stuffing once the 2 pieces had been  stitched together.   Then there was adding the hair and bows before bringing all the “angel features together .  This particular pattern is easy to follow and does have all the pattern pieces in the proper scale included.  Taking the time to copy the templates for the face, arms and outfit components does preserve the pattern for future use as well. 


So this year’s Decked Tree isn’t quite as bright, but it is sill covered with the things that made Christmas so special 80 years ago: tinsel, white cotton ornaments, candy canes and love. 

Appalachian Folk Festival At the Historic Vance Birthplace

It isn’t often that we as a group of tatters and lacemakers are invited to demonstrate our skills. So I was pleased to receive an invitation from Kimberly Floyd of the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace outside of Weaverville, NC late last spring. She had heard about The Thread Bears and invited us to attend their annual Appalachian Folk Festival.  

I agreed to come to the event, totally unsure if any other Thread Bear members might be able to attend.  The Birthplace is one of the sites affiliated with the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources as a state historic site.  Zebulon Vance was the governor of NC during the Civil War beginning with his inauguration to a 2-year term in 1862.  There is the house, a visitor’s center and at least one out building in which the Vance family lived and worked after obtaining the property around 1815.  It is a rather remote location today, and it is clear that when the only way to reach the farm was by wagon, on horseback or on foot, it was a remote location, indeed.  

I don’t know if the family had any members who tatted.  The spinning of flax and wool were certainly part of daily life there.  There was one person present at the Festival who was demonstrating spinning using a drop spindle. While spinning wheels were widespread throughout Europe in the early 1800’s, there were not so common at that time in these mountains.  In the bedroom of the main house was what appeared to be a Christening gown which was lined and was decorated with embroidery of the day.  The threads were quite a bit more coarse than threads we find today.

There were 3 of us who were present and demonstrating tatting.  Our “booth” was near the front door to the Visitor’s Center and we were directly in front of a large display describing Governor Vance’s career as a lawyer in Asheville, NC.  Here you can see Shonn along with examples of tatted doilies, bookmarks and other adornments for clothing and accessories.  We also had prepared some simple book-marks of large paperclips, ribbons and a small piece of tatting for our visitors.  There were about 180 visitors to the center that day, in spite of the cool rainy weather.  

Almost everyone who stopped by to chat with us had either an awareness of tatting, had seen it before or were totally unaware of the art-form.  Shonn is always willing to share his knowledge and skill with the shuttle and demonstrated often  while we were there:

The person from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural resources told us that in his 12 years of taping events such as this one around NC, he had never actually tapped anyone making lace.  We were amazed and at the same time honored to have made that distinction.  We will be watching for the video of the event in the weeks to come.