Friday, October 17, 2008

October - Butterflies and Black Cats (Motifs #3, #4 and #5 ) Plus Learning to Tat - Part 1

Motif #3 - Mary McCarthy's Butterflies

I’ve been inspired by all the fantastic tatted jewelry being created, and I decided to make a quick-and-easy necklace, featuring one of Mary McCarthy’s butterflies. I often keep her butterflies in various colors in my ‘tatting stash’, as I will tat them just for the fun of it!

The open-circle pendant on my plain gold necklace is the perfect size for ‘capturing’ Mary’s butterfly. I attached the unstiffened butterfly to the pendant with gold sewing thread.

I glued on an embroidered ‘monarch’ butterfly. and also added orange rhinestones, which really sparkle in the sun.
Then I simply strung pony beads, wood beads and gold ‘spacers’ on the necklace

I think this necklace has a kind of ‘southwestern’ look to it. It’s also a tribute to the beautiful Monarch butterflies who are on their migration journey back home to California or Mexico. On a magical September weekend back in the ‘80s (can’t remember which year), the Monarchs’ migration route (which apparently changes each year) took them through our area in Western Pennsylvania, and it was a spectacular sight! Kind of like being in a Disney movie !

Here is one of my early butterflies (1990) tatted in a ‘rust’ color pearl cotton #8. I glued it on a bookmark made of brown cardstock with green velvet paper on top. The corners were ‘rounded’ with a “corner” punch.

The leaves are motifs cut out of gift ribbon (You never know where you’ll find ideas!)

I’ve made many cardstock / velvet bookmarks as a
background for tatted motifs of all kinds.

bookmark from 1990

These recently tatted ‘mauve’ butterflies are made with DMC pearl cotton, size 12, in two
shades: # 316 and # 778

The photo does not show the true color
of the lighter shade 778, which is a soft dusty pink.

After my first year of tatting (1989-90), I saw Mary’s delightful butterflies in the Workbasket magazine (Aug. 1990 - “Summertime means Butterflies”) and immediately started making them, sometimes altering the pattern slightly (making longer chains or connecting the center rings together). I’ve put the butterflies in small frames, or hung them in the window as sun catchers, not to mention using them on gift cards! They can be quickly attached to garments with a ‘tacky’ glue – but remember to remove before washing the garment!

Before leaving the subject of Mary McCarthy’s butterflies, I’ve been very curious about Mary herself. Her wonderful patterns have been featured in all the major magazines for many years It appears she is associated with the Shuttlebirds in Washington state, but I can’t seem to find any information about her on the Web. I’d like to express my admiration of her and thank her for keeping tatting in the public eye for so many years with her wonderful patterns.

Motif #4 – Gold Butterfly

Continuing on the subject of butterflies, around 1991 I felt confident enough to tat the pretty butterfly on p. 24 of the Dover publication “Christmas Angels and Other Tatting Patterns” by Monica Hahn. I decided to use my favorite DMC gold thread, which comes on a spool and it worked well.

I had this butterfly in a frame for a long time, but I recently decided it should be set ‘free’ so it could ‘get out’ in the world and be seen.

So I put it on a black visor (found in most craft stores). I’ve stitched it on in a few places so it’s secure. I added gold trim to define the edge of the visor.

Visors offer a great pallet for bits and pieces of tatting!

Back in the early ‘90s I often saw cute ‘patchwork’ quilt cats in quilt shops, and thought that tatted lace would look sweet on a ‘sophisticated’ black velvet “Victorian” cat.

I made up my own black velvet cat pattern and added some simple tatted lace with some flowers and a dangly crystal. I put two of the cats in a basket and ‘debuted’ them in October of 1991

They went to happy homes !

Photo from 1991

Motif #5 – Antique Tatting Pattern from 1850
Recently I’ve been playing around with some patterns from the Antique Pattern Library and thought this 1850 lace (all rings) would be perfect on my own velvet cat.

This tatted lace pattern is from :
Riego de la Branchardiere, [Eléanor].
Simple Book of Tatting. c. 1850, page 12.

This is one of the ‘easier’ antique tatting patterns. I am astounded at the complexity of many of the early patterns from the mid-1800s, even when using only rings.

Here is the first part of my experiences and inspirations leading up to my finally learning how to tat. It seems to be a ‘common’ story among those of us who could not observe anyone tatting. Written instructions, drawings or photos just could not seem to ‘get across’ exactly how to manipulate the shuttle and thread.

1956 – Inspirations in the Needle Arts
As a young girl, I was always interested in ‘arts and crafts’, needlework and sewing machines. Where did my interest in crafts and needlework come from? That’s a good question, especially since my mother did only ‘maintenance’ hand sewing and there was no machine in the house; and my aunts and grandmother who knit or crocheted lived 600 miles away but I never actually saw them knitting or crocheting A friend’s mother sewed on a ‘treadle’ sewing machine, and I remember seeing a sweet neighbor lady crocheting while she sat on her porch. I’m sure I was fascinated watching her hands!

I liked to embroider stamped cross stitch, and I hand-sewed teddy bear clothes, which was considered strange by my friends! Then my wonderful parents bought me a sewing machine when I was 12, which was a really big deal for me (I still have that machine), and I made good use of it for many years, making real clothes! (My mother had no interest in learning to use the machine!)

Around that same time when I was 12, for whatever reason, I clearly recall that I just HAD to buy the Coats and Clark’s famous LEARN HOW BOOK so I could learn how to knit and crochet, and within a short time I did successfully learn the basics of knitting and crocheting. I really didn’t knit anything of significance (until 1964, after I married) but I did a lot of practicing! Probably made a few small crocheted doilies. I remember crocheting with both yarn and thread, although working with hooks smaller than size 7 wasn’t comfortable for me.

However, I was ALWAYS intrigued by the look of the delicate lace in the HOW TO TAT section of that book (you may recall I had seen actual tatted lace on those linen triangles in my mother’s china closet), so I decided I HAD to learn to tat! So out I went to the Five and Ten to buy a Boye metal shuttle – bobbin in middle – flat hook on end. For many years this is the only shuttle I ever saw in the stores.
So in 1956 (at about 12 years old) I loaded up my new Boye shuttle – and …that’s as far as I got!

I could not figure out how to make the knots from the instructions in the Learn How book ! (Does that sound familiar?)

First of all, I found it very awkward to wrap the thread around my left hand and hold the middle finger up. But more importantly, I couldn’t understand how to manipulate the shuttle, no matter how hard I tried!

This was very frustrating for someone who easily learned how to knit and crochet from a book! Even after I became an experienced knitter and crocheter, I would get the tatting shuttle out and try to figure out how to tat – but to no avail!

Any illustrations that I occasionally saw in needlework magazines seemed even more complicated than those in the Learn How Book! The hands seemed to be held in such unnatural positions! Also, the pattern instructions seemed so complicated (this was when they were written in the older style).

So I gave up trying to learn – and time marched on . . . . .

I did a lot of knitting and crocheting for the next 30 years, and occasionally would try to learn to tat, but to no avail.

In my next post I’ll finally explain how I met my two tatting mentors in 1989 and 1990.

I’ll end this post on this note: Even when tatting appeared in magazines, back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it was often referred to as a ‘dying art’. Little did they know how wrong they were!


TattingChic said...

OH WOW! THose velvet black cats are fabulously gorgeous! I'm so glad you have a blog as your tatting is absolutely inspirational!

Kathy Niklewicz said...

Hi TattingChic! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on my blog! It is most appreciated! I have to thank the Victorian-era folks for inspiring me. They used lots of 'bangles and beads', feathers, flowers and ribbons - and, of course, lace! (By the way, the ceramic rose on the cat's collar is an earring.) Early on in my tatting I wanted to create items typically found on Victorian Christmas trees: fans, parasols, bells, slippers, etc. My interest in 3-D came about because of crochet patterns, but I discovered there were few tatting patterns in 3-D. I had beginner's luck 'designing' my own - where I merely used existing 'flat lace' patterns and made them fit particular shapes. Your 3-D egg certainly got my attention! It's perfect! Thanks again for your comment(s).

Charmingdesigns said...

I came by to visit you from TattingChic, I want to learn to tat so I can make little collars for my birds...don't know when I'll get around to Laurie

Carol Lawecki said...

Hi Kathy, Another fabulous post. I enjoy reading about your tatting adventures. I'm sure you are enjoying all the memories from your early tatting days.

The tatted butterfly by Mary McCarthy is also one of my favorite butterflies to tat. I have tatted it many times.

Your black cats with tatted lace are so cute!!

Very interesting history, I'm looking forward to your next post.

Liyarra said...

The black cats look amazing. The ones in the basket almost look real until you look really close!! Great way to display tatting.

Tece said...

Wow Kathy,

I can certainly relate to your story of how you learned to tat- eventually I asked my paternal grandmother if she knew how to tat and she showed me the double stitch- then I was on my own from there w/ books (until YouTube that is- LOL. P.S. I had actually prayed to know why I was so drawn to needlework- and into my mind popped a vision of a woman in Heaven teaching me how to embroider- oh yes- we have female relatives there who took the time to teach us these wonderful skills- at least I believe it to be so!