A friend of my mother thought that I should know how to tat, being ten years old and all. This was the summer of 1952, southeastern Oklahoma, high summer, triple digit temperatures, no air conditioning.
So that is Rule 1: Don’t even think about it in those circumstances. An oscillating fan is not sufficient.
Rule 2: Let the child pick her own colors. I found the variegated blue and white tatting thread that she foisted on me to be revolting. I was in a purple and orange phase. There was no joy in blue, much less variegated.
Rule 3: It’s important to have clean hands to tat, especially on a sweaty summer afternoon. That was not my style.
Rule 4: The whole secret of successful tatting is making tiny half-hitches around a loop of thread. That’s all it is. But if somehow the loop of thread doesn’t stay taut, what you have is a knot. It is a permanent knot that will never be undone. You can tug on the knot until the thread breaks, and then what do you have? A mess that is not tatting. You have to start over.
Rule 5: Start with a very small project. In my case, it was to be a blue pillowcase for my “hope” chest. That is not small. That is at least 40 inches of tatting, and at four loops per inch—you can do the math. One hundred and sixty opportunities to make a grubby little permanent knot. And start over.
I think my mother must have finished the project, because a blue pillowcase with tatted edging did come to exist. I didn’t try the craft again for about 30 years. It’s truly delightful, and the outcomes are among the most appealing in the world of lacemaking. But teach it to a child? Not me.
Linda Ligon is one of the founders of Long Thread Media and the publisher of Thrums Books.