Boise Temple: Tatted Lace Altar Cloth by Ann

Tatted Lace for the Lord, donated to the Boise Temple, with love, April 2014

Tatted Lace for the Lord, donated to the Boise Temple, with love, April 2014

I came across a sister who tats lace altar cloths. Many people ask me if what I do is tatting because my thread is fine, and crochet thread is often yarn weight. My lace is almost all crochet, but there are sisters who still tat altar cloths for the Lord.

This is a photo of her tatted altar lace. I’m so excited to find someone who tats temple lace. This altar cloth lace was made by Ann and is beautiful.  This is a mind boggling amount of work.  She writes:

It all started when I was 13 years old. I had appendicitis and while I was in the hospital I shared a room with an older lady. She was tatting almost constantly and I liked the look of it. I was so intrigued that I decided I wanted to learn to tat someday.

Three years later (while I was 16) it was 1980 and we were celebrating the sesquicentennial of the organization of the church. The young women’s leaders in my ward decided that they wanted us girls to learn something new as part of that celebration year. I told them I wanted to learn tatting.

So, they found an older sister in the ward named Ruby who knew how to tat. Three of us went to Ruby’s house to learn. I tied knots for about 30 minutes and then it clicked, and I was tatting. I started out with simple projects such as bookmarkers, and enjoyed the time I spent visiting Ruby and developing a friendship with her. I still have a pansy doily she crocheted. It has always been on display somewhere in my house since the day she gave it to me.

After about nine years, my sister asked if I could tat a baby bonnet. She picked the pattern, and I gave it a try. Up to that point I had never done anything that big. I ended up making a bonnet and matching set of booties, and the rest is history. So far I have made numerous Christmas tree ornaments and bookmarks, about 10 bonnets and a number of doilies. I am currently working on an altar cloth for the Boise Idaho Temple.

Many years ago, it used to be the case in the Denver Temple, that they would only accept tatted altar lace.  Lacemakers who tat have become so rare that they now accept crochet altar cloths also.  The standard is the best.  Whatever we can give, that is the best we can give, that is what is asked of us.  I love the history.

My favorite Ann quote:

The thing about tatting is that it is almost a lost art. Few people know how to do it anymore, but it is so delicate and beautiful. I’ve also learned that you can’t get enough money to make it worth the work. So, I never sell my tatting. I only give it away.

Ann has posted pictures of the construction of this lace also, so you can see how a tatted lace is put together. This one was made in size 30 thread, and now sits in the Boise, Idaho Temple.  What a gift.

Anne's tatted altar cloth lace

Tatted Altar Cloth by Ann, detail

“This altar lace has 527 larger motifs and 64 smaller ones around the edge. The large motifs took up to one hour each to make. The smaller ones took about 15 minutes each. All of them (591) had to have the ends whip stitched to hide them. All in all, I would guess I spent over 600 hours on it. The motifs line up in diagonal lines across the altar which creates an optical illusion with the angles of the altar. The motifs themselves move in and out in a way that I find very pleasing.

I often look at the lace in the temple and try to follow the lines and figure out how it is made. These motifs started on the outside edge and moved in to the center, then back out and back in until it was done. It helped that I only needed to tie off the ends once per motif, too!”  –Ann

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The Price is Worth It.

Family at the Los Angeles Temple

Family in bronze at the Los Angeles Temple

I took this picture today just before I went home. I have always loved this statue of a family at the Los Angeles Temple. It is a beautiful, timeless reminder of what it’s all about.

A Thought on the Work and Effort of the Lord’s Lace and His House:

When I was working with our temple matron a few weeks ago, she paused right in the middle of the laundry area– we were up to our eyeballs in lace, pins and measuring tape, all the washing machines were humming and six other ladies were working on the various stages of cleaning, steaming and pressing, categorizing and folding everything that needed to be cleaned down in the laundry.

In addition to all the baptistry laundering, and endowment laundry, they’d just had a wedding party come through the weekend before with 72 guests.  At the last minute, the bride decided she wanted her ceremony to be all white, so everyone rented the clothes and things they needed for the ceremony, creating quite a bustle for the laundry for several days afterward.  Every bit of everything that has to be done to have that happen, has to be done anew, and perfectly.

In the midst of all the bustle and hum, she paused and said, looking around:

 “All this effort.  All this work.  The Lord asks us to do all of this, with such precision, all day, every day, so His people can have the place he deigns right for His  children to obtain His knowledge.  I marvel at how blessed we are, and I can’t forget the strength of the saints in Nauvoo, laboring to finish their temple, with every detail, knowing they would be forced to leave it.  Or the saints in so many ages who worked in faith their whole lives, and still did not have the blessing of the temple.  We are so blessed.  Somehow all this is a part of it.  This is necessary work.  It is required of us, I don’t know why it is that way, but it is.  Is there a price too high to pay?  No.”

Two of the women she introduced to me there had been working in the temple laundry for more than 35 years.  Every day.  As we examined each altar lace, we noticed some were marked on the back with handwritten tags telling the name of the person who had made each of the older laces, and which altars that lace used to fit.  We noticed that some of the tags had E-1,2 written on them, or Endowment room one and two, which was perplexing because endowment rooms one and two do not have altars.  Martha, the woman in the laundry who had been there the longest (39 years) explained that there was a time when there were altars in those two rooms.

Most of the women whose names are on the laces are gone now. So much history and sacrifice there.

As I was thinking about my experiences working on this project, I remembered the quote by Thomas Paine:

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.  Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.”

In the original text he was speaking of the price of freedom, which for them, was steep.  Part of the price his generation paid, and many generations before him paid, enabled us to have our temple.

If knowledge is freedom, and it is, I suppose that is what the temple is about also.  Mortality seems to have this struggle as a theme, and the culminating fruits of that struggle are there, in those walls.  It is amazing what we are tempted to take for granted.  I suppose that is the reason for the work, to give us an inkling of the price and the value of what is there for us to become.