Needle Tatted Altar Lace for the Gila Valley Arizona Temple

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This altar lace is a beautiful example of needle tatting.  It was recently finished and donated to the Gila Valley Arizona temple by lacemaker Barbara Barney.  It’s a size ten thread, and took her nearly  a year to complete, with approximately 250 hours of labor.  I asked her about needle tatting and she wrote:

“I have always had a talent for needlework, crochet and knitting at a very young age.  I always wanted to learn to tat and my grandmother knew how.  The problem was that she lived in Idaho and I lived in New Mexico and our visits were never long enough for her to teach me.  I tried teaching myself from several different sources but it wasn’t until I got a copy of Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework that I figured out how to tat with a shuttle.  I added it to my list of abilities and moved on to other things.

About 10 years ago, I was introduced to needle tatting and I gave it a try.  Love at First Project!!  I can do both methods, needle and shuttle, but prefer the needle for so many reasons; much more forgiving when you make a mistake, it seems faster to me, my work comes out cleaner and I love the uniformity I can get with a specific needle and thread size.”

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Barbara already has another two needle tatted altar cloths in progress. Her goal is to make an altar cloth in honor of each of her 9 children.

I am not as familiar with needle tatting as I am with shuttle tatting and crochet, but this turned out to be just beautiful.

This is the pattern from Pinterest:

magicsquareneedletattingpattern

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Ensign Article: Tatting Altar Lace for the San Diego Temple

San Diego Temple, photo by Rickety

San Diego Temple, photo by Rickety

I came across this article from the 2002 Ensign called “Tatting for the Temple”.  I love to hear other lacemaker’s stories.  This is Candace Munoa’s altar cloth story:

“Two years before the San Diego California Temple was to be dedicated, a letter came to my stake Relief Society president asking that she find women in the stake to make altar cloths for the new temple. The altar cloths were to be tatted or crocheted and had to be completed within 10 months. My ward Relief Society president suggested my name. I accepted the invitation to help with much trepidation because up to that point I had tatted only small strips of lace.

I immediately called a cousin who also tats and asked her to send me several patterns she thought would work for the temple. When they arrived, I quickly chose one and began to figure out exactly how much work I would have to do each day in order to have the cloth completed in time. Each repetition in a pattern, or what I call a medallion, takes 30 minutes to make, and I would have to make three each day. I would have to tat for an hour and a half every day, six days a week, for approximately nine months.

I felt I had gotten in over my head. I was already a busy wife and mother of four children, ages 7 through 12. I was also a brand-new schoolteacher and Young Women adviser.

I was about to say I couldn’t fulfill the assignment, but then I thought of the women who had crushed their china to beautify the walls of the Kirtland Temple and the women who sewed shirts for those who worked on the Nauvoo Temple. I wanted to participate as those women did. I didn’t know where I was going to get an extra hour and a half each day, but I trusted that the Lord would accept my sacrifice and provide a way.

The Lord truly blessed me during those next nine months. I took my tatting with me wherever I went. I washed my hands before I touched it and wrapped it in a towel to make sure it stayed perfectly white. I wanted this altar cloth to be perfect. Many times I would find a mistake and have to pick out as many as five or six medallions, thus increasing the time per day I would need to spend tatting. However, somehow I still found time each day to work on the cloth, and what started out to be a sacrifice became a great privilege and joy.”

Read the rest of her story here: “Tatting for the Temple”, Ensign 2002

Tatting Altar Lace: Ann’s Story

Ann's Tatted Altar Lace: a new work in progress

Ann’s “Snowflake” Tatted Altar Lace: a new work in progress

This beautiful tatted lace is from Ann, a lacemaker I featured about a month ago.  She has started another altar cloth lace.  This will be her third altar lace for the Boise Temple!  She’s made one tatted altar lace, one crocheted altar lace and is beginning her third altar lace.

Ann sent me this picture of it, and this story:

“Years ago I thought it might be fun to tat an altar cloth for the temple. At the time I thought I’d just get started and the Lord would know where it was when He needed it. Finally, after I’d mentioned it a few times, my husband directed me past the temple matron’s office, and we asked about measurements. I remember her comment very well, “We’ll see you in a couple years!” Wow! I didn’t know if I could do it that fast.”

This pattern is Ann’s second tatted altar cloth for the Boise Temple. See her finished tatted altar lace here. Tatting takes a long time.  Ann’s first tatted altar lace had over 500 motifs, and took over 600 hours over five years to make.

Ann says:

“I was about half way done with my first tatted altar lace when the temple sent word to our stake Relief Society that they needed altar cloths as soon as possible. I stopped working on the tatted one and made one out of crochet (which is much faster).

Over the years I had plenty of distractions with that first tatted altar cloth… a cruise, two returning missionaries, a wedding, a fiftieth wedding anniversary party, a huge calling in the church, and our temple closed for 1 ½ years. Finally, after five years, I made it back to the temple with the first tatted altar cloth.

I felt like I had nothing to do after finishing the first tatted altar cloth last April, so I got this pattern out, made some adjustments and started fresh. Tatted altar cloth number 2 is underway. Hopefully, it won’t take 5 years to finish it!

The lace I am making now is called “Snowflake.” I love this pattern because it really does look like snowflakes. The large motifs are 4 inches in diameter so I’ll only need to make about 77 of them. I like making both sizes of motifs and connecting them as I go rather than do all the small ones at the end because my hands are rather small. This pattern also has a couple nice sections where only a shuttle is used, and rings are formed on the inside and outside of the row. Since I started this lace five years ago I have learned how to jump from row to row without breaking the thread so I still only have to hide ends once per motif! This pattern had many picots that were what I call “empty,” meaning they weren’t connected to anything. I find that picots don’t hold their shape with repeated washings and I wouldn’t expect every single picot to be pinned out when it is blocked. So I altered the pattern so that all the picots inside the design are joining with other parts of the design. The only picots that are “empty” are around the edge. All the others are “occupied.”

This pattern is called “Snowflake Tablecloth” from Traditional Tatting Patterns, Edited by Rita Weiss, pg. 13″

–Ann

Another beautiful lace in progress!  Ann describes how she makes each motif:

The large motifs have five rows…meaning five places to tie off threads and five places to hand stitch the ends to hide them. I’ve been practicing my skills for jumping from one row to the next. All I have to do is wind enough thread on two shuttles and start in the middle. Then I do a split ring to move to the next row,
Beginning a new tatted motif

Beginning a new tatted motif

Ending the row with a split ring

Ending the row with a split ring

Ending the next row with a split chain

Ending the next row with a split chain

Starting the next row with a split ring

Starting the next row with a split ring

Coming to the end of the frilly row

Coming to the end of the frilly row

Last row

Last row– motif made!

 

Tatting vs. Crochet

Tatting shuttles on tatted lace.

Old Wooden Tatting Shuttles on Tatted Lace.

Tatting is very different from crochet in terms of how the laces are made. Both can be used to make temple altar cloths, so what is the difference?  Tatting and crochet lace can sometimes look similar, partly because crochet lace can so easily mimic other laces.  There are differences though.

The first difference is the tools used. In tatting, we use tatting shuttles, like these gorgeous wooden ones I saw once in a tatted lacemaker’s shuttle collection.  Crochet is actually named after the French word for “hook”, which is “crochet”. In crochet lace making, we use delicate steel hooks like these:

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Steel Lace Crochet Hooks

Between tatted and crochet laces, can you tell the difference? It’s tricky because crochet mimics so many different types of lace. There are bobbin laces, hardanger, reticella lace, needlepoint lace…. lots of old fashioned laces to mimic. Crochet mimics them all, and does it well because the mimicry can be done in a fraction of the time that the older style laces could be made. Less time to create meant more could be made, and time is money.  In those old days where lace was so closely tied to social status, lace was a big deal, and a large part of the European culture.  Irish crochet was the one instance I know of where crochet was sought after for its own beauty rather than speed. Speed and versatility are some of the main reasons crochet is still around, and the other laces faded first. The secret to the speed, is in the hook.

The second difference between tatting and crochet is how the thread is wound, looped and knotted.  Tatting is made with the shuttle passing in, out and around a loop of thread wound around your hand to tie a simple set of knots.  Those knots are then arranged in marvelous ways, with picots and a few other variations, but in general, strings, loops and picots are what tatting is known for.  Crochet is a series of loops pulled through other loops in a variety of ways. Crochet can look like cloth, or like lace, and everything in between because there are more ways to connect the threads than just picot connections.

You can see the difference between tatted laces and crochet laces if you study pictures of the types of lace.  You’ll soon see that tatted lace has a fairly uniform look, and crochet varies widely.

Lace Thread and Crochet Lace Edging

Tatting and crochet laces use the same thread sizes, and that makes them similar.  They also have similar designs with various styles of loops and picots, some look the same, but some look very different from each other.

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Crochet Lace Edgings

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Tatted Lace Edgings

In tatting, there are rarely any straight lines, everything is made of rows of curved stitches and picots.  Picots are those little loops that make it so frilly.  In french, tatting is called frivolete, for that reason.  People LOVE tatting because it is so frilly and delicate.

Crochet can’t replicate tatting precisely, but as a lace maker and designer, I use tatting principles in the designs I make, because they are so appealing.  I know my eye loves those picots, so I add them wherever possible, and covered chains are more appealing than uncovered ones.

There are many kinds of picots in crochet, especially Irish crochet.  People LOVE Irish crochet partly because of the picots.  There’s something about a picot that is appealing.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m smitten with it too.  They remind me of baby’s breath.

My favorite picot is very different from a tatted picot, it’s called a clones knot.  In this piece, you can see both crochet picots, and clones knots.  The clones knot looks like a little ball, where a picot is more like a frilly bump.

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Irish Crochet Lace with Clones Knots and Picots

Both types of lace can be plain, or intricate, depending on the design. The art of lace making is in the design. The rest is skill, but an eye for beauty transforms a useful skill into an art.

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