I have been tatting since I was in high school. Born a true honest-to-goodness ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ I grew up on a farm in northeast Nebraska (Wisner, Pilger to be more precise). In rural Nebraska I grew up sewing and doing every fiber artform that I could get my hands on including knitting, crochet, embroidery, macrame, Hardanger. I was a long-time fan/member of 4-H and attribute alot of personal accomplishments to my experiences in 4-H. I learned to tat from my grandmother in my teens and later found out that my other grandparents had also tatted. Tatting in a rural area is actually quite common. Tatting is cheap because it does not require unique or costly materials to do. It was truly a poor-man’s lace. For many years I thought that me and my grandparents were the only ones to tat until I married and moved to the big city of Omaha (where I still reside). I discovered a newly-formed tatting club (The ShuttleBugs Tatting Club of Omaha) and then started teaching how-to-tat locally. Due to a fellow club members persistence at finding anything/everything to do with tatting (Thanks Cindy Costantinou), I discovered a whole world of tatting materials, books, publications, etc. Up to that point all I had were a few Workbaskets and DMC pattern books, 2 shuttles (Boye plastic) and one ball of white thread (size 70). I soon found a niche in studying tatting techiques beyond basic tatting and created a tatted motorcycle to put those skills into practice.
Within the first couple years of The ShuttleBugs existence, the club unwittingly agreed to host a tatting workshop. It seemed only natural that I take on the task of the advanced tatting workshop portion due to my interest in anything technique-related. We were astounded by the success of the workshop and had many accomplished tatters come from around the country to a tiny town’s (ca. 50 population) opera house in SE Nebraska. We were so ‘jazzed’ by the outcome that we decided to host another workshop (this time without a beginning class) the next year. Again I was in my glory designing classes and patterns for the advanced workshop. We did this for 3 years in a row—at the last workshop we even had Toshiko Takashima from Japan and two travelling companions. Toshika is the originator/author of Japanese Hook Tatting. I am one of few Americans who purchased her book and a set of tatting needle/hooks direct from her!
In later years I used my tatting technique skills to teaching at national needlework shows. I had heard that tatting and other lace-making forms were included in the shows and proposed my own classes. The first year (and last!) that I taught at the Spirit of Cross Stitch Shows, there was enough interest in tatting and lacemaking to have a beginning class in needle tatting, shuttle tatting and an advanced tatting class. However, this needlework show company went out of business and another came into being—Creative Arts & Teaching Show (CATS). For 6 or more years I went on the nationwide show circuit teaching tatting, needlelace and other needlework technique classes. I was trying hard to bring needleworkers into the tatting/lacemaking world.
Some of you may remember me as The ShuttleSmith Sterling Silver Tatting Shuttle manufacturer. This is where I coined my company name. I had been starting to collect shuttles from antique stores and was amazed at the inflating prices of shuttles, especially silver shuttles. I thought to myself that there can’t be that much silver in them and set out to learn silversmithing/jewelry making to make my own. After a fairly poor introductory silversmithing class at the local community college non-credit courses, I started collecting tools for a home studio and self-taught myself how to create sterling silver tatting shuttles. Within a short time, I added a line of celtic-knotwork embellished silver shuttles that were very popular. This was a fairly success venture (however, not enough to quit my day-job though) until I saturated the market. I took a year off from the business and when I went back I found out the company that etched my celtic designs into the silver (ie my best-selling shuttles) went out of business. After some research, I found out that it would be a costly process to find a new supplier. So I retired from silver shuttle making. However, I still have some silver left and have toyed around with the prospect of creating a few more someday.
I have taught advanced and beginning tatting (both shuttle and needle) nationwide. But have been quite busy in the last many years with my family and my new venture of writing tatting books (Fun with Split Ring Tatting & MORE Fun with Split Ring Tatting) and in the process establishing myself as The ShuttleSmith Publishing Company. I am almost as proud of the fact that I researched and maneuvered myself successfully into the world of self-publishing as I am about the book itself. I have created a separate website in which I have published a series of articles under the subject title of “Cost-Effective Desk-top Publishing for a Niche-Market Book”. It is my hope that other wanna-be authors can learn from my experience to get their own niche-market book(s) published. Look for a link to this site somewhere on this website.
I consider tatting, especially advanced tatting techniques to be my main specialty. With my silver shuttles, I had an excuse to go to IOLI Conventions to sell my silver creations. It was there and through a regional lace guild (The StoneHouse Lacers/Sunflower Lacers) that I learned needle-related lacemaking techniques. It seemed to bring my earlier life of sewing and embroidery back full circle to a needle. In addition to tatting I specialize in needle-related lacemaking techniques including: Carrickmacross Lace, Tenerife/Nanduti Lace, Romanian Point Lace, Casalguidi, Huck Embroidery, Chicken-scratch embroidery, Surface embroidery, Ribbon-work, & Smocking. I have staunchly stayed away from 3 artforms: beading, bobbin lace, and quilting. The reason is simple, I know I would enjoy all of these artforms….but I know enough about them to realize that they require a large monetary and time commitment to be able to comfortably do them.
On a non-fiber art note, I am a divorcee with two grown children who was recently remarried (August, 2013). My life includes 3 cats. I work full-time as an Electron Microscopy Technologist and as a Neuropathology Technologistat the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. For many years (decades!) I was a devoted employee of Creighton University.
Taking Tatting Technique Junkie to the Next Level
My other passion in life is motorcycling * (NO! I am not one of those tattooed, hard-core types!). At some point I got the weird idea of putting my Tatting Technique Junkie skills to a test by creating a Tatted Motorcycle. I started with a picture of a motorcycle that I liked (a Triumph) and then started creating tatted ‘parts’. I did tat each part separately and combined them together onto a piece of linen cloth, pulling the thread ends to the back of the cloth to finish it. Most of the parts are tatted using fairly recognizable Tatting Techniques (Split Ring, Pearl) with the exception of the seat. The technique I used for the seat I believe to be original. I started with a writtern (no example) description from Anne Dyer’s To Boldly Go where No Shuttle Has Gone Before and created my version of her directions (no photo or example). At some other point in time I tatted something totally different using these same instructions….thus either the motorcycle seat Tatted Technique is original to me or the other one is. * (Sorry but the photography of the tatted motorcycle is less than ideal. Plus black thread just doesn’t show very well the details of the stitches in photographed/scanned work. The background cloth color is a sage/blue green. It seem the best choice to show off all the color components including the grey thread I used for the ‘chrome’ parts.)