Split Ring Tatting History

Anne  Champe  Orr
Nashville, Tennessee
The originator of Split Ring Tatting Technique is Anne Orr.
Anne Orr was a Nashville, TN native.  She was the art editor for Nashville-based Southern Women’s Magazine from 1913 to 1918.  During that time she started producing and publishing inexpensive needlework patterns out of her home as ‘Anne Orr Design Studio’. Titles and subjects included tatting, crochet, embroidery, quilting, and knitting patterns.   In 1919 she became Needlework Editor for Good Housekeeping magazine, a position she held until 1940, just a few years before her death in 1946.  One reference credited her with publishing about 100 booklets in the 30 years she was active.  Some of her books were sponsored by names such as J & P Coats and Clark’s Thread and American Thread and Spool Company.
We as tatters are aware of her booklets numbered 13, 24, 35, 43, and 48 since they were either entirely devoted to classic tatted patterns or had tatting patterns in them.
Anne Orr Publications of Interest to Tatting
    #13—Tatting–copyright 1918
#24—Miscellaneous Needlework—1923
    Crochet, Cross-Stitch and Tatting, Book No. 14—1923 (pub. by J. & P. Coats Co.)
  #35—Tatting–originally 1935, then revised in 1940
The Very Beginning of Split Ring Tatting Technique
It was in Tatting, Book No. 13, published in 1918, that the concept of Split Ring Tatting technique was introduced.  It was titled “New Method in Tatting”  and was illustrated nicely with 4 clear photographs of the steps/progression of how a split ring is created.  New Method In Tatting was accompanied by “Directions for the Reverse Stitch”.  The Reverse Stitch is what we know as untransferred double stitches on the second portion of the split ring. However, in Tatting, Book #13 there were no patterns or illustrations to show what the ‘new method’ or the ‘reverse stitch’ could do/create in tatting.
The Missing Split Ring Tatting Pattern Links !!!!!
In 1923 Anne Orr published two books that DID have the first Split Ring Tatting technique patterns:
        Miscellaneous Needlework, Book No. 24 (pub. by Anne Orr Publishing)
        Crochet, Cross-Stitch and Tatting, Book No. 14 (pub. by J. & P. Coats Co.).
These two books are quite obscure and are the missing link between Anne Orr’s creation of Split Ring Tatting technique and usage of the technique in a physical form.
Miscellaneous Needlework, Book No. 24   has five Split Ring Tatting Technique patterns as well as “New Method in Tatting/Directions for Reverse Stitch” on pages 6 & 7.  The remainder of the book is devoted to needlework and crochet patterns.
Cross-Stitch and Tatting, Book No. 14  has “New Method in Tatting” and “Directions for the Reverse Stitch”.  Page 7 & 8 has 12 tatting patterns which are purely Split Ring Tatting technique patterns.
This is the author’s original booklet.
It was printed using red ink.
The booklet must have gotten wet and the ink ‘ran’. 
That is why it looks like it does.
Other Tatting-Related Anne Orr Publications
  A  Altered/Abriged Reproduction of Tatting, Book No. 13 B   C  
A. Altered and abridged republication of Tatting, Book No. 13 published by Dover Publishing Co. Originally published by Anne Orr in 1918
B. 1935 publication of Tatting, Book No. 35
C. 1940 republication of Anne Orr’s Tatting, Book No. 35. Republished by Dover Pub. Co. as Anne Orr’s Classic Tatting Patterns
D   E  
D. 1942 publication of Tatting, Book No. 43
E. 1950 publication of Tatting, Book No. 48

Mary Sue Kuhn

Des Moines, IOWA
Even though Anne Orr gave the tatting world the ability to do Split Ring Tatting Technique, there were few clues as to how to use the technique or the technique and Orr’s patterns were so obscure that they were not used or recognized for their brilliance.  It wasn’t until Mary Sue Kuhn self-published her book The Joy of Split Ring Tatting in 1984 that tatters knew what to do with the technique of split ring tatting. Very little is known of Mary Sue Kuhn because she died at a fairly young age of cancer. She did self-publish a previous book called The Joy of Tatting in 1979. 
According to The Joy of Split Ring Tatting, in about 1981 Mary Sue Kuhn was ‘browsing’ through her out-of-print copy of Anne Orr’s Tatting, Revised, Book No. 35 and found “New Method in Tatting” and “Directions for the Reverse Stitch”. She used this information to further pioneer Split Ring Tatting by creating patterns to utilize the technique.  She says she renamed the technique ‘Split Ring’ tatting because she thought that Anne Orr’s use of the term ‘Reverse Stitch’ described only half of what is done in the technique. She does use ‘reverse stitch’ as the direction to tat the second portion of the split ring. Her book has wonderful illustrations to step-by-step work Split Ring Tatting. It has patterns for alphabet letters, a cross, doily, snowflake, and a collar. Even today her patterns are still unique for the use of pattern design that utilizes visually effectively two different colors for the thread sources. Most modern Split Ring tatting patterns use the same color of thread for both thread sources.


Dora Young


Portland, Maine

Another contribution to Split Ring Tatting technique was given by Dora Young.  In 1974 she published All New Knotless Tatting Designs.  Dora Young and her book have been credited with being the originator of Split Chain (not Ring) Tatting Technique and subsequently Continuous Tatting Techniques.


The  basis of the ‘Knotless Method’ of tatting can be used to create split rings in a different, though more cumbersome, way than the modern form of Split Ring Tatting Technique attributed to Anne Orr and Mary Sue Kuhn.  
Dora Young  refers to her version of a split ring as  ‘Making a KM (Knotless Method) Ring’.  She was unique in the tatting world in that she actually patented her technique in 1973.
There are several reasons why Dora Young’s Knotless Method is so unique:
    1.  Basically the Knotless Method of tatting is a different way to produce a half and/or double stitch.  In traditional tatting technique half/double stitch formation, the shuttle/thread source in passed under, over and around the core thread.  However in the Knotless Method of tatting, the way double stitches are made does not allow for the shuttle to go over/under/around the core thread.  
    2.  The Knotless Method allows for
Chains are created from one side to a central area, then the thread source used as the working shuttle is taken over to where the traditional
In this technique, the split ring is completed in 3 steps
1.  The first portion of the Split Ring is created as a ‘chain’ with two thread sources.
2.  The working-shuttle thread is joined to the base of the chain (by the first double stitch made) with a locking join, leaving a space of bare thread equal to the space that the rest of the split ring is to occupy.
3.  The work is reversed and then using the shuttle thread source, the second-portion of the split ring double stitches are created on the space of thread created between the last chain double stitch and the locking join using what we know today as the Split Chain Tatting technique.

Upon completion of the appropriate number of double stitches, the two threads sources are brought back together at the end of the mock ring

There are many patterns in Dora Young’s All New Knotless Tatting Designs book but they do not resemble ‘Split Ring’ designs.  Most of her designs utilize many chain elements and resemble crochet-inspired designs including ‘pineapple-type’ designs. 
Heidi Nakayama, author of Tatting Shuttles of American Collectors, 2002, has copyrights to All New Knotless Tatting Designs from Dora Young’s family.  At the time of this writing, Heidi plans to republish the book (author’s personal communication with Heidi Nakayama) in the future.  Heidi  plans to add more history about Dora Young and her shuttle collection to the republished version.  I encourage all fans of tatting technique and history to acquire this book when it comes available for their tatting libraries.   Visit Heidi’s website for photos of Dora Young’s shuttle collection, her tatted butterflies, and a photo of Dora herself at:    https://sites.google.co/site/krazyabouttattingshuttles/

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