Anitra Stone has been tatting since January 1980. She’s taught tatting at Wake Technical Community College, Girl Scouts Spring Leaderee conferences, Historic Oak View Park, Palmetto Tat Days in SC, and at the NC State Fair’s Village of Yesteryear. She also teaches individuals or small groups upon request.
Anitra has won awards for her work in both regular state fair competition and within the Village of Yesteryear. She was named Female Cratfsman of the Year in 2007.
Anitra was published in "The Workbasket" magazine’s August 1989 issue and is working on a book of original designs which she hopes to complete within the next couple of years. She has a growing collection of tatting shuttles and a large quantity of older and antique patterns. Anitra is happy to trade pattern copies with other tatters to keep the art of tatting alive.
The origins of tatting have been lost in the sands of time (literally!). Many historians theorize tatting began among the ancient mariners who mended their nets and perfected their knot-tying techniques during their off-duty time.
During the 1600 and 1700s, knotting was a popular pastime of the women of the European royalty and aristocracy. They used open-ended shuttles of bone, ivory or silver, often ornately adorned with elaborate carvings or jewels. Several went so far as to have their portraits painted with their shuttles in hand.
With the refinement of threads in the 1800s, and the subsequent modifications of knotting shuttles, the knots took on the form we now recognize as early tatting which consisted of circles called rings made of hitches or reverse lark’s head knots, and the spaces or loops between the knots, called picots (French word meaning “spike” or “tooth”). These rings were painstakingly hand-sewn together by the picots to complete the process. As a cottage industry, tatting was important in the fund-raising efforts to provide relief for the victims of the Irish potato famine of the late 1840s.
A few years later, tatting provided the inspiration for naming a new fern found in County Wicklow, Ireland as ‘the Tatting Fern’ (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’). This plant is aptly named because the fronds resemble strings of alternating green tatted rings.
Around 1851, a way to join the rings while they were being made was devised, thus shortening the time needed to finish a piece. By 1864, tatted chains, which use a second thread but the same knot, were incorporated into pieces; thereby adding to the stability and versatility of patterns offered. Tatting became a popular pastime and source of extra income during the years of reconstruction following the American Civil War.
In the early 1900s, Romania’s Queen Elizabeth (Carmen Sylva) is said to have incorporated her personal precious and semi-precious jewels into her tatted works. Legend has it these pieces were then donated to a local monastery rather than have the jewels fall into the possession of her husband’s paramour.
Tatting offered solace to Russian Tsaritsa Alexandra Romanov during her family’s house arrest during World War I. In 1918, she wrote about her tatting in her diary the day before she, her husband Tsar Nicholas II, and the Imperial family were executed during the Bolshevik revolution. Whether by coincidence or intent, her second daughter’s name was Tatiana.
The remainder of the 20th century brought additional techniques such as needle tatting, split ring and pearl tatting, (which uses more than two threads), but even modern technology has failed to create a machine to replace the human. Despite being a throw back to older times, tatting has made numerous appearances in the modern world.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler drew his model wielding her shuttle in his piece entitled “Tatting” (etching and drypoint on laid Japan paper, 1873, currently viewable on http://www.drawingsandprints.com/CurrentExhibition/detail.cfm?ExhibitionID=6&Exhibition=21). Pierre-Auguste Renoir featured it in his painting “Girl Tatting” (oil on canvas, 1906-8, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/59587.html). Depression glass manufacturer Heisey used tatting as a model for its pattern #3317 etch #33 in 1920.
Tatting was literally brought center stage in Florenz Ziegfeld’s production of “Laceland” in the “Follies of 1922” and “Follies of 1923,” probably due to earlier collaborations with Titanic survivor Lady Duff-Gordon (Lucy Christiana Sutherland Wallace Duff-Gordon). Under the salon name “Lucile,” Lady Duff-Gordon designed costumes for Ziegfield’s productions and for the well-to-do socialites of London, Paris and New York and endorsed a small book of tatting patterns.
Tatting was featured in the 1949 Walt Disney cartoon “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad;” the comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly; in Disney’s “The Golden Helmet” from the 1952 Donald Duck comic book #408; and in the books Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, amongst many others.
Tatting was also mentioned in a song from the album Hunky Dory by David Bowie and most recently in the song “The Old Gumbie Cat” from the Broadway musical Cats.
The words “tatting” and “tat” are frequently found in crossword puzzles although few know what tatting actually looks like!
Contrary to popular belief, tatting is not a vanishing art form. Lessons and instructional videos are available, and new patterns are published in books and various periodicals on a regular basis. With easy access to the Internet, many YouTube videos can be viewed and thousands of other tatters may be located throughout the world for tips and patterns, and to celebrate International Tatting Day, which is April 1st.