There's only one knot — a simple half-hitch made over a thread with a shuttle or a needle. But, oh, what that knot can do: doilies, edgings, note-cards, decorations, lanyards, ornaments, necklaces, earrings and more.
It's called tatting, and as the Bonneville Tatters like to say, "it's 'knot' a lost art any more."
The group has been meeting and tatting on the third Saturday of the month at the West Valley Library for nearly three years now. They average about 35 members per meeting, but new members come all the time. They have already formed a spin-off group in Ogden and are looking at doing the same in Utah County and Tooele County.
"It's just so fun," says the group's current chairman, Jeneall Plouzek, who has been tatting since 2002. "I found some edgings in an old wooden box that my great-grandmother had done. I thought it was so beautiful. I took a class, and I've been going like a madman ever since."
Their meetings are very informal, Julie Johnson says. "We all help each other learn new techniques and old ones. Everyone can participate at their own comfort levels."
Tatting may be as popular now as ever, but its roots go way back. Exact origins are unclear. Some theories say that tatting may have come from a knotting craft that was done in pre-historic times. Others see the origin in the art of creating fishing nets.
One of the earliest references came in a poem by Charles Sedley, written in 1707 about Queen Mary, who lived from 1602-1694. It talked about how "For here's a Queen now thanks to God! who when she rides in coach abroad is always knotting threads."
But most examples of tatted lace that have survived date to the early 19th century. It enjoyed a renewed sense of popularity in the 1920s and '30s.
Tatting was once called "poor man's lace," because it was less complicated and less expensive than bobbin lace. Although it looks very delicate, tatting is actually very durable. Knots are combined into patterns of rings and chains. Gaps can be left between stitches to form picots, which are often joined by a hook on the end of the shuttle, to add to the decorative design.
Karin Alexander has a book called "Encyclopedia of Needlework" by Therese de Dillmont, which belonged to her mother or grandmother and includes tatting patterns. It suggests that the name was "possibly taken from the word tatters, denoting the fragile, disjointed nature of the work at its first introduction; the little motifs all being made separately and then sewn together into patterns."
When Alexander's great-great-grandmother came across the Plains, "she brought a hand-carved wooden shuttle with her. My mother is now 82, and last Christmas she made tatted Christmas ornaments for all her grandchildren." Alexander learned to tat when she was 11. "It connects me to the past," she says.
Karen McLaws is newer to the craft. "I've only been doing it two-and-a-half years." She retired from work, then went on an LDS mission. "So, when I got home, I had to re-invent my life. I got a flier about a woman who was teaching it at Mormon Handicraft and thought it was something I've always wanted to learn." Now, she says, her sister, her sister-in-law, even her son and his children are all doing it. "It gets in your blood," she says. "There's such a variety of things you can do."
Glenna Peterson has tatted since she was a little girl. "My mother tatted, and we have pictures of my sister with booties and bonnet she made. I love that I can take it anywhere; I can sit and do it wherever I am."
Aloma Blaylock has been "tatting off and on for 40 years." One of her recent projects was a tatted zoo: wall hangings of lions, tigers and a whole bunch of other animals. She's also into flowers. "I've just been bitten by the tatting bug. It's very affordable, and you can even take it on the airplane." But the biggest thing, she says, is "it's just fun to do."
Leara Bernhard learned tatting when she took needlework at Ogden High. "I like it because not everyone does it, and I like to be unique." Lots of people knit and crochet, but not as many people tat, she says. One of her latest projects involves making snowflakes decorated with tiny beads she attaches with a crochet hook. "Once you get that knot down you can do anything," she says. She's done note cards, stickers, pincushions, even a memory quilt with tatting. She went to an international lacers convention, "and my husband got hooked. He's doing it now."
More and more men are taking it up all the time, Melissa Lichtenstein says. "We've found the difference is that with men, it's all about technique. Women do it for pretty. They learn the technique so they can do the pattern."
Because of arthritis in her hands, Wendy Griffin finds it easier to use a needle than a shuttle for her tatting. It's pretty much the same, she says. "The stitches go onto the needle instead of the thread in my hand. But it's like they drive a Ford and I drive a Chevy."
At a recent meeting of the Bonneville Tatters, Jackie Kidd taught a mini-class on note cards. "A card design can come from many sources, but simple seems to always work the best." She likes to draw leaves and stems and glue on tatted flowers. It's just a way to share something you love, share a part of you with someone else, she says.7 comments on this story
And that's what the Bonneville Tatters are all about, Plouzek says. "We simply want to promote the love of tatting and the love of sharing. We encourage anyone who wants to learn to come to join our group."
Johnson adds, "We all share our techniques and our lives. And we're very excited to see a very old art brought into the 21st century."
If you go
What: Bonneville Tatters
When: Nov. 20 (and the third Saturday of every month except December), 1-4 p.m.
Where: West Valley Library, 2880 W. 3650 South, West Valley
Also: Pleasant Valley Branch Library, 5568 S. Adams Ave, Ogden; first Saturday except January