8 February 2011

A trip to the dark side!

If you are of a nervous disposition OR a needle tatter DO not read further!  Well, perhaps you ought as it isn't 'all bad'!!!!!  If you do read then I hope you'll read to the end - before you fall asleep!!!

I took a trip to the dark side the other day - you know me and know my opinion on needle tatting from the past.  But, I realised after several conversations with needle tatters (particularly Barb) that the needle tatting I self taught myself back in the 70's with the Jiffy needles (courtesy of the Morins) was different to the needle tatting being done nowadays.  Takes time for the penny to drop with me!!!

My opinion about needle tatting is based on the fact that it's not traditional - here is a link which gives the history of tatting on Wikipedia.  I have seen one very old published item (1917) showing that a needle can be used but it does make me wonder why it was never adopted and developed like shuttle tatting.  I think this is the piece I remember seeing - below. After yet another ‘chat’ with Barb she pointed out that (like the Jiffy needle method) this is an antiquated method (I hadn’t looked at it closely – just used it as an illustration of when the use of a needle was first seen - probably) and again is probably the reason that the ‘modern’ needle tatting has evolved.  
Anyway after these conversations I felt curious enough to try it for myself.  Bearing in mind I've had a set of the new sorts of needles  (after Jiffy) which I bought before internet ordering was available from Handy Hands and which has remained unopened  until a few days ago - you can see my interest in this skill - nil!!!

So, digging around in my tatting cupboard the other day I found this ancient (but new!) set of needles!!  Still unopened.  A matter of an hour or so later I'd got the 'hang' of this technique.  I don't mind the wieldy and (definitely not pretty!) needle or the fact that you have to be careful you don't sit on it but what really bugged me (and I couldn't get it any better - is the 'padded' look of the finished piece.  I read all the instructions and got the right sized needle for the right thickness of thread.  I tightened my stitches up real snug on the needle and they looked beautiful.  I slid them off and there they were - all floppy and limp.  I also quickly got into a mess with the long length of thread needed but fortunately the phone didn't ring and nobody came to the door - I only got a tangle once!!!
Anyway, the needles were relegated to the cupboard again for a few days by which time I'd given it more thought and decided to have another 'go'!!!!
This time I thought I'd do a comparison and was surprised to find that the needle tatted and shuttle tatted pieces both came out the same size.  That DID surprise me.  BUT the needle tatted one is still floppy and the 'stitches' do not hug the core thread as in a shuttle piece.  On the left is the needle version and the right is the shuttle.
Now, to summarise my excursion to the dark side (which turned out to be not so dark!). 
I can now say that the although the finished item is ALMOST as good as shuttle tatting - it doesn't quite 'make it' for me as it certainly doesn't give a crisp finish.
The needles are NOT pretty!!!  
The length of thread needed that lies in the lap is extremely annoying and tangles easily - in my second attempt I got into an even worse tangle as there was more thread.  I'm not sure which would be worse - so much dangly thread or forever joining in new!!!
Finally - why on this planet would anybody want to learn something that is harder to learn than using a shuttle with a poorer result!!  I can't see how this is easy to carry around with you when that length of thread is going to have to be put in a bag!
My final word is still that this side line of the craft should not be called tatting.  In fact ALL tatting SHOULD in my opinion be defined by the way it is made.  We  have 'bobbin' lace, 'needle' lace, 'knitted' lace, 'tape' lace and 'machine' lace so why shouldn't we define these two as 'shuttle' tatting and 'needle' tatting every time it's mentioned.  Honestly it's only fair to the person reading it to be given the information that there are two ways of getting there.


'RainbowRose' Connie Faulconer said...

You are so brave Jane. And at least you have given it more than one try :) I might have to have a try myself. I agree though,,,why not make the distinction. Actually I was waiting for you to day 'shuttle' lace and 'needle' lace he he he.

Either way it is done,,,,I'm most impressed with ALL lace makers and their talents.

'RainbowRose' Connie Faulconer said...

P.S I don't have any needles though for trying needle tatting. Soooo back to the shuttle for now :)

Margarets designer cards said...

Hi Jane,

Having read your piece, I agree I have never tried needle tatting, I do lace knitting and I have learnt bobbin lace and have all the bits to do bobbin lace but I dont have time to do it, hubby wants to throw it all away, no way its staying for my retirement. I have always done shuttle tatting and its so easy to carry in your handbag or whatever. I think the shuttle piece looks better, I know the needle tatters will be shouting at me for saying that. I think I will stick to my shuttle tatting for now.
Thanks for doing the tias I have finished mine and will be posting it later, I really enjoyed it and you got my followers and hubby wondering what it was too. Thanks giving me something to do while I am ill. I am now on number two.

Maureen said...

I quite often use a needle as a shuttle - when there's a very tight join it's much easier to manoeuvre.But that's something else again, isn't it - not really needle tatting at all.
Actually I learned to needle tat before I mastered the shuttle - signed on for a class at one of the Craft Shows, but because it was a NEEDLE, it was never going to be for me - I don't get on with them at all!

Gina said...

That length of thread in the lap is what drove me batty! But, the one redeeming factor for me is that it IS easy to learn. And that can be important for someone who desperately wants to tat. Maybe I should post MY story about learning to tat. I forgot there was a needle in there somewhere. I'll take a shuttle over the needle any day but there are needle tatters who have perfected their skill and make it somehow less floppy. Kudos to them! But I'll stick with the shuttle.

TAT19540 said...

Needle and shuttling tatting, two different techniques for the art of hand lace making. I have seen beautiful work done by both. It is like Illinois and Wisconsin reveals of football you are either for or against- there is no middle ground.(Sigh) I don't think die-hard shuttle tatters will except needle tatting as the same lace making and vice-versa. I do both, I like both and some Celtic tatting is easier to do with a needle. I like my shuttles,and when I physically can't do shuttle tatting than I'll go back to needle tatting.
I enjoy all your work, patterns and techniques you share. Thanks for sharing with us.

Unknown said...

I've recently picked up my needles and made a concerted effort toward teaching myself how to use them properly. I will say this for them - the tatting surely goes a lot faster. I might actually use this technique if I want to mass produce something, like snowflakes at Christmas.

I prefer the tighter stitches of shuttle tatting, which just look tidier to me. The ends, however, are miles easier to hide in needle tatting. I think both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, but what I'm really keen to do with needles is to try tatting with fine jewelry wire to make earrings, pendants, pins, etc. I think working off a spool of wire would be much easier than trying to wind it on shuttles, not to mention the needle tatting would be a lot easier on your hands.

Miranda said...

Good for you to be open-minded enough to give it another try! I agree that the stitches are looser-- even on a sample of needle tatting I have that was done by an expert at it. But is that necessarily worse, or is it just that we've been taught that "proper" tatting is tighter?

I agree, I wouldn't want to have that long length of thread to deal with, so I will always stick with the shuttle.

Jon Yusoff said...

I learned tatting with the shuttle. I tried needle-tatting a few times but the 'padded' look, as you put it, does not appealed to me. I prefer the firm and crisp effect of using the shuttle over the soft feeling of needle-tatted work. I don't know if I ever will come to like needle-tatting but I am keeping my needles for any future possibilities.

God's Kid said...

I think your needle tatting looks good for a beginner, and that in a way your comparison can't quite be considered fair only because you have been shuttle tatting for some time and have just learned the needle tatting, but it's just my thought here, so please don't be offended. I am a new tatter and I am a shuttle tatter, but I learned about tatting as needle tatting and then found out about the shuttles when searching for tatting "tools", and since they were all I could find, I bought them and started learning.
I do think it's awesome that you gave it a second chance!!! :)

Martha said...

I am a shuttle tatter, always have been, always will be. However, I have needle tatting friends, who are nice people whose company I enjoy, so I try to respect their ways. Over the years, I have seen much needle tatting that is floppy, but I have also seen some that is exquisitely done. (Conversely, I have seen some pretty bad shuttle tatting too.) I say let's all get along.

Ridgewoman said...

OK, I admit it ~ I’m a purist. I prefer the traditional way of tatting with a shuttle. The war between needle and shuttle tatters can get heated. I made an innocent comment on FB about needle tatting and the replies were venom-filled. In fact, they wanted to report me to FB for ‘hate speech’. I admire your bravery in tackling the subject of faux-tatting.
I have a couple of pieces of needle tatting...one I bought, done by a noted needle tatter from an Etsy shop, and one coaster made by a friend. The piece I bought is useless to me as it doesn’t fit ~ but it is a nice oddity to have around as it exemplifies what I mean by FLOPPY tatting; plus, it looks like crochet to me. It is all loops.
To each his own, I just wish the needle tatters at large on FB were a little less defensive and a bit more tolerant of one who prefers a traditional shuttle tatted piece.
Very interesting and fair article Jane, hope no one hangs you in effigy. LOL xx P

Suztats said...

Hi Jane,and what a trip on the 'dark side'!
I'm a needle tatter and have never tried the shuttle, but I do agree that the shuttle tatted lace looks tighter. I don't understand about the thread in the lap, as I almost always needle tat off a ball of thread. I guess I'm a tight needle tatter as I seldom need to block my tatting, and the only time I've had floppy tats is when I tatted with embroidery thread-- all six strands together. (beginner boo-boo)
It's a funny thing, but when I learned at a night class, I was told that needle tatting came first, and it only changed in Victorian times so that the ladies could demonstrate their wealth and standing in society with the jewels encrusting their shuttles. I have no idea whether or not this is true, but everyone has their own thoughts on the matter, and each tatter has their own preference. From what I've read, most bi-tatters (for lack of a better term, tatters using both needle and shuttle) I've heard say that they prefer the shuttle.
Me? I'm just happy that I learned to tat!

Isa said...

Jane I have tatted with needles but I don't like my result. I love my shuttles!

Unknown said...

Yo aún no me he pasado al lado oscuro... Tengo agujas que compré y unas que me hice en madera, para hilo grueso.. Pero, nada, que no me atrae la oscuridad... yo Quiero a mis lanzaderas... Y soy fiel.... jejejejej

I still I have not gone to the dark side ... I have needles that I bought and some that I made in wood, thick thread .. But nothing that turns me off the dark ... I want my launch ... And I'm faithful .... jejejejeje

Art by JoyMac said...

Since learning tatting in the 1950"s I have always used a shuttle....however since I was asked to teach tatting a few years ago I found that some folks just couldn't get the "dreaded flip" with the shuttle so I decided to teach myself needle tatting to accomodate them as it was a much easier way and less frustrating for them..I think the tatting done by needle is floppy and does have that padded look......but I have seen some gorgeous needle tatted items from some people that tat that way and have perfected the use of the needle..I say Bravo to them.

I do agree that all tatting should be defined by the way it is done...as you mention the other forms of lace have their own definitions as to how it is accomplished.....for me I love my shuttles.
I guess you can say "to each his own"
Joy in OZ

ALL tatting SHOULD in my opinion be defined by the way it is made.

Carol said...

Hats off to you for giving needles a chance! I learned shuttle tatting first but never got far with no one around to help me. Then I learned needle tatting and it was so easy I even taught myself to do it left handed so I could teach my mother. I always thought mine looked 'padded' and not as tight as yours but figured it was my lack of practice.

Being a hand quilter I understand the desire to follow tradition but recognize that if the easier and faster method is the only way you can enjoy the craft then by all means you should do so. The joy is in the creating and by doing so I think we can better appreciate the true works of art!

Wendy said...

I taught myself to shuttle tat over 50 years ago. I never knew there was another way until I found you Jane, via the Ring and you pointed me to the lists, Tatting Goddess HBT etc. I love my shuttles and have no desire to change. If other tatters want to use needles that's fine by me. We all love to tat.

Nicole said...

Ok Im catching up on my reading, I just wanted to say something in defense of needle tatting... OK when I started tatting I started with needles, and over time I learned two things... 1: size does count, so I found that usually size 7 needle (or even 8) and size 20 thread come out as nice as shuttle tatting. Like learning shuttle tatting the size 5 needle with 10 thread is to me more to learn. Other then that I dont use either.
I have since learned shuttle tatting (only because of your SMCR bookmark lol ) and enjoy both but my wrists can only take so much shuttle tatting so I have to go back to the needle, so yes it has great uses and to me tatting is tatting needle or shuttle/ :-) I am happy you gave it a shot!

LadyMystica said...

Hi, Jane. I came across your post while looking for something else tatting-related. I needle-tat, and here's why:

I am a self-taught yarn and thread junkie from way back (nearly 50 years now).I have taught myself every yarn-, thread- and ribbon-related skill I know, because I'm left-handed. There was just nobody around to teach me.

I was always intrigued by tatting, and could study my grandma's tatted pieces for hours, loving the intricacy of them. When I decided to try tatting, I just couldn't make the instructions transpose and work with a shuttle. I tried so hard, but got nowhere. Finally, I gave up the idea of ever learning to tat.

Then, about 20 years ago, I was in a store looking for yarn, and I ran across a needle-tatting beginners set. It went home with me that day, and by evening I was needle-tatting. It was so easy!

I will grant that the work has the "padded" look you describe, and has a softer finish (the floppiness you mentioned); but, when it is all one can get...*shrug*

Just as an after-note: I recently went onto YouTube to see what instruction was out there. Lo and behold, a video on shuttle-tatting! Imagine how disgusted I was to find out just how easy it is, and how long I could have been happily shuttle-tatting! I'm buying a shuttle next week, after payday.

Happy tatting, everyone, no matter which method you prefer! :-)

Jane Eborall said...

Would LOVE to chat privately MysticalCeta as I'd like some help!!!! Please could you contact me on lovetotat@gmail.com?

Esther Paris said...

Hi Jane! Esther here of Rhode Island, USA. I still have your seahorse suncatcher hanging cheerfully in my kitchen. Some day I hope our paths cross and I will get to properly thank you.

Meanwhile, I'd like to teach a particular teenager how to tat. The student has learning & coordination issues due to fetal alcohol syndrome. But oh! How the child works hard to earn craft time at the end of the school day! I was thinking needle is the way to go with this person. I came upon your Dark Side note because I was googling Jiffy Tatting Needles. I happen to have a Morin JNT book with baby projects. This student wants to make baby projects.

My questions -
* Are your unloved needles up for adoption?

* What makes needle tatting puffy, any way?

* Can I use JNT patterns with other tatting needles?

* Any advice for teaching someone with physical and intellectual challenges? (Presently the student and I are "loom knitting" a baby hat. I LOATHE the term 'loom knitting' as looms are for weaving and weaving is not knitting. Oh well. The naming committee didn't consult me before the world started calling peg knitting LOOM knitting.)

Be well. I hope you see this and write back.
Esther Paris in RI USA

Jane Eborall said...

Thanks for writing, Esther. First of all - I don’t have any ‘unloved’ needles - won’t allow the weapons of tat destruction in the house!!!
Needle tatting will be puffy because the ‘look alike’ knot is made on a needle which by necessity has to go through the other threads. A few people do manage to do a good replication but not many I’ve seen. You can tell the difference between the two when put side by side.
Any tatting pattern can be used with any method but some things are much easier with the shuttle - like split rings, for instance.
For teaching purposes the shuttle is just as easy as the needle but with both it’s a matter of taking each step very, very slowly. With the shuttle I would use two different coloured threads (wool would be best) and teach the chain so the person can instantly see the flip. Having learned at the age of 13 I found ten minutes was all I needed to ‘see’ the flip but it really depends on the student. I’ve never taught needle - only to myself and that hurt my hands like HECK trying to get anything NEAR a decent tension.
Hope this helps, Esther. Please email me on itatlots@gmail.com if you want further information. I have a beginner’s section here on my site http://www.janeeborall.freeservers.com/LessonPages.htm

Cozy said...

Jane, I have just read this for the first time, and wanted to comment on this JIFFY needle tatting. I know this is an old post, and perhaps my response on Nov 30, 2016 will not be noticed. I, unfortunately, saw a book (Jiffy Needle Tatting A_Z)of this and thought it was no more than needle tatting with the largest needle and yarn... but, my walk on the dark side was opening the book and seeing the pics of them using what they call a 'carrying cord' that is not connected, but doubled over and inserted into the eye of the needle to slip your stitches off of. I can't tell you how disappointed I was to see this was a completely different method than the current needle tatting, as there were some really cute things in the book, like the baby sweater set on the cover. I consider myself a shuttle tatter, but enjoy following the needle tatting videos on youtube, and just following along the way they are doing it. I like knowing 2 ways, and like you, wish people would bother to say which. I hate seeing earnest questions from people who want tatting advice, that don't even bother to mention if they are talking shuttle or needle!

Creative Commons Licence

Happy Beaks

Happy Beaks
I beg your pardon? I didn't quite catch what you said.