Making Lace

If I used the word “tat” in a sentence, would any of you have a clue what I was talking about? I’m not referring to the old phrase “tit-for-tat,” but the ancient art of making lace, known as tatting.

My great-grandmother, Jonesie, knew how to do it. I have very faint memories of her working with string and a tool that looked a lot like a fishing lure to create something like this edged handkerchief. Unfortunately, the art form died with her (at least for our family).

She would bounce the string up and down, adding loops to a pattern that I couldn’t figure out. Mostly, it just looked like knots and circles…until you gave it time to develop.

Occasionally, Jonesie would hold the lace-to-be at a distance and smile. She could see what it was going to become well before I could. It was time consuming work, but when it was finished the patterns were intricate and incredibly beautiful.

My current WIP is a lot like Jonesie’s tatting projects. If anyone was to look at it now (and one very brave crit partner already has), they would wonder what in the world I was trying to create. The plot is much more complex than anything I’ve ever written, and there are so many layers of intrigue that I’m hoping will work out. I can’t hold it at a distance and smile…even though I know what it’s supposed look like. Most of the time, I just push it to arm’s length and wonder if I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew.

Here’s hoping that my jumble of strung together thoughts ends up looking like lace.


  • Kari Marie

    I think in a part of my mind I always knew lace could be created by hand, but now that you describe the process, I’m in awe.

    You are right – writing is a little like that.

  • Red Boot Pearl

    I feel like I’m ready to dump my “lace” in the trash. It’s such a hard process to go through and make everything pretty–hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end and I can hold it at arms length and be happy. Good luck with your project!

  • Barbara Kloss

    What a perfect analogy! It’s so easy to get caught up in those microscopic details and lose focus of the big picture. And, as long as you keep working, and keep perspective of how it’s suppose to look when you’re finished, I’m sure your WIP will be as beautiful as you imagined it would be.

  • Cynthia

    I love your analogy. I didn’t remember what tatting was until you mentioned the lace. Yes, I have heard of it. It is a lost art. I’ve tried knitting myself, but just couldn’t get it so I went back to sewing. No time that that these days though. Best of luck you’ll get through it.

  • Becky Wallace

    @Red Boot Pearl: Don’t give it up! You can’t edit something you don’t finish. I’ve got to push through this ms and go back and fix the mistakes.

    And thanks to the rest of you for all your encouragement! I’ve got some lace to make!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t know if you can help me. I can’t remember what an old method of lace making was called, I seem to want to say, candlewick, it is very delicate and beautiful. Anyone know?

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