Have you heard the expressions “real tatting” or “faux (or fake) tatting”? I was reading some online information, written by a wonderful tatter. Much to my amazement, when describing needle tatting, she referred to it as faux tatting. This terminology, she explained, was due to the fact that the true definition of tatting to is tie knots with the use of the ‘flip’.
There are many versions of dictionaries to be found but, I only own a couple. Thus, I went online to see what other dictionaries could tell me about the ‘true’ definition of tatting. Below is some of what I’ve found.
Says that tatting is a form a lace that is made with a shuttle
Says that to tat is to make lacework by ‘knotting’ or ‘looping’
Websters 1913 Dictionary
Says that tatting is a kind of lace made from using common sewing thread and using a peculiar stitc
ARTFL Project: Webster Dictionary, 1913 Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Refers to tatting as a kind of lace which is made from ordinary sewing thread and using a peculiar stitch.
Calls tatting the act or process of making a type of knotted lace from cotton or linen thread using a shuttle.
English Wikkipedia 2004
States that tatting is a way of handcrafting lace which can be documented from around the early 1800’s. The English Wikkedpedia of 2004 initially states that a shuttle is the instrument used. And, other than that (and possibly a small crochet hook-if the shuttle doesn‘t have a hook or sharp point for joining at the picots), the hands are the only tools used with the shuttle for tatting.
Not too far, in the tatting definition, Wikkipedia introduces that tatters may also use a tatting needle instead of a shuttle to make lace. Although the finished products of the shuttle and the needle may differ in structure, they will look almost identical.
So, we have the question of whether needle tatting can be considered ‘real’ tatting. I have my own theory on this matter and it goes something like this…
Before sewing machines were invented, sewing was done by hand. Can we assume, using this same type of reasoning, that if one uses a machine (to make clothing) they are not sewing but, indeed are simply machine stitching material together to create clothing? The stitches are done in a different way but, they look almost identical if one is an accomplished hand-stitcher.
In teaching various crafts, it’s always been my theory that there is no one exact way to do things. As long as the end product looks as it should. Otherwise, left-handed tatters wouldn’t be considered ‘tatters’ since original instructions were designed for right-handed people.
Most of us remember our parents/instructors telling us that ‘ain’t’ ain’t in the dictionary. Today, we can open any recently published dictionary and find that ‘ain’t’ is, indeed, in the dictionary. Bad used to, indeed, mean ‘bad’. Now, it has a new meaning. Bad is now ‘good’.
These are just a few examples of how time changes things. Time changes word definitions, deletes words, allows new words to come into existence.
My final conclusion is just this…just because we find a new way to stitch clothes together doesn’t mean that we are no longer sewing. And, just because we find a new way to make tatted lace does not mean that it cannot be called tatting. If it looks like tatting, works like tatting and feels like tatting…chances are that it is tatting.