When I started tatting, I didn't know ANYONE else who tatted. I've since discovered tatters locally who were around then, but I didn't have any reason to cross paths with them. Sound familiar? I've seen it a lot on new blogs or emails from tatters who have just discovered the tatting community online. The internet has been the resource most responsible for making it possible for us to communicate.
So...being self-taught, I craved knowledge. There were very few books, maybe only one or two at the library, and my collection of Workbaskets over the years for other needlecrafts, to provide me with patterns and information. Finding a few websites and TWO online discussion groups was like heaven. Pictures were still scarce even online and they weren't BIG so I still couldn't really see how my tatting compared with others. When the listgroups came up with exchanges, I jumped at the chance. I was so excited to be able to see someone else's tatting and petrified at how my own would appear. For my poor efforts, I received some exquisite tatting and good advice on how to improve my own. I cringe now at the idea of a seasoned tatter getting some of my early stuff, but in later exchanges, if I had a choice, I would often choose a new tatter, simply because I knew how it felt as a beginner.
This was my very first exchange. They were themed and this one was butterflies. You got to choose how many partners and greedy bugger that I was, I went for - ummm...I think we gave two butterflies per partner so it must have been three partners! This is a pattern by Mary McCarthy, I believe, which was published in Workbasket. I knew nothing about adding beads to tatting but the directions told how to add a bead (one big one) and I figured out what to do with smaller beads. By this time, I had accumulated a collection of size 12 perle cottom which has a sheen and is a finer size thread than size 20. I loved making these butterflies - though I haven't a single one for myself!
I remember wondering if I should send the very same thing to everyone or could I send different designs - not that I had any different ones at the time. I opted for making the same design in different colors and with different bead accents. I've been in several butterfly exchanges since then and have a photo album full of them but I couldn't tell you who those early partners were or even which butterflies came from that exchange. Most of the later ones are labeled though. These were actually easy tats.
Then a cross exchange or two were organized. I have photos of 3 or 4 that I sent to different partners but this my personal favorite, another Workbasket pattern. It was harder because there were some unfamiliar terms. I think I discarded one or two tries in a different thread before I managed this one. I can't remember now if I tatted the charm in or if I sewed it in afterwards. I suspect it is sewn in.
Bookmarks were always popular exchanges. I was getting inspired now to try things on my own more. This was an edging that I repeated and joined at the center. I didn't know how to transition at the ends and you can tell my center chains aren't all that consistent. Since I didn't know how to transition the ends, I didn't know what to do about the tassles. For some reason, I thought all bookmarks needed a tassle! I decided to be asymmetrical and make TWO tassles!
This was probably part of my first Secret Santa Exchange. There were other things in the package but I thought I was so clever to figure out how to do this bookmark in Christmas colors and with a jingle bell! It seemed like the perfect bookmark for a holiday cookbook or storybook. I'm not sure the recipient thought so but it was FUN and that was the main thing. I believe this was even size 30 thread. I was graduating from the typical size 20. I never thought of size 12 as fine thread but it certainly is.
I tatted these for my first earring exchange. I remember buying the blue glass beads especially. I probably tried out 3 or 4 patterns before I settled on this. By this time, there were beginning to be more patterns appearing online.
Exchanges were great for helping me see what tatting was supposed to look like and evaluating my own skills. As I started traveling to tatting events and meeting other people, I found we shared the same questions and concerns and learned so much from each other.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, isolated physically from other tatters and wanting to see someone else's tatting up close and personal, feel free to email me and suggest a private exchange. Maybe you want to see how a specific technique looks. It's always nice to be able to handle a piece, turn it over and around in all directions. I'd be happy to share an exchange and offer suggestions if asked for. Overseas is okay too since it will just be a small item that can fit in an envelope.