Books in Review:
Learn Needle Tatting Step by Step

Rissa Peace Root 2009

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Title: Learn Needle Tatting Step-by-Step
Author: Barbara Foster
Publisher: Handy Hands Tatting
Soft cover: 28 pages, full color
ASIN: B0016824BI
ISBN: 1-883432-05-7

Barbara Foster wrote the book on needle tatting, literally.  Her company, Handy Hands Tatting, also sells and distributes tatting needles in a variety of gauges to work with different sized threads and yarns.  Many years ago, I ordered a copy of her book and a set of needles online. One fateful morning, I grabbed a ball of crochet cotton, the book and needles and took them to work with me.  I was able to learn the basics of rings and picots over my lunch hour. When I got home that night, I completed my first medallion and butterfly.  Within weeks, I was tatting complex designs, tweaking and converting patterns.  Within months, I was creating my own designs.  My story is not unique. Many of my friends, all fine tatters, also started their journey with Barbara Foster's book.

Why is that of interest to you as crazy quilters?  Well, there is the obvious; no one would deny that tatting is a wonderful embellishment.  As a bonus, you will create several small motifs that will all be viable for your CQ during the learning process, if you follow the progression in Foster's book.  Once you learn the basics with a larger needle and thread (which makes it easy to see the stitches), you can graduate to finer threads and needles. Remember, the higher the number, the finer the thread. I started my progression with crochet cotton (graduation from size ten, to twenty, to thirty and sixty), before moving on to tatting thread (which is a size eighty).  You can basically needle tat with any thread, in fact a few times, I have even used sewing thread. Also, once you have mastered simple patterns, you can graduate to more complex motifs.  And as an added bonus, once you have mastered needle tatting, learning to tat with a shuttle will be much easier, because you will already understand the process and the language.

Needle tatting is indeed real tatting.  By suggesting needle tatting as a stepping stone to shuttle tatting, I do not mean to imply that shuttle tatting is intrinsically better. However, I found shuttle tatting intimidating and failed in my first attempts to learn it.   I also found needle tatting more accessible and easier to learn than shuttle tatting, especially from a book and with no one to help me.  If you take some time and work through Barbara Foster's book, you will be richly rewarded for your effort. I should also add that I personally find needle tatting to be more forgiving than shuttle tatting, because the knots are not as tight and you can sometimes unpick your work, which makes learning less frustrating.  That said, do not be afraid to make a few mistakes, they are a big part of the learning process. 

When I taught needle tatting to my embroidery group, I required each of my students to purchase this book. I started them at the point in the book where she covers the Ring and Chain Method and we completed the medallion in a few hours.  I personally think the students would have actually learned more if they had just followed along with the book at home.  Wow, I guess that qualifies as a ringing endorsement!

I have no affiliation with Handy Hands Tatting; I just think the book is an amazing resource.  My personal experience is that it was easy to learn and digest, followed a nice progression, allowed me to develop my skill set, and eventually master needle tatting. I have other friends that did the same and the only other thing we have in common, besides the book, is tenacity.  While there is no guarantee that you will fall in love with needle tatting, this book offers you the chance to explore it on your own.

This book is sold in two formats: one is just the instructional guide and the other is a kit with needles included.  Learn Needle Tatting Step-by-Step and the Handy Hands tatting needles are both widely available at craft/needlework stores and online. 

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