The Philosophy of Tatting:

A Tongue in Cheek Exploration of our Motives

By Tim TenClay - tim (a)

NATA #253

Many years ago in a place far, far away from here, my hands began the process of learning how to tie a handful of half-hitches on a carrier string with the help of a mysterious metal shuttle and the experienced hands of none other than my very own mother. Actually, it was only about a 16 or 17 years ago, but, when you're 27, even that seems like an eternity.

You know the process of course - when I teach it, I induct my students into the hidden mysteries of tatting with the self-composed little chant: wrap, under, over, tight - over, under, tight. We pray that if their lips can learn what the shuttle is supposed to do, maybe - just maybe, their hands will learn it too.

To be honest, I'm not exactly certain what it is that draws me to it. Perhaps I enjoy the gawking stares of ancient ladies in waiting rooms - women who seem patently incapable of maintaining proper decorum around a man who seems to have a working knowledge of the thread arts. Maybe I secretly like the confusion it creates in young and old alike that someone could spend hours upon hours making thousands, indeed millions, of tiny knots and end up with a series of rings and chains no larger than a dollar bill. I suppose, it's likely even a bit of nostalgia. Truth be known, I find myself mystically transported into a land of comfort and happiness when I set my hands loose on this, the pass-time my mother taught me in an effort to keep her attention deficient child from interrupting adults during their Sunday afternoon conversations.

The reason we tat, of course, isn't easily divined. It's not out of some inner compulsion - although, it seems like it at times. It's maybe not even because it was foreordained that we do so - although I suppose my theological brethren might suggest that. Instead, we tat out of our insanity. Yes, insanity.

No sane person would spend such an inordinate amount of time making such elaborate - albeit generally useless - circlets. No sane person would collect such vast quantities of thread or hoard children's candy tins as if they contained some unknown hidden treasurers. Yes, we are insane, and I - for one - am not the least bit ashamed of it.

Take me away. Banish me to one of those hallowed asylums where incurable souls like us are left to our own devices. Let the world believe they are a better place when we are locked away or imagined nonexistent. We know the truth: Hidden in the dark corners of the internet; closed in tiny apartments behind drawn curtains; locked in basements, attics, bedrooms and dorms around the globe - we remain undaunted as we feverishly create our tiny masterpieces, believing that somehow our lives depend on it. We will continue covertly distributing our original patterns. We will continue developing and mastering techniques our knotting ancestors could have barely even dreamed of. We will continue adding beads where picots once were, and yes, we will continue winding our shuttles and pulling our needles - secretly passing on the arcane knowledge of conjuring doilies, bookmarks, edgings and bonnets out of insanely thin threads with our unnaturally contorted hands. They cannot stop us.

Indeed, we will remain diligent. Though seasons may change. Though kingdoms and empires may rise and fall. Whether come wind, rain, sleet or snow - we tatters will remain undaunted. Wildly doing what only we can do. So has it been; so too it is; and so shall it be. Amen.

� 2002 Tim TenClay