Tatting Featured at Wiscasset Craft Show on July 26

Nickels-Sortwell House Hosts Crafters in Barn and Lawn

WISCASSET, MAINE– Tatting is a lost art – or is it?  According to international award-winning tatter, Elaine O’Donal, there are many tatters worldwide. In this region of the world, though, O’Donal is one of the best. “Tatting is a very old form of knotted lace,” she says, “Martha Washington was a tatter.”

O’Donal, who lives and tats in Gorham, has been tatting for more than 30 years and began learning the craft because she loved lace. “I still tat in a traditional way but make non-traditional items. The mitts, or fingerless gloves, are my original pattern. However, there really isn't a pattern at all, it depends on a lot of judging by eye and measuring.”

The intricate and detailed work of tatting can be repetitive, explains O’Donal, so coming up with new ideas and uses for her creations helps to keep her work fresh and interesting. “Although your grandmother would recognize my tatting, I have taken tatting to new uses that grandmother would have never thought of, such as shawls and suncatchers.”  O’Donal also accepts custom orders and has created exquisite tatted pieces for weddings and christenings, some of which can be seen on her web site, www.tattedwebs.com. 

Historically, patterns for tatting were passed along by word of mouth, and often were never written down, like O’Donal’s mitts, making it difficult to pinpoint the earliest use of this lace-making method. While there’s documented evidence that tatting originated in the early 19thcentury, 

O’Donal suggests that it was done much earlier. We do know that tatting flourished in Victorian times, according to Recollections.com, when fashion included feminine touches such as lace collars and cuffs. Then, as fashion changed to a more modern look, and technology made lace an easy and inexpensive commodity to purchase, hand-made lace began to decline.

To see examples of O’Donal’s one-woman revival of traditional tatting, with contemporary flair, visit her booth in the historic barn during the Nickels-Sortwell Craft Show on Thursday, July 26, 11am to 7pm.  This is the same evening as Wiscasset Art Walk, 5-8pm. Event organizers planned the timing so visitors can enjoy both events.   

For more information about the Nickels-Sortwell House, contact Peggy Konitzky, pkonitzky@historicnewengland.org. For more information about the Nickels-Sortwell Craft Show, contact Pam Shockley, psdesigns54@gmail.com. For more information about the Wiscasset Art Walk, visit www.wiscassetartwalk.orgor contact Lucia Droby, ludroby@verizon.net.