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What is the hardest part of tatting? The part that’s just beyond your comfort level, of course. Please forgive me if I wax philosophical for a moment, but I’ve been reading a lot of Vygotsky in my teacher training classes lately. Vygotsky suggested that when someone is learning something, there is a zone of proximal development which is the stuff you know and just a bit more that you can easily learn.

Here’s my take on it for tatting. That stuff that you can easily learn appears to be difficult yet possible. Anything beyond that is just “too hard” and not worth paying much attention to. So if you can tat rings and chains well enough, you might be ready to learn a little more—maybe self-closing-mock-rings, or Josephine knots—but anything from split rings to cluny leaves, and all those “fancy” techniques, are lumped together into the category of “too difficult.”

So, what is the most difficult part of tatting? For any person, it is that one technique that is just beyond your own zone of proximal development—just beyond what you can reasonably learn now. This is why the “Challenge Yourself” exchange at the InTatters forum appealed to me so much.

The idea was to challenge yourself to learn a technique in tatting that you have been having difficulty mastering. You then exchange a small product of your learning with another tatter. Here is what I sent, Jan Stawasz Flower Exchange and what I received. Exchange_Split_Ring_Box


This was my first tatting exchange, and I got quite a treat! My partner, supriportugal, sent me this beautiful example of split rings all the way from Portugal.

Exchange_Split_Ring_BoxShe wrote, “It was a big challenge for me doing split rings…now I can do it!! Hope you like what I made for you!! The daffodil is from Jon’s tatting blog.”

Thank you, I do like it very much. The colors are lovely, and the split rings look great! There are little rounds of split rings around the sides of the wooden box, and you can see one of them in this pic. Split rings can be difficult to master, and you have definitely gotten this technique down pat. Thank you again.


For my own challenge, I learned the tricky “frontside/backside” tatting. I first learned of this technique about three years ago in Jan Stawasz’ book, and he called it “Jan’s Method” since he had not seen it before. Since then I have found it elsewhere as well.

Jan Stawasz Flower ExchangeIn normal tatting, every time you reverse work, the front and back of the stitches are switched around. In this method, you make all of the reversed work by reversing the order of the stitches as well. This ensures that one side of the tatted piece shows only the front side of the stitches, and the other only the back side.

Jan presents this little flower as a practice pattern to learn his method. I struggled with this because it requires breaking the deeply ingrained habit of doing the first half of the double stitch first, and the second half second. If it were simply a matter of reversing the stitches, I could probably get my hands around it easier, but I also had to switch back and forth between the normal and modified methods with every ring and chain.

By the end of my first flower I was reasonably comfortable with this, and at the end of making this flower I felt like I could do this technique, and was very happy to send this off to my other partner, Judy, in Arizona. I’m also considering this my Motif #4 in the 25 Motif Challenge.

What tatting technique is a challenge for you? This week, I challenge you to pick something a little beyond what you already know and work on that.