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One of the most common complaints I hear from tatters is that tatting is a dying art. While our numbers have never, and will never rival that of knitters or quilters, I firmly believe that tatting is enjoying a small resurgence. Look at the number of published pattern books over the last few decades and you will see a clear increase. This bodes well for a “dying” art. The advent of internet forums and other online tatting websites, instructions and communities also aids the proliferation of our art.

At the same time, most people I encounter who have any clue what tatting is, respond to me with “Oh, my grandmother used to do that,” and are often themselves grandmothers. Many tatters these days are advancing in years and if that generation passes without passing on their knowledge then tatting truly will die with them.

teaching tattingMy grandmother taught me to tat when I was in college, and I have likewise passed on my skills to several friends over the years. 2011 Witnessed a mini-revival in tatting in Santa Fe, as the local quilt shop asked me to teach classes and over 30 people learned this ancient skill anew. Those classes spawned this blog, and I am excited about reaching out to new tatters the world over.

THE SOLUTION

The goal then is to raise up a new generation of tatters. To get thirty-somethings and young mothers and college students and teens interested in tatting, who will carry it on and get their friends interested and teach others and spawn a whole generation of people who actually know what tatting is and maybe even try their hand at it.

To that end I’m partnering up with a local organization to teach teens to tat. Or pre-teens. Tweens? What’s the current term for 12 and 13 year-olds? Anyway, I’ll be teaching tatting to a group of around 18 of these 7th and 8th graders for 12 weeks. Am I scared? You betcha. Am I excited? Oh yeah.

CITIZEN SCHOOLS

AmeriCorps has a program called Citizen Schools, which partners with middle schools in low-income communities in seven U.S. states, including New Mexico. Citizen Schools helps disadvantaged and at-risk kids by giving them homework help, career advice and really cool apprenticeships. Each week, volunteer teachers from the community come in and teach the kids how to, well, they teach them whatever the teachers know how to do.

citizen schools middle schoolThese “apprenticeships” can be on robotics, cooking, financial literacy, knitting, astronomy, painting, ecology, golf, journalism, you get the idea. Last year there was an apprenticeship on mini Bonsai tree sculpting. And I signed up to teach the kids tatting.

The idea of these apprenticeships is to get the kids absorbed in learning something. Anything. It doesn’t really matter what, as long as the kids will be engaged. If they learn that learning can be interesting and fun, they might carry that attitude back to their regular schoolwork, and they just might find something that sparks a long term interest. Citizen Schools has served more than 4,500 students in 31 cities since 1995, and has helped many of these students to feel successful in something which leads them to perform better in school, stay away from drugs and gangs, go to college and create better lives for themselves.

No matter what the subject, the staff finds ways to inject life skills and values that many of these students are not receiving elsewhere (or not responding to elsewhere). Tatting can be difficult to learn, but the values of patience and perseverance are important both to tatting and to landing a job. Setting and achieving goals—in tatting projects and getting to college. Reading and interpreting instructions—tatting patterns and science homework alike. Oral presentation skills—“this is my tatted snowflake which…” leads to “welcome ladies and gentleman to the….” Conflict resolution and anger management skills may start in arguments over thread and shuttles and find uses in driving, families, careers and the rest of life.

MY CHALLENGE

So, beginning in three weeks, I will be putting my education classes to the test in my very own classroom for 105 minutes, once a week. Teaching tweens tatting. Twerrific.

Aaack! What the bleep am I doing? 18 Middle schoolers for 105 minutes a week!? Do you know how many minutes 105 minutes is? There’s a hundred and five of them!

No, it’s okay Heather, you had a whole semester on classroom management skills. We talked about this. You can do it.

Right. I can do this. No problem. But I need lesson plans and supplies and classroom procedures and…SUPPLIES! 18 Students need 18 sets of supplies! I’m working for a non-profit! They gave me diddly squat for a budget! How am I going to get 18, no, 36 shuttles, and thread, and crochet hooks, and, and…

Calm down, it’ll be okay. You can ask for help. Tatters are a generous lot, and surely they’ll be happy to contribute a couple old shuttles. Maybe de-stash some thread?

“Knock, knock. Hi there. You, yes you on the other side of that screen. Would you like to buy a chocolate bar so I can go to Disney Land?” Wait, sorry, wrong screen. “Hello to you in tat-land. Would you send me a shuttle so I can go to college?”

Hmm, let’s switch tracks. I read a story once about a man who sat down to pay his bills at the beginning of the year and was overwhelmed by the pile in front of him. Then he noticed a request for donations from Easter Seals and he happily wrote them a check. The first check of the year. Since reading that I have always made my first check of the year to a charity, to get the new year started out right, and that feels good to me. In this new year, will you join me in helping 18 young people learn a new skill and pass on the tradition of tatting to a new generation? Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Donate your extra tatting supplies in good condition. Please send me an email and I’ll send you the address to send the supplies.
  2. If you are a tatting retailer who would like to donate a larger portion of our supplies list, I will be happy to give you some extra publicity in future posts about this venture.
  3. You can also make a monetary donation through my PayPal donate button on the sidebar (just earmark it for “Citizen Schools” in the notes section).

The Citizen Schools coordinator said she will be happy to give anyone who donates a tax deduction form for donating to an official non-profit.

WHAT DO WE NEED?

Here’s our supplies list:

  • 36 Shuttles
  • 36 Spools of thread (minimum) in a variety of colors
  • 18 Size 10-14 crochet hooks
  • 18 Tapestry needles (or functionally similar devices)
  • 18 Easy thread needles for hiding ends
  • 18 Pairs of small scissors or clippers
  • 18 Bags or cases of some kind to hold the kits (I have my eye on some bags from Michael’s Crafts that are only $1 each, but am open to options)

Am I missing anything? I’ve already de-stashed and have several balls of size 10 thread and two Clover shuttles that will be good to begin teaching with.

Thank you in advance for helping out. I really appreciate it and am sure the students will too.

WATCH IT UNFOLD AS IT HAPPENS

Like world news tonight, you will have a front row seat to watching this grand fiasco project in action. I will be posting about the class each week and show you pictures of what the students are making. I’d like to make this series a glimpse into the lives of these young people and see how they react to tatting. I’ll wager none of them have even heard of it before, so it’ll be interesting to watch. I’m told the knitting class two years ago was extremely popular. We’ll see about tatting. The Citizen Schools staff at least is very excited about it and predicts the kids will like it too.

I’m optimistic about the state of tatting in general, and to keep it alive we all need to pass on our skills. I’ll keep teaching as long as I can find anyone who wants to learn, and I’m excited about the prospect of teaching these young teens.

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