Tatting with Aunt Betsy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Wednesday I rode the Front Runner down to Layton to help my mom out with some decorating for a party. On the way I met a very interesting women who had a very interesting story. I didn't catch her name but I'm sure her story will stick with me for some time to come.


I stared at the unraveled bit of blue carpet fibers, scuffing over them with the heel of my shoe to the rhythm of the trains motion. BEEP " Woodscross"...scuff. I noticed the older women enter out of the corner of my eye. She walked to the bench next to mine unloaded her belongings and sat. Her hair was short and silvered with age. She seemed pleasant and her mouth turned up just a bit at the corners. She wore a pair of black dress pants a white button up blouse and a comfortable pair of black SAS shoes, the ones people have bestowed with the rather unflattering title of grandma shoes.

I have always enjoyed SAS shoes maybe it's because I think I've seen my own grandma sport a pair and it just seems natural or maybe it's because the shoes themselves have such a fantastic name SAS as if to say we may not be stylish be we sure are sassy. The lights flashed red and the doors closed with a quick and smooth movement POUSSHHH and the train was again in motion.

The women who had been sitting silently, arms folded across her chest relaxing now began to stir. She reach across the bench for her bag. The small black canvas bag was brimming to the edge with colorful treasures, drawing the bag close the folds of the fabric changed with the movement. My eyes focused on the printed red writing. Though I could not make all the words out in their entirety I caught a glimpse of what I thought read pediatric and nurse. She dug deep into the canvas forging threw it's contents for a moment and then withdrew a series of soft, white,delicate netlike circles. Her fingers fumbled around the lace like creation until they found a small oval metal object. Placing the circles in her lap she formed a triangular shape with thread stretching from her thumb index and ring finger letting the white thread hang loosely between each one. And then without looking she took the metal oval and began vigorously weaving it in and out of the triangle.

At this point I was extremely intrigued, having never seen this type of artistry I tried to casually cast my glance so as to appear that I was looking out the window past her. By doing this I was able to catch glimpses of her handy work. Having had some experience with needle work I ran though the types that I knew. knitting, no crosstitch, no embroidery, no. After several minutes of casual stocking I cleared my throat and asked. " Excuse me, what do you call that type of needle work? With out pausing the women shifted her eyes and answered, Tatting, it's an ancient art form, almost lost these days". "Oh", I said," you must be very good you don't even have to look". " I've had a lot of practice", she said. I smoothed the pleats in my skirt restlessly " What will it become when it's finished"? "A cover for the LDS Temple alter", she answered. "Really how interesting, it really is beautiful. How did you learn how to do it"? "That's a long story", she said. Figuring that our conversation had ended I slumped back down in my seat.

But the women continued. I grew up in a small town everybody new everybody. There was an older women in the town and we all called Aunt Betsy. Aunt Betsy was very kind and she always wanted to be involved, especially when it came to sharing her love of tatting with the youth. She welcomed any young women who wanted to learn. However most of us were never very interested. When I grew up and moved away I became a nurse and one day when Aunt Betsy was very old and sick she happened to be one of my patients. And as I spent the following weeks caring for her she told me of her one regret in life. She said that she had never taught anyone how to tat. So I told Aunt Betsy when she got better that she could teach me. But Aunt Betsy did not get better... she died. The women paused for a moment to count the knots in her work before starting again.
Now several years ago I belonged to a sewing group and every Thursday a group of us ladies would meet, teach, sew and talk and I always felt bad about Aunt Betsy's one regret so I asked the girls if anyone knew how to tat and you know what one women did. Well a little the basics anyway, so she taught me what she knew and then I gathered all the books and information I could find about the art of tatting and I practiced and practiced and practiced but I never got further than a little old Doillie. And so one evening after months and months of trial and error I said I've had enough of this tatting, it is just to plain hard and I gave up.
At this point I stood because the conductor had just called for the Layton stop I hesitated holding on to the grab rail for the women to finish her story before I had to exit the train.

That night when I went to bed, she said I had a dream. I dreamt that Aunt Betsy came to visit me and she taught me all she knew about tatting and when I awoke I knew how to do it. Now whether Aunt Betsy really came to visit me or not I really can't say but what I do know is that, and the women lifted her eyes to the ceiling I'm sure that Aunt Betsy is very proud. And with that the train came to a stop and I thanked the women for telling me her story and hurried out the chiming doors.

For those of you who don't know tatting is is basically the technique for handcrafting a durable lace. It's constructed by a series of knots and loops and by series were are talking like thousands here. The thread is really just thread it's not thick like yarn that you use to knit so I'm sure you can see how the above image takes a ton of time. Anyways I loved the womens' story and I hope you did to!


You Might Also Like


  1. That is seriously awesome. You don't hear stories like that very often.


Evolve Fitness

Tigan Ink Creative