Friday, September 10, 2010

Wedding Present

When I was 9 years old, I was the oldest of five kids, and like all good homeschooling families, we went on educational camping trips. Ok, I am sure that there are good homeschooling families out there that hate camping. And there are probably even some that take vacations that have nothing to do with learning. Maybe. At any rate, we were at Fort Clatsop, happily learning about Lewis and Clark who made candles out of tallow, when we noticed another family. Not just any old family. Another family with five kids! Just our ages. Conversation led to conversation and the discovery that we were camping at the same campgrounds led to a joint s'more night and grown-ups discussing homeschooling and churches while all of the ten kids except the ones who couldn't walk yet darted around trees and bushes playing hide-n-seek in the dark. Afterwards our moms pushed Jessica and me, the firstborns, together and strongly suggested that we be penpals. I was ambivalent about this idea, but soon we were exchanging letters like this one, and I discovered that having a penpal was awesome. We kept each other's mailboxes full of long letters, valentines, Easter cards, and birthday cards, and candles, photo collages, bookmarks, and doilies for gifts. I became a connoisseur of stationary and collected an entire boxful ready for more letters. In high school and college our output dwindled to less than a letter a year, but come June this year I found one last envelope in my mailbox: a beautiful wedding invitation! Touching story, you say, but what does this have to do with tatting?Well, I knew immediately what Jessica and her fiance needed for a wedding present. For my high school graduation present, Jessica had given me a crocheted doily, and every time I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she would ask for something for her hope chest and hint, "Your tatting is always so pretty..." I never did make her anything bigger than a motif or a bookmark, so here was the opportunity to mend that error. For a wedding present, she needed the largest tatted doily I could find a pattern for. My tatting book collection is small yet, and I turned to the Tatter's Treasure Chest as the only source of large doilies I owned. It had to be large and elaborate, befitting a once-in-a-lifetime gift occasion, but it also had to be absolutely beautiful. I wanted to look at it and not be able to stop looking and I wanted something I thought Jessica would feel the same way about. Along the lines of picking something Jessica would like, I wanted it to look old-fashioned, although with a little modern sleekness to it, not completely Victorian, but just a bit updated. That left a lot of stools to fall between, and while I do love the doily I chose, I'm not sure it met all these criteria to the fullest. But I do think it is beautiful and I hope Jessica thinks so too. I chose the Wild Rose doily. Here it is started:

As you can see, I have a big honkin' ball of ecru thread there. I picked this up at a garage sale, already wound into this ball, so I don't know the brand or the size or even the age. But it tats up pretty nicely and looks to be about a 30 or 40. There were about two months from when I received the invitation at the beginning of June until the wedding at the end of July, so I worked on this doily nearly every night and the week before the wedding all nine motifs were finished and a Wild Rose doily was born.
This is the first piece of tatting I ever blocked. Yes, I have been tatting for ten years.
No, I kid you not. My tension is pretty tight normally and I have so far remained lazy and just avoided floppy patterns altogether. But now I finally had motivation, and this doily had to be perfect. So I found a big towel, laid it over cardboard, washed my doily and pinned the fight out of every picot. Or at least every picot I had pins and time for. It.took.for.ever. I am not going to be a fan of blocking anytime soon. But I blocked Jessica's wedding present.
Then the next day I pulled out every single pin and wrapped it up in red tisssue paper. Here is a close-up on one of the motifs.
And a look at the pattern made in the center.
I feel a love-hate relationship with the negative space in this doily. The original pattern prescribes some long chains to fill the space, the
idea I suppose being to look like stems that the "roses" of the motifs are growing from. I think the chains are stunningly ugly. So I left them out. I wanted to figure out a small design to fill in the resultant space. But by the time I arrived there, it felt like that moment my high school watercolor teacher always lectured us on: the point where it doesn't quite feel done and the temptation is to mess with it and put on this color or that color (this motif or that motif) and by the time you've played around for another hour, the picture is just overdone. And you wish you
could go back to that moment when it didn't feel quite done, because it was better then. It really was done. My teacher impressed very firmly on us that you just have to know when to stop. So I decided this was when to stop. Here is the finished Wild Rose doily in all its glory.
It and the red tissue paper and my family and I went off to Jessica's town and we watched her marry her man and Jessica and I had a joyful reunion in the bathroom after the ceremony, and we ate pasta salad and cake and came home happy. I give you a deliberately blurry picture of the happy event in order to foil anyone who may want to stalk Jessica or her family.

This is the 13th summer I've known Jessica, and we'll probably correspond for many more. Maybe sometime soon I'll have an excuse to tat her some baby booties.


Happy Bluebird said...

What a beautiful gift for such a special friend! Your doily is gorgeous. I have that book too - but I am a big chicken to start anything very large. I can't even finish small projects!

tatterjil said...

Thanks! This is actually the biggest thing I've ever made. Sure did help to have that rock-solid deadline of the wedding day.

Lace-lovin' Librarian - Diane said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! The doily is beautiful, and I'm sure it will be special to Jessica forever!